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Oscar Nominations: From Scorsese To Mickey Mouse

by Leonard Maltin
January 16, 2014 1:21 PM
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Photo Courtesy of Paramount Pictures "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Remember all those pundits who insisted that Oprah Winfrey was a “lock” for an Oscar nomination? Or that the Academy was too old and out-of-touch to embrace a film as raw and edgy as The Wolf of Wall Street? Once again, the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have sprung a number of surprises on us with this year’s nominations.

You can explore this roster any number of ways: eight of the actors in contention are first-time nominees, proof again that the Academy actors’ branch is particularly welcoming to newcomers—even if one of them, June Squibb, is 84 years old. At the other end of that spectrum, Jennifer Lawrence has set a new record, amassing three Oscar nominations at the age of 23.

Another beloved veteran is represented in this year’s lineup: Mickey Mouse, who is featured in Lauren MacMullan’s wonderful Disney short subject Get a Horse!

American Hustle duplicates a rare feat pulled off by David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook last year, earning nominations in every leading category: Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and all four acting slots.

This is how Wilshire Boulevard looks outside the Academy headquarters about 5 a.m.

There are also discouraging statistics. The Lone Ranger, one of the worst movies of this or any year, earned two nominations, for visual effects and makeup and hairstyling…while such fine films as Mud and Enough Said got nothing at all. Saving Mr. Banks was shut out except for Thomas Newman’s score.

Even more frustrating is the fact that all nine Best Picture nominees were released in the last three months of 2013. It’s a sad state of affairs when anyone who makes a quality film feels impelled to hold it back until awards season is underway… while the few good films that do make their way into theaters earlier are forgotten.

But that’s the way things work in Hollywood, and no one seems eager to change the status quo.

And this is how it looks inside the jam-packed auditorium as the Oscar nominations are announced.

A sidenote: the announcement of Oscar nominations is one of this town’s most interesting rituals. Many members of the Academy staff are up all night preparing press handouts, while people in the media (like me) are forced to wake up long before dawn in order to be in the Samuel Goldwyn Theater by 5:30 a.m. The streets outside are quiet and dark, but inside there’s a crowd of journalists and publicists chatting away, eating breakfast, and getting ready to rush into the auditorium as soon as the starting bell is rung.

It may not be terribly consequential to anyone who doesn’t care about show business, but the announcement is worldwide news, and it’s all generated at a specific moment in this particular location. Being there is always exciting.

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  • Brett | January 17, 2014 12:14 PMReply

    Mr. Maltin laments the fact that films released earlier in the year are going to be forgotten because they won't be Oscar nominees. They won't be forgotten by movie buffs who saw them in theaters. Moreover, I disagree that the Oscars need to change with regards to their strong bias in favor of films released towards the end of the year. Those of us who want to follow the Oscars but can't be as thorough as a professional movie critic throughout the calendar year, will find this post-September slant to be a convenience, rather than an indictment, of the Academy Awards. The fact is that if you miss the entire spring or summer at the theaters, it won't mean a thing.

  • Justin | January 17, 2014 10:26 AMReply

    I was upset that "Saving Mr. Banks" didn't get nominated for Best Picture and Best Actress. It may have to do with the fact that it was released late in the year. But I'm glad that it's nominated for music. I was also disappointed that "Monsters University didn't get nominated for Best Animated Feature.

  • Michael | January 16, 2014 5:58 PMReply

    Couldn't agree more. Emma Thompson carried "Saving Mr. Banks" and Colin Farrell deserved recognition, too. It's not easy to pull off a performance where you love and hate a character at the same time, and both did so admirably. "Inside Llewyn Davis" while imperfect, was certainly a more interesting film than "Hustle" or many of the other nominees.

  • Peter | January 16, 2014 5:47 PMReply

    The Oscars have never proven themselves to be the perfect arbiter of what's "the best," whatever that means, because such notions are subjective. I can think of many films I hated that won Best Picture.

    Perhaps we should go to a system that the Washington/Chesapeake regional Academy of Television Arts and Sciences uses: to award multiple Emmys where warranted. That is, to honor excellence, not rankings. Thus, you could have a system whereby any film that scores, for instance, above 90 on a scale of 100 wins an award, all equally honored.

  • TDavis | January 16, 2014 5:43 PMReply

    Yeah, a lot of films released early in the year tend to get ignored. "42" was released WAY back in April and, to me at least, Harrison Ford's Branch Rickey was worth at least a little attention.

  • mike schlesinger | January 16, 2014 5:36 PMReply

    On the other hand, four of the five Best Actress nominees are previous winners, and had it been Thompson instead of Adams it would have been a complete sweep.

    I agree that it's a shock the MR. BANKS was so soundly snubbed. I disagree, though, about THE LONE RANGER. Watch it again with an open mind.

  • Dan | January 16, 2014 3:57 PMReply

    Dear Lenny,
    Get off the Lone Ranger! Depp was hated the film even before it came out! I hope it wins something just to piss you off.

  • Charles | January 16, 2014 1:53 PMReply

    Couldn't agree more w/ your assessment, Mr. Maltin. And it really is a shame that so films released in the first two-thirds of the year just get completely ignored.

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