Oscar nominations, out Jan. 15, are nine days away.

The Race
Yesterday, the Producer’s Guild announced its top 10 nominees for Best Theatrical Motion Picture. This is the most important Oscar news so far. The PGA is well-regarded as a predictor for Academy Awards nominations, as over the last five years, there has been an average of two differences a year between the two lists. (In 2013, for example, the PGA’s Saving Mr. Banks and Blue Jasmine were replaced at the Academy Awards by Philomena.) Alphabetically, this year’s nominees were:
American Sniper
Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Most of these did not come as a surprise. In my estimate, Boyhood, Birdman, The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything are the closest you’ll come to locks at this point, and Whiplash, Nightcrawler and The Grand Budapest Hotel have become the little movies that could. Gone Girl is a movie that has made a boatload of cash (more than recouping its production budget of $61 million with $362 in worldwide box office earnings), gained critical acclaim and sparked a substantial debate about feminism. Foxcatcher was nominated for Best Drama at the Golden Globes and has so far exceeded the expectations of its naysayers. And American Sniper, a Clint Eastwood film, has been surging this week.
More important is what was left off the list.
Number one, Selma. Before the PGAs came out, I would have called it the fifth lock. Now I’m not so sure. Supporters claim that its absence was due to a lack of PGA screeners of the film. (I may be getting my stories mixed up, but I think that film promoters wanted PGA members to see it in theaters rather than at home.) But it has also been bogged down by recent controversy about the historical accuracy of its depiction of LBJ. (Sound familiar? Attacks of the sort have sunk the chances of Zero Dark Thirty and Saving Mr. Banks.) Don’t count it out for an Oscar nomination, but this week showed that it may not be as well-loved as previously imagined.
Also off the list are large-budget films Interstellar, Into the Woods and Unbroken. The PGA has been known to go for box-office successes over indies in the past (in 2010, the PGA chose The Town, which made $92 million, and the Academy chose Winter’s Bone, which made $6 million), so the lack of love for these blockbusters is very foreboding.
In other news, the American Cinema Editors announced the nominees for this year’s Eddie Awards. For dramatic feature film, the nominees were American Sniper, Boyhood, Gone Girl, The Imitation Game, Nightcrawler andWhiplash. For comedy or musical, the nominees were Birdman, Guardians of the Galaxy, Into the Woods, Inherent Vice and The Grand Budapest Hotel. (Notice no Foxcatcher, Theory of Everything, Selma, Interstellar or Unbroken.) This seems like a nothing award until you realize that (according to the Hollywood Reporter), “for seven of the past 12 Eddie Awards shows, the film that won either the dramatic or comedy/musical ACE categories went on to win the Academy Award for best picture. No film has won best picture at the Oscars without also having received at least a best editing nomination from ACE since Ordinary People in 1981.”
Of less importance, the Art Directors Guild announced that pretty much everyone was nominated for their production design award.
The season is nearing its peak. “This is the year of Boyhood,” New York Film Critics Circle chairman Stephen Whittysaid at last night’s NYFCC awards ceremony, where Boyhood won best film, best director and best supporting actress. We’ll see soon enough. (Boyhood was my fourth favorite movie this year. See way down for the full list.)
Spotlight on Foxcatcher
Foxcatcher, which details the relationship between Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and creepy multimillionaire sports benefactor John du Pont (Steve Carrell), is currently being heavily criticized by none other than Schultz himself. When the film first came out, Schultz was a huge and vocal fan. (He called it “the film of the year” as late as Dec. 23.) But according to the New York Times, Schultz became upset by “suggestions of a sexual relationship between himself and Mr. du Pont” that he read in various movie reviews. He vented through twitter.
Everything I’ve ever said positive about the movie I take back. I hate it. i hate it. i hate it. I hate it. i hate it. i hate it. I hate it — Mark Schultz (@MarkSchultzy) 31 Dec 14
Since then, he has apologized for his language on Facebook. But the film (which missed out on the ACE Eddie nomination this week) may not be able to withstand the bad press.
