2015 Oscar Snubs: 'Selma,' 'Mr. Turner,' and 'Inherent Vice' Deserved More

Just as the Skibbereen Eagle grandly warned Kaiser Wilhelm in 1914 that it had its eye on him, so film reviewers feel moved to bellow their disapproval at the Academy. Only today I have been reflecting on movie journalists’ excitable habit of taking awards nominations far too personally. Now I found myself doing it as well: snarling, bridling, whimpering and finally standing up and stepping away from my laptop so that I could petulantly stamp my foot for about five minutes.

For heaven’s sake. Can it really be true that Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner has been overlooked in the best film and best director categories, with another zilch for Timothy Spall as best actor? Has David Oyelowo, who so memorably portrayed Martin Luther King in Selma, been ignored in this category as well? Selma at least has a best picture nomination, but no best director nomination for Ava DuVernay. 

In the documentary list, too, I feel my hackles rising at the omission of Steve James’s Life Itself, his portrait of the late Roger Ebert. No animation nomination for The Lego Movie. No best original score nomination for Mica Levi, for Under The Skin. But the time has come to call an end to these complaints for the time being, and spotting gaps is arguably an over-familiar type of jiu-jitsu that film journalists like to pull on award-nomination lists.

Basically, it is good news that Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel have performed so strongly: excellent films in that “indie-literate” middle ground that many in the industry have been worrying had been neglected in the general rush to big-budget, big-box-office superhero pictures. And this really is a kind of underdog good-news story for Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, which might so easily have completely vanished over awards season, without any particularly noticing. It might, for example, have suffered the fate of Paul Thomas Anderson’s superlative Inherent Vice.

There are some heartening points in the acting categories. Laura Dern’s intelligent and sensitive performance in Wild, playing the mother of Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) has deservedly got her a best supporting actress nomination. And Marion Cotillard has made it to the best actress list for the Dardennes’ heartwrenching workplace drama Two Days, One Night. For my money, Cotillard is clearly ahead of the others in this list, good though they are all are: Julianne Moore, Rosamund Pike, Felicity Jones and Reese Witherspoon. But I think Hilary Swank might be entitled to be disappointed that she didn’t make it for her performance in The Homesman and if the Academy was in the market for non-US actors, well … how about Berenice Béjo for The Past?

The Big Mo, or Momentum, continues to build behind Whiplash, by the brilliant young director Damien Chazelle, and surely no-one will be able to find a bookmaker ready to take a bet on JK Simmons for best supporting actor. Whiplashis a film which had generated enormous audience enthusiasm and priceless word-of-mouth: its easily summarised, unusual-but-not-too-unusual premise is a great hook: the sadistic teacher torments the highly-strung jazz-drummer. I have said before that I think it is a very good movie which perhaps does not support some of the more goggle-eyed critical responses: but it’s exciting and smart, and I am cheering Chazelle and Simmons on.

It is traditional to complain that comedy is overlooked in awards ceremonies — and I have done my own share of whingeing on this account — so it’s great to see properly funny films rewarded in this way. Birdman, arguably, has a solemn dimension to it, but not really The Grand Budapest Hotel, despite being inspired by a writer (Stefan Zweig) who famously committed suicide in despair at the rise of the Nazis.

Rather as I feared, the film that I personally felt strongest about — Richard Linklater’s masterly Boyhood — might actually be fading in this Oscar race, and that’s despite an extremely strong showing in the Golden Globes. You never know: best picture, best director, best screenplay and other acting awards could well go to Boyhood. Oscar night could be an even spread between it, Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash. But I would still love to see best adapted screenplay go to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice.

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