Bruce Dern, left, plays a senior who goes off in pursuit of $1 million promised in a scam in 'Nebraska.' (Merie W. Wallace / Paramount Vantage)
This year’s Oscar nominations come out Thursday and the big question this time around isn’t who will get nominated, it’s who won’t get nominated?
There’s such a surplus of worthy talent and work in virtually all the categories that it’s inevitable some major players won’t hear their names called.
Take, for example, this week’s nominees for the Director’s Guild award, an honor which (aside from last year) is generally considered a pretty good predictor of both the best director and best picture Oscars.
This year’s nominees were all worthy. OK, Martin Scorsese (“The Wolf of Wall Street”) could probably get a nomination for directing a shampoo commercial, but Paul Greengrass (“Captain Phillips”), Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”), Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) and David O. Russell (“American Hustle”) were all expected to get nods.
The problem is the Coen brothers (“Inside Llewyn Davis”), Alexander Payne (“Nebraska”), Woody Allen (“Blue Jasmine”) and Spike Jonze (“Her”) were all considered likely nominees as well. And Lee Daniels (“The Butler”), Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station”) and J.C. Chandor (“All is Lost”) seemed to have strong outside shots.
Things will be just as messy when it comes to the best actor nominees. Chiwetel Ejiofor seems a lock for “12 Years,” as do Tom Hanks for “Captain Phillips” and Matthew McConaughey for “Dallas Buyers Club.”
But then you have Robert Redford (“All is Lost”), Christian Bale (“American Hustle”), Bruce Dern (“Nebraska”), Leonardo DiCaprio (“Wolf”), Forest Whitaker (“The Butler”) and longshot Michael B. Jordan (“Fruitvale”) all trying to squeeze into two open spots.
Things look about the same in the supporting actor category, where Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers Club”) may be the clear frontrunner, but he has all sorts of big names (Tom Hanks, James Gandolfini, Bradley Cooper, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Michael Fassbender) and small (Barkhad Abdi, Daniel Bruhl) nipping at his high heels.
If things don’t look so volatile in the best actress race that’s only because five veteran Oscar winners — Meryl Streep (“August: Osage County”), Judi Dench (“Philomena”), Sandra Bullock (“Gravity”), Emma Thompson (“Saving Mr. Banks”) and front-runnner Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”) — seem to have locked things up.
But that excludes Amy Adams’ amazing work in “American Hustle,” and Brie Larson’s in “Short Term 12” and the stunning Adele Exarchopoulos from “Blue is the Warmest Color.”
Here’s an idea, Academy — why not take your own advice? A few years back you expanded the best picture category, letting it hold up to 10 nominations. So far it’s seemed to work. Why not expand the acting categories as well?
That way you get more stars on Oscar night, more people tuned in to see those stars and — in a rich year like this past one — you don’t inevitably end up ignoring so many great performances.
86th annual Academy Awards
7 p.m. March 2