Thursday, January 14, 2016

Here's the List of This Year's Oscar Nominees

Ladies and gentlemen, this is one of the biggest days in our average awards season. It is the day that The Academy Awards announce this year's nominees. With the familiar fervor, one can easily point out the lack of diversity and the various films that were snubbed. However, it is still a pretty solid year for the films, with surprise nomination leaders The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road racking up a lot of recognition with 12 and 10 nominations respectively. So, what made the cut in all of the categories? Click to read all of the nominees plus additional commentary on the highs and lows that are now part of Oscar history.


-The Big Short
-The Martian

PROS: I will confess that I was very skeptical about Mad Max: Fury Road getting any major nominations. While this is true in other categories (Charlize Theron missed the cut), it managed to rack up an impressive series of nominations for a film that feels as removed from Oscar bait as this awards has gotten since 2009's District 9. It's also nice to see that this category is at very least more diverse than last year's entirely indie line-up with films both small and big, and also focusing on something other than just frustrated white men (though there's plenty of that here). I'm also glad to see Bridge of Spies and Room on here, which are two films that worried wouldn't be showing up much during this awards season.

CONS: It's tough not to just break out into snub mode, especially considering how few of my predictions yesterday made the cut. There's no Inside Out or Carol here (which were my two favorite films of last year). Otherwise, the only real disappointment is that The Revenant has been largely considered a tough film to beat this awards season, and while it has Spotlight to answer to, I worry that its dominance in nominations will at least give it an edge much like how The Grand Budapest Hotel did last year (it didn't win in any major field, but still was the major winner). Also, why are there eight nominees this year? I am starting to hate this sliding scale thing. Go back to 5 or 10 and stop messing with us.


-The Big Short (Adam McKay)
-Room (Lenny Abrahamson)
-The Revenant (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
-Spotlight (Thomas McCarthy)
-Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)

PROS: What an unexpectedly strong group of directors. While it has long been known that The Revenant and Spotlight were locks in this category, everyone else is an unexpected relief. The Big Short has somehow become one of the "out of nowhere" Oscar contenders that we hope for, and from a director known for slapstick comedies like Anchorman, it's interesting to see him transition to more prestigious films. While Mad Max: Fury Road is a much welcomed surprise, my vote for random nominee of the year is definitely Room, which looked to only be getting Brie Larson an acting nomination, but has racked up four total in an impressive turnout.

CONS: It is a strong category overall and I cannot find much fault with it. My only hope is that The Revenant doesn't put Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu into the lead here because that film was not directed well at all. If we must talk about films that were hard to make, consider Mad Max: Fury Road. The fact that a movie predominantly about cars racing across the desert could serve as a feminist post-western with no recognizable characters and still take over the zeitgeist is an insane achievement, and George Miller deserves this nomination far more than Inarritu does; even though The Revenant's ambitious scale campaign may give it the unfortunate edge.


-The Danish Girl (Eddie Redmayne)
-The Martian (Matt Damon)
-The Revenant (Leonardo DiCaprio)
-Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender)
-Trumbo (Bryan Cranston)

PROS: It is nice to see a nomination for a big studio film finally land in the acting fields after who knows how long. The Martian has been a crowd favorite, and it's nice to see Matt Damon get into this race. It's also a relief that Steve Jobs (which was largely absent this year) managed to get Michael Fassbender another Oscar nomination. Overall, a decent line-up with a lot of familiar faces.

CONS: Is anyone talking about Trumbo? Don't be ashamed to admit it, but this feels like one of those historical character biases that keep showing up at The Oscars. I like Bryan Cranston and all, but is his performance that great? Other than that, I am really offended by The Revenant getting Leonardo DiCaprio another Oscar nomination, and pretty much putting him in the lead for what is likely to be his year. He deserves it for something that actually challenged him AS AN ACTOR. 


-45 Years (Charlotte Rampling)
-Brooklyn (Saoirse Ronan)
-Carol (Cate Blanchett)
-Joy (Jennifer Lawrence)
-Room (Brie Larson)

PROS: Can I just say that I am very excited to see 45 Years on this list? The film felt like it came out of nowhere at the end of the year and pretty much won over everyone's hearts, notably Charlotte Rampling's great performance. Of course, there's the front runner Room and the welcomed additions of Carol and Brooklyn. It's a strong category without a loser in the bunch. While I am in the minority, I'm even glad to see Joy on here (a film I really enjoy and consider Jennifer Lawrence's best). Fun Fact: This nomination makes Lawrence the youngest person to receive four Oscar nominations.

CONS: Like I said, it's a very intimidating and strong bunch. The only real fault is that Cate Blanchett is technically a supporting player in Carol. However, considering that Rooney Mara was also nominated, I am only mad at the idea of category fraud and not the nomination itself.


