Thursday’s Oscar nominations announcement was filled with shockers, snubs, and a true lack of diversity. Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel led with nine nominations each, with Boyhood closely following. While the majority of the nominations were expected and most of the surprises were welcomed, the one shocker that led to major disappointment among critics and the public alike was the fact that no females were nominated for directing, cinematography, or screenwriting despite several powerful contenders. To take a closer look at the hits and misses of this year’s nominations, let’s break it down:
American Sniper picked up momentum leading up to the announcement, and this resulted in multiple nominations for the film, including Bradley Cooper for Best Actor. This seems to be a welcome surprise for most, as Cooper is receiving rave reviews for his performance as Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle.
After failing to receive a Golden Globe or SAG nomination, Marion Cotillard managed to nab an Oscar nomination for her performance in Two Days, One Night. Cotillard’s surprise nomination leaves out Jennifer Aniston, who campaigned hard for an Oscar for her work in Cake. Cotillard spent much less time working the press to promote herself, but received more positive reviews for her performance than Aniston, whose film many have yet to actually see.
Another surprise actress nominee was Laura Dern, nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Wild. While critics loved her performance, Dern didn’t seem to have the momentum leading up to the big announcement. Dern knocked out Jessica Chastain, who had multiple chances to be nominated for Interstellar and A Most Violent Year but didn’t manage to sneak into the race.
With every surprise nominee comes a snub. Several key players so far this awards season were left out of the race, like Jennifer Aniston for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Aniston received both a Golden Globe and a SAG nomination for her work on Cake, but despite her campaigning efforts, she was shut out of yesterday’s nominations to make room for Marion Cotillard. Amy Adams, who also received a Golden Globe nomination for Big Eyes, failed to receive her sixth nomination this time around. They weren’t the only ones, however. This year’s Best Actor race proved too crowded for Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler) and David Oyelowo (Selma) despite their critically acclaimed performances.
A Best Director nomination generally pairs with a Best Picture nomination, but not in the case of Foxcatcher. After two years of nine Best Picture nominees, The Academy only selected eight this year, shutting Foxcatcher (and many others) out of contention.
The biggest snub at this year’s nominations was shutting women out of many of the major categories apart from acting. Gillian Flynn didn’t make the cut for her adapted screenplay of Gone Girl, and The Academy missed their chance to make history by nominating an African-American woman for Best Director, Ava Duvernay (Selma).
The Female Problem
The biggest problem is not just that the deserving women who actually had the chance to devote their talents to film didn’t get nominated — the problem spreads wider than this. Most women don’t get the opportunities in the first place to have their films made, and many female-centered films are written off as having limited appeal. It’s not just that the Oscar nominations are too made up of white males, it’s that movies in general tend to be. Jessica Chastain sums it up perfectly in her speech at Thursday’s Critics Choice Awards following her MVP win: “Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,’ and I would like to encourage everyone in this room to please speak up.”