While American Sniper had an impressive six nominations to its name, it ultimately lost Best Picture to Birdman at the 2015 Oscars, and we’ve pinpointed the six reasons why the movie couldn’t pull off a dark horse victory.
Director Clint Eastwood‘s controversial biopic about U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (played by Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper) — had gained momentum throughout the course of this year’s awards season thanks to its critical and box office success, but it wasn’t enough for the film to walk away with the top honor at the Oscars. Here’s why:
It Couldn’t Overcome the Controversy
Like other Best Picture nominees such as Foxcatcher and Selma, American Sniper also couldn’t overcome its headline-grabbing controversies. Since the release of the film, questions have been raised about the validity of the late Kyle’s claims, which likely didn’t sit well with some Academy voters. Throw in the fact that the film became a heated talking point between the left and the right and the film quickly changed from being a well-made war movie to a political lightning rod. From Sarah Palin’s statement that Hollywood is “not fit to shine Chris Kyle’s combat boots” to Bill Maher calling Kyle a “psychopath patriot,” American Sniper was either praised for honoring Kyle’s legacy or accused of being war propaganda. For voters who didn’t want to pick a side, their ballots likely checked off a less controversial choice.
Box Office Success Doesn’t Always Translate to Best Picture
To date, American Sniper has made $312.6 million in the United States alone. The film shattered box office records during its opening weekend back in January and has remained a steady hit ever since. Still, for every box office juggernaut that does win Best Picture (see: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Titanic, Forrest Gump), there are just as many who prove that appealing to the masses doesn’t mean the Academy will respond just as strongly. Case in point: James Cameron’s sci-fi spectacle Avatar is the top-grossing film of all-time, but it still couldn’t trump the gritty war drama The Hurt Locker in 2009, which pulled in just $49 million worldwide.
This Was a Two-Horse Race All Along
American Sniper may have surprised everyone when it became a box office smash and earned six Oscar nods, but it didn’t stand a chance against this year’s two biggest contenders Boyhood and Birdman. That was all the chatter leading up to the 87th Academy Awards: that this year’s race was a tight two-film race between Richard Linklater’s game-changing 12-year-spanning opus and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s single-take tragicomedy. American Sniper, despite tapping into a nerve, was ultimately this year’s dark horse and it never pulled far enough ahead to beat out the winner Birdman.
Surprised by the Best Picture outcome? Check out some more WTF moments from Oscars past.
The Academy Didn’t Want to Make Clint’s Day… This Time Around
Chair-talking incidents aside, Hollywood has maintained its love for Eastwood. Over the past 25 years, five of the director’s films have been nominated for Best Picture and two had won: 1992′s Western masterpiece Unforgiven and 2004′s harrowing sports drama Million Dollar Baby. (Both of those films also earned Eastwood a Best Director Oscar). Eastwood was snubbed for his work behind the camera on American Sniper and whether or not the director’s politics played into it, it seems the Academy wanted to reward a different filmmaker in 2015.
The Bradley Cooper Stigma
Actor Bradley Cooper is now a three-time Academy Award nominee (and subsequently, an Academy Award loser) and is now zero for three when it comes to appearing in Best Picture nominees. American Sniper ultimately couldn’t take home the big prize, just like American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook. The B-Coop jinx may be real, but we still love the guy!
That Fake Baby
Thanks a lot, fake American Sniper baby.
[Photo Credits: Getty Images]