By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times (TNS)
When it comes to the Oscar endgame — winning, losing, or just being in the running — it’s all about the numbers: the votes cast, promotion dollars spent, red carpets walked, interviews granted, pounds lost.
The most confusing count this year — and every year since 2011 — might be the number of movies nominated for best picture. In 2009, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences doubled the number of nominees from five to 10. Two years later, the rules were adjusted to allow more flexibility, and the academy has been increasingly flexible ever since. Nine films were nominated in each of the three years that followed, but this year only eight movies will contend for the academy’s most coveted award.
Why didn’t the academy use all 10 best picture spots?
Oscar experts like my colleague Glenn Whipp can go on about the ins and outs of the academy’s preferential voting and how a best picture nominee must get at least 5 percent of the early votes. Others say it just wasn’t a great year at the movies.
I disagree. Those blank spaces represent missed opportunities. Two chances for the academy, oft-criticized for conventional thinking, to be bold and surprising, to broaden the “best picture” umbrella and reconsider the category for a new age.
There are many years I would not only commend the members’ restraint, I would send along my sympathies, knowing how creatively bleak some years can be — how barren of interesting films, how boring.
But 2014? Hardly the case. It was a very good year, with wonderful surprises. From massive to mini, mainstream to indie, the movies were a delicious stew to be savored — for challenging topics, flights of fancy, sheer entertainment value.
Yes, the year brought its share of duds. Even more fell into that terrible mid-range we call mediocre. Of the eight that made the A-list — American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash — most deserve their place without question, and they represent a refreshing range of styles.
A couple, however, are enough on the bubble — American Sniper carried in on the back of Bradley Cooper’s performance, The Theory of Everything pushed over the biopic pro-forma line by Eddie Redmayne’s remarkable renderings — to make the two unfilled spots even more glaring.
Since the academy didn’t choose to choose, I will.
Here are the 2014 films that I feel should have been contenders at Sunday’s ceremony for Oscar’s top prize. They are the best movies that didn’t get a best picture nomination.
Image: Davidlohr beso, Flickr