American Bullsh*t: The Complex Pop Culture Team Debates the 2014 Oscar Nominations

American Bullsh*t: The Complex Pop Culture Team Debates the 2014 Oscar Nominations

This morning, Thor was the harbinger of hope—and for some unlucky wheelers and dealers, doom—for Hollywood's elite. Announced by Chris Hemsworth, the nominations for the 86th Academy Awards (set to air live on March 2) finally ended months of online speculation, predictions, and Twitter debates among Oscar bloggers and film industry pundits. And, what do you know, there were actually a few shocks amidst the abundance of expected nominations. Tom Hanks, for instance, got snubbed for Best Actor, a big surprise since his raw, career-best performance in Captain Phillips has long been considered a lock. Lee Daniels' The Butler was totally shut out, a slight shock since co-star Oprah Winfrey has been on people's ballots since the film's August debut.

In large, though, this year's Academy Award nominations are more of the same. Super-producer Harvey Weinstein, an Oscar regular, muscled his movie Philomena into the Best Picture category, leaving the far superior Coen Brothers movie Inside Llewyn Davis with no BP love whatsoever. The juggernaut known as American Hustle (originally called American Bullshit) is also dominating, having earned one nomination in all four acting categories, a Best Director shot for David O. Russell, and, of course, a Best Picture nom. Not that anyone should be caught off guard. Traditionally a play-it-safe affair, the 86th Oscars will bring massive attention to prestige pictures that, if you ask ten serious cinephiles, pale in comparison to smaller underdogs like Short Term 12 and Fruitvale Station, let alone Inside Llewyn Davis. (And, for a small minority, Wild Hogs.)

Still, despite the overall predictability, those of us who love movies can't help but get aggravated every January, when A-listers like Chris Hemsworth tell us the inevitable. After mulling through today's nominations list, the Complex Pop Culture team aired out their grievances in a lively chat. Here, associate editor Ross Scarano, senior staff writer Matt Barone, and staff writer Tara Aquino discuss everything that went wrong this morning.

Ross: Well, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa has just one less nomination than Inside Llewyn Davis.

Matt: My first thought is that Mr. Nice Guy Tom Hanks must be busting some skulls right now, or at least he really wants to. He got snubbed hard. That Captain Phillips performance is one of his career best, if not the overall best. That's the biggest shocker to me.

Ross: Who would you cut, though, to make room for the OG Headbuster?

Matt: It just goes to show that American Hustle is a freight train right now. I'd cut Christian Bale from this nominations list.

Ross: Same. I'd lose Bale.

Matt: American Hustle has one nomination in every acting category. Same as Silver Linings Playbook last year. David O. Russell, man.

Ross: He's getting over on all these guys, and it's bullshit.

Tara: Dude, it's all political.

Matt: Hence how Philomena, one of Harvey Weinstein's babies, gets in over Inside Llewyn Davis.

Tara: The list looks like the result of people not actually watching movies and voting based on hype and who they know.

Matt: Yeah, Dallas Buyers Club always seemed like a lock to me just based on Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. The movie gets in because of them, regardless of how good it actually is. And they're both excellent in that movie. They're also going to win Oscars this year. Seems rather certain at this point. Which leads to the issue of how predictable the Oscars and their nominations are, overall. Save for the occasional Tom Hanks-like snub.

Tara: Considering how predictable the nominees list is, my hopes of Leo surprising everyone with a win feels completely dashed.

Matt: I'd love nothing more than that. Or, if not him, Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Ross: I'm backing 12 Years fully. Although that's the best Leo performance of his career. So I guess I'm with Matt.

Matt: I get the sense that 12 Years a Slave's only shot is for Best Picture. The people nominated from it will just have to settle with being happy to be there.

Ross: I think McQueen could win for director. But maybe that's a lock for Cuarón?

Tara: I'd say it's a lock for Cuarón. But I respect that. What he achieved with Gravity is pretty remarkable, even though the story and the acting were meh.

Matt: Best Director is the toughest one to predict, I think. Cuarón seems to have the edge, but he doesn't seem as certain as, say, Jared Leto. But I'm still not convinced American Hustle isn't going to win Best Picture. It's that feel-good, starry film that the Academy always awards.

Ross: This year's Argo. This year's The Artist.

Matt: Exactly, and years from now people will look back on the 2014 Oscars and say, "Wow, American Hustle really won all those awards, huh? That's crazy. Let's go watch 12 Years a Slave or The Wolf of Wall Street now."

Tara: Exactly. Also, I'm curious, did voters actually see Blue is the Warmest Color and Stories We Tell? I know the former didn't qualify for Best Foreign Film, butAdèle Exarchopoulos' performance is leaps and bounds more impressive than Amy Adams and Sandra Bullock's.

Matt: The snub that irks me the most is Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell not being in for Best Documentary. Not that any of the nominees are bad or undeserving, but 20 FEET FROM STARDOM is the one that stands out to me. It's a fine, entertaining film, but so traditional and safe. Stories We Tell is the opposite; it's original, intimate, and brave as hell. There's no other documentary like it out there, which I'd also say for The Act of Killing. So at least one of them got nominated.

