For everything the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences got right this year — who would ever have imagined that films by Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson would be two of the top contenders in the same ceremony? — there was an equally egregious snub. No Lego Movie? No nod to Gillian Flynn for adapting her own Gone Girl? No recognition of the masterful editing of Birdman that turned the entire film into one magical long take? But if we were handing out Worst Snub trophy at the prestigious Bustle Awards, that prize would belong firmly to Ava DuVernay's Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic Selma .
Selma entered the awards season as seemingly one of the big contenders. It was directed by a respected up-and-coming filmmaker and stars a huge ensemble cast of talented actors. And yet, despite earning a nomination for Best Picture, the film's sole other recognition was in the Best Original Song category, where Common and John Legend earned a slot for their soulful tune "Glory." That nomination is virtually a lock for the film; not only is it not facing stiff competition (its fiercest competitor is The Lego Movie's "Everything Is Awesome"), but it's also the Academy's only other chance to recognize the film at all.
It boggles the mind to imagine how a movie can be considered one of the eight best of the entire year... and yet it's not one of the five best in any single technical, acting, writing, or directing category. The last film to get a Best Picture nod with only one other nomination was 2011's much derided Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close (which also earned a Supporting Actor nom for Max von Sydow). But while that film sits at a Rotten 46 percent on review aggregator site RottenTomatoes, Selma boasts the highest rating of 2015's Best Picture candidates at 98 percent. That score ties it with Boyhood — ironically, one of the year's frontrunners.
The most infuriating of Selma's many snubs is undoubtedly for director Ava DuVernay. Had she been given the recognition she deserved, DuVernay would have been only the fifth female director, the fourth black director, and the first black female director ever nominated for the honor. And if David Oyelowo had been nominated for his excellent performance, he would have been the only actor of color nominated this year. (As it stands, 2015's ceremony has the dubious distinction of being the first since 1998 in which all 20 acting nominees are white.)
So, is there any chance of a come-from-behind victory for Selma? Could outrage over the film's snub translate to Oscar gold? It's happened before: in 2013, Argo rode the fury of Ben Affleck's Best Director snub all the way to the night's top prize, making it the first film to win Best Picture without its director being nominated since 1989's Driving Miss Daisy. Might the same thing happen to DuVernay's revered biopic? Sadly, it seems unlikely. Even with Affleck's snub, Argo's win was far from a surprise, as it had won practically every precursor award: the Golden Globe, the BAFTA, and top honors from all four Guilds (Producers, Directors, Actors, and Writers). Selma has won none of those.
But perhaps the most damning evidence against a Selma upset is the mere fact that, if somehow Birdman and Boyhood were to split the vote, there are several contenders that seem better poised than Selma to pull off a dark horse win. Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel is tied with Birdman for the most nominations of the year, and already won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy. Clint Eastwood's American Sniper is the highest-grossing movie of the bunch, having pulled in $24 million more than the other seven nominees combined. Morten Tyldum's The Imitation Game has all the trappings of a traditional Academy pick (à la The King's Speech) and has the might of producer Harvey Weinstein behind it... who famously led 1998's Shakespeare In Love to victory over supposed frontrunner Saving Private Ryan. Even Damien Chazelle's Whiplash, the lowest-grossing film of the bunch (at $10.5 million), seems closer to the gold than Selma: "If I had to base it solely on talking to Academy members, I would give it to Whiplash," said Deadline's Pete Hammond in his Oscar predictions column.
As disappointing as it may be, Selma will likely only leave the Academy Awards with one trophy, for Best Original Song, even though it deserves so many more.
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