We asked out contributors for their thoughts on this year’s Oscar nominations. Their responses run the gamut from predictions to opinions on the nominees to hopes for victors. We put no actual requirement on their thoughts and that variance makes for interesting reading.
I put most of my thoughts together regarding the nominations late last week, so I don’t have a lot of extra input this time around. However, I will highlight my positive reactions, disappointments and hopes for the winners (where possible).
Of my current three favorite films of the year, two of them made the list. I’m thankful the Academy agreed to give Mad Max: Fury Road a slot. As well am I excited that Brooklyn made the list. However, I am severely disappointed that the elegant, beautiful Carol was left off, which showcases the Academy’s disregard for Todd Haynes and his films. My current hope is that the Academy knocks down another genre barrier and picks Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s an outcome I doubt. I’m absolutely fine with Spotlight winning as well and would be beyond ecstatic if Brooklyn could come from behind for a victory.
Best Animated Feature
My input on this category is minimal since most of the nominees I haven’t seen yet (GKids pushed in two films that haven’t made sufficient rounds of the box office circuit, at least in my neck of the woods). Inside Out is a great film and I’m glad to see it didn’t get left off. Shaun the Sheep is fun even if it’s not quite to the level of quality of past Aardman productions. Once I see some of the others I’ll know better, but right now, I’m hard-pressed to declare anything other than Inside Out as the film I’d most like to see win here.
I’m glad to see George Miller made the list, but I’m disappointed that once again Haynes was utterly ignored. I’m cheering for Miller, his vast technical expertise shines through in each frame and the sheer audacity and difficulty of executing the film deserves the Oscar undeniably.
Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress
Rooney Mara is in the wrong category. Giving her an Oscar would be tantamount to supporting category fraud. I think she’s great in Carol and more than capably stands opposite Cate Blanchett, delivering a fierce performance locked in quietude. If she had been a Best Actress nominee, I might have supported her, though it’s hard to top the sheer brilliance of Saoirse Ronan. I haven’t seen Brie Larson yet, so I could be further blown away (especially since I loved Short Term 12 and Larson in it), but right now, Ronan is my choice.
Of the Best Actor nominees, I’m leaning towards Michael Fassbender who does some of his finest work here. I can’t really think of any male performances I would push for inclusion though as this is a pretty strong lineup.
I would support Jennifer Jason Leigh for The Hateful Eight. Her superb career is woefully in need of recognition and while Alicia Vikander has had a terrific year, Jason Leigh is easily my choice for a win even without seeing her performance (which I’ll rectify as soon as I can).
For Supporting Actor, I’d have loved to see Emory Cohen nominated. He is a luminous presence in Brooklyn, but I’m not surprised by his exclusion. I think Mark Ruffalo, who’s one of my favorite working actors, should take home an Oscar on his third nomination, but there’s every indication that the normally execrable Sylvester Stallone could snap up the prize regardless.
I’m so very happy that Brooklyn and Carol both made the list as well as Inside Out. I won’t begrudge a nomination for Spotlight‘s impeccably researched script, but there isn’t much else to get me genuinely excited here. I’d love for any of these four films to win, but I suspect the first two won’t and it seems like Spotlight is almost guaranteed.
I wasn’t particularly invested in the musicscape this year, but I’m also not that disappointed in the nominees. I would have been thrilled to see the song from Spy nominated, but that was probably too much to hope for. I’m rooting for Lady Gaga and Diane Warren to win for their inspirational ballad concerning rape. On the score side, I love Carter Burwell’s score for Carol, but I would certainly not begrudge Ennio Morricone a well-deserved Oscar from a historical perspective. Anything but John Williams whose Star Wars score just doesn’t feel that original.
Mad Max: Fury Road dominating the tech categories was a highlight of the morning. I would have liked to have seen both Carol and Brooklyn perform better, but these lists aren’t at all bad. As for my personal choices for winners, I’d go with Mad Max in editing, production design, makeup, sound mixing, sound editing and visual effects while giving cinematography and costumes to Carol.
