The Oscar nominations rolled out last week, and since I was in California but still on Florida time, I was up in more than enough time to see them live. I’m not going to get into the oh-so-very-white discussion; smarter and more eloquent people than me have weighed in on the issue, and honestly, if you still need convincing that the Oscars have a diversity problem, I doubt anything I say is going to convince you. This’ll just be a look at the shallow, superficial, entertainment side of things, as the Oscars were meant to be.
- Although he didn’t get a Best Director nomination, I’m pretty sure Steven Spielberg could direct a public service announcement to a Best Picture nod. Bridge of Spies suffered from being merely pretty good Spielberg, and from a lot of other directors, might have been a major contender. As it is, it scored six nominations, including Screenplay and the expected Supporting Actor for Mark Rylance. I don’t think it has much of a chance of winning anything, but the accolades certainly show Spielberg has still got it.
- Speaking of Rylance, I feel a little bad for him. He was the presumptive Best Supporting Actor winner pretty much from the moment Bridge of Spies premiered. Then along came Creed and Sylvester Stallone’s heartfelt turn as the aging Rocky Balboa and the gears of inevitability went into motion. A win for Stallone is just too good a story (as well as being honestly deserved, as he’s great in the film), with too many echoes of past Oscar glory for voters to ignore.
- This might sound like blasphemy, but I’m kind of okay with Ridley Scott not being nominated for Best Director for The Martian. Because if I’m being honest, I could think of about half a dozen other directors who could have done very nearly the same job he did on that film. The Martian is a movie that rolls on its script and its cast and its technical achievements; there’s nothing about it that screams to me “RIDLEY SCOTT DID THIS.” I know there was a lot of sentiment for this to be his career achievement Oscar, but that’ll have to wait.
- Scott’s absence from the Best Director field opens it up even more for the capper to the most improbable awards run in recent memory: Mad Max: Fury Road scoring ten nominations, including one for Best Director for George Miller. There was some sentiment that Miller might score a nomination and that that would be the extent of Fury Road‘s major contention. But ten nominations speaks to a pretty broad range of support, and scoring a Best Picture nod in an eight-film field is certainly no fluke. And an Oscar for Miller seems like the best — and most likely — way to honor what’s become a certified sensation of a film.
- The other major nomination-getter was Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant, which led the field with twelve. It really feels like this will finally be the performance that gets Leonardo DiCaprio his Oscar, but I wonder if the Academy will be willing to honor Iñárritu the very next year after showering him with gold for Birdman. Back-to-back Oscars are not unheard of — The Revenant cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki actually has a threepeat in play — but it hasn’t happened with Best Director since the 1950s. So I’m not entirely sure Iñárritu pulls off the double. Still, like with Fury Road, the number of nominations indicates wide-spread support, although we’ve seen films with a high number of nominations walk away almost empty-handed before.
- I really thought Inside Out was going to sneak into the overall Best Picture field. Its nomination for Best Original Screenplay was a pretty major get, although not unusual for Pixar. But even with the expanded field and two more spots available, Best Picture stayed put at eight nominees and Inside Out is going to have to settle for its almost certain win for Best Animated Feature.
I’ll once again be live-blogging the ceremony; if nothing else, Chris Rock hosting combined with the diversity debate should hopefully make for an interesting evening. I’ll be rooting for Miller to ride home shiny and chrome, but aside from that, I don’t really have too much of a rooting interest. So I’ll just be snarking in general. You’ve been warned.