In one of the most unpredictable Oscar years in recent memory, this morning's nominations were surprisingly...predictable. Oh sure, there were the usual snubs (happens every year), but no real out-of-left-field shockers. What can we takeaway from the nominations now, as we inch toward the actual awards ceremony on Feb. 28? Let's discuss:
1. Will Ridley Scott's Directing Snub Create An Argo Effect? Remember when Ben Affleck was snubbed for Best Director back in 2012, and voters rallied around Argo to crown it Best Picture and indirectly get Affleck the Oscar? That could happen this year with The Martian. It's a crowd-pleasing, consensus choice in its own right. If Scott had been nominated, I'd say it was the clear frontrunner. Scott's snub puts The Martian at a slight disadvantage, unless the Argo effect takes hold.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road is a strong contender. With 10 nominations, behind The Revenant's 12 nominations, Mad Max is no awards lightweight. It should be taken seriously in all of its categories, but none more so than Best Director. With Ridley Scott out of the picture and Inarritu having just won last year for Birdman, I think the Academy will have a free pass to do what, deep down, they've probably wanted to do since the movie came out last May: recognize Miller's astonishing achievement.
3. Stallone will win an Oscar for playing his signature character. 40 years after Rocky took home Best Picture in 1976, Stallone will probably find himself in the winner's circle again for his performance in Creed. Did you see the standing ovation he got at the Golden Globes? This year's Best Supporting Actor line-up is formidable - particularly Mark Rylance and the surprise inclusion of Tom Hardy in The Revenant - but Stallone is the feel-good story of the awards race. And, it is just so damn cool that the orchestra gets to play "Gonna Fly Now" when he wins. Think of it as a well-deserved lifetime achievement Oscar. Plus, Creed deserves to win the only nomination it received. It's that good a movie.
4. Paul Walker's legacy gets the shaft. I'm sorry. Not only is "See You Again" an awesome song in its own right, but it serves as both the emotional crux of Furious 7 and a worthy tribute to a beloved actor (certainly by Fast/Furious fans) who left us way too early. Instead, the Academy nominates some song called "Manta Ray" from Racing Extinction, a movie nobody has heard of? Ouch.
5. There should have been 10 Best Picture nominees. There were so many good movies this year with each having their own passionate fanbase that I thought for sure we'd get the full 10 nominees. Instead, there are only 8. None of those 8 were unexpected, and all were in the running. But, even if they never had a chance to win, the Academy could have done itself some favors, gotten higher ratings, and avoided a lot of backlash simply by nominating well-deserving movies like Creed, Straight Outta Compton, and Carol. To say nothing of the 800-lb gorilla that is Star Wars...
6. There are several surefire winners at this point. Leo will win Best Actor. Spotlight will win Best Original Screenplay. Star Wars will win Best Visual Effects. If you're a betting person, put your money on these.
7. More people will see Room now. If any movie stands to benefit the most from these nominations, it's Room. Little seen to date, Brie Larson makes for a persuasive front-runner in the Best Actress category, and with Picture and Directing nominations to boot, I have to think that this just jumped up to must-see status in a lot of viewers' minds.
8. #OscarsSoWhite is back. This was never going to be a strong year for minority nominees, but the lack of Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation, Michael B. Jordan for Creed, and picture nominations for Creed and/or Straight Outta Compton means it's an all-white race. Again.
9. The Revenant backlash has awakened. Oh sure, with 12 nominations in the can, it leads all other nominees. It's cleaning up at the box office. And, Leo is a lock to win. But, I think it goes empty-handed in every other category. Expect it to lose. A lot. People are tired of the whole "it was so hard to make" campaign, and, frankly, while visually stunning, the movie is emotionally hollow. All those nominations will lead to a lot of grumbling about how the movie's "not that good" and "doesn't deserve to win."
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