With the strong showings of Birdman and Boyhood, it seems like this year's Oscar season seems a bit more relaxed than usual. There is partisanship for sure but there is an element of (how shall I put this?) fear that seems missing from this race. Or perhaps a melodrama. A sense of "Oh, God! Not this!" or "Oh, God! Not that!" If they are indeed inevitable, the inevitables (Michael Keaton, Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons, Patricia Arquette) feel a bit more pleasant. There's certainly a chance all that is thrown asunder and The Imitation Game or The Theory of Everything takes it all, but it doesn't look likely. Right now, it feels like a very pleasant race.
So as I sit here Oscar blogging in an age where this kind of thing is done with the intensity of political polling (with attention to trends, history, precedents, etc.) wondering if the big surprise will be a series of perfectly understandable omissions that make the race look a lot more confusing than it is. I'm not going to bet the farm on any of this, but here are some things that could happen:
-- Boyhood is not nominated for Best Original Screenplay.
Right now it's certainly a strong candidate for a Best Original Screenplay nomination, but I don't think anybody thinks that this is the best written film of the year. In a field where it's up against Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Selma, Whiplash, A Most Violent Year, Foxcatcher, Nightcrawler, and Mr. Turner, it's entirely possible that Boyhood doesn't get the votes.
-- Birdman is not nominated for Best Film Editing.
Right now it's certainly a strong candidate for a Best Film Editing nomination, but (though Children of Men and Gravity were nominated for films that weren't exactly "cutty") what if it isn't? What if Boyhood, Gone Girl, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Foxcatcher, The Imitation Game, Unbroken, or Whiplash just get nominated instead?
-- The Imitation Game is not nominated for Best Director but gets the most nominations.
If The Imitation Game is nominated for writing and editing, Boyhood and Birdman aren't, and it gets the most nominations but Morten Tyldum is not nominated for Best Director, will arguments be posited that the film is more or less likely to win Best Picture? With Argo's victory very fresh despite neither film being very worthy of a directing nomination, will a Best Director omission help The Imitation Game?
And then of course the likelihood of Foxcatcher, Gone Girl, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Selma & The Theory of Everything being nominated for Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Editing. What does that do for them?
My answer would be the race stays mostly the same and the expected choices go on to win, just as the fact that it wasn't nominated for Best Original Score or Cinematography didn't affect 12 Years a Slave, nor did the fact that Alfonso Cuaron was going to win Best Director. But the race will seem more interesting.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver