Fan favorites shut out of Oscar race

Movie | Some of this year’s best-loved films and the talent that made them got seriously snubbed
by Megan Basham
Posted 1/15/15, 06:37 pm

The announcement of the Academy Award nominations is nearly always followed by media speculation about which films were overlooked and why. The slate announced earlier today, however, is drawing even more criticism than usual for elbowing out films with race-related storylines and cast members of color. Not only was the critically acclaimed film about Martin Luther King’s historic civil rights march, Selma, shut out of every major category except Best Picture (that category was expanded in 2010 to include as many as 10 nominees and this year has eight), no minority performers received recognition in any of the acting categories. Of the 20 nominees for best actor/actress and best supporting actor/actress, all are white. 

Another escalating Oscar trend this year is the unpopularity of the films nominated in major categories, none of which broke $100 million. In past years, top prizes have often gone to films that left audiences relatively indifferent, but the box-office take of this year’s frontrunners is especially anemic. The two films with the most nominations, Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel with nine each, failed to break into the top 50 movies in domestic grosses.  That means this year marks the lowest combined earnings for Best Picture nominees since the category was expanded five years ago. At this point, the only nominee that looks likely to gain much interest is Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper (nominated for Best Picture and its star, Bradley Cooper, for Best Actor), which goes into wide release Jan. 16.

In some cases, Academy voters’ decision to overlook popular films makes sense—no one thinks Transformers 3 should be up for Best Picture—but it is truly a head-scratcher that one of the most entertaining movies of last year, let alone the most entertaining animated movie, The Lego Movie, failed to make the cut for Best Animated Feature. By leaving out one of the most popular and deserving animated films, the Academy only furthered its reputation as a self-congratulatory insider event that has little interest in what regular audiences enjoy.

Industry watchers will no doubt make many predictions about who will take home the top prizes before the ceremony airs on Feb. 22. But one bet is already pretty safe, given the nominees: Not many average viewers will care.

Megan Basham

Megan, a regular correspondent for WORLD News Group, is a writer and film critic living in Charlotte, N.C. She is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide to Having It All.

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