Nominations stick to tired, predictable Oscar script

The Grand Budapest Hotel, starring Ralph Fiennes, garnered nine nominations, as did Birdman.
The Grand Budapest Hotel, starring Ralph Fiennes, garnered nine nominations, as did Birdman.

Last night, the 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 war in Asia.

The epic fantasy The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies and the sci-fi drama Interstellar got scant attention. The same fate awaited the Marvel franchise movie Guardians Of The Galaxy, and the hugely charming animation work The Lego Movie.

Also robbed was the Australian production The Babadook and the satire on American media and the economy, Nightcrawler.

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 The King's 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 in the key categories of Best Picture and Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne). Imitation earned eight, mostly also in the same key categories.

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, was nominated for six awards.

The big surprises were in the actress categories.

Gasps were heard when the name of Marion Cotillard was read out in the Best Actress category 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, garnering a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her part as the concerned single mother in the biopic Wild.

johnlui@sph.com.sg