I really don’t know enough about the films in the remaining categories, but of all of them that I’ve seen, I’d say that Sanjay’s Super Team is pretty terrific, but World of Tomorrow is simply sublime.
PETER J. PATRICK
My initial reaction to the nominations was that maybe we should listen to the bloggers who tell us all year long, even before some films are even made, what the Oscar nominees will be. Thus we have The Revenant dominating with 12 nominations and Joy landing golden girl of the moment Jennifer Lawrence her fourth nomination at 25, besting her great-grandmother’s contemporary Jennifer Jones who had to wait until just before her 27th birthday for her fourth. On reflection, however, something else appears to be going on. For the first time in some time, this year’s Best Picture nominations are more evenly balanced between testosterone-heavy action films and estrogen-heavy domestic dramas. Despite a few glaring omissions it’s really quite a balanced group of nominations overall.
The big elephants not in the room are Star Wars: The Force Awakens which received five technical nominations and Carol which received six nominations, three of which were in major categories. Carol is the first film since United 93 in 2006 to win the prestigious New York Film Critics Circle Award and fail to achieve a Best Picture nomination. It’s only the seventh time in its seventy-one year history that an NYFCC winner has failed to make the grade with AMPAS.
Nevertheless we still have two testosterone-heavy action films in the mix, The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road; and two estrogen-heavy domestic dramas in Brooklyn and Room. We also have two lighter action films in The Martian and Bridge of Spies, the latter representing the “based on a real life incident” kind of film that AMPAS loves, represented last year by The Imitation Game. There are also two other films based on real-life incidents, the fact-laden Spotlight about child sexual abuse and the subsequent cover-up by the Catholic Church, and the satirical comedy The Big Short about the collapse of the housing market in 2008.
Pundits are split on whether the Oscar will go to the year’s most nominated film (The Revenant) or the one with the most critical support (Spotlight). I’ll tell you what I think in another article.
Best Animated Feature
I’m not a big animation fan, but the highlight of the live Oscar nominations announcement for me this year was the inclusion in this category of When Marnie Was There, the last film made by Japan’s Studio Ghibli based on Joan Robinson’s 1967 children’s novel. Few pundits had it in their predictions despite its being the year’s most beguiling animated film. Odds are the Oscar will go to Pixar’s Inside Out, but an upset in Marnie’s favor would delight me no end.
The Directors Guild nominations, announced the day before the Oscar nominations, set a new low for them in my opinion, compounded by AMPAS’ mirror announcement save for one of the nominees, Room’s Lenny Abrahamson. The only other director nominated this year who makes my list of the top five is Tom McCarthy for Spotlight. Where were Todd Haynes (Carol), John Crowley (Brooklyn) and Laszlo Nemes (Son of Saul)? Even the AMPAS-rejected Ridley Scott (The Martian) would have been a better pick than the other three they nominated.
By nominations morning I fully expected Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Matt Damon (The Martian) and Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) to be nominated, and half expected Eddie Redmayne to be included for The Danish Girl. I kept hoping against hope that Bryan Cranston’s off-kilter portrayal of (Dalton) Trumbo would fail to make the list. DiCaprio and Damon were decent nominations, but Fassbender is the only one of the nominees who gives a truly remarkable performance and would be an easy winner if it were not for the fact that his film flopped, a big no-no in the eyes of most AMPAS voters.
The most glaring omissions were Ian McKellen (Mr. Holmes), Géza Rohrig (Son of Saul) and Tom Courtenay (45 Years).
This was a truly remarkable year for memorable performances by women, so much so that two of the year’s best, Rooney Mara in Carol and Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl, had to be shoehorned into the supporting category to make room for Jennifer Lawrence whose popularity I still don’t get.
The performances of the other four were so good that I would be happy to see any of them win. Cate Blanchett (Carol) is the least likely because she already has two Oscars and is not likely to win a third with such formidable competition. Either of Brie Larson (Room), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years) or Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) would make a fine winner.
