“The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Birdman” led with nine Oscar nominations each on Thursday morning, followed by eight for “The Imitation Game,” while “American Sniper” came on strong with six (tying “Boyhood”).
This year’s awards season has been more unpredictable than usual. Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken,” once thought to be the frontrunner, fell off everybody’s radar quickly, and the Oscars didn’t give it any love in the main categories. The Academy also didn’t nominate Jennifer Aniston, who had picked up precursor nominations for “Cake”; Jake Gyllenhaal, who gave a career-best performance in “Nightcrawler”; Ava DuVernay, who was expected to make history as the first female African American director nominated for “Selma”; and “Life Itself,” the tearjerker documentary about the final days of film critic Roger Ebert.
Here are the 17 biggest snubs and surprises.
SNUB: Jennifer Aniston, “Cake.”
Nobody campaigned harder than Jennifer Aniston this awards season, crisscrossing between New York and Los Angeles at Q&As in support of her drama about a woman living with chronic pain. The problem is that “Cake,” which received mixed reviews out of Toronto and had to be self-distributed by Cinelou Films, wasn’t an Oscars movie (the Golden Globes nominated her because they love celebrities, and SAG is friendlier to TV actors who transition into film). Many Academy voters that I talked to weren’t impressed by the script, and they felt that Aniston was much better in “The Good Girl.”
SNUB: Ava DuVernay, “Selma.”
The Academy had a chance to make history by nominating an African American female director in DuVernay for making “Selma,” the powerful drama about the 1965 civil rights marches. But instead, they once again recognized five men, which prompted immediate outrage on Twitter.
SNUB: Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nightcrawler”
Gyllenhaal, who lost 30 pounds to play L.A. crime paparazzo Lou Bloom in Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut, deserved an Oscar nomination for best actor, and his omission in the category is a shame. The performance has its diehard fans. But this year, the best race was more crowded than ever, and my guess is that Gyllenhaal — who picked up all the precursor nominations — narrowly missed out.
SNUB: “The Lego Movie”
The fourth most successful animated movie of 2014 — with a domestic box office gross of $258 million — was thought to be a strong contender to win best animated film. But somehow Oscar voters managed to snub the comedy directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, instead nominating lesser-known titles “Song of the Sea” and “The Tale of Princess Kaguya.” (Here are five possible reasons why.)
Two months ago, Angelina Jolie’s drama about World War II hero Louis Zamperini was thought to be an Oscars frontrunner. But after it was snubbed by both the Golden Globes and SAGs, it lost most of its momentum, despite impressive box office that’s already crossed $100 million domestically. Of the eight movies nominated for best picture, six of them are indies, and the two studio releases — “Selma” and “American Sniper” — are only now expanding wider into theaters.
SNUB: David Oyelowo, “Selma”
His role as Martin Luther King Jr. also didn’t make the cut in the best actor race, despite glowing reviews. After receiving a Golden Globe nomination, many thought that Oyelowo had a strong shot at an Oscars run, but there were seven actors (along with Gyllenhaal) competing for the five slots.
The reason that the Academy now nominates up to 10 movies for best picture is so that Oscar voters can find room for blockbusters like this space epic directed by Christopher Nolan. But they still managed to snub Nolan even with the extra slots, which makes you wonder: Why is there even an expanded best picture race? Nolan also missed out in the best director category, where he’s never been nominated.
SNUB: “Gone Girl”
Another high-profile hit, Fincher’s “Gone Girl” wasn’t able to earn nominations for best picture or director. At least breakout star Rosamund Pike landed her first best actress nomination for playing Amazing Amy.
Its director Bennett Miller managed to eke out a nomination, but the film — about real-life Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), who befriends a disturbed millionaire (Steve Carell) — didn’t appear in the best picture category.
SNUB: Jessica Chastain, “A Most Violent Year”
Chastain had a strong year with “Interstellar,” “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” and “A Most Violent Year,” and she was expected to receive her third Oscar nomination for the latter drama, directed by J.C. Chandor, about a 1980s oil merchant’s wife. But the film may have not been seen by enough Academy voters.
SNUB: “Life Itself”
After snubbing 1994’s “Hoop Dreams” for best documentary (which outraged Roger Ebert), the Oscars shortlisted Steve James’ documentary about the film critic’s final days. The Sundance tearjerker, which recently aired on CNN, was thought to be a lock in the category, and given the love of Ebert within the Academy, it could have won if it had made the cut.
SNUB: Amy Adams, “Big Eyes”
Adams was supposed to be the actress to take home the Oscar this year, until viewers saw the Tim Burton biopic about painter Margaret Keane. But even with the mixed reviews, this year’s weak actress category meant she had a shot at her sixth nomination. Perhaps many felt that it wouldn’t be worth nominating her again if she wasn’t going to take the prize.
SURPRISE: Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”
Cooper packed on 40 pound of muscle, learned how to fire military rifles and completely disappeared onscreen to star in “American Sniper.” He earned the best reviews of his career, but the lack of a SAG or Golden Globe nomination makes his last-minute entrance in the best actor race a surprise. Then again, the Academy loves Cooper — it’s his third consecutive nomination, following “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle.“
SURPRISE: Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”
Most film critics were cheering this morning when Cotillard’s name was announced in the best actress race. She gives one of the most nuanced performances of the year in the Dardenne brothers drama about a depressed factory worker who’s just been laid off. But Oscar pundits were worried that the Cannes drama hadn’t been widely screened, and that Cotillard could cancel herself out with her other strong lead performance in James Gray’s “The Immigrant.” But the weighted ballot for the Oscars, which reward passion, worked in Cotillard’s favor, as there were enough fans of “Two Days, One Night.”
SURPRISE: Laura Dern, “Wild”
After missing out on a Golden Globe and SAG nomination, Dern picked up her first Oscar nom since 1992’s “Rambling Rose” for playing Cheryl Strayed’s mother.
SURPRISE: Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”
Miller picked up his second career Oscar nomination for directing (after 2006’s “Capote”), even though “Foxcatcher” didn’t land a best picture nomination. He got in over Ava DuVernay (“Selma”), Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”) and Clint Eastwood (“American Sniper”).
SURPRISE: “Inherent Vice,” adapted screenplay
Paul Thomas Anderson’s trippy adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel left many viewers confused, but the Academy still managed to find a way to recognize the director of “Boogie Nights” and “There Will Be Blood.” He took a spot that could have gone to Gillian Flynn, the former Entertainment Weekly critic who adapted her own novel into the script for David Fincher’s “Gone Girl.”