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Oscars 2016: The snubs, surprises and outrage

Memo to Hollywood: White men battling adversity is not the only way to tell a dramatic story

White men triumphing over enormous odds (Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises / Bleecker Street / Twentieth Century Fox)

White men triumphing over enormous odds(Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises / Bleecker Street / Twentieth Century Fox)

As the crossover audiences for 'Straight Outta Compton' and 'The Hunger Games' series proved, [millennials and post-millennials] don't 'need' their heroes to be white and don't expect them to be male or straight or anything but interesting.

Mary McNamara

The winner of the 2016 Oscar in practically every category is … white men facing adversity.

Just two years after the much-touted breakthrough of "12 Years a Slave," the best picture nominees announced Thursday, with a few notable exceptions, follow a dishearteningly repetitive story line of white men triumphing over enormous odds: The Hollywood blacklist ("Trumbo"), the vagaries of Wall Street ("The Big Short"), Cold War politics ("Bridge of Spies"), life alone on Mars ("The Martian"), a grizzly bear attack, murderous companions and the hostilities of a cruel winter landscape ("The Revenant"). ... 

To be clear, these are all good stories, powerful, well told and beautifully acted. But in a world filled with billions of people who are not white men, they are certainly not the only good stories, not by a long shot.

Though our demographics and attitudes continue to change, Hollywood's definition of great drama has remained stubbornly attached to standards and expectations set back when men were men (if they were white) and everyone else needed to just shut up and listen.

Ice Cube on Oscars snub: 'I'm not surprised...It's the Oscars. They do what they do'

Wendy Williams asked Ice Cube what everyone wanted to know after "Straight Outta Compton" was snubbed in the Oscars' best picture and acting categories: "Are you pissed?"

After some brief shoe-cam action by Ice Cube, "The Wendy Williams Show" host went directly to Thursday-morning's news that the N.W.A biopic "Straight Outta Compton" received just one Oscar nomination -- for the film's white screenwriters.

"I was surprised that you weren't nominated for more...I thought you guys would get more," she said.

"Me too," Ice Cube responded.

"Are you pissed?" Williams asked.

"I'm not pissed," Ice Cube said. "I'm not surprised, you know what I mean? It's the Oscars. They do what they do. The people loved the movie. The people supported the movie.You know -- No. 1 at the box office. Over $200 million worldwide. I can't be mad."

Watch the full interview above.

'Spotlight' director Tom McCarthy: 'Nothing was handed to us on this one'

"Spotlight" director Tom McCarthy was nominated Thursday for a directing Oscar as well as for best original screenplay with Josh Singer. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

"Spotlight" director Tom McCarthy was nominated Thursday for a directing Oscar as well as for best original screenplay with Josh Singer.(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

You have been nominated as a writer before, but this is your first time as a director. How does that feel?

The directors branch is an incredible honor. There are so many talented directors, so many individual visions and to be singled out is humbling. This is my fifth film. Directing is a craft and it takes a while to really learn what you’re doing. And you’re doing it on a very public stage. So you’re going to do some things well and some things not so well. I feel like with “Spotlight,” I was able to execute exactly the vision I had for the film.

And it’s your peers. I felt the same way with the [Directors Guild Awards]. I heard that when I was on a plane. My wife let me know. It was moving. I’m excited for the entire team who worked so hard on this movie. Making movies like this is not so easy today and this was a struggle from the beginning.

Does that make the nominations sweeter?

It does. Nothing was handed to us on this one. I’m super-happy for [distributor] Open Road. They’ve been so aggressive. We’re up to $30 million and expanding to up to 900 screens. That means people are going to see this movie with this nomination. That’s exciting, man. That’s why I make movies. And to talk about these issues. People are talking about journalism, about abuse.

Did you sleep last night?

It’s much more civilized here on the East Coast. I went to bed at a decent hour, got a pretty good night’s sleep and then I was up getting my two daughters ready for the day. I have two young daughters and one had to get off to school. So we were just getting everyone ready and turned on the TV and watched together.

How old are your girls?

Two and a half years and 9 months. My wife and I both screamed really loud when Tom McArdle, my editor, was nominated. I’ve made all my movies with Tom. He’s a great guy and a great editor. We were just so excited. We both jumped off the couch and my 9-month-old got upset. I’m still trying to explain it to her.

Does your older daughter have any more of a grasp of the situation?

Kind of. She has more of a sense of what I’m doing. The other day I left the house to go to one of these screenings. She asked, “Where are you going?” “I’m going to work.” “Oh. Are you going to show your movie?” “Yeah. I’m going to show my movie.” “And then people clap.” “Well, I don’t know. I hope they clap.”

The academy clapped today!

