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Oscar nominations 2014: The biggest surprises and snubs
Examining the big victories and big snubs from this year's Oscar nominees
 
Hustling into some Oscar nods.
Hustling into some Oscar nods. (Facebook.com/American Hustle)

This morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced the nominees for the 86th annual Academy Awards, sparking the usual firestorm of excitement and outrage about the movies that scored and the movies that missed the cut. Looking over this year's ballot, who are the biggest winners and losers? A guide:

Winner: American Hustle
For the second year in a row, director David O. Russell delivered a film that dominated the list of nominees. American Hustle scored a whopping 10 nominations, including nods in every major category: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Christian Bale), Best Actress (Amy Adams), Best Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper), and Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence). The only real surprise is that it wasn't nominated for Makeup and Hairstyling.

Loser: Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis has been touted by many critics as the best film of the year — so it's genuinely shocking to see that it didn't even make the cut in the expanded Best Picture category. (Adding to the sting, the Academy only nominated nine movies out of a possible 10 — so if it had made the category, none of the other nominees would have been eliminated). In fact, Inside Llewyn Davis was almost entirely shut out, with just two nods (for cinematography and sound mixing).


(Facebook.com/Inside Llewyn Davis)

Winner: Gravity
Like American Hustle, Gravity earned 10 nominations — and while it didn't dominate the acting categories, it made up for it in the technical categories. In addition to nods for Best Picture, Best Director (Alfonso Cuaron), and Best Actress (Sandra Bullock), Gravity cleaned up for its impressive technical spectacle: Cinematography, editing, production design, sound editing, sound mixing, and visual effects.

Losers: Robert Redford, Tom Hanks, Forest Whitaker, Joaquin Phoenix, and Idris Elba
The insanely crowded field of Best Actor contenders meant that some brilliant, highly acclaimed performances simply wouldn't make the cut. In the end, no less than five hotly tipped performances were left out in the cold: Robert Redford, who single-handedly carried All is Lost and had been pegged by many prognosticators as a favorite to win the category; Tom Hanks, who was shut out for his performances in both Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks; Forest Whitaker, who anchored the sweeping historical drama The Butler; Joaquin Phoenix, who starred in Best Picture nominee Her (and spent much of the movie alone on-screen); and Idris Elba, whose performance as Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom was universally acclaimed (even if the movie itself wasn't). The nominees that did make it: Christian Bale (American Hustle), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), and Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club).

Winner: August: Osage County
The mediocre reviews and nonexistent buzz for this star-studded film adaptation of Tracy Letts' play led some prognosticators to predict the film would be shut out. But while August: Osage County didn't make it into the Best Picture race, the lure of two familiar nominees proved too much for the Academy to resist. Julia Roberts earned her fourth career nomination (in the Best Supporting Actress category), and Meryl Streep earned her 18th career nomination, extending her lead as the most nominated performer in Academy Awards history.


(Facebook.com/August: Osage County)

Loser: Saving Mr. Banks
When it was first announced, Disney's drama — which chronicles the tumultuous production of Mary Poppins — sounded like surefire Oscar bait. But the so-so Saving Mr. Banks was greeted with a raft of so-so reviews and a so-so box office. The Academy agreed; Saving Mr. Banks was passed over for Best Picture, Best Actress (Emma Thompson), and Best Actor (Tom Hanks), with only a single nomination for Thomas Newman's original score.

Winner: Netflix
Netflix has garnered a lot of attention for the Emmy and Golden Globe nominations earned by its original series like House of Cards and Arrested Development, but it's worth noting that the streaming service just quietly earned its first Oscar nomination, too. The Square, which documents 2011's Egyptian Revolution, got the nod in Best Documentary Feature. Beginning tomorrow, all Netflix subscribers will be able to stream the film.

Losers: Blackfish and Stories We Tell
2013 was packed with high-quality, critically acclaimed documentaries. Unfortunately, not all of them could be nominated. Left out in the cold were Stories We Tell, which examines the nature of storytelling through director Sarah Polley's personal history, and Blackfish, which has garnered headlines for its attacks on SeaWorld.


(Facebook.com/Blackfish)

Winner: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
When Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa hit theaters last fall, even its most ardent supporters failed to peg it as a likely Oscar contender. But like Norbit before it, the genuinely impressive makeup work required to turn star Johnny Knoxville into an old man earned the respect of the Academy, which nominated it in the Makeup and Hairstyling category. It's time for all of us to get used to saying, "The Oscar-nominated Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa..."

Losers: James Franco and Scarlett Johansson
Though their inclusions would have been far more unconventional than the other snubs in their categories, both James Franco and Scarlett Johansson had a number of passionate advocates arguing for their awards consideration. Franco's backers preached the virtues of his bravura performance in Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, which turned him into a virtually unrecognizable gangster poet; Johansson fans argued for the power of her voice-only performance in Her, which required Johansson to craft a three-dimensional heroine without ever appearing on screen. In the end, the Academy ignored their advocates in favor of more conventional nominees.

Check out the full list of Oscar nominees here.

 
Scott Meslow is the entertainment editor and film and television critic for TheWeek.com. He has written about film and television at publications including The AtlanticPOLITICO Magazine, and Vulture.

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