Every year, the Oscar nominations are met with a chorus of boos by critics, analysts, and moviegoers alike — but this year's reaction is louder and angrier than usual. Greeted with a list of nominees that's both whiter and more male-centric than any year in well over a decade — including some baffling left-field picks, like Robert Duvall's nomination for his role in the much-derided The Judge — critics spent much of their time picking over the snubs, and the possible reasons behind them. Here are eight of the biggest:
1. Director Ava DuVernay for Selma
Selma, which dramatizes the voting rights marches organized by Martin Luther King Jr., has roundly been hailed as one of the year's greatest movies. It earned a nomination in the expanded Best Picture category, but director Ava DuVernay, the rare black female director viewed as a likely candidate for Best Director, wasn't nominated for her work.
The writing was already on the wall for DuVernay, who was shut out of the Director's Guild of America's nominees for Best Director — a reliable arbiter of the nominees for the directing Oscar. But despite the early warning sign, many were shocked at the nominations of five white male directors over DuVernay, with numerous analysts citing statistics about the Academy's lack of diversity. (For the record: 94 percent white and 77 percent male, with an average age of 63, according to a 2012 survey by The Los Angeles Times.) "It's a sad reflection of a year when a number of good, great, and lousy fictionalized true-life biopics about allegedly great or somewhat interesting white men are well-represented, while one of the very best-reviewed movies of the year went with hardly a single relevant nomination," wrote Scott Mendelson at Forbes.
2. David Oyelowo for Selma
Like DuVernay, many were shocked and disappointed over the snub of David Oyelowo, who stars as King in Selma. Oyelowo's performance has repeatedly been cited as one of Selma's strongest elements, and the Academy is clearly enamored of this kind of role: many of this year's acting nominees, including Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) and Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), were honored for embodying historical figures.
While many were railing about Selma's snubs, it's worth noting one movie that seemed to have everything the Academy generally looks for, and failed to land a single nomination: Angelina Jolie's Unbroken, which tells the true story of U.S. Olympian and World War II P.O.W. Louie Zamperini. It was entirely shut out: no Best Picture, no Best Director, and no Best Actor for star Jack O'Connell. Unbroken's mixed reviews may have spelled doom — but on paper, Universal Picture probably thought it had an Oscar shoo-in when it greenlit the movie.
4. Gone Girl, Interstellar, and Nightcrawler
When the Academy expanded the Best Picture category to a total of 10 possible nominees, it was widely interpreted as a bid to pad the Oscars' top category with movies that were both more popular and more eccentric (particularly after The Dark Knight missed the cut at the 2009 Awards). But despite the expanded category, quirkier genre films — the thrillers Gone Girl and Nightcrawler and the sci-fi epic Interstellar — all failed to make the cut. While all three films would have been longshots for an actual Best Picture win, their failure to make the list altogether was a little puzzling; with just eight Best Picture nominees out of a possible 10, there are two empty slots that could have been filled.
5. Jennifer Aniston for Cake
Aniston's buzzy but little-seen starring role in the drama Cake had all the hallmarks of a Best Actress performance: a typically glamorous actress de-glamorizing herself to play a depressed, unstable person in a grim indie drama. But while Aniston snagged nominations from both the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild, she was denied at the Oscars — perhaps edged out by a surprise nomination for Marion Cotillard for the highly acclaimed (but similarly little-seen) Two Days, One Night.
6. Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl
Early this year, it looked like Gone Girl was a strong contender for a slew of Oscar nominations. But the film gradually faded as more contenders entered the field, leading to just a single nomination (Rosamund Pike, for Best Actress). At this point, the omissions in the Best Picture and Best Director categories were more or less expected, but the snub for screenwriter Gillian Flynn, who adapted her own novel, was a surprise. Again, the lack of diversity among the nominees is glaring; every nominee in the screenwriting category — both original and adapted — is male.
7. The LEGO Movie
Though The LEGO Movie's earworm "Everything is Awesome" was nominated for Best Original Song, the film itself — which counts among the year's most acclaimed movies, animated or not — was shut out of the Best Animated Feature category. Its place was likely filled by surprise nods for Song of the Sea and The Tale of Princess Kaguya, which grossed a combined $600,000 domestically to The LEGO Movie's $257 million.
8. Life Itself
The Best Documentary category is always a crowded field, but this sentimental favorite — which chronicles the life and legacy of beloved film critic Roger Ebert — may have been this year's most unexpected snub. Perhaps it's best to go back to a quote from Ebert himself: "I lost faith in the Oscars the first year I was a movie critic."