Did "American Sniper" just upend the Oscar race?
Until Thursday, "Boyhood" and "Birdman" have dominated the awards season, and the two films pulled in a total of 15 Oscar nominations for the 87th Academy Awards.
But it was "American Sniper" that stunned with its surprisingly strong showing, garnering six nominations including best film and an acting nomination for Bradley Cooper. It sneaked up on the competition, injecting a new element of intrigue just as the awards season hits its most crucial stretch in the race for Oscar glory.
The Clint Eastwood-directed film about the late U.S. Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle has only been in limited release since the end of December, and is set to go nationwide Friday. It was shut out of the Golden Globe nominations, but has been gaining momentum with industry nominations, including nods from the Directors Guild of America and Producers Guild of America.
Rounding out the eight best picture nominees are "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "Selma," "The Imitation Game," "The Theory of Everything" and "Whiplash." The academy could have nominated up to 10 films in the best picture category but chose to nominate only eight.
"Birdman" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" tied with the most nominations, pulling in nine apiece. "The Imitation Game" followed with eight nods. Tying with "American Sniper" was "Boyhood," a coming-of-age story shot over a 12-year period which has been this season's front-runner, receiving the lion's share of critics' honors and the Golden Globe for best picture Sunday night.
Though "Selma" – the historical drama about Martin Luther King Jr. – received a best picture nomination, its only other nomination was for original song. The film's director, Ava DuVernay, could have made history as the first African American woman to be nominated in this category.
Best director nominees include Richard Linklater for "Boyhood," Alejandro G. Iñárritu for "Birdman," Wes Anderson for "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Bennett Miller for "Foxcatcher" and Morten Tyldum for "The Imitation Game." Notably missing from the list was Eastwood.
Besides Cooper, best actor nominations went to Steve Carell in "Foxcatcher," Benedict Cumberbatch in "The Imitation Game," Michael Keaton in "Birdman" and Eddie Redmayne in "The Theory of Everything."
Vying for best actress are Reese Witherspoon in "Wild," Rosamund Pike in "Gone Girl," Julianne Moore in "Still Alice," Felicity Jones in "The Theory of Everything," and Marion Cotillard in "In Two Days, One Night."
In the supporting categories, actor nominations went to Robert Duvall in "The Judge," Ethan Hawke in "Boyhood," Edward Norton in "Birdman," Mark Ruffalo in "Foxcatcher" and J.K. Simmons in "Whiplash."
Supporting actress nominations went to Patricia Arquette in "Boyhood," Laura Dern in "Wild," Keira Knightley in "The Imitation Game," Emma Stone in "Birdman" and Meryl Streep for "Into the Woods."
Notable acting snubs: Jennifer Aniston for "Cake," Ralph Fiennes for "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Jake Gyllenhaal for "Nightcrawler" and David Oyelowo for "Selma."
The Oscars will be presented live on ABC on Feb. 22 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
Neil Patrick Harris, who has won kudos for hosting the Tonys and the Emmys, will make his debut as master of ceremonies on the telecast.