Spotlight on Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson’s eighth film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, may be able to land the director with his first Best Picture or Best Director nomination. Despite the avid fan base following his precocious films, they have never quite been able to make the last jump into Oscarland. Moonrise Kingdom in 2012 did what is was supposed to, gaining nominations for best film from AFI, Critics Choice, Golden Globes and the PGA, but when Academy Award nominations were announced, the film was relegated to Original Screenplay. (I thought the movie was terrible, so I was not complaining.) But The Grand Budapest Hotel seems like it may be destined for the Dolby Theatre.
Further, no actors have earned nominations from Wes Anderson films (for comparison, 18 actors have earned Oscar noms in Woody Allen films), but Ralph Fiennes is coming close for The Grand Budapest Hotel. He has already picked up nominations at the Critics Choice and Golden Globes awards (as well as a host of critics prizes). While he is not necessarily a frontrunner for the nomination, he may be closest to breaking the curse.
Spotlight on American Sniper
American Sniper did not earn any Golden Globe or Critics Choice nominations and was the 45th most liked film by critics, according to CriticsTop10. (It was on 37 critics lists; Boyhood was on 492). Star Bradley Cooper was once a heavyweight Best Actor contender, but his awards have failed to materialize. Despite all this, the film has slowly maintained momentum, culminating this week with PGA and ACE Eddie nominations over other, larger films. The film tells the story of Chris Kyle, the self-proclaimed most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. It is directed by Clint Eastwood who, despite talking to a chair in 2012, has had a storied Oscars career. (Said onearticle, “If there’s anything Hollywood might be more reluctant to forgive Eastwood for than his outspoken conservatism, it’s the critical and commercial failure of this summer’s Jersey Boys.”) American Sniper was released late in the year, but that tactic worked for another Clint Eastwood film — Million Dollar Baby, which came out of nowhere to win the Oscar in 2004.
Other News
  • Irrelevance: The National Society of Film Critics named Goodbye to Language the best film of the year. Oscar bloggers quickly said goodbye to ever paying attention to the National Society of Film Critics.
  • Sing alongs: Brad Pitt teaches an audience of unamused septuagenarians how to pronounce David Oyelowo’s name. In song.
  • Old people: With Luise Rainer’s death last week, Olivia de Havilland is the oldest living acting Oscar winner. The Hollywood Reporter snapshots the top ten.
  • Second breakfast: Potential Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne auditioned for Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit movies. He did not get the role.
  • Into the Billboard 200: The film score is now the 19th most popular album, though Taylor Swift is still number one. According to Playbill, in its first weekend, the film was seen by four times the amount of people than those who saw both Broadway runs combined.
  • Into the bedroom: “Happily ever after is only a bedspread away!” says an InStyle article about a recent campaign by home goods store Joss & Main “to present a curated collection of furniture, lighting, and home accessories inspired by the lush and magical sets of Into the Woods.” And a little bit not.

My Favorite Films
I have been ranking my favorite films this year, taking into account what I thought was the “best” and also what I found to be the most enjoyable. As real news is happening in the coming weeks, I thought now would be a good time to unveil. (Note: There are still some films I have to see, most notably Unbroken and Nightcrawler.)
1. Into the Woods
2. Whiplash
3. Gone Girl
4. Boyhood
5. Big Hero 6
6. The Theory of Everything
7. Fury
8. The Edge of Tomorrow
9. 22 Jump Street
10. A Most Violent Year
11. Still Alice
12. The Lego Movie
13. Begin Again
14. A Million Ways to Die in the West
15. Snowpiercer
16. Birdman
17. The Imitation Game
18. How To Train Your Dragon 2
19. Foxcatcher
20. Selma
21. Interstellar
22. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I
23. Guardians of the Galaxy
24. The Grand Budapest Hotel
25. Divergent
26. X-Men: Days of Future Past
27. Veronica Mars
28. Maleficent
29. Muppets: Most Wanted
30. Under the Skin

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