Ross: Tara, TRUE! Adèle Exarchopoulos wipes the floor with Amy Adams' frizzy moptop.

Tara: Yeah, Stories We Tell is such a surprising work of art that just sticks with you.

Matt: Adele Exarchopolous never stood a chance, which sucks. Same goes for Brie Larson in Short Term 12. The voters would never snub Sandra Bullock or Meryl Streep or Judi Dench in favor of two young, unproven actresses in smaller films. Which sucks.

Tara: The formula seems to be star power over actual quality of performance.

Matt: Lupita Nyong'o defies that slightly, but she's in a massive film (12 Years a Slave), so she's been more visible and universally lauded.

Ross: Yeah, and to be cynical, I feel like the Academy is out here covering their asses nominating a person of color in that category.

Matt: The Inside Llewyn Davissnubbing is the oddest thing here. Especially since it's the Coen Brothers. To me, it must be the film's cynical, unhappy vibe. I can't think of any other reason it got so overlooked. How Oscar Isaac hasn't even been in the Best Actor conversation recently is a mystery to me, too.

Ross: I'm confused as to how Inside Llewyn Davis doesn't get a screenplay nod. Its construction is so tight and exciting. I walked out of Inside Llewyn Davis dazed, feeling like I'll ultimately fail at all of my artistic aspirations. I wandered around Union Square like a zombie. It was remarkable. So yeah, the Academy prolly didn't love that.

Tara: Oscar Isaac's talent blows my mind and it was on full display in Inside Llewyn Davis. Singer, songwriter, actor.

Matt: They want you to feel good, Ross! They know you didn't feel good after 12 Years a Slave, but they only allow for one downer movie in the Best Picture category. Every year, I wake up and check the Oscar nominations hoping to be pleasantly surprised by some risk-taking. The only time it has happened recently was two years ago when Demian Bichir somehow got nominated for Best Actor, for A Better Life.

Ross: And even 12 Years ends on a really heart-rendering moment of reunion. There is no reunion at the end of Inside Llewyn Davis. There's no one for him. I thought it was great that Emmanuelle Riva and Quvenzhané Wallis were nominated for Best Actress Oscars last year.

Tara: Right. I thought the Academy was onto something.

Ross: It was correct, so it's wrong to call it risk-taking, I guess. But It was still good to see.

Matt: Another category that bothers me: Best Makeup. Bad Grandpa and The Lone Ranger...really? I know it's a horror movie, and it didn't get the best reviews in the mainstream, but Evil Dead's makeup work is so damn good. I hate that movies of its kind never stand a chance when it comes to the Oscars. This is a pointless statement, I know, because that's never going to change, but it will always piss me off. But then I remind myself that Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick never won Oscars, and I laugh it all off.

Ross: Yeah, but it's not just a joke to laugh off. The Oscars shape the film canon in a real way. Kubrick and Hitchcock were good enough to transcend that sort of thing because they had large enough bodies of work and were celebrated elsewhere. Whereas now a movie like Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell may get lost to time over the years. Maybe.

Tara: Ultimately, the list completely boring and inspired and does nothing to open up the audience's eyes. It's not a knock on the actors and all the nominees, but the people behind the scenes who need to do their job and pay attention to what's actually happening in theaters, and not just fancy cocktail parties.

Matt: It's sad that you can look at the year's upcoming movies in January and pick nine or ten possibilities for Best Picture, and easily get five or six of them right, just based on what looks and feels like an Oscar movie, and which ones Harvey Weinstein is behind.

Ross: Like, people still talk about The Blind Side in a way that I don't think would be happening if Bullock didn't win for it. That's how the Oscars wield power. For instance, Dallas Buyers Club wins, and we're going to have another film about the AIDS crisis that is fueled by a heterosexual POV that gets lionized.

Matt: Oof, The Blind Side. I still hate all the praise that movie received. But it made a killing at the box office so it was basically guaranteed to win something. That's another way the Academy works. If a movie is a big hit, they're going to reward it. Which is another reason why I think American Hustle has the edge this year.

Ross: Final thoughts? Who do you guys have for the big four? I've got:

Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett

Tara: Same.

Matt: Yeah, I'm the same. 12 Years a Slave's Golden Globe victory gives me some hope, so I'll go with that over American Hustle. But I am on the fence a bit between Cate Blanchett and Amy Adams.

Ross: I think Blue Jasmine is a career-capping performance. Like, Blanchett could walk away from the game after that. I don't think she would, and I really want to see the kind of stuff she does as she gets older. But yeah, I really think she's got this. Muttering on a park bench > taking a really loud pee.

Tara: I really don't care about anything but a June Squibb come-from-behind win.

Matt: I'm rooting for Blanchett. Amy Adams just has that "golden girl" appeal right now that tends to get the edge at these events. Let's hope not, though.

Ross: We'll find out in March.

[Final GIF via Official Comedy]

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Tags: 2014-oscars, american-hustle, the-wolf-of-wall-street, 12-years-a-slave, inside-llewyn-davis
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