2014 Oscar Nominations

Oscar season has officially begun. Nominations for the 2014 Academy Awards came out on Jan. 17 and as usual, there were hits and misses. Nominations are always a mixed bag -- some favorites end up getting left out of the mix while others become surprise frontrunners, and this year was no exception. Shifts in momentum have everything to do with who gets nominated (and who wins) and films that were considered absolute locks a few weeks ago could be completely forgotten come Oscar Sunday. To take a closer look at the nominations and what they mean, let’s break them down by looking at surprises and snubs.

The Hits

Her and American Hustle have been gaining a lot of momentum recently, and that showed with this year’s nominations. Both were nominated for best picture as well as best original screenplay, and Her also walked away with nominations for best original song, best original score and production design. While Her has already won for best original screenplay at the Golden Globes and Spike Jonze could have a real chance at an Oscar, the film is much more unique and risky compared to the safer picks the Academy usually goes for, so it’s tough to tell how it will fare.

American Hustle has the distinct honor of sweeping all four acting categories, the second year in a row this has happened for a David O. Russell movie (the first being Silver Linings Playbook). Before Silver Linings Playbook, it had been over 30 years since a film had nominations in all acting categories, and it has now happened for Russell twice in a row. It’s no secret that David O. Russell has been on fire lately, and he is once again nominated for best director and has a good shot at winning, too. Amy Adams came away with a best actress nomination for the film, something some critics were unsure would happen because of the tough competition in this year’s race. While it looks like the Oscar is Cate Blanchett’s to lose, Adams might just get her shot to finally win an Oscar after five nominations.  

Gravity and 12 Years A Slave also lead the pack with nominations for best picture as well as best director for Alfonso Cuaron and Steve McQueen respectively. Sandra Bullock may have a shot (though it will be unlikely she will win) at a second Oscar for Gravity, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita N’yongo and Michael Fassbender all got recognized for their work on 12 Years A Slave. N’yongo may just be able to beat out Jennifer Lawrence for the win, though it will be a tight race as Lawrence won the Golden Globe but N’yongo won the SAG award.

The Oscar nominations also recognized Dallas Buyers Club, nominated for best picture as well as best actor and best supporting actor for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto respectively. Both actors are frontrunners in their categories and have swept almost every award leading up to the Oscars, so they will be tough to beat come Oscar Sunday. While some speculate that the Academy might finally throw Leonardo DiCaprio a bone and award him with the best actor trophy for Wolf of Wall Street, it looks like this year’s statue belongs to McConaughey and it will be hard to pull it away from him (unless the Academy decides to throw in a shocker this year, as they sometimes do). Jared Leto is also a favorite for the win, and having won both the Golden Globe and the SAG award, he seems like a lock for the Oscar. After a long break from films (Leto is also in the band Thirty Seconds to Mars), Leto gave the performance of his career as Rayon, a transsexual AIDS patient -- a role that he lost nearly 40 pounds to play. McConaughey also dropped over 30 pounds for his role in the film, and if there’s anything the Academy loves, it’s when an actor fully commits to a role. (Just look at Natalie Portman for Black Swan.) This will definitely help both Leto and McConaughey walk away with wins.

The Misses

Emma Thompson seemed like a lock for a best actress nomination, but she ended up getting shut out of the competition altogether thanks to Amy Adams’ surge in momentum. While many film buffs expected either Adams or Meryl Streep to be nominated, they both walked away with nominations, leaving Thompson without any recognition from the Academy for her work in Saving Mr. Banks. Meanwhile, Robert Redford and Tom Hanks were both left out of best actor contention, a huge shock given that the two seemed to be locks just a few short weeks ago. Hanks had two hit films this year -- Saving Mr. Banks and Captain Phillips, and many thought he would receive nominations for at least one of his films this year. Redford claimed he missed out on a nomination because his film flew under the radar and wasn’t well marketed. His complaint hits on a key factor of Oscar nominations -- press is everything. Actors who want to get nominated have to play the game and participate in press and whatever they can do to keep their name in the news and their chances for winning high. Unfortunately, the Oscars aren’t always about who gave the best performance that year, and many times it ends up being about who markets themselves the best and whose “year” it is.

Written and directed by the Coen brothers, Inside Llewyn Davis seemed like it would be an Academy favorite. Most figured it would be a lock for a best picture nomination and Oscar Isaac might also get nominated for his breakout performance as the struggling folk singer Llewyn Davis. Joel and Ethan Coen had a chance at both best director and best original screenplay, but came away with nothing. There can be a total of ten best picture nominees, and the Academy chose to only nominate nine this year -- Inside Llewyn Davis did not make the cut. This was perhaps one of the most surprising snubs, considering the film had an all-star cast and won countless awards at other events. While it is still up for two smaller categories, (Sound Mixing and Cinematography, both of which it has a good chance at winning) many critics were left shocked at the lack of love for the film.

There is still a little over a month until Oscar Sunday and plenty of time for momentum to shift yet again, and this year’s competition is tough. Dallas Buyers Club will most likely dominate the male acting categories and American Hustle might just sweep both best actress and best supporting actress if Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence come out on top (a tough feat with Cate Blanchett and Lupita N’yongo in the mix). With the crazy talented competition this year, a tie in at least one of the categories (extremely rare, but it has happened before, including last year) should not be ruled out. The Academy usually likes to throw in at least one surprise winner every year, and there’s no telling who that will be until the big day.

The Oscars air on Sunday, March 2 on ABC