Oscar nominations: hits and misses

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

Hard to believe, the Oscar nominations were just announced on Jan. 15. Almost as hard to believe: the Academy Awards ceremony doesn’t happen until February 22.

Why the feeling of being time-outta-mind? Because we’ve already seen red carpets, presenters, stars, winners, losers and –  did I mention – red carpets over and over and over again.

By one estimate, something like 16 award ceremonies will take place before January is over. No wonder the Oscars seem almost anti-climactic.

And yet…somehow the Academy Award is still the 800-pound gorilla. Other competitions may be more fun, more daring, more intellectual, more whatever. Oscar remains the one everyone wants.

Look it this way: if you win one of the other prizes, your obit will probably start, “Golden Globe winner blah passed away yesterday…” But if you win a Globe and an Oscar, you can bet the lead will be “Oscar-winner Blah….”

Of course, in order to win, you gotta get in the game. Which is why the nominations matter.

Here are some thoughts about the top three categories: Picture, Actress, Actor. I would’ve loved to do the Supporting categories and Best Director, but this thing is long enough. If you need a list of nominees, let your fingers do the walking…or as they say in the 21st Century, google it.

BEST PICTURE

THE GOOD:

“Selma” didn’t get all the Oscar love it deserved, but at least the film nabbed a spot in the most important category. Further, Oscar wasn’t afraid of “Boyhood” a movie that isn’t exactly the way they used to make ’em. Not just in the  ‘30s and ‘40s, but in the ‘80s and ‘90s. In fact, Oscar was especially open to movies that weren’t studio-backed blockbusters. Plus, consider this: until “American Sniper” opened last weekend, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” was the nominee with the largest box office earnings: $59 million. And it’s been around since last March. By comparison, “American Sniper” has made over $90 million. In three days.

THE BAD

If the Academy is going to stick with its bone-headed decision to increase the number of Best Picture nominees to as many as 10, then go ahead and nominate 10. This year, they settled on 8. That left out such movies as “Belle,” which is phenomenal and criminally overlooked, “A Most Violent Year,” which could’ve benefited from a nomination, and “Wild,” which is a lot better than several of the nominees. I loved “The Homesman,” but nobody else did, so, well, drat.

THE HUH?

Not that I think the Oscars made a mistake, but I would’ve bet Big American Bucks that “Interstellar,” “Gone Girl” and “Unbroken” would make the cut.

BEST ACTRESS

THE GOOD

The Academy showed the tiniest bit of skin…if you know what I mean…by nominating Marion Cotillard for the little-seen “Two Days, One Night.”

THE BAD

Cotillard already has an Oscar (much-deserved, for playing Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose”).  But… including her meant excluding Hilary Swank (“The Homesman”), Amy Adams (“Big Eyes”) and, most especially, Gugu Mbathaw-Raw (“Belle”).

THE HUH?

The way “Gone Girl” was structured (as a movie, I mean; haven’t read the book), I expected Rosamond Pike to surface in the supporting category.  True, she acted Ben Affleck off the screen, but the screen time still seemed hugely tilted in his favor. And please, Felicity Jones in the tired role of the valiant wife who stands by her genius?  Didn’t Jennifer Connelly already win that for “A Beautiful Mind?”

BEST ACTOR

THE GOOD

Well, at least they didn’t nominate Joaquin Phoenix for the excruciating “Inherent Vice.” And I’m sorry; I’m still boycotting “Nightcrawler” because, according to the company’s local PR agency, the picture’s distributor (Open Road) didn’t think I was worth including at a critics’ screening. Ouch. Sob. But I’m about to get over it. For some reason, Open Road did a complete about-face and made sure I had a screener. Still, I have no idea if the very talented Jake Gyllenhaal was overlooked or not.

THE BAD

Steve Carell is something else in “Foxcatcher.” I’m not certain what that something else is and I’m glad to see him recognized.  But something (else?) makes me feel he belongs in the Supporting category.  Maybe that’s because the movie spends so much time ogling Channing Tatum’s muscles. Anyway, the Big Big Big Bad here — and the Academy is going to regret this for years — is that David Oyelowo (“Selma”) was left out. Are the Oscar voters stupid or are they blind?

THE HUH?

Well, I’m skipping the actors and giving the Huh? Space to the directors because this is where the Academy screwed up big time.

It’s this simple: No Ava DuVernay (“Selma”)? Are the voters stupid, blind or insane?  Or all three?

And remind me, who directed this record-breaking “American Sniper?” I think it was some guy named Clint Eastwood. Okay, I know. He’s already got Oscars.  But the movie is masterful and he’s not just a master; he’s an 84-year-old master.  Attention should be paid.

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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