Maybe the film academy can handle only one career coronation at a time. DiCaprio, yes. Ridley Scott, no.
How else do you explain the shocking exclusion of legendary filmmaker Scott, even though his movie earned seven Oscar nominations, including best picture? Has the ornery Brit rubbed people the wrong way over the years? Or is this another example of the Oscars’ bias against (ahem) comedy?
Scott’s snub came as the biggest surprise of Oscars nominations morning, as voters moved in ways both sadly predictable (again, no acting nominations for people of color) and somewhat encouraging. (Four of the 10 screenplay nods went to women.)
Alejandro G. Inarritu’s brutal Western “The Revenant” led the way with a dozen nominations, a strong indication that the academy will give Leonardo DiCaprio an Oscar both for his career and the misery he endured (as we’ve been told -- repeatedly) making the movie.
Those 12 nominations certainly put Inarritu’s movie, which just won the Golden Globe for drama, in a good position to give the Mexican-born director a second consecutive best picture following “Birdman.” Tom Hardy’s supporting acting nomination indicates deeper support in the actors branch beyond DiCaprio’s bear-battling work. “The Revenant” may be too violent for some, but the frontier retribution saga plays right into the wheelhouse of the academy’s predominant demographic -- older white men.
But then, beyond the considerable craft, does “The Revenant” have anything to say other than that revenge is a dish best shot in natural light? The academy isn’t above giving its best picture award to an arty studio film. Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” won in 2007.
However, voters have an even bolder blockbuster alternative this year with George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a high-octane opera big enough to contain feminist ambitions, flame-throwing guitars and barking mad humor. And it’s Miller’s movie, not Inarritu’s, that bears the stamp of approval from film critics, having won honors from Los Angeles and Chicago groups.
Should the academy want to take a more traditional route, rewarding an issue movie, there are “Spotlight” and “The Big Short,” both well-represented in the nominations. “Spotlight,” the polished, old-fashioned procedural following an investigation into the Catholic Church pedophilia scandal, was thought to be slipping, but the nods for actors Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams, editor Tom McArdle and the two nominations for Tom McCarthy (directing and co-writing with Josh Singer) indicate solid strength.
And you know who else was a double nominee? “The Big Short’s” Adam McKay, recognized for writing (with Charles Randolph) and directing the scathing story chronicling the 2008 financial meltdown.
“You never know it’s going to go this far,” McKay told me. “This is just incredible.”
Can it go further? The work is just beginning. McKay and co-writer Randolph have their first post-Oscars Q&A screening Friday night at the Writers Guild.