Oscar nominations produce shocking results

Academy acknowledges 2015's best movies with serious omissions along the way

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"Creed" lead actor Michael B. Jordan was left out of this year's Academy Awards nominations.

This year’s Oscar nominations are in, and as usual, viewers saw many deserving nods alongside a few unbelievable slights. Overall, A&E had a 76 percent hit rate with our nominations predictions.

“The Revenant” led with 12 nominations, followed by ten for “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Enthusiasm for the latter was clear as the nominees were read; each reading of its name was met with cheers. The nominations for Sylvester Stallone for Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay for “Straight Outta Compton” were also met with hollers. Other big nomination winners were “Spotlight” and “The Big Short” with strong performances in all top categories. On the whole, the top nominees show a wider variety of storylines than last year’s Oscar group.

Snub: Diversity in Top Categories

It appears that last year’s controversy over the diversity of nominees didn’t produce much change. While four women were nominated for screenwriting — up from zero last year — all acting nominees were white again this year. The individual work of all nominees was uniformly excellent, but it is hard to be satisfied with the lack of diversity in the list. The problem is a combination of voters ignoring apparent excellence and a broader lack of opportunity and choices. “Creed” lead actor Michael B. Jordan and director Ryan Coogler never caught fire despite creating one of the year’s best movies. On the other hand, there were only four plausible non-white acting nominees — none female — of which only Idris Elba wasn’t a long shot. The industry needs to create more opportunities for female and non-white filmmakers to tell their stories. Hopefully the years to come will feature a more diverse slate of potential nominees. If not, the Oscars risk losing even more relevance as an authoritative judge of the year’s best in movies.

Snub: Ridley Scott – Best Directing for “The Martian”

The lack of an editing nomination for “The Martian” may have foreshadowed the biggest shock of the nominations: Best Directing favorite and legendary director Ridley Scott, who has never won an Oscar, was snubbed. “The Martian” is the highest grossing Best Picture nominee, achieved critical acclaim and walked a tightrope between comedy and isolationist drama. Did this movie direct itself? Unless an “Argo”-style backlash sets in, the film’s chances of winning Best Picture are crippled. Scott is nominated as a producer, so he could still win his first Oscar if the movie takes the top prize.

Surprise: “Room” – Best Picture & Directing

This sublime drama looked in danger of being left out beyond the Best Actress and Adapted Screenplay categories, but “Room” turned in a better-than-expected performance with a surprise Best Picture and downright shocking Best Directing nomination. Director Lenny Abrahamson supposedly didn’t have much of a chance due to the movie’s small scale nature compared to the buzzier completion of the category. His movie was clearly well loved and the nomination is deserved.

Snub: “Carol” – Best Picture & Directing

The acclaimed period drama did very well in most categories, but ended up short in Best Directing and Best Picture. The movie’s weak guild performance may have doomed its chances, indicating a movie respected by various Academy branches but overshadowed by other, more popular choices.

Snub: “Straight Outta Compton” – Best Picture

Despite a very strong guild performance, the N.W.A. biopic failed to be nominated in the top category. While there was apparent enthusiasm for it — as indicated by the applause greeting its Best Original Screenplay nomination — its weakness across the board may have taken it out of the running.

Snub: Idris Elba – Best Supporting Actor in “Beasts of No Nation”

It’s a shame that Elba won’t be recognized for his excellent work as the charismatic yet brutal Commandant in “Beasts of No Nation.” He brought charisma and gravitas to a potentially one-note role. With this snub, Netflix also came up short with zero nominations for its first feature.

Surprise: Tom Hardy – Best Supporting Actor in “The Revenant”

Hardy appears the biggest beneficiary of “The Revenant” surge, making a surprise appearance in the Best Supporting Actor category. He’s been on a roll ever since his star-making turn in 2010’s “Inception,” with big roles like Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises” and as the titular hero in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” in addition to anchoring smaller movies like “Locke.” For an actor who delivers 100 percent in every role, this recognition is well deserved.

Snub: “Inside Out” – Best Picture

While Pixar’s mental masterpiece was nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Best Animated Feature, it was unfortunately boxed out of the Best Picture race. A plausible explanation is because it is an animation. Unfortunately, it still appears the Academy looks on animation as an inferior form of storytelling.

Snub: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – Best Picture & Directing

While the lack of a Producers Guild nomination probably doomed this revival’s chances, it is still surprising to see “Star Wars” snubbed. Not only is it now the highest grossing movie in history domestically — as Forbes’ Scott Mendelson points out, it would probably even hold the title adjusting for inflation and re-release revenues — but it was also critically acclaimed and loved by fans. Acknowledgement for J.J. Abrams acing such a herculean task would have been welcome.

Snub: “Creed” - Best Picture & Directing

If it weren’t for Ryan Coogler’s energetic and passionate writing and direction and Michael B. Jordan’s incredible lead as Adonis Creed, Stallone’s comeback narrative wouldn’t exist. Despite Stallone’s well-deserved Supporting Actor nomination, one of 2015’s best was tragically ignored.

Surprise: “Ex Machina” – Best Original Screenplay and Best Visual Effects

Last Spring’s sci-fi marvel surprised, scored nominations for its intelligent, thrilling screenplay and minimal yet effective visual effects. “Ex Machina” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” show how a movie doesn’t need to be released in the fall to receive Oscar love. In a perfect world, it would have also been nominated for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Alicia Vikander.

Snub: Aaron Sorkin – Best Adapted Screenplay for “Steve Jobs”

Oscar favorite Sorkin was shockingly snubbed for his masterful screenplay of “Steve Jobs.” It’s unorthodox structure and dialogue-heavy narrative may have turned off voters, but Sorkin’s work was the driving force of this excellent yet under-viewed movie.

Snub: Quentin Tarantino – Best Original Screenplay for “The Hateful Eight”

Sorkin wasn’t the only Oscar favorite to go unrecognized. Tarantino was deprived an expected nomination for writing his eight movie, “The Hateful Eight.”

Snub: “See You Again” – Best Original Song from “Furious 7”

The Academy snubbed the biggest hit among the Best Original Song category. Perhaps voters thought its success made it too detached from “Furious 7.”

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