Oscar Nominations Give Both Surprises and Snubs


Marc Sheehan

The above films are all nominated for Best Picture at the 87th Academy Awards.


At 8:30 on January 15th, the Oscar nominations for 2015 were announced.  Cinephiles all over the country have been itching for this moment all year.  Per usual, it was a year of surprises and snubs.  Here is a complete list of the nominees, complete with the biggest surprises and snub for each category:




The Grand Budapest Hotel


American Sniper

The Imitation Game

The Theory of Everything


Surprises:  Whiplash was a Sundance hit and played the same role Beasts of the Southern Wild did previously.  A critically-acclaimed indie, Whiplash supporting actor J.K. Simmons was always a favorite to win this year’s Oscar, but people were a little unsure as to how far the hype carried this movie.  More surprising is The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was released in March of 2014.  At the time of the ceremony, this movie will have almost been out for a full year.  Budapest is the first movie to have ever been nominated after being released in March, as, usually, the biggest awards contenders are released between September and December.  Now, The Grand Budapest leads all films with the most nominations (9; which Birdman also got) and is a frontrunner alongside Boyhood and Birdman to win the Academy’s top prize.  The most surprising nominee out of the field is American Sniper.  When the film was announced as a contender to be released this year, the Oscar die-hards went into a frenzy.  Clint Eastwood already released a poorly reviewed Jersey Boys over the summer, but American Sniper is said to be one of his best.  It came along so late in the game, however, that not everyone was sold on its Best Picture nomination.

Snubs:  This is the first year that the Academy has only nominated 8 films ever since they moved to the new format (which allows anywhere between 5-10 nominees), and they definitely left a big one out.  Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, which scored directing and writing nominations (important ones for Best Picture nominees) as well as two acting nominations, did not land a nomination.  Foxcatcher was a Best Picture threat last year until it was pushed to this season.  Somehow, the Academy neglected to acknowledge one of the more certain contenders.



Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)

Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)

Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

Michael Keaton (Birdman)

Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)

Surprises: Steve Carell, Michael Keaton, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Eddie Redmayne were all considered (for the most part) shoe-ins to be nominated.  The surprise here is Bradley Cooper jumping into the fifth spot.  As mentioned before, the movie was a late-bloomer and Cooper is outstanding, but there was such little wiggle room in the category.  Furthermore, Bradley Cooper is the first male to be nominated back-to-back-to-back years for a lead role, a feat that is rather impressive due to the heavy politics of the Oscars.

Snubs:  As said above, Bradley Cooper snagged the last spot here. David Oyelowo’s performance as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma also garnered significant critical acclaim. Although critics did not consider Oyelowo a shoo-in, `the importance of his entire movie was projected to have helped his chances.  Numerous critics have bashed the Academy for being racist even though 12 Years A Slave just won the top honor last season.  I think Cooper getting in over Oyelowo was more because of Cooper’s incredible transformation into Chris Kyle.



Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)

Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)

Surprises:  Marion Cotillard.  Sure, she had a bit of buzz.  And the last slot was a toss-up.  But this is a foreign drama scoring a lead nomination, which is not easy to do.  Cotillard is (rightfully so) adored by the Academy, but Two Days, One Night was so small compared to other films that her performance was thought to be overlooked.  Although not a major surprise, Julianne Moore could be considered a bit of a late player in the game.  At first a big contender for her role in Maps to the Stars, she lost a lot of steam.  And then Still Alice came into the game and launched her to the top of the category.

Snubs:  Nothing here really.  In a weaker year for leading ladies, the top four all got in as expected, including Julianne Moore.



Robert Duvall (The Judge)

Edward Norton (Birdman)

Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)

J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)

Surprises: A well-predicted category.  The only guy that is somewhat a surprise is Robert Duvall, who becomes the oldest nominee at 84.  The Judge is a really small Massachusetts film and whenever a movie like that can get nominations, it’s pretty big.  Small movies don’t usually do well on the big Oscar stage, but this nomination is a great nod to the elderly Duvall, whom Hollywood has been so kind to over the years.  Aside from Duvall, Ethan Hawke is a bit of a late player in this race.  Although Boyhood was a summer flick, it took Hawke a little bit of time to finally get some buzz about his incredibly likeable performance in Boyhood.

Snubs: Nothing here, as the race has been pretty consistent throughout this season.



Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

Laura Dern (Wild)

Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)

Emma Stone (Birdman)

Surprises: A lot of people said Laura Dern’s part in Wild was too small, but she ended up getting in.  It probably really helped her that this year is very thin for female roles.  Hollywood has seen an increasing trend in female roles as of late, but this year wasn’t exactly spectacular.

