Where were the nominations for Oscar darlings Amy Adams and Jessica Chastain this morning? Nowhere, and it's a sign of the changing of the guard.
No one was shocked when Chris Pine stepped onto the stage today and announced that Meryl Streep had snagged a best supporting actress nom for Into the Woods (it's basically a requirement at this point that Meryl gets a nomination or else Hollywood will crumble)—but in a way, that was the only thing we saw coming.
Instead, the candidate list for best lead and supporting actress includes Oscar newcomers like Emma Stone, Patricia Arquette, Rosamund Pike, and Felicity Jones. Even Keira Knightley, Laura Dern, and Marion Cotillard (who've all been nominated before) were a welcome change from the ordinary in-circle musical-chairs game. Look at the 2014 Oscars: It was a pleasant show, but Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita Nyong'o were the only fresh faces in a sea of silver-screen old-timers like June Squibb, Judi Dench, and Meryl Streep (because of course). Not that we're being ageist—we love older women kicking ass and taking names—we just also like when newcomers are given a chance to edge their way into what has become, let's just say it, a somewhat staid awards show.
The good news is that this year's group is setting the bar for a new wave of young female actors to give the Oscars the facelift it needs. Said facelift hopefully involves another pizza party.
But what about the men of the hour? While the female nominees skewed slightly younger, there are quite a few more established actors in the leading and supporting categories who've never been nominated before: J. K. Simmons in Whiplash, Michael Keaton in Birdman, Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, Steve Carell in Foxcatcher—and, of course, relative new kid on the block Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything. All great actors, but Steve Carell is perhaps the most notable addition to the Academy's elite club of nominees considering his previous accolades have had the words "MTV" and "Teen Choice" in their titles.
While we're talking about the nominations, there were a few snubs for Oscar virgins that are worth noting. We would have loved to see Emily Blunt score a nod for her fabulous portrayal of the Baker's Wife in Into the Woods, and it's a shame (albeit predictable) that Jennifer Aniston didn't earn recognition for Cake (she was great—the movie, not so much). Let's just say Aniston's snub certainly debunks the age-old theory that going without makeup is the key to Academy success.
So does this year's nominee shakeup mean the Oscars themselves are finally catching up with the times? Ellen Degeneres's efforts to liven up the show in 2014 were a huge success (that epic group selfie is the stuff of awards-show producer dreams), but there's usually something remarkably, endlessly, disappointingly safe about the Oscars, especially coming right off the Golden Globes. Thanks to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the Globes were more cutting-edge than ever this year, with controversial skits about the Sony hack, unrestrained jokes at the expense of Bill Cosby, and a full-on feminist pride parade with Amal Alamuddin front and center. However, if today's nominations are any indication, 2015 could mean the Oscars are coming back in a big way.
The Academy Awards will always be a joy to obsess over (the spray-tanned, shellacked show that is Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet is the gift that keeps on giving), but we're loving this year's break from the norm. With such an exciting bunch of new nominees both young and old (and you, Meryl, we see you too), hopefully the Oscars can reclaim its spot as the biggest pop-culture moment of the year.
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