Biggest Snubs (in order from most to least egregious)
1. Steve Jobs – Adapted Screenplay
The frontrunner since it was announced, Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant distillation of Walter Isaacson’s book came up empty in a crowded category. It’s so good, I’d swap out literally any of the nominees for this script.
2. The Hateful Eight – Original Screenplay
Best Picture was always a risky bet, since it’s Quentin Tarantino’s nastiest film by a country mile. It picked up deserved nods for cinematography, supporting actress and original score, but it absolutely should have been among the original screenplay nominees. Like Sorkin, there’s nothing quite like the dialogue of Tarantino.
3. Carol – Picture, Directing
Everything else was deserved (even if Rooney Mara is more the lead of Carol than Cate Blanchett), but I’m certainly shocked it missed both of these categories. I figured Todd Haynes was vulnerable after missing out on the directors’ guild award, but Carol‘s omission at the producers’ guild should have been my big tip-off. Still, six nominations is nothing to complain about.
4. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief – Documentary Feature
Who ever understands what voters in the documentary branch are thinking when they pick their final nominees. But this was a challenging, thought-provoking doc from previous winner Alex Gibney. Not only was it quality work, nominating it would have sent a message to the Church of Scientology that they’re not afraid of them.
5. The Martian – Directing
Late Wednesday, pundits were predicting it would miss somewhere. Best Picture was never in doubt, but I thought directing would be a lock too, since Ridley Scott got the DGA nod. But you can’t win ’em all. At least Matt Damon, still wildly underrated, got nominated for Best Actor.
6. Crimson Peak – Production Design, Costume Design
The only explanation is that voters simply didn’t see it. All the nominees in the former category were Best Picture nominees, save The Danish Girl (which still received five nominations). That movie was all craft, and it wasn’t give its due.
7. Sicario – Actress, Supporting Actor
It was a longshot anyway, given how crowded both fields were. But these were two of the year’s best performances, in a movie that will continue to be divisive. One day Emily Blunt will get nominated. We’re just all still waiting.
8. Love & Mercy – Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Sound Mixing
Again, the acting nods were probably never going to happen. (Forget for a moment that Paul Dano and John Cusack are both leads in the film.) But it should have absolutely been up for sound mixing, in my opinion the best work in that field all year. Again, voters must have simply not seen it.
9. Mad Max: Fury Road – Actress, Original Score
Look, the improbable big-budget blockbuster brilliance of this film getting this much love is the best story of the Oscar season. Still, I would have liked to have seen Charlize Theron and Junkie XL be among those celebrating today.
10. The Walk – Visual Effects
Whatever flaws the movie had, no one can fault its vertigo-inducing 3-D effects that recreated Philippe Petit’s walk between the World Trade Center towers. At least we didn’t get a “most effects” bunch like Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World.
Pleasant Surprises (in no particular order)
Tom Hardy nominated for Supporting Actor
He’s been giving tremendous performances for years now, without any major awards recognition. That changed today as he was nominated for the greedy yin to DiCaprio’s determined yang.
Ex Machina nominated for Visual Effects
Part of the problem with visual effects today is that even with all the advances, you can still tell what’s totally fake and what’s practical (which is why Mad Max: Fury Road is a good bet to win here). But Ex Machina, you could never tell what was digitally created and what was au natural. More of that, please.
Sicario nominated for Original Score and Sound Editing
As with any movie I’m a fan of, I’m glad when it gets nominated for something, even if it’s a smaller award. I thought it would blank on score, even though it’s the most unsettling one of the year. But Sound Editing I wasn’t even thinking of, despite being exemplary in that category.
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared nominated for Make-up and Hairstyling
Any time there’s an outside-the-box selection, I get very happy. It could even spoil if votes are split between Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant.
Matt Damon nominated for Actor
He’s one of the best actors working today, but he’s only been nominated in this role once, and that was nearly two decades ago. (He was also nominated for Supporting Actor for the not-so-good Invictus.) He was tremendous in The Martian, even if he wasn’t crawling on his hands and knees through frozen tundra.