The biggest surprises from Oscar nomination morning

Bradley Cooper American Sniper headshot 600x356

A few days ago, I posted a list of the biggest snubs from the Oscar nomination announcement. Now, I want to take a look at the flip side of that, running down some of the biggest surprises from that morning. There were plenty of both, to be sure, but with the snubs already hit, the surprise nominations are getting their due. It’s hard sometimes not to focus on the Oscar exclusions solely, but the inclusions are worthy of some discussions as well, being as they’re perhaps a bit more positive. As such, that’s what I’ll be doing right now, taking a look at the surprises from that morning…

Here are the ten biggest surprise nominations this year:

1. Eight nominees in Best Picture – We’ve gotten so used to nine being the new default number in the Best Picture field, seeing the reduction of one nominee was a huge surprise for sure. Especially when you consider how close Foxcatcher apparently came to cracking the lineup (or something like Nightcrawler, perhaps), there seemed to have been a tailor made nine again. Nope, eight it is, this year at least. Next year? Who knows.

2. Bennett Miller in Best Director – Similarly, the new way of voting on Best Picture was assumed to have eliminated the Lone Director type of nomination. Obviously that isn’t the case, as Miller slipped in for Foxcatcher, despite the film being snubbed in Picture. It was a well deserved nod for sure, but a surprising one, without question. A director getting in without his film is a rare occurrence, to say the least.

3. Bradley Cooper in Best Actor – For a little bit, Cooper seemed a threat to win for American Sniper, but then he faded from the Best Actor race. Then, nominations were announced and there he was again. Considering the fondness that the Academy had for American Sniper, it’s not a huge shock, but going into the big morning he wasn’t expected to have his name called out.

4. Laura Dern in Best Supporting Actress – Dern’s supporting turn in Wild was always on the cusp of getting in, but it was assumed that Best Supporting Actress would wind up featuring someone else in the final slot. Then, she turned up, surprising a number of folks. Her campaign wasn’t flashy, but it sure worked.

5. Ida in Best Cinematography – We know that the Academy loves their black and white photography, but this foreign contender cracking the Best Cinematography lineup was still a big surprise, especially since it came at the expense of something like Interstellar. It was a surprising show of force for this little flick.

6. Marion Cotillard in Best Actress – It’s almost become a joke at this point that voters have ignored Cotillard since giving her that win in Best Actress, but they finally came back to her this year. She did well during the precursors for Two Days, One Night, but that wasn’t a surefire way to get her a nod here. Lo and behold though, the nom came through, all the same.

7. Inherent Vice in Best Adapted Screenplay – Oscar voters tend not to nominate what they don’t understand, but in Best Adapted Screenplay they made an exception for Paul Thomas Anderson’s script. Inherent Vice is a dense work, intentionally so, which doesn’t usually jive with Academy members. Still, it wound up getting in, partially due to the nature of the category, but also due to its uniqueness.

8. American Sniper in Best Film Editing – The snubs in Best Film Editing made room for American Sniper to slip in. You could also make the claim that Whiplash getting in was a surprise, but that title was one that had been spoken of as a potentially pleasant surprise. This was a little bit different, and another show of strength for Clint Eastwood’s work.

9. Interstellar in Best Sound Mixing – After all the fuss about the sound mix for Interstellar, seeing voters look (or hear) past that and still nominate it in Best Sound Mixing was a surprise. The Best Sound Editing nomination was more or less a sure thing, but Sound Mixing was almost a toss up. I doubt it can win, but the surprising nomination is a small victory, for sure.

10. Whiplash in Best Adapted Screenplay – I’ve previously written about the mild controversy that had Damien Chazelle’s script almost secretly moved from Original to Adapted, but voters still sought it out. Chazelle potentially wasn’t too far off in Director either, so people who loved Whiplash made sure to get its filmmaker into the lineup.

Stay tuned to see if any of these surprises turn into upset wins at the Academy Awards!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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