The Oscar nominations announced Thursday served only to highlight the schism between the tastes of regular American moviegoers and what is deemed worthy of recognition by a select group of industry insiders.
One of the most notable shutouts was "The Lego Movie." A critical and audience favorite of 2014 (grossing more than $250 million at the box office), it was absent from the list of best animated feature film contenders. In its place were "Big Hero 6," "How to Train Your Dragon 2" and "The Boxtrolls," none of which surpassed "Lego's" box office haul or attracted as much adoration from audiences both young and old.
"Lego's" only recognition from the Academy was for "Everything Is Awesome," which received a nod for original song.
Eliciting outrage on social media, the 20 acting nominations went to a group made up of only white actors and actresses.
Notable best actor omissions include David Oyelowo's turn as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in "Selma," "Grand Budapest Hotel" lead Ralph Fiennes, and Jake Gyllenhaal for "Nightcrawler." All three received Golden Globe nods for their portrayals. Edging into the Oscar competition is Steve Carell with his transformative role in "Foxcatcher."
Jennifer Aniston, who was on the best actress short list, failed to make the cut for her raw performance in "Cake." Amy Adams, recent Globe winner for best actress in a comedy for "Big Eyes," was also absent. Instead, surprise inclusion Marion Cotillard was nominated for "Two Days, One Night," in which she plays a soon to be laid off, depressed factory worker.
Overall, Alejandro G. Iñárritu's "Birdman" and Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" tied for most Oscar nominations with nine apiece, including best picture, where they are joined by "Boyhood," ''Whiplash," ''The Theory of Everything," ''The Imitation Game," ''American Sniper" and "Selma."
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Though Navy SEAL drama "American Sniper" made a last minute award season charge (it opens wide Friday following a limited Christmas release) garnering six nods including best actor for Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood's name was a glaring omission from the directing race. As was "Selma's" Ava DuVernay, the first black woman to be nominated for a directorial Golden Globe.
Also with six nominations is best picture favorite "Boyhood," Richard Linklater's 12 year labor of love about one boy's transition to manhood. "Boyhood" and "Sniper" trail British spy drama "The Imitation Game," which received eight nominations.
While David Fincher's "Gone Girl," Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken" and Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar" drew nods in the music, design, sound and production categories, the top tier award race is populated with films yet to gross $100 million at the box office, the majority of contenders barely approaching $50 million.
It's representative of an awards season increasingly focused on smaller scale films that exist apart from Hollywood's output of wide-appeal blockbusters and franchise installments. With the latter all but banished from the Oscar equation, audiences are drawn more to the annual spectacle of red carpet gowns and possible onstage snafus at the Oscar ceremony than via the actual films in contention.