When I exited a screening of “Captain Phillips” last fall, I was dead certain of one thing: Tom Hanks would receive a Best Actor nomination for the best work he’s done since his twin Oscar wins in the mid-1990s.
So much for a sure thing.
The biggest shock Thursday morning was the absence of Hanks’ name when the Best Actor nominations were announced, with Christian Bale’s work in “American Hustle” the presumed nominee that bumped Hanks from the list. I LOVED Bale’s performance in my favorite movie of 2013, but it was still quite the stunner.
Robert Redford’s magnificent work in “All Is Lost” was also missing from the Best Actor roster in one of the most competitive years in the last couple of decades. It’s hard to argue against any of the five candidates that DID make the list, with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matthew McConaughey, Bruce Dern and Leonardo DiCaprio joining Bale.
The least deserving of the 20 nominees in the acting categories? Jonah Hill in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” I thought Hill deserved his nomination for “Moneyball,” but even in a tale of wretched excess where the role called for some BIG acting choices, to me Hill’s work seemed too contrived, too self-aware, too look-at-me. Daniel Bruhl’s work in “Rush” was far superior. For that matter, I could probably come up with a dozen other supporting performances I enjoyed more than Hill’s work in “Wall Street.” (Doesn’t anybody remember McConaughey’s sublime work in the unfairly forgotten “Mud”?)
Meryl Streep received her 847th nomination (slight exaggeration alert!) for “August: Osage County.” It’s hard to call it an upset when the world’s most decorated actress receives yet another accolade, but it was a bit of a surprise, given the mixed reviews and lukewarm audience reaction to the film. I thought Emma Thompson’s performance in “Saving Mr. Banks” would have made the cut.
Among the Best Picture nominees, we knew “American Hustle,” “Captain Phillips,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Gravity,” “Her,” “Nebraska,” “12 Years a Slave” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” would make the cut. The surprise here is “Philomena,” which also netted a Best Actress nomination for the much-loved Judi Dench.
As usual, the announcements themselves were underwhelming, with a famous actor and a not-famous Academy person listing the nominees in rapid-fire fashion, while various unseen individuals let out the occasional “WOOOHOO!” or broke into applause when certain names or films were mentioned. I don’t know who’s making this noise, but it almost certainly has to be a hack journalist or an overly enthusiastic publicist. Either way, it’s akin to the parents that are told not to applaud during the reading of individual names at commencement ceremonies–but they do it anyway, because they’re more special than anyone else. Annoying!
And I still can’t believe Tom Hanks didn’t get nominated for “Captain Phillips.” The final 10 minutes of his performance were the finest 10 minutes of acting done by anyone in any movie I saw last year.