2016 Oscar Nominations

Let’s put all that Golden Globe nonsense behind us and get on with the real awards. The 2016 Oscar nominations were announced this morning by actor Zachary Levi and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs. Did anything surprise you?

I’m surprised that ‘Sicario’ got snubbed in all of the major categories. I’d heard a lot of good buzz and Oscar talk about that movie. It has topical subject matter, was critically acclaimed, and did solid box office. Nevertheless, it only scored nominations for Cinematography, Musical Score, and Editing.

I’m also very shocked that Charlize Theron wasn’t recognized for ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, given all the other attention paid to the movie and her prominence in it. She steals the whole franchise right out from under its own title character. Perhaps the Academy voters had too much trouble deciding whether her role should be classified as Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress?

Here are the nominees in most of the big categories, along with some brief initial thoughts.

Best Picture

  • ‘The Big Short’
  • ‘Bridge of Spies’
  • ‘Brooklyn’
  • ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’
  • ‘The Martian’
  • ‘The Revenant’
  • ‘Room’
  • ‘Spotlight’

The Academy made room for two populist picks here: ‘The Martian’ and ‘Mad Max’. Neither is likely to win, of course. Frankly, I don’t understand all of the love for ‘Mad Max’, but that’s me.

I expect that the winner will depend on what mood the Academy voters are in this year. If they want a serious, topical, important “Oscar movie,” I think ‘Spotlight’ stands a good chance of walking away with the prize. On the other hand, if the voters are wowed by spectacle, they’ll probably go for ‘The Revenant’, which leads the nominations overall with 12. The main obstacle that ‘The Revenant’ faces is that director Alejandro González Iñárritu just won last year for ‘Birdman’ and the Academy is generally averse to giving out back-to-back awards.

A possible dark horse might be ‘The Big Short’, which was very unexpectedly nominated in four major categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. This has been a divisive movie among critics, but so was ‘Birdman’ and that still won. It may be unlikely, but I wouldn’t entirely count it out.

Best Director

  • Lenny Abrahamson, ‘Room’
  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu, ‘The Revenant’
  • Tom McCarthy, ‘Spotlight’
  • Adam McKay, ‘The Big Short’
  • George Miller, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

My instinct here is to say that this will probably go to Iñárritu, except that, again, he just won last year. It’s not out of the question that he may take it anyway, even if Best Picture goes in another direction.

If not that, then it’ll probably be McCarthy for ‘Spotlight’. However, there’s an outsider chance that George Miller may swoop in. Academy voters love comeback stories, and a 70-year-old director who spent the last two decades making kids’ movies soaring back to relevance with a gonzo, balls-to-the-wall (and, for all its narrative weakness, virtuosic) blockbuster action movie is a hell of a comeback story.

Best Actor

  • Bryan Cranston, ‘Trumbo’
  • Matt Damon, ‘The Martian’
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, ‘The Revenant’
  • Michael Fassbender, ‘Steve Jobs’
  • Eddie Redmayne, ‘The Danish Girl’

This is DiCaprio’s year. That’s obvious, right?

Best Actress

  • Cate Blanchett, ‘Carol’
  • Brie Larson, ‘Room’
  • Jennifer Lawrence, ‘Joy’
  • Charlotte Rampling, ’45 Years’
  • Saoirse Ronan, ‘Brooklyn’

I don’t think there’s a clear-cut winner here. I’ve heard great things about all of these performances. Cate Blanchett already has two Oscars, but so did Meryl Streep when the Academy gave her a third anyway.

I’m leaning toward Brie Larson here, but I wouldn’t be terribly shocked no matter who wins, except maybe Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence already has one trophy on her mantle and will undoubtedly get another nomination the next time she makes a movie with David O. Russell (which will be soon, I’m sure). Given the mixed reaction ‘Joy’ received overall, I doubt that this is her year.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Christian Bale, ‘The Big Short’
  • Tom Hardy, ‘The Revenant’
  • Mark Ruffalo, ‘Spotlight’
  • Mark Rylance, ‘Bridge of Spies’
  • Sylvester Stallone, ‘Creed’

Yo, Adrian! Rocky’s about to win an Oscar. For real!

