Indie films dominate nominations at Academy Awards

Tom Long
The Detroit News

There will be new faces at this year's Academy Awards as well as familiar ones. What there won't be, at least in terms of the major nominations, is many blockbusters.

It's going to be mostly an indie film kind of year, with seven of the eight movies nominated for Best Picture coming from low-to-medium budget backgrounds.

Best Picture nominee "Whiplash," for example, was reportedly made for $3.3 million. Even with its $20 million price tag, Best Picture nominee "Selma" seems modestly budgeted compared to a supposed blockbuster contender like "Interstellar," which cost $165 million to make and earned no major nominations.

When the Academy opened the Best Picture race to up to ten nominees, it was hoping to get more crowd-friendly films in the mix, making for a bigger TV audience rooting for its favorite films. This year, though, it ended up with a bunch of comparatively popular small films.

"The Grand Budapest Hotel," which has earned $59 million, drew the most nominations — nine — alongside "Birdman," which has earned $26.5 million. Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper," which opens wide today and probably has the greatest commercial potential of all the Best Picture nominees, garnered eight nominations, as did "The Imitation Game," which has earned $42 million since debuting on Christmas.

"Boyhood," writer-director Richard Linklater's film that was shot over a period of 12 years, scored six nominations, including Best Picture, director, original screenplay, supporting actress for Patricia Arquette, supporting actor for Ethan Hawke and film editing. "Boyhood" earned $24 million over its theatrical run.

Also nominated for Best Picture was the Stephen Hawking biopic "The Theory of Everything," which earned best actor and actress nods for Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. "Theory" has taken in $26 million at the domestic box office.

In contrast, the biggest domestic hit of 2014 will soon be "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1," which has topped $330 million. It received no Oscar nominations.

Redmayne and Jones will be among the many new, if not necessarily young, faces at this year's Oscars. Four of the best actor nominees are first-timers: Redmayne, Michael Keaton ("Birdman"), Steve Carell ("Foxcatcher") and Benedict Cumberbatch ("The Imitation Game"). The fifth nominee is Bradley Cooper, earning his third Oscar nomination in three years for "American Sniper."

In the best actress race, though, the names are more familiar, including Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon ("Wild"), Oscar winner Marion Cotillard ("Two Days One Night") and now five-time nominee Julianne Moore ("Still Alice"). Joining newcomer Jones is first-timer Rosamund Pike ("Gone Girl").

Speaking of familiar faces ... Meryl Streep scored her 287th Oscar nomination for her supporting turn in "Into the Woods." OK, it's only a record-breaking 19 nominations (with three wins) but it may as well be 287.

Competing with Streep will be first-timer Arquette, first-timer Emma Stone ("Birdman"), and previous nominees Laura Dern ("Wild") and Keira Knightley ("The Imitation Game").

The contenders for best supporting actor are all familiar pros. Mark Ruffalo nabbed his second nomination for "Foxcatcher" (that's right; The Hulk got an Oscar nomination). Edward Norton got his third nomination for "Birdman" (which technically puts two Hulks in the race). "Boyhood" gives Ethan Hawke his second acting nomination (he's also been nominated twice for screenplay). And Oscar-winner Robert Duvall scored his seventh nomination for "The Judge"; his first nom came in 1973 for "The Godfather."

The newcomer? That would be 60-year-old Detroit native and lifelong Tigers fan J.K. Simmons for "Whiplash." And he wasn't the only Detroit connection, as Grosse Pointe native and New Radicals frontman Gregg Alexander scored a best original song nomination for "Lost Stars," from "Begin Again," which he co-wrote with Danielle Brisebois.

Obviously, everybody didn't make the cut. "Selma" scored its Best Picture nomination, but neither actor David Oyelowo or director Ava Duvernay got nods. In fact, all the acting nominees turned out to be white, and predictable cries of racism rang out, although the movie may have simply been hurt by a mismanaged campaign (factual controversies, very late release, limited screeners). "12 Years a Slave" did win Best Picture just last year, after all.

Actor Jake Gyllenhaal didn't score for "Nightcrawler" either, although director Dan Gilroy was nominated for original screenplay. Jennifer Aniston pushed for an acting nod for her little-seen "Cake," but it didn't happen. "The LEGO Movie" was left out of the animation race (how?), "Big Eyes" was shut out, Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken" only managed two technical nominations for sound and Mike Leigh's biopic "Mr. Turner" received four nominations, but nothing for Leigh or star Timothy Spall, who won best actor at the Cannes Film Festival.

Then again, in any competition someone loses. We'll see who the real winners are at the Academy Awards on Feb. 22.

