What You Need to Know About the 87th Annual Academy Awards

Posted on Feb 18 2015 - 6:15pm by Mary Moses Hitt

The nominations for the 87th Annual Academy Awards were announced on Thursday, Jan. 15. This is a highly anticipated day, both for movie lovers and Hollywood, because a nomination for this prestigious award is the highest honor of an actor’s or filmmaker’s career. Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) and beloved comedian Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) both received their first nomination in acting categories, and the X-Men franchise officially became “Oscar-nominated” with a Best Visual Effects nomination. For Meryl Streep (Into the Woods) it was just another Thursday as she received news of her 19th nomination, setting her title as the most Oscar-nominated actress— even further out of reach from Jack Nicholson’s 12 nominations.

Interestingly, not a single winner from last year’s Academy Awards received a nomination this year, though there were several repeat nominees. Bradley Cooper (American Sniper) impressively received his third consecutive nomination even with the heavy competition in the Best Actor category. This year was no exception, with excellent performances given by Jake Gyllenhaal (Night Crawler), David Oyelowo (Selma) and Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel) not making the cut.

After three straight years nominating nine films for Best Picture, the Academy only had eight nominees this year: four biopics and four originals, with the latter being better. Of these eight films, none received the Big 5 nominee honor, but “Birdman” and “Boyhood” achieved unprecedented cinematic accomplishments. Written and directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “Birdman” was edited to look like the film was one continuous shot while “Boyhood” was filmed over the course of 12 years. This way, audiences could watch the actors grow up and age in the movie.

Their achievements, along with excellent execution, make “Birdman” and “Boyhood” top contenders for Best Picture and Best Director, though I wouldn’t count out “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Wes Anderson’s unique, quirky filmmaking style continues to impress audiences and the Academy, which has awarded him his first Best Director nomination. Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher) is another Best Director nominee, and became the first person since the Academy expanded their Best Picture category beyond five movies to be nominated for this award for a movie not nominated for Best Picture. It was a good year for British biopics, as “The Theory of Everything” and “The Imitation Game” both earned Best Picture nominations.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Birdman” lead the race with nine nominations each, followed by “The Imitation Game” with eight.  Acclaimed films “Selma” and “Gone Girl” were not as fortunate and only received two nominations and a single nomination respectively. Though the film received five nominations, the “Interstellar” team shared some of the pain— all of their nominations were in technical categories and none were for the mind-blowing work from Christopher Nolan.

The majority of the ballot was announced without surprise, but the Academy never fails to throw in a few curve balls to prove that they like to go their own route. They gave a best actress nomination to Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night) and best supporting actress nomination to Laura Dern (Wild), who both received no recognition from the Globes, SAGs or BAFTAS.  Apparently, Jennifer Aniston’s role in Cake wasn’t enough to get the former Friends actress her first Oscar nom. The only thing more shocking than “The Lego Movie” not winning Best Animated Film at the Golden Globes was it not getting a nomination from the Academy. At least the Critic’s Choice rewarded their work.

Oscar fans usually don’t have as much knowledge or interest in categories that aren’t acting, directing or writing. It’s hard to appreciate these men and women’s achievements since most of their work is either behind the scenes or not as widely publicized. In the Best Original Score category, composer Alexandra Desplat became the first double nominee in a single category since 2000 for his work on “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Imitation Game.” Diane Warren (Beyond the Lights) earned her 7th Best Original Song nomination, though sadly she has never won an Oscar. Maybe this year will be the year for Warren. Director Steve James was snubbed again by the Academy for a Best Documentary nomination for his acclaimed work “Life Itself” about the renowned film critic Roger Ebert.

Hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, this award show airs live from the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 22.