Best Supporting Actress

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh, ‘The Hateful Eight’
  • Rooney Mara, ‘Carol’
  • Rachel McAdams, ‘Spotlight’
  • Alicia Vikander, ‘The Danish Girl’
  • Kate Winslet, ‘Steve Jobs’

2015 was a big year for Alicia Vikander, but she got nominated for the wrong movie. She might have been in legitimate contention if she’d been nominated for ‘Ex Machina’, but not ‘The Danish Girl’, a movie which nobody seemed to like.

From all accounts, Jennifer Jason Leigh steals ‘The Hateful Eight’ away from its testosterone-filled cast, and I think she’ll win the Oscar too.

Best Animated Feature

  • ‘Anomalisa’
  • ‘Boy and the World’
  • ‘Inside Out’
  • ‘Shaun the Sheep Movie’
  • ‘When Marnie Was There’

‘Inside Out’ takes this, no question.

Best Foreign-Language Film

  • ‘Embrace of the Serpent’, Colombia
  • ‘Mustang’, France
  • ‘Son of Saul’, Hungary
  • ‘Theeb’, Jordan
  • ‘A War’, Denmark

I’ve only even heard of two of these movies, ‘Mustang’ and ‘Son of Saul’. The latter is about the Holocaust, and Academy voters typically feel obligated to give awards to any movie about the Holocaust. However, I don’t even know what the other three movies are about, so I’m incapable of making a prediction in this category.

Best Original Screenplay

  • ‘Bridge of Spies’
  • ‘Ex Machina’
  • ‘Inside Out’
  • ‘Spotlight’
  • ‘Straight Outta Compton’

This will probably go to ‘Spotlight’, though possibly to ‘Inside Out’. (It’s very rare for an animated movie to be nominated in a screenplay category.) On the other hand, ‘Straight Outta Compton’ got the most applause when the nomination was announced, and that movie’s not nominated anywhere else, so it has an outside chance as well.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • ‘The Big Short’
  • ‘Brooklyn’
  • ‘Carol’
  • ‘The Martian’
  • ‘Room’

If ‘The Big Short’ doesn’t get any other prizes, it may score the Screenplay trophy as a consolation.

Best Visual Effects

  • ‘Ex Machina’
  • ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’
  • ‘The Martian’
  • ‘The Revenant’
  • ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

‘Star Wars’, clearly. It has the most visual effects by volume, and the strongest brand recognition as being a visual effects movie. The fact that it’s a gargantuan box office hit doesn’t hurt either.

Best Cinematography

  • ‘Carol’
  • ‘The Hateful Eight’
  • ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’
  • ‘The Revenant’
  • ‘Sicario’

‘The Hateful Eight’ will no doubt take this trophy for the stunt of shooting the movie in the long-defunct Ultra Panavision 70 format, plus Tarantino forcing theaters to project it on 70mm film. If it has any competition here, it will be ‘The Revenant’ for its enormously long and complex single-take shots.

Best Original Score

  • Carter Burwell, ‘Carol’
  • Jóhann Jóhannsson, ‘Sicario’
  • Ennio Morricone, ‘The Hateful Eight’
  • Thomas Newman, ‘Bridge of Spies’
  • John Williams, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

The Academy will vote for Ennio Morricone. Quentin Tarantino will take the stage to accept in his absence, and will take full credit for discovering Morricone while cajoling the voters for never recognizing him in the past. (The fact that he was nominated for Oscars five times previously and was given a lifetime achievement award in 2007 will of course escape Tarantino’s notice.)