Best Supporting Actor
None of the nominations surprised me, but with my three favorites this year, Michael Keaton (Spotlight), Jacob Tremblay (Room) and Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation) sitting this one out, I don’t really have a player in the game.
Best Supporting Actress
It was such a strong year in lead actress and such a weak one in supporting actress that I can understand the albeit wrong-headed vote for Rooney Mara in this category, but, why, of why, did they have to nominate Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl when they could have nominated her for Ex Machina?
Best Original Screenplay
I’m glad to see Ex Machina nominated here as not everyone predicted it
Best Adapted Screenplay
The big surprise was the exclusion of Steve Jobs with its brilliant dialogue, but I suspect the writers blamed Aaron Sorkin for the film’s awkward structure which is what turned off a lot of those who actually saw the film.
The Big Short was the surprise inclusion for me.
Best Original Song
This category should have been killed off a long time ago, but I suppose Lady Gaga and Sam Smith will bring in a few viewers to the Oscarcast, so there’s that.
Best Original Score
Carter Burwell at long last has an Oscar nomination (for Carol) and Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight) has a good shot at winning his first competitive Oscar at 87, a decade after winning his honorary award, giving real distinction to the category this year.
Best Film Editing
As usual, the nominations here went to the year’s busiest, most noticeable editing.
Carol was the only non-testosterone-heavy film expected to compete with the big guns, and so it is. Too bad it’s unlikely to follow through with a win.
Best Production Design
More is always more in this category. I have no favorite here.
Best Costume Design
This is a category where the nicest dressed women generally call the shots so I was not at all surprised to see Carol and The Danish Girl show up here.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
As asinine a group of nominees as they could have come up with. If this is what it’s going to be like from now on, they ought go back to making this a very rare honorary award.
Best Sound Mixing
This is such a boring category. It exists solely to ramp up the totals for the year’s loudest film.
Best Sound Editing
Not to be confused with sound mixing, but it will be, throwing another automatic win to the year’s loudest film.
Best Visual Effects
Ex Machina had some truly visionary effects and The Martian had some amazingly realistic ones, but does either stand a chance against the showier stuff of the other three nominees?
Best Foreign Language Film
I was disappointed not see Germany’s Labyrinth of Lies on the list, but this year it was Son of Saul and everything else and that’s what we got.
Best Documentary Feature; Best Documentary Short Subject; Best Animated Short Film; Best Live-Action Short Film
I haven’t seen any of the nominees and can’t comment on this category.
For all the talk this year about how many possibilities there were, and how nothing seemed certain or normal in the Oscar race, these nominations are about as usual and predictable as they could have been. I kept waiting for the shocker, and none ever came (except maybe the exclusion of Ridley Scott, who seemed at the Globes last weekend like Hollywood was ready to recognize). These look a lot like what we all imagined in December would happen and the Academy didn’t really deviate from the plan. The road to get here was windy, but the destination feels very been-there-done-that. I still have a lot of holes in my viewing, so I don’t have a real opinion on the quality of the slates, but the Oscar fan in me was hoping for something a little more exciting. I don’t have much to say right now about the individual categories…I’ll save that for each individual breakdown!
The Academy always finds ways to surprise. Carol not being nominated for Best Picture still came as a surprise even after the guild snubs. I expected it would still pull it off, but I am even more surprised at the lack of a production design nomination as it did have beautiful period details. The Revenant picking up nominations for production and costume design seemed a little strange. The fort and campsites look appropriately bleak, and the costumes are memorable, but there are not that many of them. Evidently there was a lot more love for that film than I would have guessed. Two of the strangest choices come in the Best Original Song category. There are two songs nominated from documentaries including the rather insipid sounding “Manta Ray” from a film called Racing Extinction that I have never heard about. Lady Gaga’s anthem from The Hunting Ground was a much more expected nominee. And if they were going to make Fifty Shades of Grey into an Oscar-nominated film, the bouncy “Love Me Like You Do” would have been a much better choice than the less interesting “Earned It.” The biggest snub still seems to be the German film Labyrinth of Lies not getting a nod as Best Foreign Language Film. It was an interesting and well made film about Germany’s seeming amnesia about the Holocaust. It was not what I expected out of Germany, and I was certain the Academy would favor it with a nomination. Holocaust-themed films do well at the Oscars, and this seemed right up their alley. I will write more about the top eight categories below.
