Every year, movie fans eagerly await Oscar nominations morning to see which one of their favorite films got included or snubbed in the nomination process. And, every year, they are not disappointed. This year is no different as there are shocking omissions and inclusions in the list of nominated films, actors and other categories.
This is my initial thoughts on the nominations, they trends they show, the snubs they made and the surprises they held.
1. The Geek has inherited Hollywood:
As Comic Book Movie Editor here, I was always look for groupings of actors who have appeared in comic book films when the nomination hits, so I can make my typical “Batman, Bane, the Hulk and Judge Dredd are facing off for Best Supporting Actor. Well, they all are this year, but the comic book and genre film’s influence goes far deeper than that.
You also have Mystique facing off against Envy Adams from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Hanna from Hanna, and Galadriel/whoever Cate Blanchett might play in Doctor Strange. Magneto is in the running for Best Actor and Night Nurse is in the running for Best Supporting Actress. You have Drew Goddard, who was attached to the Daredevil TV series and the Spider-Man spin-off film Sinister Six nominated for a writing award, and Ant-Man writer Adam McKay up for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. And to top it all off, you have Mad Max: Fury Road nominated for Best Picture.
It used to be that working in genre films consigned you to the lowest levels of Hollywood, and the only time you’d likely find an Oscar nominee or winner in one of them was if their career had gone into the toilet. Now, genre films get A-list actors and are nominated for Oscars. That’s a great transition.
2. The infuriating treatment of the Best Picture category:
After a brief dalliance with having ten nominees for Best Picture, the Academy went with a field of five to ten films. This came along with a convoluted nomination process. Now, I’m not going to get into the labyrinthine process the academy goes through with its Best Picture nominations. I don’t have the mental faculties to properly understand it fully, or at least well enough to explain it to others. Heck, I doubt Stephen Hawking does either. But it does pretty much guarantee that worthy films are left out each and every year.
This year, a lot of buzz was attached to Star Wars: The Force Awakens getting a nod. It didn’t. Inside Out was arguably the best Pixar movie since Up. It is consigned to the Best Animated film category. Straight Outta Compton received rave reviews and did well at the box office. It was ignored.
Some of you might make the argument that those films really weren’t Best Picture caliber. Okay, fine. Where is Carol? Sicario? Creed? All of those have received great reviews and have received nominations in other categories. Are they really that much worse than the nominees we got?
The Academy stated that the change to the variable number of nominees was done so the list of nominees aren’t filled with substandard films. I wouldn’t call any of the films listed above substandard. I mean, let’s be honest here. Best Picture is most likely going to go to Spotlight or Mad Max: Fury Road. All of the other nominations are essentially just basically the Academy saying that those films were also very, very good. Leaving two nominations on the table when there are so many other worthy candidates that are very, very good is basically a waste. It gives a false added importance to the award, which it really doesn’t need. There have been no less than eight films nominated per year since the rule change took effect.
3. The end of David O. Russell’s run:
The last five years have been good for David O. Russell. In 2011, The Fighter received seven nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor and two Best Supporting Actress. It took home two awards, Best Supporting Actor (Christian Bale) and Best Supporting Actress (Melissa Leo).
In 2013, his Silver Linings Playbook was nominated for eight Oscars, including all the major categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, and Adapted Screenplay). Jennifer Lawrence took home the Oscar for Best Actress.
In 2014, his American Hustle once again ran the table when it came to nominations, all of the majors listed above (with Original Screenplay swapped in for Adapted), leading to ten total nominations. It didn’t win any, however.
This year? his Joy received one paltry nomination, for Jennifer Lawrence, once again for Best Actress. This is with former nominees from his films Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro in the cast.
Was it a tougher field this time around? Was Joy just not as good? Or has Hollywood soured on Russell’s “genius”? Or was it just an off year? I guess we’ll find out when his next film comes out.
4. The snubs, and why they might have been snubbed:
BEST ACTOR: Johnny Depp, Black Mass:
Johnny Depp had gotten a lot of positive press for his portrayal of Whitey Bulger in Black Mass. For years, his acting consisted of make-up and quirky accents. Well, he had a lot of make-up and a quirky accent here, but also a sense of menace and realism. His performance earned him a nomination from the Screen Actors Guild for Best Actor, and it seem likely that he would also get and Oscar nod as well. He didn’t.
Comparing the Best Actor nominees between the Screen Actors Guild and Oscars, it seems like Matt Damon took his spot on the Oscar list. Damon had a lot more heavy lifting in his role, meaning that he carried the load of the film solo for long stretches of it. Perhaps that’s why he got the nod over Depp.
BEST ACTRESS: Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road:
Theron’s performance in the film was a popular one with fans and critics, and as the pre-nomination buzz about the film began to grow, many expected her name to be called this morning. However, her only major Best Actress nomination outside of the Oscars was from the Critics Choice Awards. No Golden Globe nod, nor any from the Screen Actors Guild.
Add to that Charlotte Rampling and the Academy’s habit of giving a nomination to late-career actors with little prior recognition from the organization, you have Theron on the outside looking, and fans Furiosa…um…furious.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation:
The Academy has gotten a lot of criticism for being shading white in the color of the skin of the people they nominate for Oscars. There’s a reason why that criticism has legs, its because actors like Idris Elba don’t get nominated.
Elba received nominations from the Golden Globes, The Screen Actors Guild, The Independent Spirit Awards, and the BAFTAs for his role as the African warlord in this film. Tom Hardy for The Revenant? Only the Critics Choice Awards and a handful of Critics Societies honors.
When an actor gets this many nominations outside of the Oscars and doesn’t get an Oscar nod, it gains the wrong type of attention. I’m sure that of the Academy offers any excuse at all, it will be something along the lines that The Revenant had a higher profile than Beast of No Nation or something like that. But its stuff like this that makes it hard for them to be blameless when criticized for ignoring black talent with its nominations.
BEST DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott, The Martian:
If we are to compare the Director’s Guild nominations and the Oscar nods, we see that it appears that Ridley Scott’s spot on the Oscar nominations was taken by Lenny Abrahamson for Room. Perhaps the Academy felt they had room, er space, er a spot for only one film that detailed the main characters living in relative isolation, the decided to go with the more inexperienced director of the two.
But this does not belie the fact that Scott made Matt Damon planting vegetables on Mars not only interesting, but into a blockbuster hit. That is a nomination worthy accomplishment.
5. Adam McKay has two Oscar nominations:
The man who brought us Anchorman: The Ron Burgundy Story and Talladega Nights: Ballad of Ricky Bobby has two, count ’em, two Oscar nominations,
Let that marinate for a bit.
6. The changing face of Best Animated Film:
For the most part of the 16-year history of this category, the nominations went like this: more often it was only three films nominated, more than likely the films were from big Hollywood studios, more than likely Pixar or Dreamworks with the occasional Studio Ghibli, and Pixar usually won.
However, over the last five years, the category grew. They never had any problem reaching the maximum five nominees. The field opened up to films from Spain, France, and Ireland. And instead of American kiddie fare, it has become the home to thoughtful adult animated fare as well.
Now what at one time seemed to be an Academy afterthought has become a showcase for what the best the world had to offer. A category where worthy efforts like The Peanuts Movie are left out. It is now a category deserving of respect.