Best Original Song

  • “Earned It” from ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’
  • “Manta Ray” from ‘Racing Extinction’
  • “Simple Song #3” from ‘Youth’
  • “Til It Happens to You” from ‘The Hunting Ground’
  • “Writing’s on the Wall” from ‘Spectre’

Are you freakin’ kidding me? That godawful Sam Smith song from ‘Spectre’ got a nomination? It’ll probably win too, won’t it?

The fact that ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ got a nomination in any category at all is a travesty.

Three of these songs are from very obscures movies that most viewers have probably never heard of (‘Racing Extinction’, ‘The Hunting Ground’ and ‘Youth’). This makes me very suspicious of how they managed to get nominated. Has the Academy learned nothing at all from the ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’ scandal from just two years ago?

For the complete list of nominees, see the official Oscars web site. The ceremony will air February 28th on ABC, hosted by Chris Rock.


  1. Chris B

    The Revenant is going to practically sweep this fucking thing I bet. It’ll win best picture/director/cinematography/best actor/best supporting actor at the least.

    • Shannon Nutt

      This is my feeling as well. And come on, Academy, if you can nominate AVATAR for Best Picture (back when there were only 5 spots) you can nominate STAR WARS (when there can be up to 10 nominees). Were they afraid of nominating THREE sci-fi movies?

      The lack of diversity in the actor categories makes this this “whitest” Oscars since…well, last year. 🙁

      • Josh Zyber

        The lack of diversity on this list is pretty shocking. You want to know how bad it is? Even all four of the screenwriters nominated for Straight Outta Compton were white.

        I don’t have time to go through every technical category, but it looks like not a single black person was nominated for anything this year.

        • Shannon Nutt

          Abel Tesfaye – aka The Weeknd – is Ethiopian. Then again, the chances of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY winning Best Original Song are ZERO. 🙂

        • What else would fix this? Best actors? Like Jordan or the guy who played Easy E? Problem is, those roles werent that great. I just finished up watching Straight out of Compton and while he was good as Easy E, he isnt near who got nominated, I havent seen Creed so I cant comment but everyone is talking about Stallone’s role and not Jordan’s, so I’m guessing it was a fine performance but not Oscar Caliber…….IMO nothing of substance was there to just make this “unbiased”, really tired of the “white washing” comments when its pretty clear to me that no roles were good enough…..no idea about any other nominations but for actor or supporting actor, they picked good IMO

        • C.C.

          There was lack of diversity only because no people of color gave top performances.
          This is NOT about affirmative action. I personally believe the 80% black NFL is too black- are we doing anything about that?

          • Josh Zyber

            So you’re telling me that literally NO black actors gave good performance in 2015? I don’t buy that argument for a millisecond.

            Off the top of my head, both Michael B. Jordan for Creed and Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation were talked up as potential Oscar candidates. Either of them would have made a better nominee than freakin’ Eddie Redmayne, who just won last year and whose movie this year absolutely no one liked.

            Among actresses, Teyonah Parris was highly praised for Chi-Raq. But no, let’s ignore her and instead nominate Jennifer Lawrence for the fourth time – again, for a movie that nobody thought was any good.

          • This has nothing to do with how good the movie was, half the time, most of the oscar noms are for movies MOST people havent even seen or heard of before, especially in the general populace, so saying that these actor or actress nominations have anything to do with the movie itself doesnt mean a damn thing, if their performance was good in it, THATS what they were nominated for.

