Oscar nominations, out Jan. 15, are just over two weeks away.

The Race
Yesterday at 8 a.m. PT, Oscar nominations voting began. From now until Jan. 8, the 6,028 film leaders who are voting members of the Academy (as of December 2013) will select the films they think are most deserving of Hollywood’s greatest award. According to a 2013 Los Angeles Times report, Oscar voters are 93% white, 76% male and boasted an average age of 63. As of 2012, Blacks made up about 2% of the Academy, and Latinos counted less than 2%. Despite a recent trend to add more diversity to the Academy — the most recent class inducted into the Academy was 31% female and 18% non-Caucasian — the bulk of the members are overwhelmingly white, male and old.
Before Oscar nominations are announced, we will be getting a host of new awards and nominations. The Producer’s Guild will announce their nominations on Jan. 5, the Director’s Guild will announce theirs on Jan. 13 and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) will announce nominations Jan. 9. Coupled with the Golden Globes (Jan. 11, hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and certain to be hilarious), there is a lot of Oscar news yet to come.
But now, just like last week, there is little to add to the discussion. Most interestingly, Into the Woods and Unbrokendominated the Christmas weekend (though both fell to the latest Hobbit film in its second weekend). Into the Woods, based on the Sondheim musical, took in $46.14 million, and though it got great reviews from top critics (86% on Rotten Tomatoes), theatergoers were less pleased (it received a CinemaScore grade of B), likely due to its marketing as a family-friendly romp when in actuality it is far darker. Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie, took in $46.05 million. Audiences liked it (CinemaScore of A-) but critics did not (Rotten Tomatoes all critics 51%). Both were once considered possibilities for Oscar nominations, but the frontrunner Best Picture status is still hazy.
Spotlight on the nominations process
From 1944 to 2008, AMPAS nominated five films for its highest honor. In 2009, AMPAS decided to bump that number to ten in a move that many critics said reflected outrage at The Dark Knight’s lack of a bid the year before. Hoping to boost its ratings, AMPAS said it aimed to “recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize.” But in 2011, AMPAS announced another change. In what seems to be an apology for weaker movies sliding into the nominations list (for more information, see The Blind Side), AMPAS now nominates anywhere from five to ten nominees, depending on the quality of the year.
In order to be nominated, a film must receive 5% of the first-place votes (meaning that films must be strongly loved rather than widely liked). For example, if we assume that 5,000 out of the Academy’s 6,000 members vote, a film with at least 455 votes is automatically a nominee for Best Picture. If a film has twice that number, its surplus votes get redistributed to second-place votes. Films receiving less than 1% of the vote (fewer than 50) also get their votes redistributed. Once this has all been taken into account, any film with 5% of the vote (250 in our situation) becomes a Best Picture nominee. In an interesting article on AwardsDaily, Sasha Stone guessed how many nominees there would have been had the new system been used from 2001 to 2008.
Spotlight on the redheads
Three key redheads are up for Oscar nominations this year: Julianne Moore (who plays an Alzheimer’s patient in Still Alice), Jessica Chastain (who plays the wife of an ambitious immigrant in A Most Violent Year) and Amy Adams (who plays painter Margaret Keane in Big Eyes). Each has earned a bunch of nominations in the past but none of the three has been able to translate them into Oscar gold. This year, Moore at least may get that opportunity.
Julianne Moore rose to prominence in the 1993 film Short Cuts. Since then, she has racked up four Oscar nominations (for Best Supporting Actress in 1997 for Boogie Nights, for Bet Actress in 1999 for The End of the Affairand in 2002 as Best Actress in Far from Heaven and Best Supporting Actress in The Hours). You may know her as President Coin in the latest Hunger Games movie. Amy Adams’ star rose quickly after receiving an Oscar nomination for Junebug in 2005. Since then, she has been nominated four more times (for Best Supporting Actress in 2008 for Doubt, 2010 for The Fighter and 2012 for The Master, and for Best Actress in 2013 for American Hustle). Jessica Chastain is the most recent to fame of the three, but even she earned back-to-back nominations for The Help in 2011 and Zero Dark Thirty in 2012.
There is not necessarily a curse on gingers. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “a few redheads have beaten the odds to win best actress: Ginger Rogers in 1940’s Kitty Foyle and Greer Garson in 1942’s Mrs. Miniver (though both films were in black-and-white), Shirley MacLaine in 1983’s Terms of Endearment (on her fifth acting nom) and Susan Sarandon in 1995’s Dead Man Walking (on her fifth nom).”
Spotlight on Birdman
Birdman is probably second only to Boyhood in the Oscar buzz it is receiving. It is perhaps the most cinematically unique film of the year, as the entire movie seems to take place in one shot. If you like West Wing-style walk-and-talk scenes, this will at least bring up some fond memories. The plot is a bit more bizarre, as it follows a down-on-his-luck Hollywood actor (who played “Birdman” in the superhero movies of the same name) trying to jumpstart his career again with a lead role in a Broadway play. Weirdness ensues. Michael Keaton has earned rave reviews as the lead, and the film features excellent supporting work by Emma Stone, Edward Norton and Naomi Watts. This movie is not for everyone: Practically everyone in my family hated it. But it was definitely gripping throughout. Watch it if you want to sound intelligent in front of your friends.
Other News
  • When the Red Carpet Is Rolled Up: Read this article. The New York Times looks into what happens to those who earn Oscars or Oscar nominations and then fade away. Remember Barkhad Abdi, who got a nomination playing a Somali pirate in Captain Phillips? It turns out there are not that many Somali pirate roles out there.
  • Role of a lifetime: Deadline argues that the role matters far more than the star, going a bit into Oscar history mentioning deserving actors that never won competitive acting Oscars because each nomination was usurped by relative newcomers in “roles of a lifetime.”
  • Critics: This site lists the 50 most-mentioned films on critics lists in 2014. Unsurprisingly, Boyhood is first, with 136 top spots and mentions on 382 lists.
  • Rosamund Pike: AwardsDaily founder and Oscar blogger Sasha Stone is a rabid Gone Girl fan this year. If you want to read her love letter to the film and its leading actress, click here,
  • Self-Indulgence: Hollywood stars choose their favorite films and performances of the year. Jennifer Aniston said that Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything is “simply unbelievable.” Eddie Redmayne singles out Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night over Aniston’s performance in Cake. Drama.
  • Fashion: The New York Times actually wrote an article about how Angelina Jolie’s more muted color palette (“perfectly tailored high-fashion take on the librarian look”) is part of her campaign for an Oscar nomination.
  • Luise Rainer: The first actress to win back-to-back acting Oscars (for The Great Ziegfeld in 1936 and The Good Earth in 1937) died today. She was 104. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “with Rainer’s death, the oldest surviving Academy Award acting winner (not honorary winners) is two-time winner Olivia de Havilland, who turned 98 in July 2014.”

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