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.
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.
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.