When the Academy weeds through the hundreds of movies that come out each year to pick the “best” few worthy of nominations, there are always going to be noticeable, sometimes inexcusable, absences — no Jake Gyllenhaal for Best Actor? No The LEGO Movie for Best Animated Feature? These are lost and forgotten, the untouchables, the snubbed.
After receiving Best Actress nominations at the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and Critics Choice Awards, Jennifer Aniston seemed to be a shoo-in for an Academy nod as well. Until Marion Cotillard snuck into that fifth spot, leaving Aniston not only among the snubbed, but their leader — the most discussed, most highly publicized snub of 2015.
We were going to call this piece “In Defense of Jennifer Aniston,” but she doesn’t need our defense. Her performance stands for itself. And maybe that’s where this gets tricky: There are jokes that Cake, the movie, doesn’t exist; That it’s just a poster and a trailer specifically and strategically designed to see how many voters can be tricked into jumping aboard the Academy Award Nominee Jennifer Aniston bandwagon.
This is because Cake didn’t have its premiere until last night, very, very late (too late?) in the awards season game to generate any word of mouth steam. But it is a real, 103-minute-long movie, and, if you were lucky enough to have a screener (or a friend with a screener), you saw that her performance was as wonderful as you were led to believe.
It’s a transformative performance, physically and emotionally. She changed her body for the role and went makeup free — one of those choices that’s so often called “brave” in the industry — and completely disappears into the role. She’s not Jennifer Aniston, paparazzi target, or Rachel in “The One Where Everything Gets Seriously F*cked Up.” And, we think, after people see this movie, she will change the way people see her and her career.
It’s weird that we still think of Jennifer Aniston only in her Friends role. Cake isn’t the first time she’s gone “dark” — The Good Girl, anyone? — though it is some of her best acting ever, and certainly her best dramatic acting to date. That said, her comedic acting in Horrible Bosses — the first one, obviously — was on par with Friends, maybe even better. So why can’t we seem to let her career evolve beyond an (admittedly iconic) 10-years-old series?
Now her Oscar snub will be added to the “Poor Jen” narrative that’s plagued her for years, when it shouldn’t be. We shouldn't pity her because the other nominees were deemed more worthy (we don't necessarily think they are). We shouldn't call her pathetic for actively campaigning (as if other actors don't). And we shouldn't remember the fact that she was snubbed over the fact that she delivered an awards-worthy performance in the first place — like how she’s more known for being divorced from Brad Pitt than the fact that she was married to Brad Pitt and how many people can say that?
“Honestly, the fact that any of this has happened is so unexpected. We’re all just in awe of the whole thing,” Jennifer told Entertainment Tonight at last night's premiere. Jennifer Aniston delivering an award-worthy performance should not be unexpected — she’s a serious talent. But we are in awe of her performance. And we can’t wait to see what comes next.
Then again, maybe all of this is moot and it never mattered who else was nominated in the category because Julianne Moore is going to win anyway?
Check out more snubs and surprises from the 2015 nominations: