Posted on Friday, January 16th, 2015 by Russ Fischer
We expect the annual announcement of Academy Awards nominations to come with a healthy set of surprises, and usually a few snubs for films that arguably deserve to be in the final round of contention for one of the biggest arts awards in the world. This year’s set of snubs was more pronounced than most, with a set of nominations that ignores the diversity of great filmmakers and films that hit theaters in 2014. We know the Academy is made up of old (less than 14% under 50), white (94%) men (77%), but even with that understood, this year’s crop of nominees is sadly, even pathetically homogenous.
Granted, there are some pleasant surprises, too, if not nearly as many as there are snubs. Here’s a list of twelve major 2015 Oscar snubs and surprises.
SNUB: Life Itself for Best Documentary
Twenty years ago, there was every expectation that director Steve James’ film Hoop Dreams would be nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar. That didn’t come to pass. Today, his film Life Itself, a documentary about the late film critic Roger Ebert, was passed over. Somewhat ironically, one of the other films that did receive a Best Documentary nomination, Finding Vivian Maier, is co-directed by Charlie Siskel, the nephew of Roger Ebert’s long-time TV sparring partner Gene Siskel. Chaz Ebert, the film critic’s widow, released a great statement this morning, saying, “While I am sad and disappointed that “Life Itself” was not nominated for an Academy Award, I take comfort in knowing that anyone who has seen the movie knows what an achievement it is, and what a great job Steve James did in making it.”
SURPRISE! Marion Cotillard for Best Actress in Two Days, One Night
Given how the nominations went this year, we’re amazed that the Academy has any understanding at all of the latest film from Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. AMPAS certainly knows who Marion Cotillard is, however, having awarded her the Best Actress trophy in 2008 for La Vie en Rose, and maybe that was enough to secure her Best Actress nomination this year. Whatever the root of the decision is — maybe enough voters actually saw the movie? — we’ll take it.
(On the other hand, the Best Actress race is also notable for those who weren’t nominated, notably Jessica Chastain for A Most Violent Year. And while there was a lot of talk about a Best Actress nomination for Jennifer Aniston in Cake, that always seemed like a PR initiative that went a lot further than anyone would have expected.)
SNUB: Gone Girl for Best Adapted Screenplay
Gillian Flynn wrote the novel Gone Girl and then adapted the book into a screenplay for David Fincher. That’s an unenviable task for any author, but Flynn cut and pruned her novel as needed, and even twisted parts of it into slightly different shapes for Fincher’s film. Personally, I found Gone Girl to be provocative and unusual, and the omission of her work in the Best Adapted Screenplay category seems significant.
SURPRISE! Inherent Vice for Best Adapted Screenplay
But at the same time as Gone Girl is left out of the screenplay race, Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of the book by Thomas Pynchon scored a nod. It’s an unusual adaptation, not unlike the Coens work on No Country for Old Men — very rigorously tied to the novel in many ways, but not entirely afraid to jettison characters and story concepts. Anderson made up relatively little dialogue out of whole cloth, preferring to transpose Pynchon’s words into new scenes when he needed material that went beyond the scope of any given scene in the novel. In truth, I’d be curious to see what would have happened if Pynchon went even further from the novel, but this nomination remains a pleasant surprise.
(A surprise which does not gloss over the omission of Robert Elswit in the Best Cinematography category, however.)