Oscar Watch: Why I Hate the Word “Snubbed.”

David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo in "Selma." (Paramount Pictures)

David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo in “Selma.” (Paramount Pictures)

The Oscar nominations were announced today at 8:30am eastern time, and by 8:40 the world’s entertainment media were tripping over themselves, professing outrage at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and its absolutely unconscionable omission of [INSERT FILM / PERFORMANCE HERE] from [CATEGORY].

If I could afford a Lexis/Nexis account I’d do a global search for use of the word “snub,” and surprise no one at all when my results revealed that the planet saves up its use of that term for this day, and only this day, each year. After all this time, you’d think the people most likely to care about their favorite film not getting enough Oscar love are the same ones who would accept that this sort of thing happens with the predictability of Tax Day. On this day each year, film aficionados reveal themselves to be the cinema-loving equivalents of Charlie Brown, constantly surprised that Lucy has pulled that darn football away again.

And you know what? Of course it happens this way. It has to happen this way. The only thing that legitimizes the Academy Awards is the existence of a finite number of slots in any given category*. Even in a weak year there are always more great and/or interesting potential choices for, say, Best Actress than there are available nominations. In life, when more choices exist than can be selected, someone’s going to walk away unhappy. I don’t know why this has to be explained to people, every year.

(*This, by the way, is what’s wrong with AMPAS’ half-decade-old decision to expand the Best Picture category to include up to 10 nominees. More slots don’t mean there are more great movies; it just means the Oscars lower their standards.)

In the last 12 hours, much has been made about the omission of Ava DuVernay’s Selma from most of the big categories. Selma, a retelling of the story behind Martin Luther King’s 1965 civil rights marches, was nominated for Best Picture and Best Song, and that’s it. Granted, two Oscar nominations is a lot better than most films received – and one of them is for the top prize, for Pete’s sake – but for a film widely expected to run the table at the Oscars, only two probably seems paltry to a lot of people.

But do we honestly think the Academy “snubbed” Selma? Are we imagining some kind of anti-woman, anti-minority campaign in which AMPAS voters conspired to kick that movie and its director to the curb? Isn’t it more likely that, of all the films in serious contention for the major awards, voters just happened to like the films that actually got nominated a little bit more than DuVernay’s MLK biopic? Would they really have voted it into the Best Picture category if they had it in for the project?

I’m not saying the plight of women in Hollywood didn’t receive another blow with today’s nominations. (And as a white male, I understand that all this is easy for me to say.) But this is a year-round issue, not one we suddenly woke up today to find dropped on our collective doorsteps. And in truth, the Oscars – a secret-ballot competition designed to reflect subjective individual opinions about artistic merit – are the wrong target for this kind of ire anyway. To paraphrase The Hunger Games, until more mainstream movies are made by and about women and minorities, the Oscar odds will ever not be in their favor.

And now that I’ve gotten that off my chest: Jake Gyllenhaal? TOTALLY SNUBBED!