They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don’t They?

The 87th Annual Oscar Nominations: Same as it Ever Was

By J. Don Birnam

January 15, 2015

This could also be an outtake from The Shining.

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After weeks of speculation, the waiting is over. The Academy finally revealed the nominations for the Academy Awards of merits and, as usual, a few surprises and snubs emerged, and clear favorites and front-runners emerged. It is clear that the race has boiled down to Boyhood vs. Birdman vs. The Imitation Game, with the first of the three way in front. The last stretch of the race - the guild awards - will tell us if Boyhood is really a done deal, or if something else is lurking in the wings.

In the meantime, let’s analyze a bit of what we just learned.

Of the 107 guesses, I got 79 correct and 28 wrong, for a middling 73% accuracy rate - not my best showing (the total increases into the 80% rate when alternates are considered, at least!). Some of the easier categories like Best Supporting Actor and Best Editing I nailed five for five, but I did particularly poorly in the Documentary and Song races - those branches always go their own way and, without a lot of precursors it is hard to tell where the wind is blowing. It seems like Citizenfour and Lost Stars should cruise to victories in those races, although Glory could provide Selma a consolation prize in the Song category.

Surprises in the Acting Categories

Best Supporting Actor had the expected lineup, but the other acting races raised a few eyebrows. Laura Dern deservedly got in for her supporting turn in Wild, arguably over Jessica Chastain in a Most Violent Year (which went home empty-handed). I would have preferred to see Chastain over Meryl Streep’s 20th nomination, but there you have it.


Foxcatcher’s Steve Carrell got a very well-deserved nomination, ousting my prediction of David Oyelowo, who in my view gave the best performance by any actor this year. I would have likely bumped Cumberbatch but it was a very tough race this year. Meanwhile, Jennifer Aniston did not make it in for Cake, replaced instead by Marion Cotillard’s daring performance in Two Days, One Night. I haven’t seen Cake, but Cotillard is well-deserving and starred in one of the best films of the year. It is hard to argue with these choices.

Best Directing: Same as it ever was

For the first time since the Best Picture expansion over five years ago, something happened: a director got nominated for a movie that did not make Best Picture. Bennett Miller, the renowned director of Moneyball and Capote, snuck in for Best Director. You have to think that Foxcatcher just narrowly missed a Best Picture slot. Indeed, it appears as if Foxcatcher was much stronger down the stretch than many expected - landing those Best Actor and Best Director nods, both, in my view, at the expense of Selma nominations.

Indeed, the Best Directing five will inevitably raise a question that must be asked: Another set of five white males? Is this really all there is in Hollywood? The obvious answer is no. Angelina Jolie took an ambitious project to the screen (admittedly, the movie was not very good - but then again is the Imitation Game that good that its director deserves a nod?), and Ava DuVarney made the most relevant movie of the year. Neither got in. Perhaps there is a benign explanation: Unbroken isn’t that good and Selma didn’t screen in time. Or perhaps not. We will never know, but you’d better bet that the question will be asked.

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