They did. And we all know that’s rare. It doesn’t happen that often. So when it does, you have to take a breath and say, “This is pretty good.”

#OscarsSoWhite video shows some Oscar snubs

George Miller says wife's 'Mad Max' editing nod was 'much more important' than his two nominations

George Miller, nominated as a director and producer of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” (Thomas Meredith / For The Times)

George Miller, nominated as a director and producer of “Mad Max: Fury Road.”(Thomas Meredith / For The Times)

How did you hear the good news?

We’re down in Sydney and, shortly before 1, we were woken up by texts. My wife, Margaret [Sixel], was nominated for editing. That was the first one and the texts just kept coming. It was good fun at our house. It’s a fine way to wake up in the middle of the night.

Well, it’s not quite the middle of the night. Did you try to stay awake?

I tried to stay up but I thought that people would let us know soon enough. Normally people texting in the middle of the night is not necessarily good news, but we were very happy. To be perfectly honest, her getting a nomination was much more important to me. She had a herculean task, editing all the hours of footage we shot.

This is your first Oscar nomination as a director. How does that feel?

I’m still processing it. I’m about halfway there. I want to do a little dance. It’s great when people acknowledge the work in this way. This is certainly an atypical film for these awards, so to have people in the academy acknowledge it is very affirming. It’s a really cool feeling.

And probably the last thing you ever expected when you were making the movie …

That’s utterly the case. Until a month and a half ago, it was a very remote possibility. Then it started to get some of the various critics awards, and that made it interesting.

Any plans to celebrate when the sun comes up?

We’ll probably go out to breakfast. We have two sons, 20 and 15. The 20-year-old slept through it. The 15-year-old woke up and jumped around with us. It’s still hard to believe. 

Adam McKay doesn't think he's better than Ridley Scott, don't even suggest it

Director Adam McKay's "The Big Short" earned five Oscar nominations, including two for the director and his adapted screenplay. The film is also up for best picture. (Kirk McCoy / Los Angeles Times)

Director Adam McKay's "The Big Short" earned five Oscar nominations, including two for the director and his adapted screenplay. The film is also up for best picture.(Kirk McCoy / Los Angeles Times)

How did you find out about your nominations?

We had some people come over. We figured, “To heck with it. We’ll take the risk. We’ll have some waffles.” It was strange that it was pitch-black outside. We’re usually not having waffles at that time. Everyone was in a daze.

When we first spoke in early December, the concern was more about audiences finding the movie, not Oscar nominations.

It’s definitely a different kind of movie. Some people, at the beginning, thought it might be too challenging. But clearly there’s a hunger for the information. We knew from early screenings that people were responding but you never know it’s going to go this far.

Winning nominations from the directors and writers branches … people are taking you very seriously now.

I’ll soon rectify that. You know what it is? Not to get hokey, but it’s a testament to the power of a good story. This is one of the biggest stories of the past 50 years with amazing characters played by amazing actors. And then I would give ourselves some credit and say we didn’t muck it up.

The movie has been finding its way into the political conversation too. Has that been gratifying?

Very much so. We really wanted people to connect with this story, something we feel is helpful and needs to be out there in the world. Next week we’re taking it to the Brookings Institution in Washington and we’re supposed to meet with some of Obama’s economic advisors. We’re not fools. We don’t think it’s going to change the world. But it’s thrilling to be part of the discussion.

Yeah, forget the two Oscar nominations …

I won’t go quite that far. (Laughs) But it’s thrilling.

Most pundits had you as a screenplay nominee. But not everyone figured you’d earn a directors nod, even with the DGA nomination.

I didn’t think director. I didn’t think it would happen. It was amazingly flattering and exciting.

This year, in the academy’s eyes, you’re a better director than Ridley Scott.

Don’t ever say that! (Laughs) I never want to hear that sentence again! He’s literally one of my all-time heroes. I was very surprised by that. But it’s the nature of the format. It’s never completely fair.

What do you have planned for the rest of the day?

You can guess what’s next. Sleep. I’m a great sleeper. I actually have work to do today too, reading a couple of scripts at our production company. Tonight I’ll do a little celebrating with the family. What a great day!

'Room's' Brie Larson reflects on her first time reading the novel

“I think I, like, wore a hole in my floor from pacing back and forth, because I just couldn't stop reading it. And the escape sequence was so tense; it was so incredible that I read it so quickly that I felt like I didn't even fully read it, I had to go back and re-read it again.”

Brie Larson, leading actress nominee for 'Room'

Mark Ruffalo praises his real-life 'Spotlight' counterpart

Oscars 2016: The nominees react

 (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Bright and early Thursday morning the nominees for the 88th Academy Awards were announced at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. After all the names were read, the nominees took the opportunity to express their gratitude and excitement.

