Oscar nominations 2015: For contenders, the news is just sinking in

Via @latimesmovies: In the film world, few things can match the thrill of getting that #Oscarnoms call

Ethan Hawke was taking his kids to school. J.K. Simmons was fighting a bad cold and sleeping in an Atlanta hotel room. Marion Cotillard was awakened by her ringing cellphone. At first she thought it was her son. When she saw it was her agent, she said, "I thought, 'Ooh la la!'"

As it does every year, the news of this year's Oscar nominations quickly reverberated across Hollywood early Thursday morning. And as it does every year, it stirred up a mix of jubilant celebration and forehead-smacking disbelief — and even outrage.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu's "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" and Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" led the field with nine nods each, but several films widely expected to score major nominations, including the animated blockbuster "The Lego Movie" and the Roger Ebert documentary "Life Itself," were snubbed, while the lack of nominations for "Selma" director Ava DuVernay and star David Oyelowo drew widespread criticism.

The eight films nominated in the best picture category — down from nine the past three years — were primarily smaller, more offbeat fare, including "Birdman," "Boyhood" and "Whiplash," as several big-budget studio films expected to be contenders early in the awards race, such as "Into the Woods" and "Unbroken," didn't make the cut. Only two best picture nominees — Warner Bros.' "American Sniper" and Paramount's "Selma" — were distributed by major studios. Heading into the nominations, the entire slate of best picture nominees had grossed just $203 million collectively, the lowest box-office total by far since the category was expanded from five films in 2009.

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Some may see this as a sign of disconnect between the values of the more than 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and what audiences want to see at the multiplex. Others could interpret it as an indictment of the films major studios are turning out.

But Iñárritu saw the academy's recognition of more personal movies such as "Birdman" — a gonzo tale of a fading movie star struggling for artistic credibility — in a wholly positive light.

"In a world where basically the industry is going to corporate branding and products that have to satisfy everybody, cinema is losing the battle of being [about] human expression and an individual point of view," he said. "So it's rewarding that these films are fighting for that possibility to still exist. It's good news for all of us who love cinema in that way."

Nominated for supporting actor for his role in Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" — filmed over 12 years and generally considered the one to beat in the best picture race — Hawke was similarly encouraged by his movie's success.

"It's rare for an independent film to find its way through the maelstrom of corporate America," Hawke said. "The whole DNA of 'Boyhood' is extremely experimental. If you're a basketball fan, it's like an unseeded team making it to the Final Four."

Even as quirkier, independently financed films dominated the conversation, Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper" made a surprisingly strong showing with six nominations. The film about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle received no nominations at this week's Golden Globes, but it has been gaining traction with nods from the Directors Guild of America and the Producers Guild of America. Eastwood was shut out of the director race, but the film's star, Bradley Cooper, earned a lead actor nomination, marking his third year in a row with an Oscar nod. On the heels of a successful limited run, the movie opens nationwide this weekend and is expected to perform strongly.

In the acting categories, many of the results were widely predicted, like Julianne Moore's lead actress nomination for her turn as a woman struggling with Alzheimer's disease in "Still Alice," Steve Carell's lead actor nod for his menacing, against-type turn in Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher," and Michael Keaton's lead actor nomination for "Birdman." But those races too held some surprises: Laura Dern squeaked into the supporting actress race for her performance in "Wild," while Cotillard earned an unexpected lead actress nod for her turn in the foreign-language film "Two Days, One Night."

In animation, nods for "Big Hero 6" and "How to Train Your Dragon 2" came in as expected, but the lack of a nomination for "The Lego Movie" was met with indignation on social media. "Thanks all for the outpouring of love for The LEGO Movie today," co-director Chris Miller wrote on Twitter. "We didn't make it for awards, we made it to be a trending topic on Twitter."

As was widely noted, the nominees in the director category — Linklater, Iñárritu, Anderson, Miller and "The Imitation Game's" Morten Tyldum — were all male. Early in the awards season, Angelina Jolie had been considered a possible contender for directing "Unbroken," but the World War II film's awards hopes ultimately fizzled. DuVernay failed to score a nod for directing the civil rights era historical drama "Selma," a snub that was deemed by many a reflection of the academy's lack of recognition for both women and minorities.

On the other hand, Rosamund Pike, a supporting actress nominee for her role in "Gone Girl," noted the many complex, grounded roles for women on the big screen this year — a sentiment also expressed this week by Maggie Gyllenhaal in her Golden Globes acceptance speech.

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"I think there is [a shift] in the desire for real roles for women," Pike said. "TV is so leading the way with what it can do with characters, and films got to follow."

For some nominees, getting Oscar recognition may have been somewhat old hat. Meryl Streep scored her 19th nomination for her role as the Witch in the adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical "Into the Woods."

But for first-time nominees like writer-director Damien Chazelle — who at 29 earned a nomination for his screenplay for "Whiplash," which also scored a best picture nod — no words could quite capture the thrill of getting that call.

Chazelle watched the announcements at his home in L.A. on his laptop, not knowing what to expect, or even what to hope for. "I thought I wouldn't sleep at all [Wednesday night], but I actually slept OK — probably because I was so tired from stressing out the past few days," he said. "I'm definitely still pinching myself."

Times staff writers Saba Hamedy and Deborah Vankin contributed to this report.

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