The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominees for the 88th Academy Awards early this morning in Los Angeles. After four months of unexpected twists and turns the only thing that was expected were surprises and on that the Academy delivered.
“The Revenant” led all films with 12 nominations followed by “Mad Max: Fury Road” with 10. “The Martian” took seven nods, “Bridge of Spies” “Carol” and “Spotlight” six each and “The Big Short” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” five. “The Danish Girl” and “Room” each earned four nominations while “Brooklyn,” “The Hateful Eight” and “Sicario” took three each respectively.
The Best Picture race did not expand nor contract as many speculated but equaled its 2015 number of just eight nominees. They are “The Big Short,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Brooklyn,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant,” “Room” and “Spotlight.”
Contenders who didn’t make the field include “Carol,” “Creed,” “Inside Out,” “The Hateful Eight,” “Sicario,” “Straight Outta Compton” and, to many moviegoers dismay at least, “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.” It’s the omission of “Carol” and “Straight Outta Compton” that has created the biggest backlash so far. Why neither earned Oscar’s top honor will cause head scratching amongst critics and fans for years to come, but the former is the easiest to explain and just one of the topics for discussion before diving into each category individually.
Sometimes they simply don’t like you enough
The major problem with “Carol” is there was constant scuttlebutt from Academy members that the movie was “too cold” and not as impressive as its performances. It’s worth noting that the Writer’s Branch disagreed, but in the battle for first place votes (it’s believed approximately 300 are needed to secure a best picture nod) that hurt its chances. “Steve Jobs” is also a victim of lack of genuine love. The film earned a ton of initial critical acclaim, but dropped like a rock during the season after failing at the box office in wide release. It eventually became so unappreciated that expected Adapted Screenplay contender and previous winner Aaron Sorkin was snubbed in a category that, at one time, he had been the “perceived” frontrunner.
“The Big Short” plays spoiler
Another reason films such as “Carol” and “Straight Outta” likely couldn’t garner enough first place votes is because of the unexpected last minute release of Adam McKay’s 2008 economic collapse drama. “Big Short” not only snuck into the Best Picture category but it earned McKay a Best Director nod, an Adapted Screenplay nomination (shared with Charles Randolph) and the film took an Editing slot as well. Few had any idea “Short” would even be released in 2015 before Paramount made the surprise announcement at the end of September. It’s arrival absolutely changed the game.
Diversity is a problem but it starts at the studio and financing level
Once again, there is collective outrage on social media over the lack of diversity in this year’s nominations. There is not one person of color among the nominated actors and films such as “Creed” and “Straight Outta Compton” earned nods only for their white contributors (Sylvester Stallone and the “Compton” screenwriters respectively). Idris Elba, Jason Mitchell and previous winner Benecio Del Toro were passed over for Supporting Actor and Will Smith and Michael B. Jordan did not make the Lead Actor cut.* The problem wasn’t their fine performances, but the fact those were a few of the handful of major roles for actors of color in prestige-ish films this year (and you can argue “Straight Outta” never really found that prestige clout). In order for more actors of color to be nominated they need to be featured in more films overall of this ilk. They don’t need to be period pieces or intimate dramas (although that won’t hurt), but they have to be in films that hit creative peaks such as “Room” or “The Revenant” (“Beasts of No Nation” should have been one of those films, but more on that in a minute). This is an Academy problem only in the fact that many of the major producers and studio heads are members of the Academy. This is a responsibility they need to tackle in their day jobs first. Hollywood cannot keep counting on independent filmmakers to bring diversity to the movie industry. It’s got to come from the studio side as well.
*The two lead actors of “Tangerine” also deserved serious consideration, but it was always going to be hard to get The Academy’s attention with no critic’s honors outside of Spirit Award nominations.
What category confusion?
The pundit core may have overthought the perceived problem of “category confusion.” Because both Rooney Mara in “Carol” and Alicia Vikander in “The Danish Girl” were perceived as leading roles there was major skepticism from said prognosticators that their respective studios, The Weinstein Company and Focus Features, could convince The Academy the roles were actually supporting. It didn’t help that the Golden Globes said they weren’t and SAG played along with the studios categorizations creating more, um, uncertainty. This affected the outlook on both the Lead Actress and Supporting Actress fields with all sorts of scenarios being predicted, but when it came down to it The Academy took the bait on both and went with it.
