Oscars: ‘American Sniper’ Hits Target With Academy Voters; ‘Boyhood,’ ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ Lead Field

“Selma” secured a Best Picture nomination but its writing, directing and acting wasn’t recognized

Bradley Cooper american sniper steve mnuchin
Warner Bros.

For the first time ever, eight was the magic number for the Academy’s Best Picture lineup, with voters nominating awards season stalwarts “Birdman,” “Boyhood,” “The Imitation Game” and “Theory of Everything” along with this year’s indie stand-out “Whiplash,” the late-surging “American Sniper,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and the civil rights drama “Selma,” which marched into the field despite being snubbed in the writing, directing and acting categories.

“Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” led the way with nine nominations each, followed by “The Imitation Game” with eight nominations and “Boyhood” and “American Sniper” with six nominations.

“Nightcrawler,” “Foxcatcher,” “Gone Girl,” “Unbroken,” “Interstellar,” “Inherent Vice” and “A Most Violent Year” were among the well-reviewed movies that failed to make the Best Picture field, which has never had a full slate of 10 nominees.

The inclusion of “Foxcatcher” filmmaker Bennett Miller in the Best Director category was the pleasant surprise of the morning. He’s joined by obvious choices Richard Linklater and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, American auteur Wes Anderson and Norwegian filmmaker Morten Tyldum. DGA nominee Clint Eastwood failed to make the cut along with “Selma” director Ava DuVernay.

While many had speculated that Steve Carell‘s chokehold on a nomination was weakening, the season’s four frontrunners (Carell, Michael Keaton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne) remained standing, while voters targeted Bradley Cooper for the coveted “fifth slot” rather than Jake Gyllenhaal and David Oyelowo.

Best Actress provided a jolt when Marion Cotillard beat out Jennifer Aniston and Amy Adams for a nomination. She’s joined by the four female frontrunners throughout the season — Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon, Rosamund Pike and Felicity Jones.

Best Supporting Actor was chalk — the five actors every pundit predicted were all bestowed nominations, including Robert Duvall, Ethan Hawke, Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo and presumed favorite, J.K. Simmons.

The surprise in the Best Supporting Actress category has to be “Wild” star Laura Dern, who edged out Rene Russo and Jessica Chastain for a nomination. Patricia Arquette will have to hold off fellow nominees Meryl Streep, Keira Knightley and Emma Stone.

Dan Gilroy’s original screenplay proved to be “Nightcrawler’s” lone nomination, which provoked some applause during the live announcement telecast. Other nominees in the category are “Birdman,” “Boyhood,” “Foxcatcher” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” earned its sole nomination in the Adapted Screenplay category, where it’ll face stiff competition in the form of “The Imitation Game,” “The Theory of Everything,” “Whiplash” and “American Sniper,” which came on strong in recent weeks as support swelled for Warner Bros.’ war drama.

The foreign language category went according to plan per prognosticators, with “Force Majeure” the odd movie out. The field includes frontrunners “Leviathan,” “Wild Tales” and “Ida” as well as “Timbuktu” and “Tangerines.”

Veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins picked up his umpteenth nomination for “Unbroken,” though Emmanuel Lubezki’s gorgeous work on “Birdman” is expected to fly away with that category. The duo are up against Robert Yeoman (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”), Dick Pope (“Mr. Turner”) and Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski (“Ida”). That meant Bradford Young was snubbed twice for “Selma” and “A Most Violent Year,” while Robert Elswitt’s terrific work in “Nightcrawler” was also overlooked.

“American Sniper” has surged in recent weeks, and when the film was nominated for its editing, a Best Picture nomination was all but assured. While Clint Eastwood wasn’t nominated despite making the DGA cut, Warner Bros. can take solace in the film’s box office performance, with analysts projecting a $55 million weekend despite steep competition from “The Wedding Ringer” and the expansion of “Selma” over the MLK holiday weekend.

In the visual effects category, Marvel was lauded twice with nominations for both “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Captain America: Winter Soldier.” The rest of the field includes frontrunner “Interstellar” and the Fox sequels “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” leaving WB’s “Godzilla” stomping its feet along with the team behind “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.”

The snubs continued for Warners, which saw its “LEGO Movie” fail to make the cut in the Best Animated Feature category. Disney’s “Big Hero 6” will square off against DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” while “The Boxtrolls,” “Song of the Sea” and “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” will try to give the box office behemoths a run for their money.