What the Oscars got wrong
With the recent release of the nominations for the 87th Academy Awards, arguably the biggest awards event every year in Hollywood, it truly feels like awards season has really kicked into full gear. As per usual, the nominations list is stacked with incredible actors, innovative movies and a directing category that spans those that have already had a storied career and others who made their English-language directing debut with their film (Morten Tyldum for “The Imitation Game”). However, as with every year, there are some nominations (or lack thereof) that have caught our eye as a little out-of-place. The Academy is not perfect and is known to shy away from certain movies or favor others in the interests of political correctness or sentimentality, and each year a few films and actors get snubbed. This year, Cadenza picks the worst mistakes from 2015’s Oscar nominations.
Jake Gyllenhaal snubbed
The Lead Actor category may be stacked with big names and amazing performances this year, including four actors filling the roles of real historical figures; Eddie Redmayne is already a frontrunner, and Golden Globe winner, for his turn as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game” is another early favorite. Despite a deep field of laudable actors, something just feels wrong about not giving Jake Gyllenhaal at least a nod for “Nightcrawler.” The man may only have been nominated for an Oscar once back in 2006 for “Brokeback Mountain,” but Gyllenhaal has slowly but surely moved from mere eye-candy to one of the most dedicated and dependable actors of his generation, and “Nightcrawler” was a full confirmation of the fact. Playing Lou Bloom, a seedy underworld figure who finds a job shooting footage of crime and violence in Los Angeles and selling it to news channels, Gyllenhall totally inhabited the darkness of the role. Aside from losing over 20 pounds for the role, his physical commitment to portraying the manic qualities of a sociopath manipulating crime scenes and wielding violence to move his way up in the world forces the audience to hate Bloom and become entranced by his bloody ascent. “Nightcrawler” was a career-defining role for Gyllenhaal, and it’s a crying shame that the Academy passed him over, probably shying away from the darkness and gore of the film. -Kayla Hollenbaugh
“Gone Girl” totally missing
When the Oscar nominations were announced and the dust had cleared, one movie was almost completely absent from the list. No, not “Selma,” which is a different story for a different day, but “Gone Girl,” David Fincher’s masterful shooting of Gillian Flynn’s universe. The only trace of the movie in the industry’s most prestigious awards show was Rosamund Pike, the eponymous gone girl, for Best Actress. For a movie that dominated summer conversation and shocked the world, it’s troubling that its presence was just gone.
Where “Gone Girl” was truly robbed in the nomination process was the Adapted Screenplay category. Buried all the way at the bottom of the Oscar’s nomination page, the Adapted and Original Screenplay categories often go overlooked by moviegoers, producers and the voters themselves. Because Hollywood rarely respects the work of the writers instead focusing on the directors, the screenplay nominations often get little-to-no coverage, but the work Gillian Flynn did to adapt her own book into a worldwide phenomenon is incredible.
First of all, working from your own source material in an adaption is challenging at best considering how developed the setting and action are in your own head. Where all of that nuance can develop in a 400-page novel, most of it needs to be cut for a 2 1/2-hour movie. For Flynn to stay true to her work while still creating an enrapturing film is almost unheard of. Secondly, “American Sniper” earning a screenplay nomination despite how much of Kyle’s story it ignored or simply glossed over is egregious. It’s fair to say that the Academy’s respect for Clint Eastwood contributed more to that nomination than anything put on screen.
“Gone Girl” deserved more nominations in general, but its absence from the Screenplay category is the embodiment of an Oscar snub. -Wesley Jenkins
Meryl Streep nominated, again
It must be some running joke among the Academy at this point that there has to got to be a way to nominate Meryl at least once every year. “Into the Woods” was a fine film, a Hollywood musical epic packed with stars and the musical numbers befitting its Christmas-day release, but it shouldn’t be showing up on any Oscar nominations list. Ignoring the fact that the movie got bogged down into self-importance and deep message-making in its second half, Streep’s performance was, as to be expected, demonstrative of her unique ability to give any role depth and feeling (even a role as boringly titled as ‘The Witch’). Yet, it was hard watching to really detach Meryl Streep the actor from the role, and the performance didn’t bring anything new or that groundbreaking to Streep’s legendary acting repertoire. In fact, if the Academy was going to give anyone from “Into the Woods” a nod, it should have been Emily Blunt in her role as the Baker’s Wife. Demonstrating a deft blend of sensitivity and charming comic timing, Blunt shined in a cast full of huge names, and if the Academy wanted to recognize any acting in “Into the Woods,” it should’ve been hers. -Kayla Hollenbaugh
“American Sniper” showing up
Although not surprising, it is a little disappointing to see “American Sniper” fill so many nominations on the ballot this year, especially Bradley Cooper taking away a spot from Jake Gyllenhaal for lead actor considering there was very little pre-awards buzz or nominations for other awards like the Golden Globes or Screen Actors Guild (two groups that did nominate Gyllenhaal for his performance) about Cooper in comparison to the other actors in the category. The Best Film nomination may not have been as much of a shock, because the patriotic plotline and gritty if simplistic narrative, directed by the hands of Academy favorite Clint Eastwood is the definition of Oscar bait. Just like Streep’s performance, “American Sniper” did not bring anything that new or unpredictable to the film industry despite being just a generally solid movie about war, the physical and mental struggles of becoming the most successful and lethal sniper in U.S. military history and then coping with the resulting post-traumatic stress disorder. A good film, but just “good” films don’t necessarily deserve Oscar nominations, especially with other much better and more challenging movies getting snubbed for the Best Movie title. -Kayla Hollenbaugh
No David Oyelowo
This entry isn’t about the overwhelmingly white list of Oscar nominees—that angle has been discussed and criticized elsewhere, by far more accomplished movie reviewers than I. Rather, this entry is solely about the stellar acting by David Oyelowo, in a role of the lifetime as Martin Luther King, Jr. in “Selma.” Oyelowo’s voice rings like King’s, his vocal patterns so perfectly mirror the historical figure, and even his hand gestures and mannerisms while speaking are reminiscent of the man he’s portraying.
Oyelowo brings deep, genuine emotion to King, no small task considering the legacy of the latter. This isn’t “42,” a similarly historical movie devoid of layers or any nuance—“Selma” has these necessary components for a Best Picture nominee, thanks to both Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay’s decisions (the latter is itself a snub that warrants its own mention).
“Selma” in general was grossly underrepresented in the final list of nominations. Oyelowo’s case was one of the strongest. -Zach Kram