Older women shine at Oscar nominations
Films highlighting diversity were mostly overlooked
Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey are on outside looking in
The nominations for the Academy Awards were presented Thursday morning, and as always there were trends and surprises. Here are a few things we learned:
1. Make way for older women.
It’s not for nothing that one of best jokes from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the Golden Globes referred to the lack of meaty roles for actresses of a certain age: “Meryl Streep (is) so brilliant in ‘August: Osage County,’ proving that there are still great parts in Hollywood for Meryl Streeps over 60,” said Fey. And yes, Streep was nominated for an Oscar (for best actress) as well.
But also nominated were Judi Dench, 79, and perhaps more surprisingly, June Squibb, 84. Squibb is a longtime character actress – you may remember her as Elderly Woman in “Far From Heaven” or Mrs. Cone in an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” – who got a chance to shine as Bruce Dern’s exasperated yet caring wife in “Nebraska.” In fact, of the 10 actresses nominated for either best actress or best supporting actress, six are over 40 and two others – Amy Adams and Sally Hawkins – are in their late 30s.
2. Diversity, but no diversity.
This year featured a number of notable movies starring or directed by people of color, including “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “Fruitvale Station,” “42,” “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” and “12 Years a Slave.” But of that group, only “12 Years” got any support from the Oscars, with nine nominations. “Mandela” picked up a nod for a U2 song; “Fruitvale” – despite showcasing rising talents Michael B. Jordan and director Ryan Coogler – got nothing. And despite a $100 million box office – and raves for performers Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey – “The Butler” also came up with zero. During the Globes show, there was a Twitter hashtag protesting the lack of diversity: #notbuyingit. You’ll probably see it again on Oscar night.
3. Where’s Tom Hanks? What about Oprah?
Tom Hanks is one of the most beloved film stars in Hollywood. He’s a successful producer and two-time Oscar winner. After a sluggish few years, marked by “Cloud Atlas,” “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and “Larry Crowne,” he was back in the good graces at the box office and with critics, thanks to “Captain Phillips” and “Saving Mr. Banks.” The result? No Oscar nominations. Maybe he split the vote; maybe voters just weren’t that impressed. (They certainly weren’t by “Mr. Banks.”)
As for Winfrey – also a successful producer and personality – the theory is that “The Butler’s” summer release hurt its chances. But it was still a surprise that her name wasn’t listed for either the Oscars or the Golden Globes. Better luck at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Oprah.
4. There are no sure things.
The handicappers were wrong about a lot. Take a gander:
• Snubbed: Robert Redford, “All Is Lost.” An almost wordless solo performance goes for naught at the Oscars. “Lost,” indeed.
• Snubbed: The Coen brothers, “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Despite their offbeat production, Ethan and Joel have become Oscar favorites – even if it’s just a scriptwriting nod. Not this year. Llewyn Davis will have to keep walking the streets (probably with a waterlogged shoe).
• Snubbed: Emma Thompson, “Saving Mr. Banks.” So much for “Banks” despite its Disney pedigree.
• Snubbed: James Gandolfini, “Enough Said.” The academy thought “Enough” was apparently too much, since neither Julia Louis-Dreyfus nor Nicole Holofcener’s script were picked, either.
• Surprise!: Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine.” The academy loves Woody Allen screenplays (he got nominated, too), and Hawkins wasn’t overlooked.
• Surprise!: “Philomena.” A small, character-driven movie about a woman searching for her son? Best picture, best actress (Dench) and best adapted screenplay nominations are the prizes.
5. Love for “Dallas Buyers Club.”
Perhaps “Hustle,” “12 Years” and “Gravity” will duke it out for best picture. But remember “no sure things,” because when it came to audience response at the nominations, “Dallas Buyers Club” was the clear winner, greeted with cheers for every nomination. It has an Oscar-friendly subject – a heroic battle against AIDS – and strong performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. It received a surprising six nominations.
The Academy Awards are March 2.