Check out some of those reactions.

Jacob Tremblay celebrates 'Room's' nominations with a little light reading

This makes 50, yes 5-0, Oscar nominations for 'Star Wars' composer John Williams. Can you guess his first score?

John Williams conducting the score for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (2015 Lucasfilm Ltd.)

John Williams conducting the score for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"(2015 Lucasfilm Ltd.)

It would be like writing an opera, and then writing six more based on the same kind of material and the same story ... over the course of 40 years.”

John Williams on 'Star Wars'

Not even Meryl Streep can claim as many Oscar wins and nominations as composer John Williams. His latest nomination for the 2016 original score Oscar makes 50 times he's been up for an Academy Award. He has won five times. 

You know Williams best for his overture from the opening moments of the original 1977 "Star Wars," reprised in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which earned him this latest nod. And of course you know his music from the "Harry Potter" movies, "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," "Superman" and many more big-budget movies. But do you know the film that launched Williams' feature film scoring career?

As the Times' Classic Hollywood queen Susan King points out, Williams composed his first film score for a low-budget 1958 exploitation film called "Daddy-O." It starred Dick Contino as a hot-rod driver who gets into a street race with sexy Sandra Giles (shades of "Fast and Furious"?). The slogan on the poster? Meet the 'Beat'! Daring to live...daring to love."

And his first Oscar nomination? That was in 1967 for "Valley of the Dolls." Its tagline: "It's instant turn-on...instant love, instant excitement, ultimate hell!"

Last month Williams, now 83, sat down with writer Tim Greiving and talked about his long career.

MORE:

From 'Atonement' to 'Brooklyn': Saorise Ronan on how this Oscar nomination is different

Lead actress Oscar nominee Saorise Ronan appears in a scene from "Brooklyn." (Fox Searchlight)

Lead actress Oscar nominee Saorise Ronan appears in a scene from "Brooklyn."(Fox Searchlight)

On the day:

I’m at my hotel in New York City -- I’m here to start rehearsals for a play, “The Crucible.” [Joking] A small play. Have you heard of it?

Does this nomination feel different than “Atonement” in 2008?

I mean, it’s been about seven or eight years since “Atonement” -- you know, it’s a totally different experience this time. I was very young when we made “Atonement.” And I wasn’t too involved in the publicity. With “Brooklyn,” it’s something I’ve been involved in from the start, so I really feel it’s very personal. We’ve worked on it for so long.

But just to be recognized in any category by the Academy, and by your peers, it means a lot.

Did she think she might be nominated?

No! I was surprised. I try not to expect to win anything or be nominated for anything or even get a job -- it’s better for me personally to expect that not to happen; and if it does, it’s a surprise. I was actually preparing for it not to happen. It was a lovely surprise to wake up to.

On the rest of the day:

I start rehearsals in about a week and a half, so today I am going to go to Bed Bath & Beyond and get some bath mats and cushions for my apartment -- and that’s how I’m going to celebrate!

Creator of #OscarsSoWhite reacts to the 2016 Oscar nominees

Actor John Krasinski and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announce "Straight Outta Compton" as a nominee for best original screenplay. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Actor John Krasinski and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announce "Straight Outta Compton" as a nominee for best original screenplay.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

When April Reign started using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite on Twitter last year, she didn’t know that it would become the massive rallying cry for increased diversity that it has. She was just trying to articulate her dismay.

For the second year in a row, not one nominee in the four major acting categories is a person of color. Furthermore, people of color are virtually absent from all the other categories as well.

What does this continued lack of recognition of talent of color tell you about the industry?

April Reign: It tells me that the industry isn’t interested in changing the status quo and that there is a mistaken assumption that only movies about straight white males will bring in moviegoers. Obviously this is a for-profit business, and I absolutely understand that. But at the same time, look at “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” which has now grossed over $1 billion and is one of the highest-selling films of all time -- with a female lead and a black lead. So, don’t tell me that people of color, that women cannot fill seats, because “Star Wars” has proven that wrong.

Leonardo DiCaprio is 'ecstatic' that Tom Hardy was nominated

Lead actor Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio as fur trapper Hugh Glass in "The Revenant." (20th Century Fox)

Lead actor Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio as fur trapper Hugh Glass in "The Revenant."(20th Century Fox)

Where were you when you learned about the nom?

We were in the middle of doing press for the movie, for the big London premiere. They pulled us into a different room. We're pretty blown away. We feel honored, not just us individually but for the whole film. I'm ecstatic that [my costar] Tom Hardy was nominated -- it was well-deserved. This movie was no easy task. It was an experimental undertaking on an epic scale.

A lot has been said about what a tough shoot this was. Any scene in particular that was more difficult than others?

