Big props for “The Revenant”? Sure. Lots of love for “Mad Max”? Yep. Matt Damon? Of course.
But when the 88th Oscar nominations were announced Thursday morning in Los Angeles there were plenty of surprises, starting with Damon’s director. Here are six of the juicy ones:
Caroling. The Todd Haynes lesbian drama “Carol” has 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.
Screenplay surprise. "Steve Jobs" screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is an award-season staple who won an Oscar for his screenplay of “The Social Network” and was nominated for “Moneyball.” Yet despite that--and despite a Golden Globe win Sunday--Sorkin's name wasn’t called when the adapted screenplay nominees were listed Thursday. Whose was? “Room” screenwriter Emma Donoghue, the novelist who adapted her own book for the sreen — and wasn’t on many pundits' pre-announcements lists. The writers' branch got a little punchy generally, as it turned out — it also nominated the “Straight Outta Compton” screenwriters for original screenplay, another pundit long shot, over award-season perennial Quentin Tarantino and his “The Hateful Eight.”
Star Warring. Those loyal to the Resistance might be upset that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” didn’t get a best picture nomination. But the J.J. Abrams movie scored a major coup when it landed a film editing slot, a nomination that few experts had predicted. Film editing is considered a top prize and is closely associated with best picture — indeed, all four of the other nominees in the field landed a best picture nomination. That might be seen as a victory for Snoke and his evil minions. But in a year when some wondered if “Star Wars” could get any major awards love, a film editing nomination — along with score, visual effects and two sound nominations — makes for a key battlefield victory. Eat your heart out, Kylo Ren .
“Spotlight” support. It’s hard to suss out just how voters felt about the actors in “Spotlight.” The Tom McCarthy movie had so many great performances that one almost doesn't know where to turn (it’s a shoo-in to the win Screen Actors Guild ensemble award, for instance). The movie did garner a supporting actor nomination for Mark Ruffalo. And Rachel McAdams, considered a bubble candidate for her turn as a fellow reporter in the Catholic scandal procedural was in — something of a surprise given some of the Oscar favorites who were left off (e.g., Helen Mirren for “Trumbo”).
But Michael Keaton, who plays investigative editor Walter Robinson to great acclaim, was surprisingly left out. Combined with Keaton failing to win best actor at the Oscars last year after drawing big acclaim (for his turn in "Birdman"), it’s starting to look like a pattern. Keaton has had a great mid-career resurgence, but Oscar voters aren't quite willing to embrace it.
Danish dip. Speaking of last year’s best actor race, Eddie Redmayne, who defeated Keaton for the honor, was something of a surprise when his name was called for the best actor list Thursday morning. Redmayne stars in “The Danish Girl, a movie that hasn’t garnered much attention and wasn't expected to land much apart for an acting nom for Redmayne co-star Alicia Vikander. Yet there Redmayne was, knocking out some other favorites, both academy and fan, including Michael B. Jordan in “Creed.”
Redmayne was hardly the only male actor to surprise — at the supporting end, Tom Hardy scored a nomination for his turn as the villainous Fitzgerald in “The Revenant” after not garnering much pre-announcement heat. He edged out Idris Elba, the “Beasts of No Nation” star who many thought was in.
Riddle me Ridley. He’s a beloved director of Hollywood hits. He had the biggest-grossing movie of the best picture nominees. He was a favorite to win his first Oscar. Yet when the director names were called, “Martian” helmer Ridley Scott was left off the list. Instead, upstart Lenny Abrahamson, whose “Room” got in for best picture, was nominated. It was such a surprise that Abrahamson would tell the Times shortly after, echoing the thoughts of many pundits, "This is genuinely, massively surprising." How did Ridley miss the cut? And could the snub help “Martian’s” chances for best picture — the it's-been-victimized, now-let’s-find-another-way-to-honor-it logic, after all, did send ”Argo” all the way to the podium three years ago. Gonna be a fun six weeks...