Snubs:  Again, a thin race, so there wasn’t necessarily a snub.  Perhaps many people were betting on Academy sweetheart Jessica Chastain to get in for A Most Violent Year.  She got the globe nom, but Laura Dern beat her out here for the Oscars.  In my opinion, the snub was of Sienna Miller for American Sniper.  Miller has a heavy role as a wife dealing with the struggles of having a military husband.  Her pain is pitiful, as the audience watches her panic constantly, never knowing whether her beloved husband is alive or dead.  It seems that this category wasn’t given a lot of thought.



Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman)

Robert Yeoman (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski (Ida)

Dick Pope (Mr. Turner)

Roger Deakins (Unbroken)

Surprises: A foreign film getting any attention outside Best Foreign Film is pretty surprising.  Ida is that foreign film that has stretched out to other categories, including a notable cinematography nod.  Another surprising nomination is Dick Pope for Mr. Turner, as the movie got pretty much no recognition other than this one for cinematography.

Snubs: It’s hard to get snubbed out of this category.  Perhaps Benoît Delhomme for The Theory of Everything was left out, as the film was beautifully shot and looked fantastic.  It seems the Academy was unimpressed with his efforts.  I think that a more notable snub is that of previous nominee Tom Stern, who has done the cinematography for every single Clint Eastwood film since Mystic River.  American Sniper probably missed out because there was nothing flashy about the style, even though the quality of the cinematography is definitely prevalent.



Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Alejandro Iñárritu (Birdman)

Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)

Surprises: As mentioned many times before, The Grand Budapest Hotel was a dicey pick to get recognition.  Furthermore, Wes has never received a Best Director nomination, and after two decades of quirky films, one of his masterpieces has finally received a lot of recognition.  The directing nod for Wes is a huge compliment to his unmistakable style.  Another surprise is Morten Tyldum, a fairly new director who got in for a fairly easy movie to direct.  The Imitation Game is of quality, granted, but this a a huge award.

Snubs:  The snub no one will stop talking about: Ava Duvernay.  The Selma director was to be the first African American woman to be nominated for the Best Director prize.  Controversy has swirled this snub, and black Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs has responded to the criticisms of the Academy.  Whether or not the Academy is racist is a topic for another day, but people should not attack the Academy for the exclusion of ANY contender, regardless of race.  Moving on, another director I would say got snubbed is Clint Eastwood for American Sniper.  American Sniper is nominated for 6 awards including Best Picture, Best Actor and even Best Editing.  This is a very well made movie and some have called it his best since Million Dollar Baby.  It is a tense, fast-paced, heavy-hitting film.  And Clint Eastwood is 84 years old.  An 84 year old fossil made this film.  He unquestionably deserves a nomination over the young Morten Tyldum.  This might be the last time Clint Eastwood has a very well-received film to the Academy, and they blew their shot to honor him one last time.



Jason Hall (American Sniper)

Graham Moore (The Imitation Game)

Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice)

Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything)

Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)

Surprises: American Sniper came really late into the game, so it’s overall success has been a bit of a surprise.  The subject matter is obviously important to American history and this seemed like the most likely category it would snag a nom in.  A bit more surprising, however, is Paul Thomas Anderson for Inherent Vice.  A movie that was deemed a contender but received no recognition has handed PTA yet another writing nomination.  Considering the love for PTA, perhaps this isn’t a surprise.  However, whenever a movie gets one nomination and nothing else, especially in a writing category, it’s a little unexpected.  The most surprising in this category is Damien Chazelle.  A Sundance smash, Whiplash was an original story from writer-director Damien Chazelle.  However, the writers guild noticed that the story was based on another medium—a short written by…Damien Chazelle.  This was, in my opinion, a really questionable call by the guild.  A favorite for the original category, his chances in the adapted category were unsure, but he ended up with a nomination in the end.

Snubs: There wasn’t a big race here, the only thing that I would have considered a snub would be Damien Chazelle for Whiplash had it not gotten in.



Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Alejandro Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo (Birdman)

Max Frye & Dan Futterman (Foxcatcher)

Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler)

Surprises: After being torn apart by Mark Schultz regarding story inaccuracies, Foxcatcher scoring a nomination here is a little bit of a surprise.  Although based on a true story, the screenplay qualifies as an original since there was no other writing medium from which the screenplay was derived.  More surprising is Dan Gilroy getting in for Nightcrawler, which was a really small film that got more acting buzz for Jake Gyllenhaal than anything else.

Snubs: No snubs, but another small movie might have gotten the boot here.  J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year is a crime movie that was loosely based off of true stories dealing with the violence in New York in 1985.  Not a huge snub, but just something else that was in consideration.  In fact, if anything is a snub, it is Christopher Nolan being left out for yet another brilliantly meaningful film.  His newest, Interstellar, received little recognition (mostly technical aspects), but the story is so littered with science and originality that its a little shocking that it went unnoticed to the Academy.