            Jordan in Creed wasnt even talked about, Stallone’s performance was, his role in that film was talked about all over the place and it won him a Golden Globe, I never heard talk of Jordan’s performance being Oscar worthy…Elba in Beasts? No clue, never even heard of that film so I cant really comment but it probably didnt over shadow Redmayne and his performance in The Danish Girl, the Academy likes those kinds of roles, I dont think it has anything to do with diversity this time around, nothing I’ve seen this year has had an amazing African American performance or any other race for that matter, that blew me away, now thats my personal feeling and as I’ve said, Jason Mitchell as Easy-E was a really good performance and I had tears at the end of that film, but I’ve tears from plenty of other dramas with GOOD performances, not GREAT and I feel that none of those guys did a GREAT job in that movie and the Academy shouldnt just be nominating for Diversity just because

      • Al

        Avatar wasn’t nominated, during a year in which there were only 5 nominated pictures. As a matter of fact, in 2009, the rules dictated that there must be 10 nominees. (This has since been changed to allow anywhere from 5-10 nominees, depending on how the voting shakes out).

  2. Chris B

    No offense Josh but I think you’re way of predicting Richardson to win for cinematography. Shooting on 70mm film is a nifty idea but I’m guessing Academy Voters will be falling all over themselves to give it Lubeski. The complexity of the shots, the natural lighting factor, the fact that this would make him the first person to win 3 times in a row…he’s a shoo-in.

    P.S. What’s up with all the venom being spewed at Tarantino as of late? Watch his globes acceptance speech again. He never claimed to discover Morricone or take credit for him winning. He just pointed out the fact that Ennio has never won an Oscar in America and he thought it was cool that he got to direct the movie that finally helped him bag a trophy. Let it go.

    • Josh Zyber

      I have admitted in the past that I’m terrible at predicting Oscars, so you could be right. However, I think the voters will be very hesitant to give the award to the same person three times in a row.

    • Josh Zyber

      Here’s Tarantino’s speech:


      He says that Morricone had “never won an award for any one individual movie” at an American awards show. He said this at the Golden Globes. Ennio Morricone had in fact won TWO Golden Globe awards for individual movies and been nominated 6 more times. He’d also been nominated for Oscars 5 times.

      Ennio Moricone is hardly some obscure talent who’d never been recognized by American critics until Tarantino brought him to their attention, which is exactly what Tarantino implied.

      • To me it sounded more like Tarantino was just stoked to be the person who directed the movie that nabbed his favorite composer their first golden globe (or so he thought in the moment). By pointing out (albeit mistakenly) that morricone hadnt won any awards up until now it seemed like he was trying to point out the travesty of overlooking a great artist for years…sorta like Roger Deakins never winning an oscar. If that happenned next month and Denis Villenuve accepted the award on behalf of Deakins and said something like “…I’m excited to have directed the film that finally netted roger his Oscar”, I wouldn’t thibk he was being arrogant, just that he’s a big fan of the guy…as most of us are.

      • Todd A.

        His wins at the Golden Globes don’t negate Tarantino’s remarks because they are the Hollywood Foreign Press. It’s not an American awards show, which is why it is such a hoot sometimes (and hard to predict). The Martian is a comedy!?

        • Josh Zyber

          The Golden Globes is very much an American awards show. It’s held in America by critics who live and work in America. It’s the Hollywood Foreign Press, not the Parisian Local Press.

          Tarantino gave his speech at the Golden Globes, saying how great it was for Morricone to win a Golden Globe that night because he’d never won an award in America before… except of course for the two previous Golden Globes he’d won on that very stage. If the Golden Globe doesn’t count as an American award, then what was the point of his stupid speech?

          Tarantino made a boob of himself that night, which is not a rare occurrence for him. It’s OK to like the man’s movies yet acknowledge that he should keep his damn mouth shut when he goes out in public.

  3. photogdave

    I can understand that not everyone enjoyed Mad Max but how can you say the narrative is weak? Is it because the story itself is simple? I found that the visuals hint at all kinds of intriguing aspects of the world created in this movie and the detail hanging from the framework of the story to be almost infinite. Plus, it was very exciting to watch!

    • Josh Zyber

      Production design world-building is not the same thing as narrative. The entire screenplay for Fury Road was one page long:

      Dialogue break. Furiosa mutters something about “Redemption.”

