Birdman and British biopics lead Oscar nominations

The 2015 Oscar nominations showed why it should be called the Snobscars. Once again, big, fun, entertainment-oriented movies were put aside in favour of smaller, preachier works - especially if they feature men with Oxbridge accents, or women overcoming personal demons, minority struggles, or the current war in Asia. 

The epic fantasy The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies and the sci-fi drama Interstellar got scant attention, earning mostly awards in the technical categories such as Sound Editing. The same fate awaited the Marvel franchise movie Guardians Of The Galaxy, despite its commercial and critical success.

And to the outrage of its fans online, the equally successful and hugely charming animation work The Lego Movie got nothing, other than a nod in the Best Original Song category for Everything Is Awesome.

Likewise with the Australian production The Babadook, which earned zero nods because it was a horror work, which, together with comedy, are seen as the poor relations of drama. Also robbed was Nightcrawler, a satire on American media and the economy. 

Its lead, Jake Gyllenhaal, should have earned a Best Actor nod, but instead the film earned just one nomination, for Best Original Screenplay.

The films with the most nominations were the dark comedy Birdman (nine), the period comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel (nine), the biopic The Imitation Game (eight), the coming-of-age drama Boyhood (six), the biopic The Theory Of Everything (five), and the music school drama Whiplash (five).

Films tailor-made to win over the 7,000-strong voting members of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences proved the efficacy of the Oscar-bait formula. 

This year featured two versions of The King’s Speech, the winner of the Best Picture award and three others in 2011. The British biopics The Theory Of Everything and The Imitation Game, like Speech, both feature lots of tweedy men, posh accents and a “based on a true story” narrative of triumph over adversity. 

Theory is based on the life of physicist Stephen Hawking and Imitation is about mathematician Alan Turing. Theory earned five nods, including the key areas of Best Picture and Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne). Imitation earned eight, most also in the same key categories (including Best Actor for Benedict Cumberbatch).

This year’s earnest minority-issues movie is Selma, about the civil rights movement of the 1960s, nominated in two categories, honours that recall the nods for The Help in 2012. 

And also in a replay of the 2010 and 2013 Oscars, when The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty won major awards, a movie about the current American war in Asia made the nominations list. Directed by Clint Eastwood, American Sniper, the biopic of Navy Seal Chris Kyle starring Bradley Cooper was nominated six times, including Best Picture and Best Actor. 

However, not everything went as predicted. There were surprises in the actress categories.

Gasps were heard when the name of French actress Marion Cotillard was read out. Winner of Best Actress for La Vie En Rose in 2007, she was a dark horse, getting another Best Actress nod for playing a desperate factory worker in Two Days, One Night. 

Applause was also heard when Laura Dern’s name was read out. She was another long shot, winning a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her part as the concerned single mother in the biopic Wild.

johnlui@sph.com.sg