This morning The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced their nominees for this year’s Oscars. As always, the prognosticators did not get it 100% right. There are a few surprises here, both in terms of what got nominated and what got snubbed. Here is the highly subjective, yet completely correct guide to what should piss you off, what should surprise you, and how to chat about the major awards at the proverbial water cooler (i.e. on Twitter and Facebook):
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
Biggest surprise: Bridge of Spies. Steven Spielberg’s wry, dialogue-heavy Cold War thriller is the ultimate Dad movie, but initially it did not rank among the director’s best films. The nomination will almost certainly mean that your pop-culture averse father will ring and ask, “Hey, did you ever see that new movie with Forrest Gump in it?”
Biggest snub: Carol. In terms of talent, both on-screen and behind the camera, the pedigree for Carol could not be stronger. Still, the Academy was decidedly unimpressed with Todd Haynes’ sumptuous direction, as well as the simmering romantic tension between Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.
Stray observations: The average Academy member is a white male in his mid-sixties, so they wouldn’t understand subtext between women if one asked them to put their lips together and blow.
Adam McKay, The Big Short
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Biggest surprise: Adam McKay. The Big Short deftly blends financial corruption with wicked humor, and it is a considerable feat that it manages to be so entertaining. McKay is not known as a prestige director – he most famous film is Anchorman – and the Oscars rarely recognize comedy.
Biggest snub: John Crowley, Brookyln. Last year’s biggest crowd-pleaser did not direct itself! Thanks to Crowley’s sensitive direction of breakout star Saoirse Ronan, audiences fell in love with her within seconds.
Stray observations: Iñárritu won Best Director last year for Birdman, and if he wins, this would be the first time someone gets back-to-back wins for this category in 65 years. Let’s hope it does not happen: along with the constant invocation of bison liver, The Revenant‘s award campaign is brazenly cynical.
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Biggest surprise: Bryan Cranston. Jay Roach’s biography of the infamous screenwriter is a middling film, with a handful of decent performances, and it amounts to something we might expect from HBO on a Tuesday night. Cranston is the best thing about it, but maybe maybe this could have been the one time Hollywood does not celebrate itself. Whoops.
Biggest snub: Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies. Look, Hanks is already beloved actor and already has two Best Actor statues, but his latest collaboration with Spielberg took nerve. The role combines Capra-esque patriotism, along with a dose of weary courage. Hanks is the reason the film got the Best Picture nod.
Stray observations: Michael Fassbender will get an Oscar one day, but not for Steve Jobs. Aaron Sorkin takes the man’s complex life and distorts until he’s just another Sorkin hero: a preening, wealthy jerk who thinks he deserves more respect than he gets. No screenwriter celebrates himself more.
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Biggest surprise: Jennifer Lawrence. David O. Russell’s Joy is complete misfire, and got rightfully snubbed in the other major categories. Lawrence is the only reason people talk about the movie, naturally, but the Academy’s response to her Russell performances is practically Pavlovian.
Biggest snub: Rooney Mara, Carol. She got a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Carol, yet her character has more screen-time than Blanchett’s! Maybe the Academy thought she would be more competitive in the other category, but putting her there diminishes the sensitivity of her performance.
Stray observations: This is going to be a toss-up between Larson and Ronan. They’re both terrific, but let’s give Ronan the edge for her pronunciation of MacGruber.
Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Biggest surprise: Sylvester Stallone. This is probably the only time an actor will get a nomination for playing a character for the seventh time, and Stallone’s delivery has been the subject of mockery for years.
Biggest snub: Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation. His role at the Commandant is terrifying and magnetic, and while the Academy may balk at a straight-to-Netflix film, the film is more alive than many of the Best Picture nominees.
Stray observation: In terms of acting, this is the second year in a row with an all-white nominees. #OscarsSoWhite will be trending about as long as the countless think-pieces, and with good reason.
Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Biggest surprise: Kate Winslet. The voters must have been snoozing during Steve Jobs, since Winslet’s performance is flat-out strange. Her character developed more of Polish accent as the film continued – for no discernible reason, I might add – so her strident monologues did not land with the intended dose of righteous anger.
Biggest snub: Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria. Stewart’s understated, forceful performance has already been talked about and (rightfully) celebrated elsewhere, but a nomination would have sealed the deal. The film did not have a proper release in D.C., incidentally, but it’s available for a nominal fee through Amazon.
Stray observation: Stewart was certainly more memorable than Leigh, whose acting was difficult to stomach thanks to broken teeth and splattered brains. I guess I should just be thankful The Hateful Eight did not receive more nominations.
Best Original Screenplay
Bridge of Spies
Straight Outta Compton
Biggest surprise: Straight Outta Compton. This is a film that was directed by black men and starring black men, yet the only nomination the film receives is for its white screenwriters. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised at all.
Biggest snub: Grandma. Not only was the film a showcase for Lily Tomlin’s considerable talent – she could have been a dark horse for Best Actress – but the screenplay is cutting, literate, and really fucking funny. The scenes between Tomlin and Sam Elliott may eventually become a masterful example of understated performances and dialogue.
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Big Short
Biggest surprise: No surprises here! All the nominees are well-written, smart adaptations. I’m not sure which is the biggest accomplishment: the switch of perspective in Room, or finding a compelling narrative with The Big Short.
Stray observations: If The Martian wins – and there is a good chance that it will – it may bring out about a sea change in what books get adapted into films. The novel began as a blog, transitioned to an e-book store, and only became a literary phenomenon after that.
Best Animated Feature
Boy and the World
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There
Biggest surprise: Another crops of nominations with no surprises.
Biggest snub: The Good Dinosaur. While Pixar’s second 2015 film was not as celebrated as its first, everyone who saw it talked about the breathtaking animation involved.
Stray observations: Inside Out‘s victory is the year’s biggest lock.
Best Foreign Language Film
Embrace of the Serpent
Son of Saul
There are no huge surprises or snubs here, since many of the films are unknown and the Academy was working from a short list of nine foreign films.
Stray observations: Phoenix, last year’s best foreign film, should have been part of this discussion. It’s streaming on Netflix – check it out.
Best Documentary Feature
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom
Biggest surprise: What Happened, Miss Simone? While the film had a short theatrical fun, it was widely distributed by Netflix, and the Academy seems cagey about how the medium transitions toward the Internet. Also, the documentary has seen its share of controversy.
Biggest snub: Best of Enemies. The political documentary was a crowd-pleaser since its two subjects, William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal, had such open, hilarious contempt for each other. Few films were as informative or as entertaining this past year, and I’m including The Big Short on that list, too.
Stray observation: The Look of Silence is a spiritual sequel to The Act of Killing, which was one of the best documentaries of the decade. If it wins, I wonder if the Academy intends the award as an apology to director Joshua Oppenheimer, who should have won the first time.
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
Biggest surprise: Mad Max: Fury Road. While there is plenty of cringe-worthy choices in this year’s nominees, a highlight is how George Miller’s post-apocalyptic extravaganza got the attention it deserves. The cinematography is gorgeous, too, with a variety of moody colors and an assault of eye-popping imagery.
Biggest snub: No major snubs! Still, it would have been interesting to contrast Carol and Brooklyn, since they offer such different visions of New York City in the 1950s.
Stray observation: If The Revenant wins, it will be the third straight Oscar for Emmanuel Lubezki. Meanwhile Roger Deakins, the cinematographer for Sicario, has been nominated thirteen times and has never won.
That’s it for this year’s Oscar guide! You may notice that the guide includes few predictions, and that’s because the next six weeks of campaigning and box office receipts may been the difference between a statue and the forced smile of loss. This is a hard crop to predict, which means that The Academy Awards may actually be exciting this year!