-The Big Short (Christian Bale)
-Bridge of Spies (Mark Rylance)
-Creed (Sylvester Stallone)
-The Revenant (Tom Hardy)
-Spotlight (Mark Ruffalo)

PROS: I am relieved to see that Bridge of Spies managed to land one nomination for acting with breakout star Mark Rylance's great performance. It's also nice to see that Spotlight landed Mark Ruffalo as the only male actor from the film to get a nomination. I'm guessing that Creed is the front runner, even if I am not sure what makes this role different from the six or so other times that Sylverster Stallone played Rocky Balboa.

CONS: I am so glad that I can now call Tom Hardy an Oscar nominee. However, my distaste for The Revenant is too strong to even feel passionate about his surprise nomination. Considering that other (and better) testosterone-driven movie Mad Max: Fury Road also showed up strong, what was keeping from giving him a spot for the clearly better performance? I am glad to call him a nominee, but I just wish that it was for something far more deserving than this.


-Carol (Rooney Mara)
-The Danish Girl (Alicia Vikander)
-The Hateful Eight (Jennifer Jason Leigh)
-Spotlight (Rachel McAdams)
-Steve Jobs (Kate Winslet)

PROS: I pretty much guessed this category correctly (though I think that I had Alicia Vikander's part in lead). It is a very strong group that I wouldn't really change to much. I am especially glad that Spotlight managed to get Rachel McAdams an Oscar nomination, as she was one of the many highlights of the film. Of course, it's great to see Steve Jobs get just a little bit more love, even if it seems doubtful to win. My favorite of the group is probably The Hateful Eight, as Quentin Tarantino's commentary on Jennifer Jason Leigh is byfar the least stupid thing he's said in the past few months.

CONS: Not really much to speak of. A solid bunch. Again, Carol's two acting nominations should've been reversed, but otherwise I am totally fine with this list.


-Bridge of Spies
-Ex Machina
-Straight Outta Compton

PROS: I am very surprised to see Ex Machina make the cut. Considering that it was a sleeper hit genre film, I wouldn't have suspected that it actually stood a chance at any serious Oscar nominations. I am also surprised and happy to see Straight Outta Compton on here, if just for diversity and to show that the films could be recognized. Even then, the big three that I expected to show up (Bridge of Spies, Inside Out, Spotlight) all didn't disappoint. 

CONS: I'll be honest that I'm not too familiar with Straight Outta Compton. Maybe it's a good movie and I'm not giving it credit. Still, it tickles me that The Oscars would give a nomination to an N.W.A. biopic. The rest is solid otherwise. However, it's strange to not see The Hateful Eight in here, if just because of how high concept Quentin Tarantino's latest film was. Could it just be that the whole idea of embracing old school technology backfired and nobody cared? It seemed like he had an easy in with his love of film.


-The Big Short
-The Martian

PROS: It's a nice and eclectic mix. Among Carol's four Oscar nominations, I am at least glad that it landed in screenplay. I don't have too much enthusiasm for the others, though I do applaud Brooklyn's ability to be sweet and endearing in a way that makes it wholesome. Maybe The Big Short's wordiness is going to give it an edge in this category, but I don't really have much enthusiasm or problem with this list.

CONS: The only real issue for me here is the unfortunate absence of Steve Jobs. Considering that I knew already that it wasn't having the best of luck at The Oscars, I am not as shocked as I would normally be. However, I thought that the impressive work of Aaron Sorkin would've definitely given it an edge, if just for its craft and structure. While it's not the highest of compliments, I do think that the noticeable structure of Steve Jobs definitely is more of a recognition of excellent writing than most of these films' comparative basic structures.


-Boy & The World
-Inside Out
-Shaun the Sheep Movie
-When Marnie Was There

PROS: The two obvious picks (Anomalisa and Inside Out are here), thus making this list not a total downer. The absence of lesser animated films like Minions (the first in the franchise to miss this category) is a loud sigh of relief. Also, it's great to see Studio Ghibli (When Marnie Was There) holding strong and the sleeper film Shaun the Sheep Movie actually had enough legs to get nominated. Still, I need to figure out what Boy & The World is, as it is the random entry in this category for the year.

CONS: Is anyone sad that The Good Dinosaur missed out? I know that Pixar already had a leg in the race, but it felt exciting a little to have that chance to see one of animation's most influential studios have competition like that. I don't know who I'd take out (this category's been great at nominating quality over popularity). Still, I think the absence is likely going to bother some people.


-A War
-Embrace of the Serpent
-Son of Saul

COMMENTS: I don't really have a lot to say, as I haven't seen any of these. However, I do think that Son of Saul is probably going to be the favorite here, if just because of how well it has been received by everyone so far. Also, it's great to see Mustang on here, as it has also been gaining a certain popularity over the past few months.


