You gotta love The Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences—you know, AMPAS, the Oscar people. They always shut out a lot of esteemed somebodies from the nominations…and this year is worse than usual.
With the race for Best Everything now off to a controversial flying start (the finish line is Sunday March 2nd, with host Ellen DeGeneres waving the checkered flag), inevitably some also-rans have been left behind at the gate.
Admittedly, this is a very strong year of worthy nods for worthwhile films: American Hustle (10 nominations), Gravity (10), 12 Years a Slave (9), Captain Phillips (6), Dallas Buyers Club (6), and Nebraska (6).
But a number of titles and names are conspicuous by their absence. Here’s a countdown of the 7 most egregious omissions.
7. The Girls in the Band: This swell swing music documentary just finished its run at The Screen, but didn’t even make the 15-title Best Doc short list. Guess the Academy thought it competed with 20 Feet From Stardom, and that it would make the category chick-heavy. An old-white-guys error, for sure.
6. Blackfish: And the true Best Doc of the year, about what a big, bloody mistake it is to keep orcas captive, failed to surface for air, and sank.
5. Inside Llewyn Davis: This biopic of the 1960s folk rock era from Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men) was the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes last May. Back then, it looked like a lock for Best Pic. Instead, the Co-Bros’ latest, an ode to Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk, got snaps only for Cinematography and Sound Mixing. How come? The answer, my friend, blows.
4. Her: Nominated for Best Pic, but Spike Jonze isn’t on the Best Director list. Moreover, Scarlett Johansson plays the title role, and though she’s never seen on screen, her characterful voiceover as a Siri-ish computer persona is a full-blooded performance.
3. The Butler: No Oprah. Worse yet, no Jane Fonda, whose brave turn as Nancy Reagan is as against type as you can get.
2. Saving Mr. Banks: One stinkin’ nom for Best Original Score. Can you believe it? I can’t. Should have received a Best Pic kudo at least, but this feels like the 10th of the 9 nominated movies. Granted, it’s not Tom Hanks’ finest day; he’s much better as Captain Phillips than as Walt Disney. But no appreciation for Emma Thompson’s rigid, determindedly unsympathetic Pamela Travers? Or for that matter, nothing for the meticulous period piece production design or for the well-researched, insightful screenplay? Mr. Banks was robbed.
And the #1 snub: Robert Redford for All Is Lost. In over 50 years of acting under his leather belt, this is his best work. Today he’s blaming the distributor, Roadside Attractions, for failing to campaign in his behalf. He’s right to do so. The studio didn’t hoist enough marketing sails, and the movie simply floated past the Academy voters like so much flotsam. Too bad. Robert Redford is Best Actor. Period.
I will grant AMPAS this: They did have the sense to nominate CaveDigger, about Española earth sculptor Ra Paulette, for Best Documentary Short Subject. Can’t say it will win, but it’s there, and it should be.
We’ll have to wait another 6 weeks, when the winners are announced, before we find out what other mistakes have been made.