      • photogdave

        I understand that; I guess what I’m asking is, does that make it a bad movie or somehow impede your enjoyment of it? Do you think the movie would have benefited from more dialogue, more expository scenes, a wider variety of characters etc?
        Just curious. I really liked the simplicity of the story and lack of dialog – a lot like Mad Max 2, which was the least talky and most exciting movie of the franchise – until now.

        • Josh Zyber

          I don’t have a problem with simple movies. For a very simple, straightforward, nothin’ but car chases movie, I highly recommend Vanishing Point. As you say, The Road Warrior (a.k.a. Mad Max 2) is a pretty simple movie as well. I happen to think it’s also a much better movie than Fury Road.

          I know that fans of Fury Road tend to be over-the-moon about it. Personally, I just found it very abrasive and obnoxious and cartoonish. It’s nothing but pure punch-you-in-the-face bombast from start to finish. And I get how that’s supposed to be the whole point of it, in a very nihilistic, punk rock kind of way, but it just didn’t do much for me.

          I don’t begrudge anyone for liking it more than I did, but when it comes time to make lists of the best movies of the year, that’s just never going to be on mine, and I frankly don’t understand how it’s on anyone else’s.

          • Al

            It’s pretty clear that Josh simply didn’t get/understand ‘MM:FR’. There are enough of his comments about it, on various forums, to show that it was over his head. He failed to grasp it. He doesn’t see the depth and complexity that are on display, in spades. It’s okay. Let it go. He’s never going to see something that he’s convinced isn’t there. Obviously, the film is much better than he believes it is. And the narrative is much richer than he thinks it is. The proof is in the pudding (The awards recognition and the hundreds of think-pieces about its profound storytelling). There’s no point in making him repeat himself. He missed it. It happens.

            (I actually think there’s a strong chance that Josh loves the film, and knows exactly how superb it is, but he likes to rile everyone up more than he likes to join the chorus).

          • Josh Zyber

            That’s an easy argument, isn’t it? Whenever somebody doesn’t like a movie you like: “Well, obviously he didn’t understand it.” However, consider that perhaps we live in a world rich and varied enough to encompass the possibility of someone who did understand the movie but still didn’t like it.

          • Al

            Two things:

            First, why would I argue with someone who didn’t like a movie that I don’t like?

            Second, this has nothing to do with whether or not you like the film, or not. This is all about the fact that you make a continuing effort to undermine it, and your comments about it are evidence that you simply don’t see or understand a lot of what is there. You can dislike any film, all you want, but leave it at that. It’s clear that Fury Road is much better than you believe it is. There’s evidence of this, everywhere you turn. However, like I said, it’s okay to dislike great movies. Dislike it all you want. That’s your prerogative.

          • Chris B

            I’m kind of more towards the middle after seeing Fury Road a few more times. The first time I saw it in the theatre it was like a drug, a total fucking blast that left me on a high after I left tge theatre. That being said, on repeat viewings it’s clear to see the movie DOES have some flaws that it’s fans are a little too eager to overlook…

          • photogdave

            Fair points. I guess I just enjoyed the ride more.
            I usually don’t like bombastic F/X movies but I found this one continually compelling, and I think the hints the movie drops about what’s happening in this future do derive from a coherent, detailed screenplay and not just set design.
            FTR I’m a big fan of Vanishing Point and I find it’s nihilism a little more disturbing because of the realistic setting.

          • Shannon Nutt

            I didn’t particularly like FURY ROAD, either. I think it’s visually stunning and probably the best directed movie of 2015, but story-wise it didn’t do much for me. I enjoyed watching it, but it’s not a film I plan to re-visit often.

  4. Csm101

    I absolutely love Fury Road, but I don’t think it’s Oscar material. Maybe from a technical standpoint, makeup, sound editing, vfx, even cinematography. I thought it was one of the funnest rides of 2015, but it hardly qualifies as deep, thoughtful highbrow entertainment. If there was an Oscar for most bitchin’ movie, then Fury Road most definitely win it. If there was one performer in Fury Road that got snubbed, it’d be Charlize Theron, but that’s still a stretch. I wouldn’t be mad if George Miller got a best director because he did direct the shit out of that movie plus like Julian stated, as a lifetime type award.

