Oscars 2016 Nominations: a wild pre-season comes to a snub-filled end

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With the caveats that the Academy nominations are based on popular votes by its members, which means the nominees tend to have "good"ish appeal to most people, rather than necessarily the "best" in its category by any one's biased measure, here are the snubs and strange nominations this season:

BIG SURPRISES
- Mad Max, although tipped off by precursors and critics' awards, is somewhat of a strange picture to receive that many nominations considering it is essentially a genre film, and one that belongs to the most looked-down-upon genre: action movies. The fact that it did not just receive all technical nominations, but that it also scored Director and Picture is a huge deal to that particular genre. It did what the Nolan pictures couldn't. It got not just the sound and visual effects nominations, but also nominations in categories traditionally belonging to "serious" fares, like cinematography and film editing. Amazing feats, really, and one of the better stories coming out of this awards season. However, it missed landing an acting nomination for Charlize Theron. That's a shame considering how central that character is in lending Mad Max that gravitas necessary to be taken seriously. I'm also peeved that its score was left out in favour of something familiar like Star Wars.

- Room did as well as it could, landing one of the biggest surprises of the season: Directing for Lenny Abrahamson. None of the precursors pointed to this outcome so this was definitely a curve ball (which we knew would happen in the directing category - the Academy Director branch is almost as singular as the Academy Foreign Film branch!).

- The Martian faced the biggest snub in directing. Considering Ridley Scott just won the Globes, it's surprising he didn't land at least a nomination here. Although we knew not all the DGA nominees would get it, he wasn't considered the shakey one.

- Carol failed to land in two of the biggest categories: Picture and Director. This must sting for its supporters.

- The Hateful Eight tanked with the exceptions of Jennifer Jason Leigh, cinematography and score. No Screenplay or Picture nomination. Weinstein must not be happy!

- Steve Jobs also under-performed, and lost out an expected biggie nomination in Screenplay.

- Beasts of No Nation lost out BIG time this season. By conventional logic, it should've picked up Supporting Actor for Idris Elba, at least. It's the kind of picture that would tend to do well broadly, if it's got any traction at all with the Academy. Of the snubs, to me, this seems to be the most puzzling omission because it's the kind of picture that would've been nominated for something had it been released in theatre.

- The Animated Features category screwed with us. Matters not, Inside out will win.

- Bryan Cranston broke the TV barrier and landed best actor for a little seen film that's accused of being TV-of-the-week type of film.

BETTER THAN EXPECTED
- The big short landed better than expected, with a bonus Director nod that was only slightly less surprising than Room's Lenny Abrahamson in the same category.
- Star Wars missed a Picture nom, but anyone who follows the race would know that it had little chance of nomination (this is the middlebrow Academy, after all, not the wild west). All things considered, it actually did pretty well with extra nods in film editing and score.

SLIGHTLY POORER THAN EXPECTED
- Brooklyn under-performed, only getting the sure-fire nods.
- Both Ex-Machina and Sicario did poorer than one would hope/expect, considering the support these two smaller indies seemed to gather before the announcement. They're playing like real indies in the race now too.
- Spotlight did not land Carrell a nod. It is no longer a front-runner, and that's disappointing for its people, I'm sure, even if Rachel McAdams rode the wave of support into a rather surprising nomination.

MINI PUZZLEMENT
- Given its dominance elsewhere, it was rather surprising that The Revenant missed out on Screenplay.
- The Danish Girl landed Alicia Vikander a nod in place of Ex-machina, which it really shouldn't but whatever. I'm sure she's happy with either.

THE RACE ISSUE
- Straight outta Compton's hope for awards glory was pretty short lived. On the one hand, wow it made Screenplay! On the other hand, it did not make best picture. However, when you really look at it, it makes sense that it would not. Consider the scenario where it is nominated for Best Picture: the only other nomination this "best picture" would have landed is Screenplay and nothing else. That's not a best-picture type of scenario. It was never going to happen, but SAG kinda raised false hope of diversity.



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