Zack Miller: I was a bit surprised by Ida‘s nomination for Best Cinematography. Not because it doesn’t deserve acclaim — it perfectly, stunningly, monochromatically does — but because it’s not very often that foreign flicks can break through to the more mainstream categories. In the last 15 years, the only other foreign films to be nominated in their own category and for cinematography are Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, Pan’s Labyrinth from Guillermo del Toro, and the Jean-Pierre Jeunet charmer Amelie.
In other cinematographic news, Robert Elswit was mega-snubbed this year. His work on Inherent Vice and Nightcrawler would be notable even if they came out in different years; as it stands, he has two awards-worthy films from 2014 and two nominations too few.
Nick Michal: Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice for the ‘Best Actor’ category. Similar to his role in The Master, Phoenix does a fantastic job of physically embodying Larry “Doc” Sportello. Pynchon’s characters can be considered madcap and exaggerated, and Phoenix plays to this, but never to the point of caricature: in fact, Phoenix’s most over-the-top actions are when Sportello is trying to play a role in order to infiltrate a mental institute, or a private party. Pynchon’s book is by-and-large funnier than PTA’s adaptation, but Phoenix is up to the task of intertwining Pynchon’s nuanced slapstick with PTA’s genuine pathos.
And his facial expressions, wow. They reminded me most of George C. Scott’s Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove with how emotive they could get, particularly as the plot kept adding notes and spiraled deeper and deeper into cacophony. His scream upon seeing a picture of Hope Harlingen’s nascent daughter is hilarious, but so too are his affectations and ambling mumbling, which makes makes it harder to hear what he’s saying but actually adds to what he’s trying to say. I didn’t expect Phoenix to get nominated, so I can’t be surprised, but any conversation of a best actor role in 2014 deserves to have him in the discussion.
Zack Miller: I’m right there with you on Joaquin, but he’s not the only hilarious role in a nostalgic film to be passed over by his category this year. M. Gustave is more than just a top-tier concierge at Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel — as embodied by Ralph Fiennes, he is one of the greatest comedic performances of the last decade. Mannered and explicit, charming and despicable, Fiennes expertly commands Gustave’s contradictions for maximum sentiment and humour.
As with last year (I’ll leave it for the reader to pontificate as to why), the “Best Actor in a Leading Role” category is so dense with competition that the entire line-up could be swapped. Aside from Phoenix and Fiennes, notable misses also include Jake Gyllenhaal’s terrifying and bestial news reporter, Nightcrawler‘s Lou Bloom, and Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz, as portrayed by a quiet, physical Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher. The Tatum snub is doubly irksome: not only was Tatum’s performance better and more measured than the one which earned Steve Carell his nomination, but Carell wasn’t even the lead of the film. Add David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma to the mix and you’ve got a full second string of deserving nominations.
Jordan Brooks: Aside from the Selma debate (and The LEGO Movie being passed over for Big Hero 6) Tilda Swinton had an incredible year that was almost completely ignored. Roles in Only Lovers Left Alive, Snowpiercer, and the widely-acclaimed Grand Budapest Hotel show an incredible range of acting ability. Swinton is one of the best character actors working today, and 2014 was a fantastic year for her. I understand that Meryl Streep acted in 2014, but does she really need a nod for everything she does?
Taylor Sinople: I was thrilled to see The Grand Budapest Hotel draw so many nominations – particularly Anderson for director. His films can sometimes be too esoteric to appeal to award shows, but the Academy did right by acknowledging Budapest Hotel as a top tier Anderson epic. It was also nice to see Ida sneak in for cinematography and the absolutely riveting Cotillard get nominated for Two Days, One Night.
When it comes to snubs, there’s a bunch of stingers this year but none that make me curse the entire ceremony like the total lack of appreciation for Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. The film was my pick for the best film of 2014, and like the injustice of the 2013 Inside Llewyn Davis snubs, I’m still getting over it not being recognized by the Academy. Glazer’s atmospheric, tense, post-modern film is one-of-a-kind, and a few nominations – for Scarlett Johansson’s unnerving performance, for Daniel Landin’s cinematography, for Mica Levi’s unforgettable, iconic score – would have given the film a boost of attention it deserves.
The most baffling nominations, for me, were in the foreign film category. The final round of nominations, which trimmed the short list from 9 selections to the final 5, cut out films as essential as Palme d’Or winner Winter Sleep and Ruben Östlund outstanding genre-puzzler Force Majeure.
Zack Miller: As far as the foreign nominations, and not for lack of trying, I still haven’t seen Wild Tales, Timbuktu, or Tangerines. Accordingly, Best Foreign Language Film is the category I’m least qualified to comment on, but most eager to. Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure is one of the best films of 2014, categories be damned. It’s smart and dark and gorgeous and real, but it appears that it couldn’t successfully tickle the funny-bone of the stuffier Academy members.
Have your own ideas of what was or wasn’t snubbed? Leave a comment below!