Netflix may have a problem when it comes to Oscar
You cannot fault Netflix on the amount of money and hours spent pushing Cary Fukunaga’s “Beasts of No Nation.” The streaming service debuted the film at the Venice Film Festival and played it at Telluride and Toronto. After mostly strong critical notices they held numerous luncheons hosted by Academy members and a few Oscar winners. With a SAG Ensemble and Supporting Actor nod for Idris Elba in the bank in early December it appeared as though their strategy might carry over to Oscar. It did not as Elba’s omission was noted earlier. What Netflix’s biggest problem may have been wasn’t its campaign, but its release strategy. Unlike Amazon, which put out Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” in theaters first before an eventual run on their streaming service, Netflix debuted “Beasts” day and date worldwide. Despite the screeners and trade ads that might have convinced some voters it actually wasn’t a movie first. That likely wasn’t the only reason Elba didn’t land a nod, but perception is everything in Hollywood and it would be smart of Netflix to modify their strategy in the future.
Performance by an actor in a leading role
- Bryan Cranston in “Trumbo”
- Matt Damon in “The Martian”
- Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant”
- Michael Fassbender in “Steve Jobs”
- Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl”
Snubbed: Steve Carell (“The Big Short”), Michael B. Jordan (“Creed”)
Reaction: These were the five I predicted beforehand and are pretty hard to argue with. Moreover, barring some major scandal get ready to stretch your legs for a long standing ovation when Leonardo DiCaprio finally accepts his long deserved and first Academy Award.
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
- Christian Bale in “The Big Short”
- Tom Hardy in “The Revenant”
- Mark Ruffalo in “Spotlight”
- Mark Rylance in “Bridge of Spies”
- Sylvester Stallone in “Creed”
Snubbed: Michael Keaton (“Spotlight”), Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”), Jacob Tremblay (“Room”)
Reaction: The snub of Elba is unfortunate, but it makes me wonder if members of The Academy truly thought “Beasts” was a theatrical release. Nevertheless, Stallone has an excellent shot to win this. It’s between him and Rylance. A race to watch.
Performance by an actress in a leading role
- Cate Blanchett in “Carol”
- Brie Larson in “Room”
- Jennifer Lawrence in “Joy”
- Charlotte Rampling in “45 Years”
- Saoirse Ronan in “Brooklyn”
Snubbed: Lily Tomlin (“Grandma”)
Reaction: People may have snickered in the audience when Lawrence was nominated for “Joy,” but these were the five I predicted (and that was more over the fact she really doesn’t want it and they keep nominating her more than anything else). The love from The Academy for “Room” in the Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay races, however, pretty much makes this a lock for Larson.
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
- Jennifer Jason Leigh in “The Hateful Eight”
- Rooney Mara in “Carol”
- Rachel McAdams in “Spotlight”
- Alicia Vikander in “The Danish Girl”
- Kate Winslet in “Steve Jobs”
Snubbed: Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina”), Jane Fonda (“Youth”)
Reaction: Honestly surprised The Academy considered Vikander’s work in “Danish Girl” a supporting one (although you could argue Mara was also a leading role). She may now also be the frontrunner although this may be the one category no one can honestly predict before the big show.
Best animated feature film of the year
- “Anomalisa” Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson and Rosa Tran
- “Boy and the World” Alê Abreu
- “Inside Out” Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera
- “Shaun the Sheep Movie” Mark Burton and Richard Starzak
- “When Marnie Was There” Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura
Snubbed: “The Peanuts Movie,” “The Good Dinosaur,” “Kahlil Gilbran’s The Prophet”
Reaction: The Animation Branch dismissing “Peanuts” and “Dinosaur” was probably a given, but few predicted “Boy and the World” and certainly not over “The Prophet.”
Achievement in cinematography
- “Carol” Ed Lachman
- “The Hateful Eight” Robert Richardson
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” John Seale
- “The Revenant” Emmanuel Lubezki
- “Sicario” Roger Deakins
Snubbed: Janusz Kamiński, “Bridge of Spies”
Reaction: Kamiński was nominated for Spielberg’s last two films, “War Horse” and “Lincoln,” but lost out to Richardson’s 70MM work in “Hateful Eight.” Lubezki should win this category for a third straight year, but Deakins, Seale or Lachman can all make a case for it.
