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The winners and losers of the 2015 Oscar nominations, explained

Actor Chris Pine and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announce the nominations for the 87th annual Academy Awards.
Actor Chris Pine and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announce the nominations for the 87th annual Academy Awards.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

No actors of color were nominated at the Oscars this year.

And for the first time since 1999, no women were nominated in both the directing and the two screenwriting categories.

At a time when diversity is such an important topic that it's actually turned into something of a buzzword on television, the world of film continues to be dominated by the same old stories of white dudes that it always has.

That's the big story out of this morning's Oscar nominations. But there are tons of other things going on. If you haven't had time to read the full list, go here.

But if you just want the big story, read on.

Who were the big winners out of this morning's nominees?

For the first time since 2010, no film received a nominations total in the double digits. The two most-nominated films were the dark show business comedy Birdman and the quirky Wes Anderson film The Grand Budapest Hotel. Both received nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. Birdman also received three acting nominations, while Grand Budapest dominated in the technical categories.

The Imitation Game also outperformed expectations, receiving eight nominations, including ones for Picture, Director, and Actor. And presumed frontrunner Boyhood received the six nominations it realistically could receive, keeping it on solid ground.

It's also worth looking at the Directing and Editing categories to see where the true overlap lies. Films that make both categories have a better shot at winning Best Picture, which suggests that Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and The Imitation Game are the biggest contenders here. One caveat: Birdman was actually not a factor in this category, as it's edited to appear as if it consists of one long take. That in and of itself is an editing feat, but one the Oscars were unlikely to notice.

Who were the surprise nominees?

I didn't dare hope that Marion Cotillard would actually crack the nominations lineup for Best Actress, even though nobody seemed super passionate about Jennifer Aniston's work in Cake, which had taken the fifth slot and most of the precursors. And yet Cotillard made it in for her work in the tiny foreign film Two Days, One Night, in which she plays a woman forced to beg her fellow employees to help her keep her job. It's a devastating watch, but Cotillard is brilliant in it.

The resilience of Foxcatcher was also surprising to some (including myself), with Steve Carell hanging on to his slot in Best Actor, and Bennett Miller proving an unexpected Best Director nominee (to the detriment of American Sniper's Clint Eastwood). The film itself, however, didn't manage to crack the Best Picture lineup, which was a surprise, given its other nominations.

Finally, Laura Dern managed to crack the Best Supporting Actress lineup for Wild, while both Song of the Sea and The Tale of Princess Kaguya pushed their way into Animated Feature, when it seemed like only one might. None of these nominations were outside of the realm of possibility, but they were considered unlikely.

Who were the biggest snubs?

By far the biggest snubs were connected to Selma, particularly for its director, Ava DuVernay, who would have been the first black woman ever nominated for this award, and just the fifth woman ever. You can read more about this topic here.

But there were surprising snubs all over the place. In order to make room for Cotillard, the Best Actress category pushed Jennifer Aniston aside. And to make room for Dern, Best Supporting Actress saw Jessica Chastain snubbed for her work in A Most Violent Year, failing to gain her third nomination in four years.

The Best Actor category was always competitive, but in nominating Steve Carell and Bradley Cooper, the Academy left Selma's David Oyelowo, Nightcrawler's Jake Gyllenhaal, and The Grand Budapest Hotel's Ralph Fiennes out in the cold.

And the snubs of women in the directing and screenwriting fields extended to Gillian Flynn, generally considered a shoo-in for her Gone Girl screenplay. Instead, she missed out to the scripts for American Sniper and Inherent Vice.

Finally, perhaps the most surprising snub of them all came in the Best Animated Feature category, where The Lego Movie — considered a contender for the win — was the animated film shouldered out by the smaller indie releases mentioned above.

So what's this about diversity?

The Oscars have always tilted toward stories about white men. But that was all the more apparent this year. Of the eight Best Picture nominees, the only one that doesn't feature a white man as its protagonist is Selma, and that was the least-nominated of the nominees, scoring only one other nomination for Best Original Song.

It's possible to make excuses for Selma's poor showing that don't involve race — like Paramount's poor handling of the campaign — but the snubs of women in general in major creative categories suggest a sort of retrenchment around favorite themes by the Oscars this year. Adding to this is the fact that this is the first year since 2005 when no single Best Picture nominee was predominantly a story of a woman.

Put another way, if 2013's lineup was filled with movies about women and people of color who had agency and took control of their own lives, 2014's lineup feels like more of the same. That might have been OK if there were no critically acclaimed movies about women and people of color this year, but Selma — with its 99 percent Rotten Tomatoes score and A+ Cinemascore (from audiences) — immediately suggests otherwise.

What's worth celebrating here?

There are some really great nominations this year. For starters, it's wild that both Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson are both now Best Director nominees, for films that are nothing like the typical "Oscar film." Linklater's Boyhood is a small, intimate story about one boy's journey from child to adult, while Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel is a wacky, comedic caper with a core of bittersweet sorrow that only bears full fruit in its final moments.

And even if it underperformed, Selma is a Best Picture nominee. That's a good thing.

There are plenty of other great nominees scattered throughout the list as well. Cotillard deserves the exposure, while J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette might be runaway frontrunners in the supporting categories but are deservingly so. The screenplay categories, too, have some fun choices, like Nightcrawler and Whiplash, in addition to the expected juggernauts.

Similarly, anything that gets smaller movies like Song of the Sea, Wild Tales, Ida, and Citizenfour in front of more people's eyes is a good thing. The Oscars are a usually disappointing award, simply because they trend toward the middlebrow, but in their smaller categories, they can reward fun, interesting things, and that's good for film as a whole and prospective film fans who might scan the nominees list, looking for new things to check out.

How did you do with your predictions?

I'm so glad you cared! In the eight categories I predicted, I got 35 correct out of 43 nominees.

Now, I was predicting there would be 10 Best Picture nominees, which didn't happen, so maybe we should take two points off for that. If only I had gone with my gut when it came to Marion Cotillard...

And who's going to win?

This will change, of course, but here are my best guesses for several top categories right now.

  • Best Picture: Boyhood
  • Best Director: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
  • Best Actor: Michael Keaton, Birdman
  • Best Actress: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
  • Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
  • Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
  • Best Original Screenplay: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Whiplash
  • Best Animated Feature: How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • Best Documentary Feature: CITIZENFOUR
  • Best Foreign Language Film: Ida

Wait, what's this about Dick Poop?

Yeah, that happened too.

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