Snubs, Surprises, and why I’m SMH: The Oscar nominations are in!

What happend to Inside Llewyn Davis?

Okay, l let’s start with the SMH (that’s shaking my head, to you Internet acronym impaired): How on earth did Inside Llewyn Davis get virtually shut out? It was one of my favorites of the year—a
near perfect meditation on the necessary selfishness of the artist by
the brilliant (and oft-nominated) Coen brothers. I was hoping—perhaps
overly ambitiously—that the film would garner Best Picture nods, best
actor (for astonishing newcomer Oscar Isaac), and both best director and
best original screenplay (for Joel and Ethan Coen). Instead, it only
got two nods: For Bruno Delbonnel’s luminous cinematography and for
sound mixing (yay?).

Also, Enough Said, my favorite film of 2013 got
completely shut out. Not even the expected nods for James Gandolfini in
the best supporting actor or Nicole Holefcener for Best Original
Screenplay. And in my opinion, Julia Louis-Dreyfus gave one of the
best—if not the best—female performances of the year.

But, I’ve licked my wounds, sulked a bit, and I’ve returned to break the major nominations down.

Best Picture:
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
The Wolf of Wall Street

Surprises: Philomena
was released by the mighty Weinstein Company but hadn’t gotten a whole
lot of love from other major voting bodies. Some critics felt it was too
hard on the Catholic Church, others, like myself, felt it was a lovely,
but slight, film. Philomena’s inclusion speaks, once again, to the never-to-be-underestimated power of Harvey Weinstein. Thrilled about the inclusion of Her, which I wasn’t sure would make the cut. Also, the controversial The Wolf of Wall Street
was a question mark. The Academy voters tend to be on the conservative
side and that wild and wooly film is anything but. Again, critics were
torn, some thinking it was muscular satire of human excess served up
like only Scorsese can, while others, like myself,
believing it to be skillful but exhausting—much Quaaludes about
nothing, if you will. Well, the Academy decided to back Marty. I have to
say, my own misgivings about the film notwithstanding, I’m impressed.

Snubs: On the good end: No Saving Mr. Banks, no August: Osage County. On the bad: I already had my freak-outs about Inside Llewyn Davis and Enough Said. I also would’ve loved to have seen nods for All is Lost and Blue is the Warmest Color, which was ineligible for best foreign film. A little surprised that The Butler, which has Academy Award prestige picture written all over it, didn’t get a nod.

Early favorite: 12 Years a Slave

Best Actor
Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Wasn’t totally sure Leonardo DiCaprio was going to get a nod, but I’m
glad he did. As I said in my review: “I don’t want to take DiCaprio’s
excellence for granted, as I think we sometimes do. If a newcomer had
arrived on the scene with this kind of confident, charismatic,
full-throttle performance, we’d all be swooning.”

Snubs: With DiCaprio in, that meant Robert Redford in All is Lost was out. Such a disappointment that this performance for the ages won’t get recognized. Also, Tom Hanks was excellent in Captain Phillips (and as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks
for that matter), but I wouldn’t swap him out for any of the nominees. I
held out a bit of hope that Michael P. Jordan would get nominated for
his revelatory work in Fruitvale Station, but I can’t say I’m completely shocked the indie film was overlooked.

Early favorite: Matthew McConaughey

Best Actress
Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

While first stating for the record that Meryl Streep is our Greatest
Living Actress and a National Treasure ™, I also have to say, I wasn’t
wild about her boozy, caustic, furniture-chomping performance in August Osage County. To me it was a, “Look at me, I’m acting!” kind of performance, in a film I thought was actually pretty bad.

Snubs: Okay, I’ll stop talking about Julia Louis Dreyfus (if I must), but what about Adele Exarchopoulos in Blue is the Warmest Color and Brie Larson in the underseen (and brilliant) Short Term 12? Some people were expecting a nod for Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks. She was great, but the film was thin, so I’m not too disappointed.

Early favorite: Cate Blanchett

Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Jonah Hill (Wolf of Wall Street)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Surprises: So Jonah Hill is now a two-time Oscar nominee. Wrap your brain around that.

Snubs: Oh, how I wished that James Franco’s truly insane (in the best way) performance in Spring Breakers could have been nominated. And then I wish he could’ve accepted the award in character, cornrows, gold grill, and all.

Early favorite: Jared Leto

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)

Surprises: A very good one, in that Sally Hawkins was nominated for Blue Jasmine. She did the kind of understated, thankless work next to an outsized performance that often gets overlooked.

Snubs: One word: Oprah. (For her great performance in The Butler).

Early favorite: Jennifer Lawrence

Best Director
Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street) David O. Russell (American Hustle)
Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)

Wasn’t totally sure Alexander Payne was going to make the cut, although
I think he’s quite deserving. The Wolf of Wall Street was an all in or
all out proposition for the Academy. They obviously went all in, hence
Scorsese’s nod.

Snubs: Besides the Coen Brothers, I sure would’ve loved to have seen the visionary auteur Spike Jonze get a nod.

Early favorite: Alfonso Cuarón

I’ll check back in when we get closer to Oscar day (Sunday, March 2) with my final predictions! Off to go listen to the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack and cry in my beer.