This year’s Oscar nominations (the 2016 Oscars, or the 2015 Oscars, depending whether you identify by movie year or telecast date) were announced this morning, and, like every year, there were plenty of snubs (deserving folks the Academy missed) and “Oh come on!”s (folks who probably didn’t need a nomination). There are a few basic problems with the Oscar nomination process, starting with the fact that the voters are really old and white and I suspect kind of dumb. Being old and white manifests itself in obvious ways, while being dumb manifests in their tendency to only nominate things that are shouting at them. Matthew McConaughey chewing scenes in Magic Mike? Not loud enough, not dramatic enough. In order to be recognized as a great actor, McConaughey has to lose 30 pounds and play a character who dies of AIDS.
The Academy tends to nominate anything that’s shouting “AWARDS! GIVE ME AWARDS!” and ignore most things that aren’t. Ergo, if you make something that feels like a parody of an Oscars movie, starring people who usually get Oscar nominations, unless it’s truly terrible (and sometimes even if it is) it will most likely get nominated for something. See: The King’s Speech, The Artist, The Iron Lady, The Theory of Everything, Steve Jobs, almost every movie Eddie Redmayne has been in, etc. With all the biopics that come out every year, it’s a wonder anything else sneaks in there.
The other problem is more logistical, in that the Oscar nominations come at the end of a long awards “season,” where all the critics associations and all the sketchy cabals of foreign “press” from no-name publications have already handed out their nominations. By the time the Oscar voters vote, they have a consensus on which to draw. So, in addition to the pedigree factor that already exists in the tendency to nominate familiar names and faces, there’s also the added inertia factor, where Oscar voters seem to be drawing as much on the word of mouth from prior awards ceremonies as they are on the films and performances themselves.
Anyway, I’ll stop being negative now and get to the great stuff the Oscars may have missed.
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
This best picture list doesn’t bother me so much. I’d call The Martian slightly overrated, but all of these were decently good.
Anomalisa. They nominated it in the animated category, but that’s a bullsh*t cop out. It was just as good as any of these.
Ex Machina, The Hateful Eight. File these under “I didn’t expect it, but it would’ve been nice.” I can understand The Hateful Eight not being everyone’s cup of tea, but Ex Machina was smart, brilliantly executed, and perfectly acted.
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
Adam McKay, The Big Short
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
No Oh Come Ons in this group either, just one big snub…
Hello, Ryan Coogler for Creed? I’m not really on the Creed-was-one-of-the-best-of-the-year bandwagon, but it was decent, and if I had to isolate one factor as to why it’s even in the conversation, it would be Coogler. The director award is kind of silly, because none of us were there on the set, we don’t know exactly what the director did. There should probably just be the Best Picture award, accepted by the director. But as long as there is a director award, Coogler should’ve been nominated for it. Making a Rocky sequel an awards contender was a high degree of difficulty. If I had to sub one of these out for him, it’d be Tom McCarthy. He’s good, but I feel like he doesn’t really take any chances.
Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight. Even if you question the taste of some of his choices, I don’t know how you could question his craft.
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
OH COME ON!
Good old Eddie Redmayne: He may not be our best actor, but he’s definitely our most actor-y actor. I imagine Eddie Redmayne probably just got an auto-nom after people saw The Danish Girl trailer. In fact, I kind of think people just nominated The Danish Girl for awards so they wouldn’t have to see it. “This is what you wanted, right? Just take the trophies and let us go!”
You wouldn’t get me into that film at gun point, but judging by the 71% recommended score and the fact that I have heard exactly zero people discussing it (and keep in mind I am a film critic), the movie wasn’t even that good. There are too many good performances out there to recognize good actors (which Redmayne is, he just makes obnoxious choices) in sub-par movies.
Speaking of which, Fassbender in Steve Jobs. Fassbender is one of my favorites, but we don’t need to start handing out nominations for every mediocre Sorkin movie just because the actors talk fast.
DiCaprio. Again, great actor, I’m just not sure grimacing and drooling and blowing snot at the camera is the greatest exhibition of it. I got plenty of drool and snot and grimacing too, it doesn’t make me an actor. Leo was great in Django Unchained, The Departed, Gangs of New York, This Boy’s Life… and what does the Academy recognize him for? Blowing snot bubbles and playing the mentally disabled. Of course. Classic Oscars.
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation. You could argue that the movie was a little uneven, and I wouldn’t entirely disagree, but sweet Jesus was he ever charming and terrifying in it. Not biopic-y enough for the Academy, I guess.
Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful Eight. Is this a lead role? I would argue it is. He’s in it from the first scene until the last. And whatever you think of the movie, if you could watch that and not come away thinking that Samuel L. Jackson is brilliant you’re insane. INSANE. Do you realize Samuel L. has only been nominated for one Academy Award? Django, Jackie Brown — hell, he’s been brutally snubbed at least three times just in Tarantino movies. (I also would’ve given him one for Die Hard With A Vengeance.) The Academy should be paying Samuel L. Jackson reparations. I look at his IMDb awards page and think it has to be a misprint. The Academy should be ashamed. We should all be ashamed.
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
OH COME ON!
Jennifer Lawrence. I’m the biggest Jennifer Lawrence fan on Earth (I was telling people she was great five years ago, no big *fluffs scarf*), but knowing she’s great doesn’t mean we have to nominate her every time she makes a movie. David O. Russell — I’ve loved every movie he made before this one, but Joy was a big whiff. Jennifer Lawrence was the only character who wasn’t almost unwatchably obnoxious. I don’t see anyone remembering this movie in three years. And if we’re not going to even remember a performance, does it really need a nomination?
