You can't talk about awards nominations without getting up in arms about who got shafted and which contenders no one saw coming. So let's get down to business.
Todd Haynes's movie got six nominations, so it's not like the Academy completely overlooked the movie. And yet, no best picture nomination? That was a shock, because it has all the right ingredients: It was artful and meticulously made; the costumes and sets brilliantly brought to life the 1950s; the cinematography and score secured nominations; and, most important, Cate Blanchett was in it. What more could the Academy want?
Surprise: "Manta Ray"
The song is from "Racing Extinction." What? You've never heard of the environmental documentary? You're not alone, given that it only got a very limited release before it debuted on the Discovery Channel in December. So how did the voters know to choose "Manta Ray" over a more well-known release — say, "See You Again" from "Furious 7?" Unclear. But this isn't composer J. Ralph's first time at the rodeo. He was also nominated in 2012 for the doc "Chasing Ice." Whatever the case, you have to admit, the song is quite pretty.
Surprise: "Mad Max: Fury Road"
George Miller's sequel … or reboot (… or requel?) dominated the nominees list with 10 nominations, beaten out only by "The Revenant's" 12. That left many to wonder what kind of a world we're living in. How does a genre pic that's basically a two-hour chase scene get a best picture nomination while movies such as "Carol" and "The Danish Girl" don't? That's a question for another blog post. In the meantime, you can just come to terms with the fact that George Miller has a decent shot at winning that best director Oscar.
Surprise: Tom Hardy
Speaking of "Mad Max," Hardy secured an acting nod, but not for his starring role in the post-apocalyptic adventure. He was singled out for his supporting role in "The Revenant." The truth is, the British actor is quite good in the survival movie, but it was still sad to see that his presence on the list left no room for the likes of Idris Elba ("Beasts of No Nation"), Paul Dano ("Love and Mercy") or Michael Keaton, whose "Spotlight" co-star, Mark Ruffalo, at least landed a nomination.
Snub/Surprise: Adam McKay and Lenny Abrahamson over Ridley Scott
Scott has been nominated for his direction three times but never won. So with all the buzz surrounding "The Martian," people started connecting some dots. Clearly, he would get nominated. Then, even though it isn't his best movie, he'd get the equivalent of Martin Scorsese's "Departed" Oscar — an award to make up for lost time. Well, that's not going to happen. Instead, Adam McKay's hyper-kinetic direction of "The Big Short" and Lenny Abrahamson's controlled approach to "Room" won out.
Snub/Surprise: The whole supporting actress situation
When it came to acting nods for "Spotlight," Ruffalo and Keaton seemed like they were likely contenders, but Rachel McAdams was often left out of the conversation for some reason. Well, not anymore. Meanwhile, the rest of the supporting actress nominations are a little … interesting. No one is arguing that Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander aren't amazing in "Carol" and "The Danish Girl," respectively. (Well someone's probably arguing it, but you know what I mean.) But both of those roles are very substantial, much more so than your typical supporting actress contender. And lead actresses taking up spots in this category made little room for the Judi Dench-type contenders — women with very short but highly memorable roles — such as Jane Fonda in "Youth" and Helen Mirren in "Trumbo."
Surprise: "Ex Machina"
"Ex Machina" is not your typical awards contender. It wasn't released in December, it came out in April. It isn't a historical British biopic, it's a creepy, provocative sci-fi thriller. And it starred a trio of actors who, at the time, weren't household names. Of course, that has changed in the last few months with the epic success of Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac. Even so, the movie scored a couple of nominations, for best original screenplay and visual effects. For the latter, it beat out the likes of the flashier blockbusters "Jurassic World" and "Avengers: Age of Ultron."
Snub/Surprise: "Straight Outta Compton"
Speaking of movies that aren't typical awards fodder, "Straight Outta Compton" may not have looked immediately like a contender. And yet the fact that the N.W.A biopic brought up the timely issue of police brutality made it more than a summer sleeper hit. It was also the movie that everyone seemed to be talking about. Fans were holding their breath hoping that F. Gary Gray's film would make it into the best picture category. That didn't happen. The surprise is that the movie is up for best original screenplay, even though the writers got so much criticism for leaving out Dr. Dre's violence against women.
Two surprises for the price of one: "When Marnie Was There" and "The Boy and the World"
Sorry, "The Good Dinosaur." So long, "Minions." Tough luck, "The Peanuts Movie." Rather than go with box-office heavyweights, the animated feature category was dominated by lesser-known entities, with the exception of "Inside Out," of course. The biggest head scratchers were "When Marnie Was There," a movie that grossed $561,000, and "The Boy and the World," which raked in $17,580.