The 12 Biggest Oscar Snubs And Surprises Of 2015, From 'Selma' To 'Inherent Vice'

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.

life-itself-700SNUB: 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."

Marion Cotillard for Best Actress in Two Days, One NightSURPRISE! 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.)

Gone Girl honest trailerSNUB: Gone Girl for Best Adapted ScreenplayGillian 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.Inherent ViceSURPRISE! 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.)


Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom in Nightcrawler

SNUB: Jake Gyllenhaal for Best Actor in Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal has recently done some of the best work of his career, and his character Lou Bloom in Nightcrawler will be remembered as one of his most special achievements. But the Academy did not see in Gyllenhaal's work what others did, and he was passed over for a Best Actor nomination. (We can mention Robert Elswit here once again — surely his incredible pair of Los Angeles portraits was worth at least one Cinematography nomination?)

Interstellar - the best movie trailers of 2014SURPRISE! Interstellar for Best Sound Mixing

One of the most frequently heard talking points around the release of Christopher Nolan's Interstellar related to the sound mix, which buried dialogue under music and sound effects. Nolan was adamant that the mix was exactly as he intended it, and that the concept of putting dialogue under music and effects was something of an experiment meant to push the craft of using sound in film. Audiences were sometimes (but not universally) put off by the mix, but the Academy evidently was not.

Force MajeureSNUB: Force Majeure for Best Foreign Film

The marriage drama from Swedish director Ruben Östlund is an emotional disaster movie — the story of a damaged and potentially crumbling marriage wrapped in what seems at first to be the trappings of a disaster movie. In fact, Force Majeure is more than that — it is as often funny as it is very uncomfortable, and it is as a rule inquisitive and perceptive when it comes to the particular truths, lies, and manipulations that define a relationship.

jk simmons skull island story - whiplashSURPRISE! Whiplash for Best Picture

Damien Chazelle made noise at Sundance last year with this story of an aspiring young jazz drummer and his often maliciously intense instructor. The movie is a performance tour de force that seems more suited to acting nominations, or for a director nod for Chazelle. Due perhaps to the vagaries of Best Picture nomination vote tallying, the good will towards the film landed it a strange slot in the Best Picture race.


New American Sniper trailer

SURPRISE! Bradley Cooper for Best Actor in American Sniper

This is really a snub disguised as a surprise — Bradley Cooper's work in American Sniper is among the film's stronger elements, and this nomination marks him as one of the few actors to score at least three Oscar nominations in consecutive years. (Nine other actors have enjoyed the same luck, most recently Russell Crowe in the 2000-2002 stretch.) But Cooper takes one of the nominations that really should have gone to David Oyelowo for Selma.

The Lego MovieSNUB: The Lego Movie for Best Animated Film

Everything is not awesome; what the hell happened here? Variety has a good rundown of all the practical reasons The Lego Movie missed out on a nomination in the category for which it should be a prime contender, several of which boil down to "it isn't traditional enough." (As if some of the recent CD animated winners were.) Regardless, this will probably end up being the most pronounced break between the Academy and general public this year.

The Grand Budapest HotelSURPRISE! Nine Nominations for Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson is no longer a young whippersnapper, and Grand Budapest Hotel finds him working in a mode that evidently resonated with the Academy as the film took a whopping nine nominations, including Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture.

Ava DuVernay for Best Director for SelmaSNUB: Ava DuVernay for Best Director for Selma

While The Lego Movie may be the snub some audiences will remember, for years to come 2015 will be the year that Selma got screwed. Ava DuVernay deserves to be in the Best Director race, just as David Oyelowo deserves to be in the Best Actor race, and Bradford Young deserves to be in the mix for Cinematography. You can say that the film hit too late (not really), or that screeners didn't go out early enough (that has some bearing) but the fact that Selma ended up on the Best Picture list but not in the aforementioned categories that contribute to it being a Best Picture contender is ridiculous and embarrassing.