I met the nominations for 2015's Academy Award for Best Picture with neither great excitement nor great disappointment - just a resounding felling of "meh." A shrug of "what did I expect?" A very faint frown of "oh". It's hard to get too angry about the current nominees because of just how safe they all are. How inoffensive everything is. A whitewashed, watered-down affair with no real soul. It's not that the nominees are necessarily bad, but it's not a particularly diverse list of movies. Deserving pictures like The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman predictably lead the nominations with 9 nods a-piece, yet fare like American Sniper or The Imitation Game seem like names that were pulled out of a hat. This muddling of average-to-great movies and some particularly high-level snubs all beg for one question: what the hell happened?

At this point, oscar-bait - or the less damning label, "prestige movies" - have kind of become their own genre. The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything are perhaps the best examples from this year. High-profile, well-advertised biopics that lack any real edge or innovation. Both are good films for what they are, but their appearance on the list reeks of by-the-numbers voting. The Theory of Everything had its charm, and there's no way I could rebuke its nominations in the acting categories, but it's an incredibly inconsistent film. The first half in particular feels uncomfortably forced, annoyingly manipulative, and disgustingly smug. It's quite ironic that the dialogue only starts sounding like something that would come out of a real person's mouth once the main character loses his ability to speak. But for all its faults I can't get angry at the Academy for nominating The Theory of Everything because it's exactly the type of Prestige Film they fall over themselves to praise.

However other nominations stick out like a sore thumb. This year's overly patriotic "horrors of war" film comes in the form of American Sniper, which follows the idea that if you put "American" in front of the title then you've already gained yourself a 50% boost in box-office sales. American Sniper proved once again that creating a true "anti-war" movie is an incredibly difficult feat to pull off. No matter how gruesome or shocking you make the violence or how true to life and harrowing you portray the psyche of a soldier, audiences are still going to love the way that tank blew up. It's hard to not talk about the movie's politics when the only reason it seems to be nominated is because of its political stance. I have to believe this because the movie itself isn't particularly anything great. Clint Eastwood captures moments of genuine intrigue here and there but the whole affair crumbles under its own self-indulgent weight. As far as the much covered controversy goes, there's some really ugly and emotionally manipulative stuff in American Sniper, but if this came out during Summer Blockbuster season, I'd hazard a guess that no one would have cared. Ultimately American Sniper's biggest fault is just the simple fact that it isn't very good; the film treads the same ground The Hurt Locker did years ago - and even then it wasn't game-changing.

But the snubs themselves are more indicative of this year's lack of any real substance. A no-show from the deliciously dark Nightcrawler being the first red flag. The only reasoning I could conclude for its absence was that it might have worn its media politics too much on its sleeve, but when American Sniper makes an appearance in the very same list, it's hard to make that excuse stick. A similar snub for Gone Girl is also puzzling when the other films nominated are compared side-by-side. Gone Girl proved to be one of the most compelling and gripping experiences of last year; powered by David Fincher's wonderfully pulpy direction, and brilliant all-around performances, its absence on the list completely baffles me. While it was always obvious that something like Under The Skin or Interstellar would never get a look in, Gone Girl, and to a certain extent, Nightcrawler, feel like genuine snubs.

Of course it would be wrong to say there's nothing exciting to be found in the Best Picture nominations. Whiplash is an exhilarating piece of cinema full of arresting performances and a final 20 minutes where you'll probably forget to breathe. Whiplash, if nothing else, proves cinema can make anything interesting and engaging when it's made with enough passion and skill. Then there's Selma's nod, but as the film doesn't open in the UK until the first week of February I can't in good conscience comment on it too much. I can only say that at a first glance it feels more deserving than American Sniper. Finally, the aforementioned Grand Budapest Hotel and Boyhood are welcome additions of course, but at the minute it feels like each are so far in front of the competition that a win for either wouldn't be terrible per se, but it's not going to make for engaging or surprising viewing. As much as I love Boyhood, and I really, really, love it, the fact that it could run away with everything only proves the disappointing affirmation that cinema in 2014 peaked too early.

But overall, it's hard to get too wound up about the Academy's picks. There's nothing outrageous nominated that makes me want to slam my face into this keyboard, but maybe there should have been, just to shake things up. Whiplash, Boyhood, Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel are all wonderful films in their own right, but frustration arises simply due to a lack of surprises or any wildcards that could have very easily been included. Getting angry at the Academy would be like getting angry at your stuck-in-his-ways Grandad over Christmas Dinner, but the fact that we've come to expect this level of ignorance and predictability from what should be the pioneering and pinnacle of cinematic recognition and accolades does nothing to debunk accusations of the Academy's growing disenchantment with modern cinema. I'm sure it will be fun in the same over-blown, over-indulgent way Oscar night always is, but there's always going to be the sting of disappointment that this year could have been something much more.

The 87th Oscars® take place on February 22nd, 2015.