    • photogdave

      Not all Best Picture winners are deep, thoughtful or highbrow. Recent examples include:
      Return of the King
      …and so on!

          • Deaditelord

            Wait Return of the King and Braveheart are the worst??? I can think of far, far worst winners than them. Cough… Shakespeare in Love… cough. The only thing that movie was best at was helping people catch up on their sleep.

          • Deaditelord

            Also, while Braveheart’s win is somewhat questionable given Apollo 13’s nomination, Return of the King was clearly the Best Picture of the films nominated in 2003. It’s not even close.

          • photogdave

            I agree ROTK and BH are good movies – in fact I’m watching ROTK right now. I’m just trying to make the point that a movie doesn’t have to be an exercise in intellectualism to win best picture.

      • Csm101

        Mad max is far more batshit than any of those. I won’t be mad if it wins, but I still don’t think it’s Academy Award material, best picture wise, especially when placed next to The Revenant, Room, or Spotlight. Those sound like pretty heavy hitters.

      • Csm101

        You know what?! I’m going to stop myself from The Fury Road predictions. If The Martian can win a best musical or comedy award than who the fuck am I to say Fury Road won’t take home the little golden naked dude!😃

    • C138

      Why does a movie have to be “deep, thoughtful and high brow” to be considered one of the year’s best films by the motion picture Academy? There’s nothing deep about Raiders of the Lost Ark, which got a number of Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Director, but it succeeds very well at what it’s trying to do, which is to be a fast-paced and fun action/adventure film. I think of Fury Road in the same way, although whether or not it works for you is, as always, subjective.

      • Csm101

        It worked for me on every level. One of my favorite flicks of 2015. It’s just not Oscar material aside from the technical stuff, in my opinion.

        • Eh I wouldnt say that really, the amount of effort and time that went into Mad Max, everything great about the movie shows up on screen, the production was amazing, the visuals were amazing and to have a story told like it was in one giant car chase? Masterful direction, but honestly, for what the movie was, it SHOULD have been The Expendables or any other throw away action movie but its not, its far from that generic crap on just about every level of film making and it shows with the heap of critic praise, fan praise and award nominations its received, to me, it totally deserves those nominations as it really has shown what an amazing quality action film can really do on multiple fronts

      • Bolo

        I think it’s more that history has led people to expect certain types of movies getting love from the Academy, hence the term “Oscarbait”.

    • I wouldnt be surprised if Revenant took home the gold but I honestly dont feel its a better film than Mad Max, Cinematography is great but IMO its AS good as what Mad Max did, same with direction, both directors did amazing things with both of these films, they really, to me, are on the same level, especially technically. Tom Hardy was awesome and Leo hit it out of the park in probably his most physical role ever, but I felt Hardy did better in actual acting. Not to mention Revenant over stayed its welcome, it slogs on in places and actually had me checking my watch for time. But thats just my feeling on it….who knows what will happen 🙂

  5. Is ‘Youth’ a very obscure movie? At least over here, the media were heaping praise upon praise (and even predicted an Oscar nomination for Michael Caine). The director also won (or gave his country) an Oscar for ‘La Grande Bellezza’ just two years ago (defeating a Belgian nominee in the process).

    Hey Josh, regarding “the Academy is generally averse to giving out back-to-back awards”. Do you have any examples of when it did happen? The only instance I can recall was Tom Hanks winning Best Actor in 1993 and 1994.

  6. The ONLY reason to watch the Oscars this year are:

    a) Hopefully, a Stallone win.
    b) Hopefully, a Leo win.
    c) Watching Chris Rock tear the Academy a new one for their lack of diversity.

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