Academy Award Nominees: The Snubs, Flubs and Shockers

The 2014 Oscar nominees for best actress and actor. (Film studio photos/Express illustration) The 2014 Oscar nominees for best actress and actor. (Film studio photos/Express illustration)

The Oscar nominations are out, which means it’s time to start complaining about the Oscar nominations.

First, best picture: There are nine nominees, one short of the 10 slots available. So there was definitely room for “Fruitvale Station,” which got exactly zero nominations.

Based on the true story of Oscar Grant, who was killed by a transit police officer in Oakland, Calif., on New Year’s Day 2009, the film was an astounding debut for director Ryan Coogler. He imbued “Fruitvale” with emotion, yet kept it from being maudlin or manipulative (except for a scene with a dying dog).

“Fruitvale” deserved a nod, as did Octavia Spencer for her role as Grant’s mother, a performance that was at least three times better than her winning part in 2011’s “The Help.”

I have no real argument against the nominees for best actor. I wouldn’t have minded seeing Joaquin Phoenix on the list for “Her,” but I wouldn’t trade any of the other nominees for him.

I feel the same about best actress. I would have liked Emma Thompson to be recognized for making the weightless, slightly corny “Saving Mr. Banks” much better than it deserved to be. But I’m fine with the Academy’s picks.

For best supporting actor, I’d replace “The Wolf of Wall Street’s” Jonah Hill with “American Hustle’s” Jeremy Renner. He was the moral center of that film, a genuinely good guy who reminded us that every other character in the film was out for themselves.

For best supporting actress, I’d lose both Jennifer Lawrence and Julia Roberts; both performances were largely due to good writing, not great acting. Switch them out for Spencer and for Sarah Paulson, who played a hated and hateful mistress in “12 Years a Slave.”

I’m genuinely glad to see the kung-fu film “The Grandmaster” nominated for best cinematography; I’m a little bummed that “Her” didn’t make the list, particularly given how important the look of the film was to the meaning of the film.

Honestly, my major quarrels lie with two “minor” categories: best documentary feature and best foreign language film. In the first category, “The Act of Killing” was nominated — and should win — but the failure to tap “Stories We Tell,” “We Steal Secrets” and “Blackfish” was exactly that: a failure.

For foreign language film, “Wadjda” (Saudi Arabia’s first entry ever since it was the country’s first feature EVER) should have been battling it out with Iran’s “The Past.” Neither are nominated.

The nomination that made me happiest was Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns. They were the sound editors for the utterly gripping Robert-Redford-is-stuck-on-a-boat “All Is Lost.” In a movie where no one speaks, they used the creak of a boat and the slap of the waves to create a terrifying, suspense-filled world. It should be used in film classes forever to illustrate the power of sound.

This year, there’s nothing to be utterly thrilled about and nothing much to rage against. There will be plenty of time for that when the winners are announced, after all.

Kristen Page-Kirby covers film for The Washington Post Express.
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