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Oscar® Nominations 2016: Surprises, Snubs, and Frontrunners

The Revenant soared while Carol sank as the nominations for the 88th Academy Awards were announced this Thursday morning at 8:30 am (EST).

Directors Guillermo del Toro and Ang Lee kicked off the announcements while Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and actor John Krasinski revealed the later categories of nominees.  Prior to this morning’s announcements, it was hard to find Oscars® front-runners.  In just a few week’s time, several films watched their awards buzz trend upward and plummet.  Only a few weeks ago, George Miller’s Max Max: Fury Road was basking in the glory of the National Board of Review naming it the best film of 2015 — and there’s growing talk of Oscars® nominations for the film and its director.  In the end, Miller’s film grabbed the second most nominations with 10 nods.  Iñárritu’s The Revenant led all films with 12 nominations.

Best Supporting Actor:

Nominees:

Christian Bale – The Big Short

Tom Hardy – The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight

Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone – Creed

Surprises and Snubs:

There really isn’t much to nitpick about these nominees.  The only question going into this morning’s announcements was which actors from the same films were going to be omitted.  Steve Carell’s performance was just as award-worthy as Bale’s in The Big Short.  There was buzz that Michael Keaton would be recognized for his performance in Spotlight, perhaps evening winning the award as a consolation for losing out to Eddie Redmayne last year in the lead actor category.  In the end, Ruffalo’s more emotional and showy performance got the nod.

Frontrunner:

Stallone has momentum from his Golden Globe win.  Add to that his long history in the film industry and revisiting the iconic role that first made him famous.  Don’t be surprised if his win becomes the emotional highpoint of the Oscars®.

Best Supporting Actress:

Nominees:

Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara – Carol

Rachel McAdams – Spotlight

Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl

Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

Surprises and Snubs:

The nominees played out exactly as most media outlets predicted.  The only minor surprise (or maybe quibble) is that Vikander was getting buzz for two different performances and the better of the two (Ex Machina) was not the performance to get the nomination.

Frontrunner:

In years past, Best Supporting Actress was often the easiest award to predict.  But this year, there is a lot of backlash and negative buzz around category fraud.  Quite frankly, Mara’s and Vikander’s roles are both leads, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Academy voters feel their nomination campaigns were a ploy to secure them in a less competitive category.  Winslet has all the buzz from her recent Golden Globe win, but the film itself has zero momentum.  Could Spotlight’s momentum shine some light onto McAdams?  This category will be interesting to watch.

Best Actress:

Nominees:

Cate Blanchett – Carol

Brie Larson – Room

Jennifer Lawrence – Joy

Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn

Surprises and Snubs:

Blanchett and Lawrence are becoming the Meryl Streep of their generations.  Their performances are becoming automatic for award recognition.  Too bad that Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa got overlookedMost agree that Jennifer Lawrence’s performance is the best part of a pedestrian Joy, but Theron’s role will be talked about for years and years to come.

Frontrunner:

Everyone has tabbed Brie Larson to win.  She grabbed the Golden Globe and is well respected in the industry, despite her young age and unflashy approach to her career.  Room was able to grab a Best Picture and Director nomination for Abrahamson, but neither will win, so look for Larson to win both for her performance and a way to acknowledge the film.  The dark horse could be Ronan, who could easily step into Larson’s shoes if momentum for Brooklyn trends up and Room sees its buzz fizzle.

Best Actor:

Nominees:

Bryan Cranston – Trumbo

Matt Damon – The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant

Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

Surprises and Snubs:

I’ll leave it to you to decide whether Eddie Redmayne’s Oscars® -bait performance deserved a nod over Will Smith in Concussion or Michael B. Jordan in Creed.  Will we see a repeat #hashtag of #OscarsSoWhite?

Frontrunner:

Several entertainment and media outlets have already crowned Leo the “King of the World!”  Most pundits agree; it’s DiCaprio’s year.  And unlike years past, when other nominees were given front-runner status, The “Revenant” star rightfully deserves the little golden statue for his portrayal of Hugh Glass.  It’s not just a lifetime achievement award.

Best Director: 

Nominees:

Adam McKay – The Big Short

George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant

Lenny Abrahamson – Room

Todd McCarthy – Spotlight

Surprises and Snubs:

What happens when you can nominate up to ten Best Pictures but only five Best Directors?  As always, this category tends to have the most surprises and snubs.  Ridley Scott was overlooked in favor of Lenny Abrahamson, the director of Room.  Many pundits had predicted building momentum for Abrahamson nomination, but those same pundits at CNN or Variety thought it would be Miller, and not Scott, who would be the casualty.  The Directors Guild of America’s voting pattern of past picks also indicated that Todd Haynes would get a nomination for his quiet, artsy film Carol, but in the end it was overlooked in both Direction and Best Picture.

Frontrunner:

This is a tough call.  Is the academy ready to award Iñárritu a second consecutive Best Director Oscars®?  The Revenant has all the momentum heading into the Oscars® campaign season and secured the most nominations.  But we’ve seen momentum and buzz crash and burn between the nominations and the awards ceremony.  Just look at Boyhood from last year.  There is a chance that Miller’s overall career and the surprise of Fury Road could work in his favor.  But Spotlight is actually the safest Oscars® film, and Todd McCarthy’s quiet and unassuming direction echos the golden age of seventies filmmaking.  Look for McCarthy to be a favorite among the older generation of voters.

Best Picture:

Nominees:

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies

Brooklyn

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

Surprises and Snubs:

Carol was viewed as a shoe-in, but apparently Brooklyn and Room there wasn’t enough room for three small indie films (despite there being up to ten nomination slots).  There had been growing buzz for Straight Outta Compton and Ex Machina due to their nominations from the Producers Guild, but both were still considered dark horses.  Only Carol’s omission can be categorized as a surprise and snub.

Frontrunner:

Just like the Best Director category, it’s a three man race.  The Revenant has the buzz, the box office, and the superstar in DiCaprio.  But will Birdman’s win last year hurt The Revenant?  Will the Academy bestow history on Iñárritu with back-to-back wins?  Mad Max: Fury Road has gotten a lotta love, but is its blockbuster template and emphasis on action over drama going to resonate with the older voters and the pretentious voters?  Spotlight again is the safest bet.

The 88th Oscars will be held on Sunday, February 28, 2016 and will be televised live by ABC at 7e|4p. Chris Rock is scheduled to host the awards.

Full List of Nominees

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Jonathan Hetterly, LPC

Jonathan Hetterly is a therapist, writer, and pop culture addict. He’s also a contributor to The Shrink Tank podcast. Follow him at @jhetterly and @shrink_tank.

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