‘The Revenant’ and ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ have everything to play for after landing the weightiest nominations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences this year: Best Picture and Best Director.
Six other Best Picture nominees are jostling for the big one: ‘Bridge of Spies’, ‘Spotlight’, ‘The Big Short’, ‘The Martian’, ‘Brooklyn’ and ‘Room’. Conspicuous by their absence, gasp, are ‘Straight Outta Compton’ and ‘Carol’, both of which were expected to make the short list. What happened? You’re asking me
Not for the first time have the voters selected an exclusively white short list. Without ‘Straight Outta Compton’ – last years range at least boasted ‘Selma’ the Academy can anticipate rapped knuckles on both hands, for controversial choices and outrageous omissions.
‘The Revenant’, directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, attracted a dozen nominations in all – eclipsing every other picture – with Leonardo DiCaprio favoured as the ultimate wounded frontiersman, and co-star Tom Hardy as best supporting baddie. The movie’s other nods are in more obscure categories, such as Cinematography and Sound Mixing
George Millers ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ proved to be the second most popular film, with ten nominations, primarily for technical brilliance: film editing, costume design, make-up and hairstyling. In third place, ‘The Martian’, with a Len Goodman-sized SE-VERN – although its director, Ridley Scott, came nowhere at all. ‘Spotlight’ glitters with six, including Best Director for Tom McCarthy, and a brace of Supporting Actors.
Also nominated in the coveted Best Director corner are Adam McKay (‘The Big Short’) and Lenny Abrahamson (‘Room’).
And hey, guess what, it’s the usual suspects in the acting categories. Cate Blanchett lands her sixth Best Actress nomination for ‘Carol’. Jennifer Lawrence her fourth, for ‘Joy’. These fearless damsels face stiff competition from Brie Larson in ‘Room’, Charlotte Rampling in ’45 Years’, and Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn’. It could go any which way, truly.
Ever-hopeful Leonardo, denied in 1994 as Best Supporting Actor for ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’, and in 2005, 2007 and 2014 as Best Actor in ‘The Aviator’, ‘Blood Diamond’ and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ respectively, is bored of the joke and champing to nab a bouquet. This has got to be his year, hasn’t it? Then again, look: he’s got to scramble over king of the ring Eddie Redmayne first. Eddie is odds-on favourite for ‘The Danish Girl’, and Leo’s gone off bacon. What’s a boy to do? As if that were not bad enough, there are Matt Damon (‘The Martian’), Bryan Cranston (‘Trumbo’) and Michael Fassbender (‘Steve Jobs’) to kick off the side too.
Meanwhile, ‘Concussion’, Will Smith’s latest offering, and ‘Beasts of No Nation’, with Idris Elba, hobble away empty-fisted. ‘Creed’, directed by Ryan Coogler, was also ignored (although at least Sly Stallone is in the running for Best Supporting Actor). It’s rocky, it still has punch, I’ll get my coat.
In other earthquakes, Documentaries. Alex Gibneys ‘Going Clear’, about the Scientology movement (see) and Kirby Dicks ‘The Hunting Ground’ (swerve) were resoundingly snubbed. But the voters gazed compassionately on ‘Amy’, the tragic life story of songstress Amy Winehouse. As well they should: the piece is a heart-shredder. They were also partial to ‘Cartel Land’, set in Mexico; ‘The Look of Silence’, examining Indonesian genocide; and a pair of widely promoted Netflix flicks, ‘What Happened, Miss Simone?’ and ‘Winter on Fire: Ukraines Fight for Freedom’. No, me neither.
Under the Academys convoluted reckoning method, an eight-film Best Picture spread for the second year running suggests more than a soupcon of dithering on the part of the voters. Are they getting old? Bored? Thought they might shake things up a bit? Could it be that they are simply spoilt for choice? Doesn’t take Albert Einstein, does it. In 2009 the Academy, in its infinite wisdom, doubled the number of films allowed to be nominated in the Best Picture category to ten. So what does this tell us? Precisely.
The Oscars air live from Hollywood on 28th February 2016
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