Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wednesday Oscar Retrospective: The Surprise Inclusion of 2014

Welcome to a returning weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Wednesday Oscar Retrospective. The Surprise Inclusion was the third in a series of projects looking back at the past eight years of the Oscars, dating back to the first ceremony I watched and closely followed. Here’s a look back at this most recent Oscar race.

Each year, the Oscar nominations announcement presents several shocking names and films. This series is devoted to analyzing the biggest and most surprising inclusion of all (in any category). It has nothing to do with personal opinion but rather with what was considered a surprise at the time compared with what most people were predicting. Once again, this is a film/director/actor whose nomination was unexpected.

The Surprise Inclusion of 2014

Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher) for Best Director

Why it wasn’t going to happen: While it initially seemed like this film would be a major Oscar contender in many categories, by the time Oscar season started, all the attention was on stars Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo and not on the film itself. A Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture – Drama wasn’t accompanied by a corresponding Best Director bid, and Miller didn’t score with the DGA either. Since the Best Picture field was expanded beyond five nominees, the “lone director slot” had ceased to become a thing, and therefore “Foxcatcher” not contending for Best Picture also detracted its chances to show up here.

How it happened: Miller was an Oscar nominee for his first film, “Capote,” and his next film, “Moneyball,” reaped a Best Picture bid even though he didn’t get one. Clearly Oscar voters like him even if they didn’t warm to his film, which earned only Best Original Screenplay and Best Makeup bids in addition to Miller and his two stars. Golden Globe-nominated director David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” was clearly despised by Oscar voters, knocking him out of contention, and fellow Globe honoree Ava DuVernay suffered from her film “Selma” being seen by precious few people. Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” peaked too late, though I think many were surprised to see Miller here over Oscar veteran Eastwood.

Was it deserved: I don’t think so. It’s an odd, chilling story, but there’s nothing about Miller’s style that really did it for me. Best Picture nominees “The Theory of Everything” or “Selma” would have been sounder selections, and even “Gone Girl” feels like a more sharply directed film than this slow burn of a dramatic thriller. It’s hardly the worst Oscar inclusion, but far from the best surprise one.

Come back next week for a look at The Deadlocked Duel of 2014. If you have a prediction or a suggestion, please leave it in the comments. There a few contenders for this one, so chime in if you have a pick!

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