The nominations here were mostly expected, except for the snub of Carol. Straight Outta Compton might have picked up a nomination, but I had it in last place because it seemed likely not to finish in the race. It certainly has become an interesting race. Lacking both an editing and especially a directing nom means that The Martian is unlikely to win. Certain nominations for Spotlight and Mad Max: Fury Road shows they are contenders. And the 12 nominations to The Revenant shows it is thoroughly in the mix as well. Those three seem the most likely to prevail ultimately, but I am not certain if any is even a frontrunner yet.
Best Animated Feature
Inside Out is still the film to beat in this category, though I was pleased to see the adult-themed Anomalisa make the cut. The Aardman studios’ Shaun the Sheep Movie had also seemed likely to be here, but those were the only three I guessed correctly. Even though the story was weak, I thought the beautiful animation behind Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur would carry it to a nom. Evidently I was wrong. I also thought that one of the GKids films would grab the last spot. Two did, but not the ones I expected. When Marnie Was There is beautiful to look at, but I thought Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet would appeal more. I know too little about Boy and the World to comment on it at this point. GKids films have been pretty good about getting nominations here, and I will have to pay more attention to that in the future.
This category really surprised me. I expected Ridley Scott to be nominated for The Martian and that he would be winning a career award. Without his nomination, it throws the field wide open. It could easily go to last year’s winner, Alejandro Inarritu for The Revenant or first time nominees Tom McCarthy for Spotlight or George Miller for Mad Max. It may take until the DGA is presented for this category to show a frontrunner, unless they play devil’s advocate and give it to Ridley Scott.
There were no surprises here, and it still looks like Leonardo DiCaprio’s to lose. Conceivably there might be a push for Matt Damon as his film is not likely to win many other places, but I don’t think The Martian is likely to prevail here. Leo’s stiffest competition is probably Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of Dalton Trumbo, but I think that highly unlikely. Fassbender and Redmayne are deserving nominees, but either of them or Damon could have been left out for Samuel L. Jackson, Will Smith or Michael B. Jordan for a more interesting and less white race.
I also guessed all of the nominees here. Jennifer Lawrence seems by far the weakest competitor, but no one else surfaced to take her spot. It would have been nice if either (or both) Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl or Rooney Mara had been nominated here as they belong in this category, not supporting actress. This really has turned in to a two-woman race between Room’s Brie Larson and Brooklyn’s Saorise Ronan. Larson seems the most likely to win, but I so loved Ronan that I am pulling for her to triumph.
Best Supporting Actor
Tom Hardy was an unexpected, though deserving, nominee for The Revenant. I wonder if the support for the movie could carry on to a win for him. I had thought Idris Elba a likely nominee for Beasts of No Nation, but the Netflix film may just have been too new a form for them to nominate someone from. The Academy does like a comeback story, and Sylvester Stallone certainly has the momentum behind him right now, but I rather hope he does not win. Mark Rylance, Mark Ruffalo and Christian Bale all created stronger characters. Any of these men could win. It is a tight race.
Best Supporting Actress
Almost anyone could win here, too. Alicia Vikander and Rooney Mara may have the strongest chances as theirs were starring parts not supporting roles.
Best Original Screenplay
This still feels like it will go to Spotlight. None of the nominees was that shocking, though the inclusion of the sci-fi Ex Machina came as a bit of a surprise. The PGA nomination showed support for it, but I thought it a genre that was unlikely to be rewarded. Inside Out might be able to sneak in for a win, but Spotlight should prevail.
Best Adapted Screenplay
This has turned into an interesting race, as a case could be made for any of them to win. If Steve Jobs had been nominated, it might have been the one to beat, but not anymore. Currently I have no idea how this category will go.