-Cartel Land
-The Look of Silence
-What Happened, Miss Simone?
-Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom

PROS: I like to see The Look of Silence on here. From what I've heard, it's possibly even better and more impacting than The Act of Killing was. If nothing else, it's one of the few on here that actually sounds like it's about something important. My only hope is that it doesn't lose to some silly music documentary like Joshua Oppenheimer's last film did. However, the general love seems to favor Amy for some dumb reason.

CON: Is Amy really as good as this nomination would suggest? I'm not saying that celebrity documentaries are bad, but they have to be very artful to even be worth something compared to heavier subjects. I like Amy Winehouse, but even I feel skeptical about making a documentary about her brief time in the spotlight. Her death was tragic, but I have trouble not seeing this as more than sentimental tribute. Also, the lack of Listen to Me Marlon is disappointing for different reasons.


-Body Team 12
-Chau, Beyond the Lines
-Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
-A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
-Last Day of Freedom


-Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)
-Ave Maria
-Day One


-Bear Story
-We Can't Live Without Cozmos
-Sanjay's Super Team
-World of Tomorrow

COMMENTS: I just want to put it out there that I am very proud to see Don Hertzfeldt's World of Tomorrow make the cut. It's such a wonderful and interesting short that is worthy of attention. It mixes animation styles so wonderfully and has a plot so emotionally rich that it's surprising how it manages to work so well. I had this on my long shot column, and it's probably the nomination that I'm most excited for from 2015.


-Bridge of Spies
-The Hateful Eight
-Star Wars: The Force Awakens

PROS: I am very happy to see that Carol landed Carter Burwell his first nomination. It's such a wonderful and emotional score that is more than worthy of a spot. Also seeing The Hateful Eight on this list is reassuring, as I do believe that Ennio Morricone is going to win solely because it would be his first competitive Oscar. I'm also enjoying the presence of Bridge of Spies - even if I've had conflicted feelings about Thomas Newman's work in the past. I didn't see Sicario, so I am unable to really determine whether or not that's a great sign.

CONS: Really? Star Wars: The Force Awakens? I love John Williams and all, but this category needs to have a serious intervention on what the idea of an "original" score means. You can't disqualify some artists who use preexisting music and then carelessly nominate someone else for work that is not only from a familiar property, but from films that you have nominated in this category before. This is a frustrating nomination not because it's bad music, but because the category has a certain corruptness that bothers me so much.


-Fifty Shades of Grey ("Earned It")
-The Hunting Ground ("Til It Happens to You")
-Racing Extinction ("Manta Ray")
-Spectre ("Writing's on the Wall")
-Youth ("Simple Song #3")

COMMENTS: A commenter once told me that the Best Original Song category has often been a diminishing returns category. I kind of agree with them on this, and am not looking forward to when I have to listen to some of these songs for Best Song in a few months. I mean, was the Spectre song really the best we could do? Wasn't there a more noteworthy song than the one from Fifty Shades of Grey? This category is confusing.


-Mad Max: Fury Road
-The Martian
-The Revenant
-Star Wars: The Force Awakens


-Bridge of Spies
-Mad Max: Fury Road
-The Martian
-The Revenant
-Star Wars: The Force Awakens


-Bridge of Spies
-The Danish Girl
-Mad Max: Fury Road
-The Martian
-The Revenant

COMMENTS: Right, because going into the woods (The Revenant) or the desert (Mad Max: Fury Road) had production designs. While I am willing to believe that the latter was more reliant on special effects to get the natural look, the former is definitely a nonsense nominee. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu stated constantly that he was wanting to shoot the film as naturally as possible. This nomination is already suspect and dubious.


-The Hateful Eight
-Mad Max: Fury Road
-The Revenant

COMMENTS: Carol is beautiful. Mad Max: Fury Road is beautiful. However, and this is a controversial opinion, but The Revenant may have these all beat with the sole nomination that it actually deserved. I think that The Hateful Eight looks good, but I still feel like there's something of feeling duped by having a film that features 70 mm and all to be done mostly inside one cabin, and not really take in the cinematography. I like the film and all, but someone needs to explain that one to me.


-Mad Max: Fury Road
-The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
-The Revenant


-The Danish Girl
-Mad Max: Fury Road
-The Revenant


-The Big Short
-Mad Max: Fury Road
-The Revenant
-Star Wars: The Force Awakens


-Ex Machina
-Mad Max: Fury Road
-The Martian
-The Revenant
-Star Wars: The Force Awakens


The Revenant (12)
Mad Max: Fury Road (10)
The Martian (7)
Bridge of Spies (6)
Carol (6)
Spotlight (6)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (5)
The Big Short (5)
Room (4)
The Danish Girl (4)
Brooklyn (3)
Sicario (3)
The Hateful Eight (3)
Ex Machina (2)
Inside Out (2)
Steve Jobs (2)

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