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oscars 2014

Oscars: Today's Snubs and Surprises

In a year packed with so many quality movies of every stripe, there were always bound to be a few surprising omissions when the Oscar nominations were announced today. Still, while there wasn't anything as galvanizingly nutty as last year's infamous Ben Affleck snub, there were still plenty of shocks and surprises in this morning's Oscar short list. Let's run through some of the nominations (or lack thereof) that really stood out.

12 Years a Slave wasn't the nominations leader
Though 12 Years picked up all of the major nominations it was supposed to contend for, two expected nods in Best Score and Best Cinematography failed to materialize, allowing American Hustle and Gravity to both claim bragging rights for the most nominations, each earning ten to 12 Years' nine. In fact, American Hustle pulled off the same zone-spread as David O. Russell's last film, Silver Linings Playbook, managing separate nominations in each of the four acting categories.

Still, American Hustle's no-brainer nod didn't happen
Many pundits had American Hustle picked as the front-runner for the Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar: Can you even think of that movie without thinking of all the characters' wild 'dos? But nods instead went to The Lone Ranger, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, and the category's real sleeper, Dallas Buyers Club. (Dallas Buyers Club also managed a surprise Best Editing nod, indicating real strength.)

Saving Mr. Banks and Inside Llewyn Davis were virtually shut out
Neither of these once-expected nominees made it into the Best Picture Race. Inside Llewyn Davis got two consolation nominations for Sound Mixing and Best Cinematography — well-deserved — but Saving Mr. Banks, pegged early this season as a potential Oscar juggernaut, could only manage a nod for its score. Even Emma Thompson proved to be the Best Actress category's weak sister, snubbed in favor of the rising Amy Adams and the resilient Meryl Streep.

Harvey Weinstein will contend for Best Picture after all
For a while there, it looked like Harvey Weinstein was in trouble: None of his Best Picture contenders seemed to be catching on, from Fruitvale Station to August: Osage County. Lee Daniels' The Butler showed real strength this past summer but faded fast — even Oprah Winfrey was shut out! — and yet Philomena proved to be the little movie that could, snagging a Best Picture nod over some brutally tough competition. We can't imagine Harvey's super-happy today, but at least things aren't as bad as they could have been.

Robert Redford didn't have a chance
The writing was on the wall when Redford didn't even score a SAG nod for his highly acclaimed performance in All Is Lost, which many tipped to win Best Actor when the movie debuted at the Cannes Film Festival. Ultimately, not enough people caught the movie, and the survival story wasn't screener-friendly, either. When Oscar remedies a SAG snub, it's usually with a late-breaking entry, and that's what happened here, as December contenders Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio kept Redford out of the short list.

What the hell is "Alone Yet Not Alone"…
… and how did that song make it into the always head-scratching Best Original Song race, especially over valid entries from Short Term 12 ("So You Know What It's Like") and The Great Gatsby (Lana Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful")? At least Her's affecting "The Moon Song" scored a nomination; in fact, Her was also rewarded in the Best Score category, where William Butler and Owen Pallett were recognized over Alex Ebert, the man-bun aficionado who partied with Diddy in St. Bart's and won a Golden Globe this past Sunday for scoring All Is Lost.

Paul Greengrass and Tom Hanks didn't get Captain Phillips nods
The Best Director category wasn't nearly as shocking as it was last year, when Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow, and Tom Hooper were snubbed in favor of names like Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin. Still, it's a bit of a surprise that Greengrass's muscular work on Captain Phillips wasn't recognized; even more startling is that Tom Hanks failed to make the Best Actor race, extending a dry run with the Oscars since his last nod in 2000 for Cast Away. I did have my doubts about his chances when I first caught Phillips — for nearly the entire movie, Hanks is delivering a decidedly unshowy performance in a category filled with flashy contenders — but I'd heard so many voters raving about his final breakdown scene that I thought he'd be safe. Not so.

The Best Documentary category left out Blackfish
No contender in this category was as headline-grabbing as Blackfish, and yet the SeaWorld–dissing doc didn't make the cut, nor did Sarah Polley's format-twisting Stories We Tell. At least the crowd-pleasing 20 Feet From Stardom earned a nod, giving this short list its most high-profile nominee.

There were a few Supporting surprises
I was thrilled when Sally Hawkins was the first name read off for Best Supporting Actress, since her Blue Jasmine performance opposite awards juggernaut Cate Blanchett is a pivotal part of why that movie works so well; she even managed to unseat the snubbed Oprah Winfrey, who was thought to be a lock for most of awards season. In Best Supporting Actor, The Wolf of Wall Street's Jonah Hill made it in just under the wire, but that meant that James Gandolfini won't contend posthumously for his work on Enough Said, an indie hit that came up completely empty today, failing to even earn a nod for Nicole Holofcener's finely tuned screenplay. Well, you can't have everything.

Photo: CBS Films; Anne Marie Fox/Butler Films; Disney