Typically, I write up my predictions of what the Oscar nominations would be the night before, then compare my guesses with the actual nominations. This year, I decided against it, because of lack of time and because I am usually pretty close with my guesses. Maybe I should have done one this year, because while there are lot of predictable Oscar nominations this year, there are omissions and inclusions that puzzle me. So much so that it is hard to collect my thoughts about them. So, be forewarned, this post might ramble a bit more than my posts usually ramble. Let’s begin.
No love for THE LEGO MOVIE?
The prevailing theme of my Facebook feed was the fact that this film was snubbed. It is the second best reviewed film of all of 2014 over at Rotten Tomatoes. It was more well received than any film except Boyhood. Logically, it should have had a good chance at being nominated for Best Picture, but its inclusion in the list of Best Animated Feature should have been a given. It was nominated in neither.
Why? Well, first of all, the Academy is not composed of film critics, it’s composed of film professionals with biases and stubborn ideas of what an Oscar nominee should be. Only three animated films–Beauty and the Beast, Up, and Toy Story 3–have ever been nominated for Best Picture, and the last two only after the Academy expanded the possible nominees to 10 films. So it probably wasn’t getting a Best Picture nod anyway.
And as for why it didn’t get a Best Animated Feature nomination, well, I just don’t know. You could say that the Academy’s efforts to recognize foreign animated fare in the last few years, on display this year with Ireland’s Song of the Sea and Japan’s The Tale of The Princess Kaguya being nominated, might have left The LEGO Movie being the odd film out. But that only works if consider Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls and How to Train Your Dragon 2 to be better films than The LEGO Movie. That is not necessarily the case.
The Best Picture Category is broken beyond all fixing.
What I will never understand is that in this era where you can have up to 10 nominees for Best Picture and more than ten worthy candidates that you end up with only eight nominees. Let’s forget abot The LEGO Movie for a minute. Let’s talk about Foxcatcher. That film has five nominations. It is nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. It is nominated for Best Original Screenplay and, more importantly, Best Director. Yet the film does not have a Best Picture nomination. Does that make any sense? “Yes, the acting was great, the script sharp, and the directing masterful, yet it was just not that good a movie,” said absolutely no one about a film, ever.
Part of this plays into how the nomination process works. You might think the process simply involves casting votes and counting them. You’d be wrong. It’s a draconian process designed by someone who wanted to be sure all those Algebra and Calculus classes they took in high school didn’t go to waste. The entire convoluted process is explained here, but I’ll try to sum up. First, the total number of ballots received is divided by 11 to come up with a magic number of first place votes to get nominated. Any film that gets this magic number of first place votes is automatically nominated. However, if the film receives 20% more votes than the magic number, the excess is applied to the vote count of the next viable film on the voters ballots. After this, any film that has less than 1% of the first place votes on all ballots gets disqualified and its votes are applied to next viable film on those voters ballots. Complicated? Yes, needlessly so.
This change was done just so the Academy didn’t have to nominate a substandard film to round out the ten. But what it really does is take away the possibility of deserving films of getting nominated.
The Best Actor and Best Actress fields should have the same 5-10 nominees as Best Picture does.
Yes, I just got done railing against the way the Academy picks its Best Picture nominees and I want it to pick more acting nominees. Just hear me out.
There were a lot of good performances this year. Think Bill Murray in St. Vincent. Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. David Oyelowo in Selma. Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood. Jennifer Aniston in Cake. Amy Adams’ Golden Globe winning performance in Big Eyes. All did not receive an Oscar nomination.
Now good to the list of this years of nominees for Best Actress and Best Actor. Tell me which one should have been left off to make way for one of the stars listed above? The correct answer is no one. All the nominees gave Oscar-worthy performances, just like the names above did.
Just like there are consistently more than five great films released every year, there are often more than five great performances. These actors and actresses should not have an arbitrary limit keep them from the recognition a nomination brings.
Best Documentary Feature is the Spanish Announce Table of the Oscars.
The WWE had (and probably still has, I haven’t seen a pay-per-view in a while) a running gag where some time during a pay-per-view, a wrestler would be body-slammed, suplexed or pile driven through the Spanish Announce Team’s table. I don’t know when it started, but in happened each and every PPV. The recurring joke ran to the point where it was no longer funny and instead became a sort of institution. It has to be done because it always has been done.
The Oscars have a similar thing going with its Best Documentary Feature category. Year in and year out, the best and often times most popular documentary, the film the whole world thinks should win the Oscar, doesn’t even get nominated. It, like that Spanish Announce Table gag, is a joke that has run on so long that it is no longer funny anymore.
Life Itself is this year’s victim. It sits right behind The LEGO Movie as the third best reviewed film of 2014. But it focuses on the life of Roger Ebert, an outspoken critic of the way documentaries are nominated, and is directed by Steve James, another outspoken critic of the process. So, of course, the film will not be getting a nomination.
If the Academy is looking to cut awards to make the short run just a little bit shorter, I suggest the cut this category. It’s a corrupt award run by a vindictive and petty group of people who are more interested in serving their own skewed brand of vigilante justice than awarding the best documentary of the year. Cut this joke in interests of time. It will not be missed.
A Missed Chance at history.
Ava DuVernay was nominated for Best Director at the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards, and she was a favorite to get an Oscar nomination as well. Unfortunately, she didn’t and the Academy missed an attempt to make history by nominating the first African-American female director for the award.
And from a comic book film editor’s perspective…
We have Rocket Raccoon, Doctor Strange, Batman and a man who might have been either Harry Osborn or Peter Quill battling for Best Actor, we have Talia Al Ghul fighting Felicia Hardy (who might one day become the Black Cat) for Best Actress, a once-potential Doctor Strange, two Hulks and J. Jonah Jameson in a battle royal for Best Supporting Actor, and Gwen Stacy the only comic book representative in the Best Supporting Actress category.