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Oscars: Surprises and snubs

Oscars: Surprises and snubs

Oscars: Surprises and snubs
January 21
12:04 2014

Preston Barta // Film Critic

Awards season officially kicked into high gear last Thursday morning with the long-awaited reveal of this year’s Oscar nominees.

David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” and Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity” lead the count, with a whopping 10 nods apiece, including Best Director and Best Picture.

In the Best Picture category, the aforementioned juggernauts were joined by “12 Years a Slave,” “Captain Phillips,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Her,” “Nebraska,” “The Wolf of Wall Street” and surprise sneak-in, “Philomena.”

“Philomena,” or “Philomania” as Leonardo DiCaprio coined at last week’s Golden Globes Awards, proved to have great traction. Not only did the beloved Judi Dench score a nomination for her role as the title character, but the film earned screenplay (Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope) and score (Alexandre Desplat) recognition.

After it screened at AFI Fest in November, many anticipated “Saving Mr. Banks” would be among the Best Picture nominees, but the film didn’t receive much recognition other than Best Original Score (Thomas Newman). The permed Emma Thompson, who gave an endearing performance as “Mary Poppins” writer P.L. Travers, was sadly passed over by Dench, Amy Adams (“American Hustle”), Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”), Sandra Bullock (“Gravity”) and Meryl Streep (“August: Osage County”).

Sure to walk away with the top honor on Oscars’ night is the harrowing survival tale, “12 Years a Slave.” Nominated for Best Director (Steve McQueen), Best Adapted Screenplay (John Ridley) and seven other awards, many expected that the film would sweep the board. Its snubs in Best Cinematography (Sean Bobbitt) and Best Original Score (Hans Zimmer) were certainly surprises.

The snubs are plentiful this year, but none were more shameful than the absence of Tom Hanks for his gut-wrenching performance as the title character in Paul Greengrass’ “Captain Phillips.” Some would argue that it’s the best work he’s done since his twin Oscar wins for “Philadelphia” (1993) and “Forrest Gump” (1994). It’s a shocking omission considering the film itself is up for Best Picture and first-time actor Barkhad Abdi secured a nomination in the supporting actor category.

 Oscar-nominee Barkhad Abdi and Tom Hanks in "Captain Phillips." Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Oscar-nominee Barkhad Abdi and Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips.” Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

The presumed nominee that bumped Hanks in the best-actor waters was Christian Bale, who landed a coveted slot for his portrayal of the toupeed lead in “American Hustle.” While he’s quite good in the role, his nomination is shocking when veterans such as Hanks and Robert Redford are in the running.

Amy Adams and Christian Bale picked up nominations for their performances in "American Hustle." Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Amy Adams and Christian Bale picked up nominations for their performances in “American Hustle.” Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Joining Hanks with a “man on a boat” performance, Redford wasn’t recognized for the subtle, silent work that he put forth in “All is Lost.” In one of the most competitive years in the last decade, it’s difficult to argue against any of the five nominees, with Chiwetel Ejiofer (“12 Years a Slave”), Bruce Dern (“Nebraska”), DiCaprio (“The Wolf of Wall Street”) and Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”) joining Bale.

Everyone’s favorite shouting gift-giver, Oprah Winfrey, may be one of the most powerful women on the planet, but that wasn’t enough to get her into the Best Supporting Actress category for her first serious acting work in quite some time in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” In fact, Daniels’ civil rights biopic failed to receive any Oscar love.

In 2007, who would have ever thought that Jonah Hill from “Superbad” would be a two-time Oscar nominee? Hill, who was nominated two years ago for “Moneyball,” has suddenly transformed himself into a respected dramatic character actor and his surprise nomination for his hilarious turn in the controversial “The Wolf of Wall Street” is well deserved. At 30, he is the second youngest actor to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor twice after Sal Mineo (“Rebel Without a Cause,” 1955).

German actor Daniel Brühl’s performance as Formula 1 ace Niki Lauda in Ron Howard’s “Rush” picked up Golden Globes, BAFTA (British equivalent to the Oscars) and Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations for Best Supporting Actor. Sure, he lost out to Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers Club”) at the Globes and SAG Awards, but the Academy didn’t even put him, or the movie at all for that matter, on the track.

Playing opposite of the pill-popping Streep in “August: Osage County,” the sharp-tongued Julia Roberts snagged a nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category. While no one thought the film stood a chance at claiming a Best Picture nomination, it was unexpected when the Oscars excluded the Tracy Letts’ screenplay for the film, which was adapted from his Tony-winning Broadway play.

Also left out this year were a number of independent films, particularly infuriating after the Academy heaped praise and nominations upon “Beasts of the Southern Wild” last year.

This year, the Oscars went for more mainstream spectacles while ignoring thoughtful, affecting films such as “Short Term 12,” “Fruitvale Station” and “The Spectacular Now.” Even Joel and Ethan Coen’s homage to the Greenwich Village folk scene, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” was mostly overlooked, only netting a nomination for its sound mixing and cinematography (Bruno Delbonnel).

Granted, in a year as strong as 2013, giving everyone their due is impossible, but some of us half-expected that the majority of these snubs would be no-brainers when it came to granting them an opportunity for Oscar gold.

See the full list of nominees at oscar.go.com/nominees.

The 86th Annual Academy Awards will be hosted by Ellen DeGeneres and will air Sunday, March 2, on ABC.

Feature photo: Likely the face that Jonah Hill made when he received the call from his mother saying that he was nominated for “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures. 

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