In a year with so many surprisingly-edible bits of Oscar bait, some films and their component parts were sure to be left out of the 2014 Academy Awards. And, indeed, they sure were. So, while we could just resign ourselves to being contented with how many incredibly-solid films came out this year, let's instead take a look who has the right to be either surprised or embittered with today's nominations. Such as...
Inside Llewyn Davis - The Coens' latest was an endlessly entertaining if slight (for them) effort driven by infectious faux-period songs and, more so, by a breakthrough performance from star Oscar Isaac--who proved he could lay on charismatic floundering and take a sucker punch just as well as a Clooney. Or, if you're the old men at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it was a movie that looked and sounded fine--except for all that long hair and the epidemic of that newfangled folk rock. They only saw fit to give the film nods for cinematography and sound mixing, which is a shame when there's so much to like in there. Next time, the Coens will know to make their music dramedy about a disgraced big band conductor instead.
Best Actor - This is a tough category this year; with only five spots for nominees, several laudable performances were sure to be left out. As it happens, those left out were, most notably, (as mentioned) Isaac, Joaquin Phoenix, Robert Redford, Forest Whitaker, and, shockingly, Tom Hanks, the man whose shirtless Cast Away pin-ups still hang in the Academy's locker. It's not that Bale, Dern, DiCaprio, Ejiofor, and McConaughey are unexpected or undeserving in their nominations. It's just that when an actor can sell a film acting against a cigarette case or a boat, it kind of a let down when they don't get more mention for it.
Lee Daniels' The Butler - When Lee Daniels' latest bit of melodrama hit theaters in August, it whiffed in with the first pheromones of the fall-winter film season, wafting in those overpowering bouquets that so often attract awards voters. But while SAG, BAFTA, the Critics Choice Awards and others all fell in love with Oprah, the Academy showed a surprising distaste for those generic-brand fragrances; they shut out The Butler completely.
Blackfish - Though it's earned a ton of press and a 98% rating on RottenTomatoes, Gabriela Cowperthwaite's exposé on orcas in captivity isn't getting any attention from the Academy. Do these guys have a concessions stand at SeaWorld or what?
Monsters University - Pixar lost a Best Animated Film nomination to The Croods. That must feel like getting hit by a Cars.
Best Director - Another category where some people got fucked over for there simply being too many well-made films this year. Nice for us; not great for Spike Jonze, Paul Greengrass, and even Woody Allen--whose Blue Jasmine also missed a Best Picture nomination. Is there no one we can count on the Academy to throw some awards at anymore?
James Gandolfini - Nods from the Screen Actors Guild and various critics associations gave Gandolfini's final performance a push toward a posthumous Oscar; instead, Jonah Hill continues a shockingly-acclaimed path out of Superbad that no one ever saw coming.
Original Score - Considering how often Jonny Greenwood's haunting and livening scores have been overlooked, what a refreshing surprise to see that the Academy has gotten over their resentment of Pitchfork-beloved artists and nominated Arcade Fire's fantastic, essential Her score. It's not like it will win, but it's a good step toward maybe next time finally recognizing Only God Forgives and Spring Breakers composer Cliff Martinez.
Bad Grandpa - Who would have thought that words "Jackass presents" would ever be interchangeable with "Academy Award nominee"?