Despite largely following the script (I predicted 75 of 106 nominees, or 71% correct), there were still a number of gasps when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced their nominees for the Best in Film for 2015. I’ll break those down, but first: the headline.
Leading all contenders this year was director Alejandro G. Iñárritu‘s The Revenant with 12 nominations, followed closely by George Miller‘s gonzo blockbuster Mad Max: Fury Road with 10. Other big contenders are Ridley Scott‘s The Martian with 7, Steven Spielberg‘s Bridge of Spies and Todd McCarthy‘s Spotlight with 6 each, and Adam McKay‘s The Big Short with 5. Films with the most nominations that failed to get a Best Picture slot: Todd Hayne‘s Carol with 6 and J.J. Abrams‘ Star Wars: The Force Awakens with 5.
Now, the shockers.
Easily the 1-2 blindsides no one was expecting was Aaron Sorkin being ignored in Adapted Screenplay for his recent Golden Globe winning work in Steve Jobs, and then Globe-winner Ridley Scott also being bypassed in the Best Director category for The Martian. Both men were considered the front-runners in those categories. Sorkin is the bigger shock of the two; a previous Oscar-winner himself, he seemed a lock for this inventive, inspired adaptation.
If Scott’s absence is less shocking, it’s only because the directing branch membership is the “artsy”ist of the whole Academy – and The Martian is very mainstream. Still, for all the love and admiration The Martian has been getting, it’s undoubtedly a head-scratcher to see an industry icon like Scott get pushed out by the likes of still-rough-around-the-edges Adam McKay (The Big Short). No one saw Scott’s exclusion coming – especially as Scott had just landed a Director’s Guild nomination two days prior.
Also, as far as auteur snubs go, Quentin Tarantino being denied an Original Screenplay nod for his latest The Hateful Eight certainly perked some eyebrows. Voters love him, but apparently Quentin’s latest bloody grindhouse (with had little if anything fresh or incisive to say) pushed this branch’s limits too far.
Another big diss goes to Carol, a film that was always on the bubble when it came to Best Picture. Nevertheless, it racked up 6 nominations – including Adapted Screenplay and 2 Acting slots – which is more than three of the Best Picture contenders, and ties it with two more. That’s over half of the Best Picture slate. Even Brooklyn, a film of similar visual aesthetic and time period, only received 2 other nods (Actress and Screenplay) while being completely denied in the Art/Design categories where Carol was recognized, yet it still wound up in Picture. A number of variables likely at play here, starting with the surprise snub of filmmaker Todd Haynes from the directing branch; that seems to be the main factor that has Carol on the outside of the Picture race looking in. But also, simply, when it came down to it, Academy voters said “We admire Carol, but we love Brooklyn.”
OH – and the elephant snub in the room? It’s another All White Oscar season as the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag makes a comeback. Those concerned with the ongoing lack of diversity in the Academy’s annual nomination slate will have a lot to complain about this year. Any of the following would’ve been worthy (or at least understandable) inclusions: Samuel L. Jackson for The Hateful Eight, Will Smith for Concussion (bad movie, solid perf), Michael B. Jordan (Actor) and Ryan Coogler (writer/director) for Creed, Idris Elba for Beasts Of No Nation (Best Supporting Actor), and several options in several categories for Straight Outta Compton.
The biggest blindside omission of all these has to be those for Compton, which garnered a solitary nod for Original Screenplay. It’s a real a head-scratcher, too, as Compton received major nominations from the Screen Actors, Producers, and Writers Guilds. I’d have to double-check, but this may be the first film to ever receive the top nominations of those three guilds and then fail to make it into the Oscar’s Best Picture race. Host Chris Rock is going to have a field day with this.
Finally, on a positive note, surprises that I was happy to see: the crime thriller Sicario wound up with 3 nominations, deservedly so. For a few minutes there I was wondering if it’d sneak into the Best Picture race; wouldn’t be surprised if it was close. Indie sci-fier Ex Machina also came out of nowhere for 2 nods, in Best Visual Effects and Original Screenplay. Unfortunately, though, Alicia Vikander was cited in Best Supporting Actress for her turn in the Oscar bait The Danish Girl rather than Ex Machina (which I would’ve preferred, and had predicted).
Also very pleasantly surprised to see director Lenny Abrahamson get recognized for his sensitive yet powerfully-rendered work in Room. Since it’s such a small film, Abrahamson was very much a dark horse, but it’s also exactly the kind of carefully crafted, emotionally wrought character study that this small directing fraternity loves to recognize.
And lastly, I’m extremely relieved that this season’s most overrated entry Trumbo only landed a Best Actor nod for Bryan Cranston (a slot, again, that could’ve/should’ve easily gone to a more deserving Michael B. Jordan or Will Smith…and any number of others, too). Very happy the Academy did not succumb to this movie’s desperate strain for self-import.
So who’s the front-runner? With a leading 12 nominations – including 4 in the Top 6 categories – it has to be The Revenant. The chinks in its armor, though, are a conspicuous absence in the Screenplay category (not a good sign) and the fact that director Alejandro G. Iñárritu won the Picture and Director prizes just last year for Birdman. The Academy may be very hesitant to anoint him with two more back-to-back. It would be unprecedented.
Its main competition? I don’t think it’s Mad Max: Fury Road with its 10 nominations (although George Miller may be the early favorite for Director). I see it being Spotlight, another film that’s clearly admired, and could be vaulted over the top by the Acting Branch, which is the largest wing of the Academy by far. It’s likely a horse race between those two films…
…although the emerging spoiler is The Big Short, which just upended the whole Oscar race with an upset win at the Producers Guild Awards. If it should go on to win either of the top prizes from the Screen Actors or Directors Guild (or both), suddenly The Big Short is the one to beat.
The Nominees for
THE 88TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS
(and total number of nominations)
– The Big Short (5 nominations)
– Bridge of Spies (6 nominations)
– Brooklyn (3 nominations)
– Mad Max: Fury Road (10 nominations)
– The Martian (7 nominations)
– The Revenant (12 nominations)
– Room (4 nominations)
– Spotlight (6 nominations)
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
– Bridge of Spies (Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen)
– Ex Machina (Alex Garland)
– Inside Out (Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley)
– Spotlight (Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer)
– Straight Outta Compton (Jonathan Herman & Andrea Berloff)
BEST ANIMATED FILM
– Boy and the World
– Inside Out
– Shaun the Sheep
– When Marnie Was There
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
– Embrace Of The Serpent (Colombia)
– Mustang (France)
– Son Of Saul (Hungary)
– Theeb (Jordan)
– A War (Denmark)
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
– Cartel Land
– The Look of Silence
– What Happened, Miss Simone?
– Winter On Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
– “Earned It”, 50 Shades of Grey
– “Mama Ray”, Racing Extinction
– “Simple Song #3”, Youth
– “Til It Happens To You”, The Hunting Ground
– “Writing’s On The Wall”, Spectre
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
– Ave Maria
– Day One
– Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)
BEST ANIMATED SHORT
– Bear Story
– Sanjay’s Super Team
– We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
– World of Tomorrow
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
– Body Team 12
– Chau, Beyond The Lines
– Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
– A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
– Last Day of Freedom