Here's the complete list of 87th annual Academy Award nominations:

1. Best picture: "American Sniper"; "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)"; "Boyhood"; "The Grand Budapest Hotel"; "The Imitation Game"; "Selma"; "The Theory of Everything"; "Whiplash."

2. Actor: Steve Carell, "Foxcatcher"; Bradley Cooper, "American Sniper"; Benedict Cumberbatch, "The Imitation Game"; Michael Keaton, "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)"; Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything."

3. Actress: Marion Cotillard, "Two Days, One Night"; Felicity Jones, "The Theory of Everything"; Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"; Rosamund Pike, "Gone Girl"; Reese Witherspoon, "Wild."

4. Supporting actor: Robert Duvall, "The Judge"; Ethan Hawke, "Boyhood"; Edward Norton, "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)"; Mark Ruffalo, "Foxcatcher"; J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash."

5. Supporting actress: Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"; Laura Dern, "Wild"; Keira Knightley, "The Imitation Game"; Emma Stone, "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)"; Meryl Streep, "Into the Woods."

6. Directing: Alejandro G. Inarritu, "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)"; Richard Linklater, "Boyhood"; Bennett Miller, "Foxcatcher"; Wes Anderson, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"; Morten Tyldum, "The Imitation Game."

7. Foreign language film: "Ida"; "Leviathan"; "Tangerines"; "Timbuktu"; "Wild Tales."

8. Adapted screenplay: Jason Hall, "American Sniper"; Graham Moore, "The Imitation Game"; Paul Thomas Anderson, "Inherent Vice"; Anthony McCarten, "The Theory of Everything"; Damien Chazelle, "Whiplash."

9. Original screenplay: Alejandro G. Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Armando Bo, "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)"; Richard Linklater, "Boyhood"; E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, "Foxcatcher"; Wes Anderson (screenplay) and story by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"; Dan Gilroy, "Nightcrawler."

10. Animated feature film: "Big Hero 6"; "The Boxtrolls"; "How to Train Your Dragon 2"; "Song of the Sea"; "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya."

11. Production design: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"; "The Imitation Game"; "Interstellar"; "Into the Woods"; "Mr. Turner."

12. Cinematography: "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)"; "The Grand Budapest Hotel"; "Ida"; "Mr. Turner"; "Unbroken."

13. Sound mixing: "American Sniper"; "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)"; "Interstellar"; "Unbroken"; "Whiplash."

14. Sound editing: "American Sniper"; "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)"; "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies"; "Interstellar"; "Unbroken."

15. Original score: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"; "The Imitation Game"; "Interstellar"; "Mr. Turner"; "The Theory of Everything."

16. Original song: "Everything Is Awesome" from "The Lego Movie"; "Glory" from "Selma"; "Grateful" from "Beyond the Lights"; "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" from "Glen Campbell … I'll Be Me"; "Lost Stars" from "Begin Again."

17. Costume design: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"; "Inherent Vice"; "Into the Woods"; "Maleficent"; "Mr. Turner."

18. Documentary feature: "CitizenFour"; "Finding Vivian Maier"; "Last Days in Vietnam"; "The Salt of the Earth"; "Virunga."

19. Documentary (short subject): "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1"; "Joanna"; "Our Curse"; "The Reaper (La Parka)"; "White Earth."

20. Film editing: "American Sniper"; "Boyhood"; "The Grand Budapest Hotel"; "The Imitation Game"; "Whiplash."

21. Makeup and hairstyling: "Foxcatcher"; "The Grand Budapest Hotel"; "Guardians of the Galaxy."

22. Animated short film: "The Bigger Picture"; "The Dam Keeper"; "Feast"; "Me and My Moulton"; "A Single Life."

23. Live action short film: "Aya"; "Boogaloo and Graham"; "Butter Lamp (La Lampe Au Beurre De Yak)"; "Parvaneh"; "The Phone Call."

24. Visual effects: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"; "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"; "Guardians of the Galaxy"; "Interstellar"; "X-Men: Days of Future Past."

Enter our Oscar contest

The Detroit News will give a 40-inch Sony LED SmartTV to some lucky — OK, skilled and knowledgeable — reader who can predict this year's Oscar winners in the top eight categories.

Entering the contest is easy. Write down your picks for best picture, director, actress, actor, supporting actor, supporting actress, original screenplay and adapted screenplay and email them — along with your name, address and phone number — to by 5 p.m. Feb. 20.

Winners will be drawn on Feb. 23 and announced in Arts & Style on Feb. 24.

In case of a tie, the winner will be arbitrarily drawn out of a hat; otherwise, whoever gets the most correct answers will eventually be able to watch films by this year's Oscar winners on a SmartTV in the comfort of their own living room.