They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

The Revenant Leads Oscar Nominations

By J. Don Birnam

January 14, 2016

All my suffering better win me this Oscar.

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After months of endless speculation, the Academy finally announced the nominees for the 88th Academy Awards of Merit. There were fewer surprises than in other years, to be honest. The Revenant led with a stunning 12 nominations, and is now clearly in a tight race with Spotlight, which also showed some muscle, for Best Picture.

If you follow us on Twitter , you saw some of the action as it happened live, including the Internet’s continued meltdown for Leonardo DiCaprio. Meanwhile, on Instagram, we’ve put up some pictures of the nominees.

The Best Picture Picture

In the end, the Academy made the world in eight pictures. I expected the first seven of them to be in: Spotlight, The Revenant, Mad Max, The Big Short, The Martian, Bridge of Spies, and Brooklyn. I thought the next two would be Straight Outta Compton (which missed despite PGA and SAG nods) and Carol (which, to be fair, had very little guild support). Alas, it was the Toronto winner Room that made it in. Despite the absolute lack of guild support, Room’s popularity could not be denied—as I said back in September, a TIFF People’s Choice winner almost always guarantees a slot here.

Who is in the lead? It is hard to tell. The Revenant and Mad Max lead the pack in terms of nominations (12 and nine apiece). Stunning even the wiliest of predictors, The Revenant received nods including editing, cinematography, art direction and even Visual Effects! On the other hand, The Revenant is lacking a key screenplay nod. Still, Alejandro González Iñárritu pulled it off last year without the supposedly crucial Best Editing nod. Indeed, the Screenplay races were way off from Best Picture - with Carol and Compton (as well as Inside Out, happily) finding space there despite missing for the top award. The voting system and the 5% threshold rule clearly have something to do with the misses for some movies.

Thus, I think Spotlight is right now the clear and unequivocal frontrunner. It checked all the boxes - Picture, Director, Screenplay, Writing, plus two acting awards, as well as editing. It has, in other words, support from the overwhelming majority of the main Academy, even if it does not have technical nods. It was never a tech-heavy movie, but many, including Crash, The Departed and Argo, have won under such circumstances.

The Martian, meanwhile, likely saw its Best Picture hopes end with the lack of a Best Director nod. The only thing that could revive it would be an Argo/Ben Affleck like-explosion of sympathy for the veteran who has never won an Oscar. He could then win the DGA and then the Best Picture Oscar.

The other big question mark is The Big Short. It seems to have cooled off a bit in the face of stiff competition. Will the Academy really go for the more comedic style? I have a hard time seeing them do this, particularly given some of the obvious editing errors in the picture.

And, alas, that was the end of the road for Star Wars hopefuls. The movie got five nominations, including a frankly very surprising Best Editing nod, but that was the end of the road for the movie there.

So, the guilds will have, as always, the final say. Starting with SAG in two weeks, then PGA followed by DGA, if something can win two out of three there, the race will be over. The SAG win seems assured for Spotlight at this point, and on the basis of that alone it is ahead.


Biggest Surprises and Snubs

In a show of strength, Spotlight took two supporting acting nods for Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo. In doing so, Ruffalo arguably took Idris Elba’s spot in a very tight category. Supporting Actress was a bit more confusing, probably allowing McAdams to get in. Not to be outdone, however, The Revenant also had its surprise acting nominee of its own: Tom Hardy made it in for his deserving performance, showing that the actors, along with the rest of the Academy, loved the movie.

The biggest story of the day, however, has to be the surprising inclusion of Lenny Abrahamson for directing Room in that category. We thought one DGA nominee would miss, and I even expected it to be Ridley Scott, but I did not expect it to be in favor of Room instead of Carol or Bridge of Spies. The Academy does not like Todd Haynes’ work, that is for sure.

Outside of that, I would argue there were relatively few surprises. I nailed Best Actor 5/5, and, as expected, The Danish Girl and Star Wars got a bunch of tech nods. Arguably, the very low showing for The Hateful Eight and Joy is somewhat stunning, though not really surprising given the tenor of those movies.

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