Waking Up With Oscar

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By: Connor Lenahan

This morning at 8:30 AM the nominees for the 86th Academy Awards were announced. Being the insane Oscar lover that I am, I was awake at 7:30 to get fully prepared for the announcements. I had spent an inordinately large amount of my free time over the last four or five months seeing every movie believed to be a contender. It’s a bit early (the Oscars aren’t until March 2nd) to try and predict winners, so these are just some of my reactions to the nominations from this morning.

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Best Picture went pretty close to what I had thought going in. American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave were as solid of bets possible. They’ll most likely be the biggest contenders for the award given that they were nominated for a combined 29 statues.

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It was great to see The Wolf of Wall Street get a spot as well. I obviously adore the movie so it was great to see the Academy show it some love as well. It was fantastic and a no brainer for a Best Picture look in the minds of many (including me) but the content and portrayal of that content made it less of a lock than I had hoped. Glad I was wrong.

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The more and more I think about it the more I realize that I absolutely love Captain Phillips. Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi are shockingly amazing together and the entire movie takes something that could be uninteresting and makes it into a dramatic thriller. I’m extremely happy to see it pop up here.

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Following that trend I was similarly elated to see Her and Nebraska get nominated. Her was smart, original, heartwarming and heartbreaking. Nebraska was touching, occasionally moving and riotously funny. Both were smaller movies and I think that made me enjoy them more. They weren’t concerned with sensationalism to make triple-digit millions. They were simply works of art that got the recognition they deserved. For both Her and Nebraska I’m perfectly okay with them not winning – but I’ll go insane if they do – just knowing that they are respected by the highest of the higher ups.

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Now we reach the part where I got a little bit upset. I’m withholding any negativity towards Philomena as I haven’t seen it and there was an available, unused 10th nomination sitting there that could have been taken by the incredible Fruitvale Station. Fruitvale was one of the absolute best movies I saw last year and I thought as a film it was better than Dallas Buyers Club. I liked Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto’s individual performances more than I liked all of Dallas Buyers Club. I was genuinely surprised to see it make the cut and disappointed to see Fruitvale get shut out. If that movie comes out in December as opposed to July we are looking at a very different Oscar race.

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The biggest outrage I saw today was over Inside Llewyn Davis missing the cut here. Out of the eight here I saw I would only bump out Dallas Buyers Club for Davis and even then I’d bump Davis for Fruitvale so I was not really all that worked up over this.

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Best Actor actually worked out pretty much exactly how I wanted it to. Matthew McConaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio took home Golden Globes last week and are both in contention to add an Oscar on their mantle as well. That didn’t surprise me.

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Chiwetel Ejiofor was the lead in the best movie of the year and did a great job as Solomon Northup. This was a damn near automatic pick. The logic behind these three would have to be “how do you explain not nominating them?” I can’t find a way to argue against these three, so they are in easily.

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Then we had the battle of the old men for a nomination. In one corner we have the adorable, lovable, dementia-suffering Woody Grant played by Bruce Dern. In the other corner we have the largely silent stranded sailor “Our Man” played by Robert Redford. I have gone on record in believing that Redford’s performance in All is Lost was critically overrated so I was excited to see Dern come out the victor of this battle. Dern was better than I had originally realized. I thought he wasn’t really acting as Woody. He’s not that character at all meaning his believability is off the charts, great to have him on board.

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Then there’s the biggest surprise from my morning. Goldderby.com had Christian Bale listed with 100/1 odds of getting nominated for his portrayal of con man Irving Rosenfeld. So you can imagine my excitement when his wonderful/awful comb over popped up on the screen. I’m an unabashed fan of all things Christian Bale (and for that matter, Patrick Bateman), so I fangirled hard.

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Bale’s nomination came with a price however; Tom Hanks was left out for Captian Phillips. The final scene of Captian Phillips has moved me to tears and feels that cannot be expressed through words entirely because of Hanks. His performance is one of the best I’ve ever seen in this scene. Am I upset that he’s not in? Of course, but I’m also a realist. This year’s acting nominees were stacked. I could make a case for all five actual nominees, Hanks, Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), and Oscar Issac (Inside Llewyn Davis) not only getting nominated but winning. I think they picked the best five possible, so I’m okay the cuts made, especially when critics give them love that the Oscars can’t because of category constraints.