Achievement in costume design
- “Carol” Sandy Powell
- “Cinderella” Sandy Powell
- “The Danish Girl” Paco Delgado
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” Jenny Beavan
- “The Revenant” Jacqueline West
Snubbed: “Brooklyn,” “Crimson Peak,” “The Hateful Eight”
Reaction: Personally, I would have picked the 19th century coats of “Hateful Eight” over “The Revenant” or found a way to sneak “Brooklyn” into the mix, but you can’t fault Powell’s deserved two-fer in this category.
Achievement in directing
- “The Big Short” Adam McKay
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” George Miller
- “The Revenant” Alejandro G. Iñárritu
- “Room” Lenny Abrahamson
- “Spotlight” Tom McCarthy
Snubbed: Todd Haynes (“Carol”), Ridley Scott (“The Martian”), Steven Spielberg (“Bridge of Spies”)
Reaction: Abrahamson’s inclusion is a complete joy for anyone who appreciated the incredible achievement he pulled off with “Room.” Moreover, the Director’s Branch made it clear they were not as enamored with Scott’s work on “The Martian” as the larger Director’s Guild was. Many assumed that Miller would find himself on the outside after earning a DGA nod, but instead Abrahamson knocked Scott from the top five. And, yes, Todd Haynes is sadly still on the list of great filmmakers never nominated for a Directing Oscar.
Best documentary feature
- “Amy” Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees
- “Cartel Land” Matthew Heineman and Tom Yellin
- “The Look of Silence” Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
- “What Happened, Miss Simone?” Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby and Justin Wilkes
- “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” Evgeny Afineevsky and Den Tolmor
Snubbed: “Best of Enemies,” “Listen to Me Marlon”
Reaction: Honestly, a fine list of nominees even if you preferred “Enemies” or “Marlon” to “Miss Simone?.” “Amy” is the presumed favorite here, but can “The Look of Silence” surprise?
Best documentary short subject
- “Body Team 12” David Darg and Bryn Mooser
- “Chau, beyond the Lines” Courtney Marsh and Jerry Franck
- “Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah” Adam Benzine
- “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness” Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
- “Last Day of Freedom” Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman
Achievement in film editing
- “The Big Short” Hank Corwin
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” Margaret Sixel
- “The Revenant” Stephen Mirrione
- “Spotlight” Tom McArdle
- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey
Snubbed: “Bridge of Spies,” “Sicario”
Reaction: After not making the cut for BAFTA Awards and the ACE Eddies, “Spotlight” solidified its chances of winning Best Picture by making the Academy’s five.
Best foreign language film of the year
- “Embrace of the Serpent” Colombia
- “Mustang” France
- “Son of Saul” Hungary
- “Theeb” Jordan
- “A War” Denmark
Snubbed: “Viva,” “The Brand New Testament,”
Reaction: Many thought “Embrace” wouldn’t find enough support to earn a nomination so its inclusion was slightly surprising. Now that this category is open to vote on by all members, “Son of Saul” should easily win this on Oscar night.
Achievement in makeup and hairstyling
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin
- “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared” Love Larson and Eva von Bahr
- “The Revenant” Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini
Snubbed: “Black Mass,” “Mr. Holmes”
Reaction: Well, “The 100-Year-Old Man” gets its moment in the sun as “Black Mass” lost out on its one real shot at a nomination.
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
- “Bridge of Spies” Thomas Newman
- “Carol” Carter Burwell
- “The Hateful Eight” Ennio Morricone
- “Sicario” Jóhann Jóhannsson
- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” John Williams
Snubbed: “Spotlight,” “The Danish Girl”
Reaction: How wonderful is it that Carter Burwell finally earned an Academy Award nomination? He’ll have tough competition as Ennio Morricone goes for his first non-Honorary Award win.
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
- “Earned It” from “Fifty Shades of Grey”
Music and Lyric by Abel Tesfaye, Ahmad Balshe, Jason Daheala Quenneville and Stephan Moccio
- “Manta Ray” from “Racing Extinction”
Music by J. Ralph and Lyric by Antony Hegarty
- “Simple Song #3” from “Youth”
Music and Lyric by David Lang
- “Til It Happens To You” from “The Hunting Ground”
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga
- “Writing’s On The Wall” from “Spectre”
Music and Lyric by Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith
Snubbed: “See You Again” from “Furious 7”
Reaction: “Manta Ray” is a complete surprise, but “Writing’s On The Wall” earning a nomination over “See You Again” is head scratching. At the least, ABC now has Lady Gaga, Sam Smith and The Weeknd performing during this year’s ceremony.
