Oscar Nominations 2015: Snubs, Surprises n' Such

Like everyone else who covers movies, I have a few thoughts on this year's Academy Award nominations. I'm not going to cover every category and pretend that I've seen all of the nominated live-action documentary shorts, I wanted to touch a few of this year's more surprising developments.

The Lego Movie Mystery: Somehow, the funniest, most inventive and (surprisingly) most soulful of this year's mainstream animated features didn't snag a Best Animated Feature nomination. Perhaps the fact that it's fundamentally a live-action commercial was just too much for Academy voters to overlook? Then again, The Lego Movie is represented in the Best Original Song category (the intentionally obnoxious earworm “Everything is Awesome” is surely, for better or worse, the year's most ubiquitous movie tune).

Double Desplat: French composer Alexandre Desplat had an exceptionally strong year even by his own high standards, and deservedly picked up a pair of Oscar nominations for his spine-tingling work on The Imitation Game and his joyously eclectic score for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Alas, he'll likely face a problem John Williams has faced on many occasions: his two scores may well split the pro-Desplat voters and allow one of the other three nominees (Hans Zimmer's Interstellar, Johann Johannson's The Theory of Everything and – the surprise nominee of the bunch - Gary Yershon's Mr. Turner) to slip through.

The Great Selma Debacle: It's a Best Picture nominee and one of the most well-reviewed films of the year, but has absolutely no additional nominations in any of the other major categories (though it did get a Best Original Song nod). American Sniper, The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game inspired a considerably more divided critical reaction, and yet all three received loads of big nominations. There have been a couple of kind-sorta similar scenarios in recent years: Best Picture nominees The Blind Side and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close both received only two Oscar nominations apiece, but in both of those cases the one additional nod was in a major category. This whole situation is incredibly baffling, and I have no doubt that we'll be reading all sorts of analysis on why/how this happened in the weeks ahead.

The Academy Loves White People: A total of twenty performances were given Oscar nominations, and there isn't a single person of color among them. No David Oyelowo, no Gugu Mbatha-Raw, no Chadwick Boseman, no Rosario Dawson, etc. This is partially a side effect of there not being enough high-quality roles for minorities, of course, but you can't tell me that every single one of those twenty nominated performances is better than every single performance offered by minority actors over the course of 2014.

Two Texans Finally Get Their Due: Wes Anderson and Richard Linklater have both received Oscar nominations before, but neither had received a Best Director nomination. That changed today, which seems appropriate given that both Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel feel like works which build on the strengths of each director's previous films.

Gone Girl Gone: Rosamund Pike's rich, multi-layered performance received a nod, but David Fincher's well-reviewed (and occasionally debated) thriller was otherwise ignored. It's surprising to see the flick shut out in every technical category – even Fincher's less well-regarded The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo managed to pick up five nominations. It seems that the Academy's love affair with Mr. Fincher is finally over.

Foreign Film Surprises: I was quite surprised to see the Swedish import Force Majeure shoved out of the Best Foreign Language Film race, as many (including yours truly) had speculated that it was a frontrunner. Still, this is one category that continues to surprise every year. Additionally, it's always nice to see a foreign film snag a nomination outside of this catch-all category, so I was pleased to see Ida receive some recognition for its crisp, austere black-and-white cinematography.

The Real Frontrunners: Conventional wisdom is that the five movies nominated for Best Director are the “real” Best Picture nominees that have an actual shot at winning. This year, that matter is slightly complicated by the fact that Bennett Miller received a Best Director nod for Foxcatcher, but the film itself was left out of the Best Picture race. As such, we're left with four “real” contenders: Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game and Birdman. At this point, I'd say that Boyhood is the slight favorite and The Imitation Game is the long shot, but it's easy to imagine any of those four taking the big prize home.

Enough with the Bradley Cooper Love, Academy: That's three years in a row now. He's not Meryl Streep. Though while we're on the subject, enough with giving Meryl Streep a free pass for everything she does, too.

Your thoughts?