Oscar nominations reveal surprises, snubs and a whole lot of white people (again)


Actor John Krasinski and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announce Best Motion Picture of the Year at the announcement of the 88th Academy Awards nominations during a live news conference on Jan. 14, 2016 at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS) Tribune News Service and Al Seib

Ang Lee, Guillermo del Toro, and John Krasinski walk into a room.

What sounds like the beginning of a really bad joke was actually the beginning of this year’s Academy Awards. The three Hollywood hotshots took to the stage of the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills on Thursday to announce the 2016 Oscar nominees.

Predictably, Alejandro G. Iñáritu’s gritty “The Revenant” led the pack with 12 nominations, followed closely by the delightfully chaotic “Mad Max: Fury Road” with 10. While big budget blockbusters dominated the tech and creative categories, the Academy made plenty of room in the major categories for indies and low budget productions.

Best Picture nominees ranged from the predictable: “Spotlight,” “The Revenant,” “The Martian,” “Bridge of Spies” and “The Big Short,” to pleasant surprises: “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Brooklyn” and “Room.” Although voters can nominate up to 10 films in this category, only eight were chosen this year. The ninth and 10th choices were likely critical favorites “Carol” and “Straight Outta Compton.” While “Carol”’s absence from the category was a shock, the inclusion of two other female driven films, A24’s harrowing “Room” and charming indie “Brooklyn,” provided unexpected condolence.

“The Martian” director Ridley Scott, a favorite to win Best Director, missed out on nomination in the category he was expected to dominate. Lenny Abrahamson of “Room” replaced him, joining Iñáritu, Tom McCarthy of “Spotlight,” Adam McKay of “The Big Short” and George Miller of “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

The men nominated for Best Actor were by far the easiest to predict: Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Revenant,” Michael Fassbender for “Steve Jobs,” Eddie Redmayne for “The Danish Girl,” Bryan Cranston for “Trumbo” and Matt Damon for “The Martian.” Damon probably slipped in over Steve Carrell (“The Big Short”), but Jacob Tremblay (“Room”) was another possible nominee.

Recent Golden Globe winners Cate Blanchett (“Carol”) and Jennifer Lawrence (“Joy”) joined Oscar newcomers Brie Larson (“Room”) and Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”) in the Best Actress category. Previous nominee Saiorse Ronan completed the category for her leading role in “Brooklyn.”

Category fraud reigned supreme in the Best Supporting Actress list as Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander both scored nods for their leading roles in “Carol” and “The Danish Girl,” respectively. Golden Globe winner Kate Winslet was a lock for “Steve Jobs,” and Rachel McAdams and Jennifer Jason Leigh rounded out the category for “Spotlight” and “The Hateful Eight.”

Many critics predicted an “Ex Machina” supporting nod for Vikander, expecting double nominations for her yet again, but somehow Focus Features managed to convince Academy voters to nominate her in the supporting category for “The Danish Girl” instead of Best Actress. The inclusion of Vikander and Mara edged out other contenders like Helen Mirren for “Trumbo” and Kristen Stewart for “Clouds of Sils Maria.”

Best Supporting Actor has been a chaotic category to predict this year. From the ensemble casts of “Spotlight” and “The Big Shor,” fan favorites Sylvester Stallone (“Creed”) and Emory Cohen (“Brooklyn”), to critical favorites Benicio del Toro (“Sicario”) and Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”), the nominations could have gone any number of ways. A surprise nod went to Tom Hardy (“The Revenant”), who probably rode in on DiCaprio’s coattails. Joining him are Stallone, Rylance, Mark Ruffalo (“Spotlight”) and Christian Bale (“The Big Short”). I would rather have seen nominations for Paul Dano (Love & Mercy), Tremblay and del Toro, but there were so many exceptional supporting performances this year that I can’t argue with any of these choices.

Other notable snubs included Aaron Sorkin and Quentin Tarantino in the screenplay categories, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s “See You Again” in the Best Original Song category and Todd Haynes of “Carol” for Best Director.

While the nominees above are all incredibly deserving (for the most part), it’s apparent yet again just how white these Oscars will be. Despite the great reception of “Straight Outta Compton,” “Concussion,” “Beasts of No Nation” and “Creed,” every one of the actors nominated this year is white.

I’ve written previously about how this represents a lack of diverse roles in the industry, but when people of color give exceptional performances, as they did this year, the industry has to reward them.

At this rate, Oscars host Chris Rock will be one of the only black people in the room come February. At least we can count on him to tear the Academy apart for it.

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