Best motion picture of the year
- “The Big Short” Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers
- “Bridge of Spies” Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producers
- “Brooklyn” Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” Doug Mitchell and George Miller, Producers
- “The Martian” Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer and Mark Huffam, Producers
- “The Revenant” Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Mary Parent and Keith Redmon, Producers
- “Room” Ed Guiney, Producer
- “Spotlight” Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin and Blye Pagon Faust, Producers
Snubbed: “Straight Outta Compton,” “Carol,” “Inside Out,” “The Hateful Eight”
Reaction: If the Academy can nominated Rachel McAdams in Supporting Actress for “Spotlight” they clearly adore the movie. “Big Short” and “Revenant” are possible, but Tom McCarthy’s drama has to be the frontrunner.
Achievement in production design
- “Bridge of Spies” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo and Bernhard Henrich
- “The Danish Girl” Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Michael Standish
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” Production Design: Colin Gibson; Set Decoration: Lisa Thompson
- “The Martian” Production Design: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Celia Bobak
- “The Revenant” Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Hamish Purdy
Snubbed: “Carol,” “Brooklyn,” “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”
Reaction: Very tough category to gauge right now. Whatever film begins to sweep the below the line prizes will win this.
Best animated short film
- “Bear Story” Gabriel Osorio and Pato Escala
- “Prologue” Richard Williams and Imogen Sutton
- “Sanjay’s Super Team” Sanjay Patel and Nicole Grindle
- “We Can’t Live without Cosmos” Konstantin Bronzit
- “World of Tomorrow” Don Hertzfeldt
Best live action short film
- “Ave Maria” Basil Khalil and Eric Dupont
- “Day One” Henry Hughes
- “Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)” Patrick Vollrath
- “Shok” Jamie Donoughue
- “Stutterer” Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage
Achievement in sound editing
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” Mark Mangini and David White
- “The Martian” Oliver Tarney
- “The Revenant” Martin Hernandez and Lon Bender
- “Sicario” Alan Robert Murray
- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Matthew Wood and David Acord
Snubbed: “Bridge of Spies,” “Jurassic World”
Reaction: Is this where “The Force Awakens” finds some love?
Achievement in sound mixing
- “Bridge of Spies” Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Drew Kunin
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo
- “The Martian” Paul Massey, Mark Taylor and Mac Ruth
- “The Revenant” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom and Chris Duesterdiek
- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson
Snubbed: “The Hateful Eight,” “Jurassic World”
Reaction: See Sound Editing.
Achievement in visual effects
- “Ex Machina” Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver and Andy Williams
- “The Martian” Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence and Steven Warner
- “The Revenant” Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith and Cameron Waldbauer
- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould
Snubbed: “Ant-Man,” “The Walk,” “Jurassic Park”
Reaction: This is a very, very competitive category this year. It’s likely between “The Revenant” and “Star Wars” but…
- “The Big Short” Screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
- “Brooklyn” Screenplay by Nick Hornby
- “Carol” Screenplay by Phyllis Nagy
- “The Martian” Screenplay by Drew Goddard
- “Room” Screenplay by Emma Donoghue
Snubbed: Aaron Sorkin (“Steve Jobs”)
Reaction: The Writer’s Branch got it, um, right here. Can Donoghue and “Room” surprise over McKay and Randolph’s “Big Short” adaptation?
- “Bridge of Spies” Written by Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
- “Ex Machina” Written by Alex Garland
- “Inside Out” Screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; Original story by Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen
- “Spotlight” Written by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy
- “Straight Outta Compton” Screenplay by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff; Story by S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff
Snubbed: Quentin Tarantino, “The Hateful Eight”
Reaction: “Inside Out” and “Spotlight” were seen as the frontrunners here, but after “Straight Outta’s” Best Picture snub will Academy members try to makeup for it by giving this honor to its five writers?
What do you think of this year’s Academy Award nominations? Share your thoughts below.