Charlotte Rampling. I’m guessing? Actually, I have no idea. I hadn’t even heard of 45 Years before today. It sounds long.
Emily Blunt in Sicario. I know it was an action movie so it never had a chance, but the way she played “tough girl” who was also vulnerable (in non-sexist ways!) seems like a really tough thing to pull off. She reminded me of an improved version of the character Jessica Chastain plays a lot in this. Why no nom? She was great.
Anyway, my vote goes to Saoirse Ronan, but I wouldn’t be upset about Cate Blanchett or Brie Larson winning. A lot of good choices in this category.
Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
OH COME ON
Mark Ruffalo. He’s nominated because… he got all shouty? In the movie’s worst scene? I don’t know, man. Nothing against M-Rough (Ruffalo’s rap name), he just wouldn’t make my top five this year.
Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina. OSCAR ISAAC, EX MACHINA. I have to shout it so you know how strenuously I believe this. If you ask me, Isaac’s was the best supporting actor performance of the year by a mile. Obviously I have a huge man crush on Oscar Isaac, but it’s only because he’s so f*cking talented.
Emory Cohen, Brooklyn. Cohen might have been even more charming than Oscar Isaac, and he did it with his pants pulled up to his nipples. He played Young Version of Your Grandpa and it felt like someone was stepping on my heart. I think he’s not getting these nominations because no one knows who he is yet. And he doesn’t get the pedigree credit, partly because he’s young, but also because he transforms so well that you don’t remember where else you’ve seen him. He came out after the Brooklyn premiere at TIFF and he doesn’t seem like that character at all, which makes the acting even more impressive.
Demian Bichir, The Hateful Eight. I know it wasn’t a huge role, but come on, man, Mexican Bob was awesome.
Domhnall Gleeson, Brooklyn. Domhnall (pronounced “DOAN-ul”, apparently) Gleeson was great in four great movies this year (Brooklyn, The Revenant, Ex Machina, and Star Wars) and somehow still didn’t get a nomination. I mean, I sort of get it. He’s kind of the acting equivalent of a sixth man: He’s not Michael Jordan, but he comes in off the bench and always gives the team a boost. If I had to choose one worthy performance of his this year, it’d be Brooklyn. Emory Cohen was so damned charming that the fact that Saoirse Ronan’s love triangle was at all dramatic means Domhnall Gleeson did an incredible job.
Josh Brolin, Sicario. Nihilistic yet charming, rolling into a big meeting in flip flops and a Hawaiian shirt popping his gum… I loved this performance.
Benicio Del Toro, Sicario. Benicio needs to win some kind of Most Valuable Player Lifetime Achievement in Drug Movies award because he’s always so good.
Ryan Gosling/Steve Carell, The Big Short. I love Bale, but I thought they did more of the heavy lifting in The Big Short.
James Marsden, The D-Train. Yes, I’m still banging the drum for this movie. Dislike it if you want, but if you tell me James Marsden didn’t do an incredible job in it, I will straight up fight you.
Matthias Schoenaerts, Far From the Madding Crowd. I know no one cares about this movie, but it was still way better than Joy or Steve Jobs. And Matthias Schoenaerts is one of the best actors working.
This was long, I know, there were way too many great supporting actor performances this year.
Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
OH COME ON
Kate Winslet is a great actress and all, but she couldn’t even keep her accent consistent in Steve Jobs. What the hell?
Rachel McAdams. Saw this movie, don’t remember this performance.
Rose Byrne, Spy. I was about to turn off Spy before Rose Byrne showed up. And she ended up being hilarious, as a villain, in a spy movie parody. It’s not the kind of movie that ever gets an actor nominated, but does anyone realize how hard that is to pull off?
Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina. She may have been great in The Danish Girl, I’ll never know, but she was incredible in Ex Machina. She’s my supporting actress choice, and it’s not even close.
Best Original Screenplay
Bridge of Spies
Straight Outta Compton
OH COME ON
Inside Out. I know, I know, you all hate me for saying this, I will not be shamed into liking this movie. Sorry, I just don’t think whether or not a little kid forgets how to play hockey qualifies as stakes. Also, that scene didn’t even make sense. Some clever scenes and Bing Bong weren’t enough to overcome the major structural issues. For me! You can still like it if you want, stop shouting I’m sorry!
Anomalisa. Seriously? How is this not on the list? It’s the best screenplay of the year and nothing else even comes close.
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Big Short
OH COME ON
The Martian, maybe? I don’t know, this is actually a pretty good list.
Best Documentary — Feature
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom
Call Me Lucky. I’m not ashamed to continue stumping for Call Me Lucky. But the doc feature category so often snubs the best doc of the year that I can’t even get that mad about it anymore. At least they nominated The Look of Silence, which will probably lose to the Amy Winehouse movie. At least there weren’t any documentaries about fashion designers this year. Baby steps.
Best Makeup And Hairstyling
Mad Max: Fury Road
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
The 100-year what now? In the midst of all my Academy bashing, I guess I have to give it up to them for nominating a few movies I hadn’t even heard of.
Best Production Design
Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
OH COME ON
The Danish Girl. It probably had really good production design, I don’t know. I just feel like I have to complain every time it gets recognized for something.
Crimson Peak. I thought this movie was repetitive and I fell asleep during it, but the production design was amazing. It’s hard to out do Guillermo Del Toro in that department.
That’s all for this year. In the context of past years, this year’s choices mostly weren’t that bad. Mad Max got a Best Picture nomination! Raise your hand if you expected that three months ago? The Academy is still bad, but baby steps.