In a year with lots of films in contention but little consensus on how it would play out there was a palpable excitement and uncertainty building up to the Oscar nominations Thursday morning.
And indeed, there were all sorts of surprises. big and small, as the Academy did not disappoint in providing lots of conversation talking-points whether around the water-cooler or online.
Marion Cotillard in, Jennifer Aniston out
She went to the festivals and walked the red carpets. She shook the right hands and did the revealing interviews. But despite her efforts on the campaign trail this award season, Jennifer Aniston came up empty handed when Oscar nominations were announced Thursday morning. Instead, the fifth spot in the best actress category went to Marion Cotillard, the French actress who has been largely absent on the promotional circuit this fall. The 39-year-old was recognized for her turn as a working-class mother lobbying to keep her job in the Dardenne brothers' "Two Days, One Night."
Meanwhile, since Aniston's film "Cake" premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, Aniston has been working hard to convince the industry that she's more than just Rachel Green. Unfortunately, "Cake" – in which she plays a woman with chronic pain syndrome – didn't receive much love from reviewers and has only had a brief qualifying run in indie theaters. Cotillard's latest film, however, is a critical darling and she's an Oscar winner.
"I was totally in shock," Cotillard said of Thursday's nom. "Overall, I feel surprise; there was no inch of suspicion of getting nominated."
"The Lego Movie" crumbles
A film that has become a focal point for online anger regarding its lack of a nomination is "The Lego Movie," which brought in more than $258 million at the U.S. box office but failed to impress the folks of the academy's animation branch enough to garner a nomination for animated feature.
The film did receive a nomination for its upbeat anthem "Everything Is Awesome" in the Best Song category, where it beat out bona-fide pop stars Lana Del Rey and Lorde.
"Lego Movie" directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord kept it positive online, however, with Miller noting "we didn't make for awards, we made it to be a trending topic on Twitter."
Laura Dern is "Wild" card
The fifth slot in the supporting actress category has long been a question mark. Heading into award season, pundits favored "Wild" star Laura Dern, but then SAG went with Naomi Watts and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association voted for Jessica Chastain.
But the 47-year-old's performance as Cheryl Strayed's endearing mother resonated with Academy voters, who last nominated Dern for her role more than two decades ago in "Rambling Rose."
"It's lovely recognition, and the Academy particularly means a lot to me, having gone to the Oscars at 7 years old with my mother when she was nominated," said the daughter of Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern.
No love for "Life Itself"
One of the most famous Oscar omissions in history has to be the lack of a nomination for the 1994 documentary "Hoop Dreams," which many consider the greatest documentary ever made. Over the years one of the film's most vocal champions was film critic Roger Ebert, so there was something even more poetic about "Hoop Dreams" director Steve James directing "Life Itself," a film on Ebert's life that captured his final months before his death in 2013.
Though "Life Itself" made the Academy's doc shortlist of 15 film, it was not one of the titles called out on Thursday morning, leaving James as still having never been nominated.
Not Clint's day.
Clint Eastwood has been surging for his war drama "American Sniper," landing a director's Guild nomination and a National Board of Review win. And Oscar voters liked "American Sniper, " giving it screenplay, actor and best picture nominations.
But when it came to director, it held off on Eastwood and instead went with the dark horse Bennett Miller, director of "Foxcatcher." It looked like an Eastwood comeback was afoot, taking him back to the regular Oscar appearances for his films Million Dollar Baby" and "Mystic River" from a decade ago. So while the movie was looked at by many as a return to form for Eastwood, the Academy didn't see it that way.