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No Oyelowo? No Lego Movie?! Two Slate Critics Discuss This Year’s Oscar Nominations.

The Lego Movie
Was there any surprise bigger than The Lego Movie’s snub for Best Animated Feature?

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.

Aisha Harris: Everything is not awesome! Everything is just weird, in regards to Oscar nominations this year.

Dan Kois: Opening with “Everything Is Awesome” as the first nomination of the day seemed heartening, but in the end yes, these were a bizarre set of noms!

Harris: You were right about American Sniper being the (bad) dark horse—it landed that Best Picture slot.

Kois: Plus Actor and Editing. Left out of Director, thank God for small favors. For a moment I thought BOTH my dark horses were going to pull through as Mr. Turner landed Costume and Cinematography nominations (the latter nod was much-deserved, for poor “Dick Poop”). But then Timothy Spall couldn’t grunt and wheeze his way to Best Actor.

Harris: But Steve Carell and his schnoz managed to creep their way in there. Forget Jennifer Aniston, Foxcatcher was Carell’s Monster. And what about Bennett Miller? He
pulled some sort of reverse-Argo by getting nominated for Best Director, but not Best Picture for Foxcatcher.

Kois: Miller is the first “lone director” since Best Picture expanded beyond five nominees. I don’t even like Foxcatcher, and I legitimately don’t understand how the movie could have enough enthusiasm from the writers, the actors, and the directors to land in those categories but not get Best Picture.

Harris: A couple of things I actually got right: The Theory of Everything got quite a few nods (though not as many as Grand Budapest and Birdman). And I was spot-on with the Best Actress category. (Dusts shoulders off.)

Kois: The big news is the Selma snubs, which were the opposite of what happened to FoxcatcherSelma’s one of the best pictures, but nevertheless did not have one of the best screenplays, directors, or actors.

Harris: It feels bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s great that Selma is up for the biggest award of the night. But I truly think director Ava DuVernay deserved it, especially when considering who is on the shortlist instead of her. Same for David Oyelowo.

Kois: Happy birthday, Martin Luther King. Here is what I believe to be the complete list of movies to get a Best Picture nomination and only one other nomination since 1944:

Decision Before Dawn (1951)
Four Weddings and a Funeral
The Blind Side
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Harris: …so, not the greatest company for Selma. The acting categories are just … so … white this year.

Kois: Another whitewash! It seems clear there isn’t enough love for Selma in the academy for some kind of Argo effect to vault it to a win as a response to the snubs.

Harris: Yeah. I will be perfectly happy if Boyhood or Grand Budapest wins, but it kind of sucks to know that Selma has basically no chance at this point. Is there anything else that surprised you about the nominees, Dan?

Kois: I am generally delighted to see two small, artful films (Song of the Sea and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya) in Best Animated Feature, even if it doesn’t make much sense that The Lego Movie was omitted. In addition to Mr. Turner’s Dick Pope, I am thrilled to see Ida’s gorgeous cinematography recognized.

Harris: Yes, me too. Ida was stunning.

Kois: I am happy for J.K. Simmons, who’s had a long and great career and deserves everything that’s happening to him.

Harris: I’m very happy for Laura Dern, who was great in Wild. I am sad that Emily Blunt didn’t make it into Supporting Actress, though—at the risk of angering the cinematic gods, she was the heart and soul of Into the Woods, not Meryl Streep.

Kois: It does seem crazy that this wildly talented, beautiful British actress with extremely good taste in material has not gotten an Oscar nomination yet. Get on it, academy!

My prediction of only six Best Picture nominees was wrong, although there were fewer than nine for the first time in this five-to-ten era. What are we to make, if anything, of an eight-movie slate? Seems likely the ninth movie, which didn’t reach the threshold of a nomination, was Foxcatcher, right?

Harris: Yes, that seems most likely. It makes Selma’s nod feel more like a consolation prize, even if the academy isn’t actually into groupthink.

Kois: I could see individual members giving Selma a spot on their Best Picture ballots as a kind of sop for leaving it off the ballots for their own individual branches. That in the end is the shame of this expanded Best Picture field—a nomination in that category no longer feels quite as impressive, and one can imagine a voter tossing a movie they don’t actually care about that much onto the ballot on the grounds that “at least it’ll get something.”

Harris: It’s all Batman’s fault, really.

Kois: So the award that was once the biggest, most glorious prize in moviedom feels a little watered-down.

Harris: I mean, it’s felt this way for a while—I just think this may be peak watering.

Kois: Do these nominations change in any way what you think might win? Does American Sniper have momentum it didn’t have before? I’m finally convinced that the academy likes Wes Anderson, it really likes him, and I kind of think he might get Best Director.

Harris: I still think the race for Best Picture is really between Boyhood and Birdman. But when it comes to Best Actor—I have no clue. I had a hunch that if nominated, Oyelowo would win, but now I think Carell could take it.

Kois: No way does Carell take it from Michael Keaton.

Harris: The fact that he was even nominated tells me that he has momentum I was never aware of. Carell hasn’t really been talked about in this capacity since Foxcatcher was actually released.

Kois: If Steve Carell wins Best Actor, I’ll eat my (or the Unexpected Virtues of Ignorance). OK, back to the Oscar Response Factory! We’ll get together and talk again before the awards.

Harris: And send us your best Lego Movie snub reaction photos, featuring actual LEGOs, please.