The Oscar race can officially begin. This morning, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, filmmakers Guillermo del Toro and Ang Lee, and actor John Krasinski read the nominated names in every category for the upcoming 88th Academy Awards. “The Revenant” leads all films with a whopping 12 nominations followed by “Mad Max: Fury Road” with 10. Yesterday, I threw down the gauntlet for the third year in a row to predict the eventual nominees in the “Big 8” categories (Best Picture, Best Director, the four acting categories, and the two screenplay awards). In total, I got 32-of-43 correct, with three perfect categories of 5-out-of-5 (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay) for 74% accuracy. Seeing the full field, I feel confident enough to just about name all of the final winners today, but I’ll save my reasoning and analysis for my annual Oscar prediction articles. As with any year, there are hot topics being debated immediately stemming from snubs and surprises. Here are my reaction and takeaways, consisting of five snubs and five surprises, coming out of this morning’s nominations announcements.
1. Minority performers— For the second year in a row, all four acting categories are filled with white actors and actresses. I’ll repeat exactly what I wrote in this space last year: “I’m not going to get slanderous and call it a ‘whitewash’ and I’m not trying to install a crutch of ‘equal opportunity’ or an Oscar ‘Rooney Rule’ to say that minority candidates are a requirement. I’m just saying, again, this is a little telling and a little embarrassing overall for the Oscars and for the industry.” That was my disclaimer and the industry can do better. They’re already hearing it from the papers. Michael B. Jordan from “Creed” comes to mind and a worthy candidate in a very competitive Best Actor roster.
2. You could double the field for Best Supporting Actor and still not have the best of the best— As I outlined yesterday in my predictions, this was the most loaded acting category. I was only correct on two of the finalists (Rylance and Stallone). Tom Hardy road momentum for “The Revenant” and so did Christian Bale for “The Big Short.” Left out were Jacob Tremblay (“Room”), Benecio del Toro (“Sicario”), Paul Dano (“Love and Mercy”), Michael Shannon (“99 Homes”), Michael Keaton (“Spotlight”), and Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”). Any of those five could make a case for outright winning, let along a nomination.
3. Only one wide commercial animated film made the race for Best Animated Feature— “Inside Out” leads the charge next to “Anomalisa,” “Shaun the Sheep Movie,” and two obscure foreign selections in “Boy and the World” and “When Marnie Was There.” That meant no double Pixar splash with “The Good Dinosaur,” no “The Peanuts Movie,” and, thankfully instead of erroneously, no “Minions.”
4. You won’t get your extended Paul Walker tribute at the Oscars— The big hit Wiz Khalifa/Charlie Puth song “See You Again” from “Furious 7” was not nominated for Best Original Song. It had been the frontrunner in the early awards. Instead, you will hear Lady Gaga, Sam Smith, The Weeknd, J. Ralph and Antony, and a slice of opera.
5. No obligatory Quentin Tarantino nomination for Best Original Screenplay— I don’t think he deserved to be nominated, but he was a big name left out of the party. Normally, the Academy loves everything he does. His ego will take this as a snub more than the rest of us. Too bad, so sad, but he’s got two Oscars at home. He’ll live. See the surprises below for more on this.
1. “The Revenant” being the overall nominations leader— Sure, I predicted the day after the Oscars a year ago that Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s film would be the #1 Oscar hopeful, but I didn’t expect it raking in a cool dozen nods. I expected that haul out of “Mad Max: Fury Road” which had the artistic and technical merit in so many areas. The “Titanic” and “All About Eve” record of 14 still stands, but “The Revenant” hasn’t been pinging much in the smaller artistic and technical awards so far this season. Coupled with its wide release opening at the box office, this film’s late surge of momentum is undeniable. It wouldn’t surprise me if it shocked the world and won the big one next month.
2. The party crashers in the Best Director field— On many lists, “The Martian” blockbuster director Ridley Scott and Todd Haynes of “Carol” count as snubs, especially when they were bested by one of the smallest movies possible in “Room” and its director Lenny Abrahamson. You know me. I love “Room” and will shout it from the mountaintops. He would get my vote. Abrahamson is the bigger surprise in this category than Adam McKay from “The Big Short,” who is a DGA nominee.
3. The supporting role Alicia Vikander was nominated for— I’ve called Alicia Vikander Miss 2015 for months and I knew she would get nominated today, but it wasn’t for the role she’s been winning with. I figured her part in “The Danish Girl” was more Best Actress level as a co-lead than supporting. She’s been running away with the Best Supporting Actress race for “Ex Machina” and not “The Danish Girl.” I think “The Danish Girl” is the lesser role of the two. Does that hurt her chances or does “Ex Machina” pad her resume for that win?
4. “Ex Machina” and Straight Outta Compton” getting Best Original Screenplay nods— Yesterday, I knew there was room among the big hitters for one surprise entry in the Best Original Screenplay category. I considered “Spotlight,” “Bridge of Spies,” “The Hateful Eight,” and “Inside Out” to be definite locks. I didn’t see two new names coming. Both surprises deserve to be there and, as aforementioned, Tarantino can stew about it all he wants.
5. The upcoming fan uproar for all things “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” — You won’t see me in the picket line, but just sit back and watch the populist hatred grow today and this month for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” getting ONLY five nominations (Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Original Score, Film Editing, and Visual Effects) and no nod for Best Picture. Watch the fanboy panties begin bunching and trolls emerge everywhere. Watch it get even worse on Oscar night when it wins zero of its five nominations and loses to the likes of “Mad Max: Fury Road” every time. The Emperor said it best in “Return of the Jedi.” Maybe we’ll get more people to dismiss “Mad Max: Fury Road” and a legitimate classic.