I can't pinpoint one scene. The whole endeavor was unique. Some days, I thought it would be a walk in the park, and it turned out to be more difficult than any of the battle scenes. The tough part was that we were fighting such insane weather scenarios. ... We all kind of knew what we were signing up for. We're not complaining about it!

You convinced Tom Hardy to take the role:

We spoke at great length, [director] Alejandro [Inarritu] and I. These two characters, they represent two sides of the same coin. The two are just trying to survive in a tough landscape. It needed to be an actor who could bring complexity and reality to this character who was brought up in horrible conditions, who has negative views of Native Americans. He too is just trying to escape this atmosphere. What Tom did was, he brought depth to the character and humanized him.

...

More on 'The Revenant' at the Oscars

The six biggest surprises

Let's start with "Carol." The Todd Haynes lesbian drama had been considered a front-runner since it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival last spring and instantly became a critical darling. And Oscar voters loved its acting (nominations for Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) and its screenplay (ditto for Phyllis Nagy), among other elements.

But the film couldn’t get over a larger hump — it failed to land a best picture nomination and didn’t score a director nod for Haynes. Perhaps the biggest surprise: With “Carol” not in the mix, this is the first time in eight years Oscar perennial Harvey Weinstein doesn’t have a best picture nomination.

Costume designer Sandy Powell talks 'Carol's' sophistication

A sketch shows the idea for the style of "Carol's" title character. (Weinstein Co.)

A sketch shows the idea for the style of "Carol's" title character.(Weinstein Co.)

Three-time Academy Award-winner Sandy Powell, who's up for another costume design Oscar this year, deftly contrasted the immaculately tailored wardrobe of Cate Blanchett's Carol Aird, a wealthy wife and mother locked in a loveless marriage of convenience, and the plain, girlish attire of her love interest, Rooney Mara's young department store clerk, Therese Belivet. 

I went through lots of old Vogue magazines from the months we were in, in 1952. Carol was the archetypical fashionable woman. Those '50s models have an air of sophistication and a very upper-class look.

Sandy Powell, costume design nominee for 'Carol'

Fox studio lands the most Oscar nominations

Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Revenant," which scored 12 Oscar nominations Thursday (Twentieth Century Fox)

Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Revenant," which scored 12 Oscar nominations Thursday(Twentieth Century Fox)

Twentieth Century Fox led its rival studios in Oscar nominations for the 2016 Academy Awards ceremony, thanks to its hit movies "The Revenant" and "The Martian."

Counting "Bridge of Spies," which the Century City studio co-produced and released internationally, Fox earned an impressive 26 nominations Thursday morning. And if you count Fox Searchlight releases including "Brooklyn," the Fox total rises to 30. 

All about the foreign film nominees

In the Danish film "A War," director Tobias Lindholm traces the nation’s involvement in Afghanistan through the ordeal of a commander charged with war crimes. (Magnolia Pictures) None

In the Danish film "A War," director Tobias Lindholm traces the nation’s involvement in Afghanistan through the ordeal of a commander charged with war crimes. (Magnolia Pictures)

The movies nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign film are tales of history, betrayal and adventure set against the Afghan war, the Colombian Amazon, the deserts of Jordan, a Turkish village and the mud, ash and corpses of the Holocaust.

Michael Fassbender calls in from the set of 'Assassin's Creed'

Lead actor nominee Michael Fassbender as Apple co-founder in "Steve Jobs." (Universal Pictures)

Lead actor nominee Michael Fassbender as Apple co-founder in "Steve Jobs."(Universal Pictures)

Where were you when the nominations were announced?

I was in the makeup chair. We're finishing up "Assassin's Creed" [in Britain] ... today is my last day, and tomorrow is the last day for the movie.

What scenes are you shooting today?

I don't know if I'm allowed to say! It's a little bit of harness work -- I'm kind of darting between both characters -- Callum Lynch and Aguilar.

Talk about all that dialogue you had to learn for "Steve Jobs":

The initial challenge was to take in all those words and break down the pattern. Aaron [Sorkin] writes in a certain cadence and that helps. So it's a lot of repetition until you get there. And then you get to play with it on the day. Danny [Boyle] had set aside some rehearsal time to explore those rhythms.

Did you ever meet Apple co-founder Steve Jobs?

No. I really didn't know him.

Not many people saw "Steve Jobs." Maybe the Oscars will change that.

Hopefully that will be the case. I think the film will stand the test of time -- whether it's in the theaters or video on demand.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu on 'The Revenant's' multiple nominations: 'Mezcal will run tonight'


We gave it our all on this film and this appreciation from the academy means a lot to me and my colleagues who made it possible. Champagne and Mezcal will run tonight.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, director nominee
Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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