Awards-season fervor is at its peak since the 2014 Academy Awards nominations were announced on Thursday, Jan. 16. For the most part, the nominees were direct shoe-ins; movies that have been highly publicized as critical and awards-season darlings since their release. On the other hand, as always, a few backhanded snubs were also dealt this year.
All things considered, let's recap this year's nominees, point out the notable snubs, and prepare ourselves for my Oscars Picks & Predictions, which will be announced on Thursday, Feb. 27.
In the BEST PICTURE category nine films were nominated this year: American Hustle (which already has a Golden Globe for Best Picture - Comedy or Musical and a SAG Award for Best Ensemble behind it); Captain Phillips (which has been a critical darling for months now); Dallas Buyers Club (having won both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto Globes and SAG Awards in their respecting categories); Gravity (the space odyssey that left critics and audiences worldwide, breathless); Her (my most anticipated film of the year, and it has also been listed at the top of more than 300 critic's lists for best film of the year); Nebraska (Alexander Payne's little film that could); Philomena (while worthy, this is the surprise nomination - more on this later); 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen's film has been a favorite since its festival debut at the New York Film Festival in Sept.); The Wolf of Wall Street (Scorsese's most excessive study of debauchery ever put on celluloid).
While most of these films were shoe-ins, Philomena stands out as the surprise nominee, and the Oscars love their surprises, so I will definitely keep an eye on this one.
In the BEST ACTOR category, all the names that should be there are present (Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club; Christian Bale, American Hustle; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street; Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave; Bruce Dern, Nebraska), sans two: Tom Hanks and Joaquin Pheonix. Hanks' performance in Captain Phillips (and in the other critical darling that has been heavily overlooked this awards season, Saving Mr. Banks) was extraordinary. Pheonix's subtle performance in Her has been extremely underrated, especially compared to last year's over-the-top performance in The Master. These are probably the most notable snubs of the year.
In the BEST ACTRESS category, we have a group of women whom gave some of their best performances to date, including: Amy Adams, American Hustle; Cate Blanchet, Blue Jasmine; Sandra Bullock, Gravity; Judi Dench, Philomena; Meryl Streep (of course), August: Osage County. Choosing a pick and prediction in this category will be extremely difficult. Wish me luck.
In the BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR category, there's Bradley Cooper, American Hustle; Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave; Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips; Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street; Jared Leto; Dallas Buyers Club. Leto has already won a Golden Globe and SAG Award for his performance. At the moment, he's definitely the one to keep an eye on.
The BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS category has collected a group of wonderful women, including: Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine; Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle; Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave; Julia Roberts, August: Osage County; June Squibb, Nebraska. After Lawrence's win at the Golden Globes, and Nyong'o's win at the SAG Awards, I'm watching these two closely.
In the BEST DIRECTOR category lies the most notable snub of all, at least for me. The nominees are David O. Russell, American Hustle; Alfonso Curaon, Gravity; Alexander Payne, Nebraska; Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave; Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street.
Do you notice who's missing? It's a blaring omission, according to me. Spike Jonze! His approach to the quirky, weird and touching Her set him above the rest, as far as I'm concerned. His absence from the nominee ballot this year definitely broke my heart. But, his name is in the category for BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY, which makes me slightly happier.
That's it for now. Check back next week for my reviews of 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle, as I break down their chances for Oscars glory! My Oscars Picks & Predictions will be released on Thursday, Feb. 27.