2016 Oscar Nominations: here we go again
The nominations for the 88th Academy Awards were unveiled Thursday morning. They are annually the biggest, dumbest, most frustrating exercise in all of cinema, and movie fans everywhere allow their energy to be drained by the results regardless. The Oscars manage to disappoint in the same confusing yet devastatingly transparent ways time and time again. Let’s check in on how they did this year in the most important categories.
“Bridge of Spies”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Big Short”
The good: There are no real surprises. No irrelevant Oscar-bait like “The Danish Girl” or mediocre prestige dramas like “Steve Jobs” managed to squirm their way into the pack. Every movie nominated meets the minimum requirement of “good.”. A few are even among the best films of the year. That’s about as much as you can ask for. It’s great to see movies like “Brooklyn,” “Room,” and “The Martian” included. Same goes for “Mad Max: Fury Road,” even if I wasn’t as over-the-moon about it as most.
The bad: There are no real surprises. These were pretty much the core eight among all predictions, and in what was a pretty great year for movies, it is disappointing the Academy only utilized eight of the ten available spots. “Inside Out” — clearly the best film of the year for my money’s worth — would have looked great in one of those spots. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” — the biggest movie in history — would have looked really good there as well. Even more conventional choices like “The Hateful Eight,” Todd Haynes’ beautiful “Carol,” or surprise sensation “Creed” would have been satisfactory. As far as the films that were nominated, “The Revenant” is the only one I feel isn’t good enough to deserve the nod. Which of course means:
Likely Winner: “The Revenant”
While “Spotlight” has been the front-runner since the race started, I fear “The Revenant” is gaining momentum at the right time. The same could be said about “The Big Short.” I would be shocked by anything outside of those three taking the award home.
George Miller — “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Lenny Abrahamson — “Room”
Tom McCarthy — “Spotlight”
Adam McKay — “The Big Short”
Alejandro G. Iñárritu — “The Revenant”
The good: Almost all of it! No matter which way you look at it, this is one of the coolest categories in recent memory. We’ve got the director of a classic action franchise who went on to direct “Babe: Pig in the City” and “Happy Feet” in George Miller, Tom McCarthy, who directed the consensus worst film of the year — “The Cobbler” — only to turn around and direct the film that should probably win best picture, a surprise nomination for Lenny Abrahamson who did a magnificent job with one of the best films of the year, and the guy who directed “Anchorman.”
The bad: I just don’t think Iñárritu really belongs here. I would have loved to see Ryan Coogler get recognized for “Creed”. “Creed” — like his debut “Fruitvale Station” — is a wildly imperfect film. But it is incredibly dynamic, and nails some extremely challenging set pieces. He also inspired Sylvester Stallone — nominated for Best Supporting Actor — to actually act for maybe the first time in the 21st century. Seems significant to me.
Likely winner: Alejandro G. Iñárritu - The Revenant
Last year, he won for a far superior film in “Birdman.” Now he is about to go back to back like he’s on the cover of “Lethal Weapon.” I’m just in a bad mood now.
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Brie Larson — “Room”
Cate Blanchett — “Carol”
Charlotte Rampling — “45 Years.”
Jennifer Lawrence — “Joy”
Saoirse Ronan — “Brooklyn”
The good: Brie. Larson. When the best performance of the year is nominated and the frontrunner to win, it’s hard to complain. She’s been great in everything she has been in so far, and “Room” is a new high point for her. Cate Blanchett is amazing as well.
The bad: Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t really need to be here. I know at this point that is no different than saying, “The Patriots don’t really need to be good this year,” or, “The sun doesn’t really need to rise today,” but nonetheless. “Joy” is a decent film and Lawrence is perfectly good in it, but it is unremarkable to say the least. The main issue is, how can the Academy show “Mad Max” so much love, and simply ignore Imperator Furiosa? If “Mad Max” is really one of the films of the year, Charlize Theron needed to be recognized.
Likely winner: Brie Larson - Room
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Bryan Cranston — “Trumbo”
Eddie Redmayne — “The Danish Girl”
Leonardo DiCaprio — “The Revenant”
Matt Damon — “The Martian”
Michael Fassbender — “Steve Jobs”
The good: There are four great actors here getting nominated for great work. They all had the responsibility of completely carrying their films and succeeded to different degrees. Damon, Cranston, and DiCaprio all made it worth the price of admission. While Fassbender didn't quite do the same, I can’t deny that he gives an excellent performance.
The bad: Eddie Redmayne got nominated for a film no one cared about. I elected not to subject myself to “The Danish Girl.” After suffering through “The Theory of Everything” last year, I thought I earned a break. Redmayne is an absolutely abysmal actor, and unless he did a complete 180 since his Oscar win, I’m not interested. Congratulations to him though. I look forward to writing this same thing next year when he gets nominated for playing a dyslexic spelling bee champion or whatever other garbage he has up his sleeve. Here’s a list of better performances from more relevant movies that should have been considered: Domnhall Gleeson, “Ex Machina;” Christopher Abbott, “James White;” John Boyega, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens;” Michael B. Jordan, “Creed;” Paul Dano, “Love & Mercy;” Jason Segel, “The End of the Tour;” Jesse Eisenberg, “American Ultra;” Samuel L. Jackson, “The Hateful Eight;” Jacob Tremblay, “Room;” Jake Johnson, “Digging for Fire;” Jason Sudeikis, “Sleeping With Other People;” Anyone, “Anything.”
Likely winner: Leonardo DiCaprio — “The Revenant”
I’m somewhat confused by the “Give DiCaprio his Oscar!!!” meme. He’s a great actor, but he is still pretty young. He has been nominated four times previous to this, but has never really had a realistic chance of winning. Sure he got robbed by Matthew McConaughey in 2014, but, of course he did. Regardless, as much as I wish he was winning his oscar for “The Wolf of Wall Street,” he is great in “The Revenant” and is a deserving winner.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Alicia Vikander — “The Danish Girl”
Jennifer Jason Leigh — “The Hateful Eight”
Kate Winslet — “Steve Jobs”
Rachel McAdams — “Spotlight”
Rooney Mara — “Carol”
The good: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rachel McAdams, and Rooney Mara all in one category is an absolute embarrassment of riches. Three of the best performances of the year, and it’s great to see them all recognized.
The bad: Kate Winslet is really unremarkable in a mediocre film. I would have loved to see Daisy Ridley’s turn in Star Wars take her place. Nominating Alicia Vikander was the right call. Unfortunately, it was for the wrong film. Vikander gave one of the best performances of the the year in “Ex Machina.”
Likely winner: Rooney Mara — “Carol”
This is definitely the closest of the acting categories, but unless “Spotlight” gains enough momentum to lift McAdams, I expect Mara to get the edge.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale — “The Big Short”
Mark Ruffalo — “Spotlight”
Mark Rylance — “Bridge of Spies”
Sylvester Stallone — “Creed”
Tom Hardy — “The Revenant”
The good: All great performances in good, relevant movies. Where this has often been the most packed category in years past, it was a bit easier this year, and the Academy mostly got it right.
The bad: No Michael Keaton for “Spotlight.” After the Academy snatched the deserved trophy out of his hands last year, I thought they would have had the decency to respect a great performance here. Oh well. Oscar Isaac for “Ex Machina,” Steve Carell for “The Big Short,” and Benecio Del Toro for “Sicario” all had great cases as well.
Likely winner: Sylvester Stallone - Creed
It’s a great performance and there’s a great narrative to support it. He’s got the best Oscar scene of anyone in any category. It makes a lot of sense. Mark Rylance is not far behind though.