Director Adam McKay, The Big Short George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant Lenny Abrahamson, Room Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
So, yeah. There’s plenty to be excited about here – Abrahamson, first of all, whose nomination was certainly one of the morning’s biggest surprises (I didn’t see anyone predicting that; most seem to think he took the slot destined for The Martian’s Ridley Scott). And it’s kind of great to see the director of Anchorman and Step Brothers being recognized for his pivot to more serious subject matter; The Big Short is, frankly, a fairly wild and experimental movie to get the sort of love it’s getting. McCarthy’s nomination was expected but earned, and don’t underestimate how easily the notoriously genre-ignorant Academy could’ve ignored Mad Max.
But no Todd Haynes. And I’m sorry, not one of those movies more beautifully expressed the singular vision of a film craftsman than Carol, which marshals everything from macro to micro, from performance to props, to create a world and immerse us in it, escorting the viewer quietly but confidently through a devastating emotional journey. That said, Haynes is used to this bullshit (he’s never been nominated for Best Director – no, not even for Far From Heaven), and, frankly, is way above it.
Actress in a Supporting Role Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight Rooney Mara, Carol Rachel McAdams, Spotlight Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
CATEGORY FRAAAAAUUUUUD, etc. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not one for getting all worked up about leading performances campaigning for safer supporting categories (though again, for the record, I’m fine with Therese being considered a supporting role), but a lot of people are still steamed about Mara and Vikander’s nominations here – especially since it meant the latter wasn’t nominated for Ex Machina. The main argument the anti-fraudsters are pushing is that those two slots could’ve gone to “true” supporting performances – like Helen Mirren (for Trumbo), Jane Fonda (for Youth), or Kristen Stewart (for Clouds of Sils Maria). But c’mon, Trumbo is lousy, Fonda’s in Youth for like five minutes, and Clouds and Stewart are too good for these Oscars (or this world, frankly).
Actor in a Supporting Role Christian Bale, The Big Short Tom Hardy, The Revenant Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies Sylvester Stallone, Creed
This category, one of the first majors announced, was an early indication that The Revenant was going to have a very good morning. (For whatever it’s worth, it’s one of the few nominations I actually agree with for that film.) This ended up being one of the most competitive categories, thanks in no small part to big, good ensembles like The Big Short and Spotlight; Ruffalo ended up going head-to-head with co-star Michael Keaton and came out ahead. Previous winner Benicio del Toro seemed like a pretty safe bet for Sicario, but it was not to be; Paul Dano, probably the lead in Love & Mercy, was campaigned for Supporting in what seemed like a no-brainer (Oscar looooooves actors playing famous musicians), but ended up shut out too.
Animated Feature Film Anomalisa Boy and the World Inside Out Shaun the Sheep Movie When Marnie Was There
This has become one of the most refreshing categories, as year after year, we see the kind of giant, high-profile animated films the category was presumed to’ve been created to honor shut out by very small indie/foreign features. And thus, delightfully, we’ve got nods for Boy and the World and When Marnie Was There over The Good Dinosaur and The Peanuts Movie. So remember, sometimes they do get it right.
Writing – Adapted Screenplay Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, The Big Short Nick Hornby, Brooklyn Phyllis Nagy, Carol Drew Goddard, The Martian Emma Donoghue, Room
Good scripts, all – and, considering how many nonsense nominations it pulled (Costume Design?), it’s a little surprising that The Revenant was left out. Make what you will of what that says about the film. (Sample excerpt: “HUGH GLASS grunts, gnashes teeth, expels snot.”) Lesson: Iñárritu and Mark L. Smith clearly should’ve let us know how cold their offices were when they wrote it. The radiator was out for days! They didn’t even have a space heater!
Anyhoo, the real surprise here is the missing nomination for Aaron Sorkin (for Steve Jobs), which seemed a pretty easy pick. That film’s shutout in every category but Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress probably means its much-reported box office failure affected it more than it should’ve.
Writing – Original Screenplay Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen, Bridge of Spies Alex Garland, Ex Machina Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Ronnie del Carmen, Inside Out Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, Spotlight Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus, Straight Outta Compton
Another longtime fave was left out of this one: Quentin Tarantino, winner of two previous screenplay trophies (for Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained) and a third nomination (Inglourious Basterds), whose absence is probably best chalked up to a film that’s more divisive than his norm. At any rate, this is a very good group; it’s a category that’s often more interesting than Best Picture, where the Academy feels they can honor some slightly more offbeat titles, seen here in the form of Compton, Ex Machina, and Inside Out.
A few more random thoughts:
So there you have it, our cheers and complaints, and I know, it’s very easy to dismiss the whole damn thing (as this writer often has). But I will say this for Oscar: for those outside the movie bubble – and, remember, that’s most people – these nominations and wins really do mean something, in terms of raising the profile of small pictures they might not otherwise be aware of, and thus seek out. So the slights are upsetting, sure – but keep in mind, somewhere in the world this weekend, someone’s going to go see Brooklyn or Room or Spotlight who otherwise might not’ve. And all complaints aside, that is a net good.