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Best Actress went almost exactly as I thought it would. Again, Cate Blanchett is winning this award, and it isn’t really close. So she was in without a single person batting an eyelash.

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Sandra Bullock is a Hollywood sweetheart and was great carrying Gravity almost entirely alone (Full disclosure: Bullock’s ability to carry a movie alone probably affects my opinion on All is Lost and Redford) so she’s in as well.

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Amy Adams earned her fifth nomination in nine years (you go Glen Coco) for Lady Edith Greensly. I loved American Hustle and her performance was lights out so this makes sense to me.

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Judi Dench and Meryl Streep round out the group for two performances I have yet to see. With Philomena garnering a Best Picture nomination I will catch Dench before the ceremony, but you could not pay me to see August: Osage County. It looks like a largely annoying and overall unpleasant watch. If Streep and Roberts (neither really have any chance of winning wither) are the only reason I’d go to this then I’ll just save myself the headache, thank you.

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The major name left out of this category was Emma Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks. I had thought Banks was good when I saw it, but it was far behind many of the other films I saw in 2013. Recently critics have been slamming the movie for how it portrays P.L. Travers and they have a pretty good case. They turn her into an unlikable curmudgeon who’s unrealistically stubborn and controlling. I’m not losing any sleep over her missing out here. Somewhat related: Emma Thompson at the Golden Globes was awesome. That is all.

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Best Supporting Actor hit all of my favorite movies last year for their choices so I am overwhelmingly happy here.

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Jared Leto is the early favorite here and looks to have the most momentum coming off of the multiple wins he has had from critics organizations and the Golden Globes.

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Michael Fassbender is incredible in 12 Years a Slave and plays a villain better than most actors could ever dream of.

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Barkhad Abdi is a revelation in Captain Phillips; the guy can really act. Who would have known?

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Bradley Cooper is always entertaining and does more great work with David O. Russell in American Hustle earing a deserved nomination.

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The one I want to point out I was surprised by was Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street. I thought the deceased James Gandolfini would have this spot for Enough Said (which I haven’t seen but enough people I trust tell me is a great film.). Instead the voters went for the cousin-marrying drug addict that is Donnie Azoff. Hill is so great in this movie, it’s nice to have him at the Oscars again. I’m just still coming to terms with the fact that seven years after Superbad Jonah Hill went from a budding comedy star to a TWO TIME Oscar nominee. Props where props are due.

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Anytime Jennifer Lawrence is nominated means that this guy is happy. Being able to steal every scene in American Hustle in which she appears would be impressive if she wasn’t doing it against four other Oscar nominees/winners (Bale, Adams, Cooper, Jeremy Renner). Just give her the trophy.

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I was told not to say anything unless I had something nice to say, so I’m out on Sally Hawkins until I see Blue Jasmine again.

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Lupita Nyong’o is amazing in 12 Years a Slave and I would be more than okay. She really is just terrific in such a heartbreaking role.

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For my take on Julia Roberts I will refer you to Streep, Meryl above.

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Most importantly, let’s take a second to recognize my girl June Squibb. She is the funniest part of Nebraska and made me laugh harder than anyone else last year. That’s a fact. I actually couldn’t breathe during the scene when she is spitting the truth about everyone in the cemetery; sharing who was a slut and a whore like it’s Halloween candy to trick-or-treaters. I want Squibb to win more than anyone else. Give Best Picture to Crash again I wouldn’t be able to care, I’d be too excited about Squibb winning. Viva la Squibb.

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I honestly didn’t have that many concrete opinions on the Best Director nominees, I liked all of the choices, or really any of the other categories worth mentioning. Overall I came out happy this morning. American Hustle and Gravity led the way with 10 nominations each while 12 Years a Slave followed with nine. I’m perfectly okay with that. Outside of missing love for my boy Vince Howard and Fruitvale I don’t have many grudges to hold. These Oscars are going to be amazing.

See you March 2nd.

Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is the founder and editor-in-chief of Connorlenahan.com. He is a freshman at Boston University, majoring in journalism. He can be emailed at lenahan@bu.edu