The brutal 1820s frontier revenge thriller “The Revenant” landed a leading 12 nominations for the 88th annual Academy Awards, while the acting categories were again filled entirely by white performers a year after the Oscars came under withering criticism over its lack of diversity.
The strong showing Thursday for “The Revenant,” including a best actor nod for Leonardo DiCaprio and best supporting actor for Tom Hardy, follows its win at the Golden Globes. It sets up director Alejandro Inarritu for a possible back-to-back win following his sweep of best picture, director and screenplay for “Birdman” last year.
“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,” said Inarritu in a statement. “Champagne and mezcal will run tonight!”
George Miller’s post-apocalyptic sequel “Mad Max: Fury Road” followed with 10 nominations, including best picture and best director for Miller. Ridley Scott’s sci-fi epic “The Martian” landed seven nominations, including best picture and best actor for Matt Damon, but, surprisingly, no best director nod for Scott.
Eight out of a possible ten films were nominated for best picture. The other five were: Tom McCarthy’s investigative journalistic procedural “Spotlight,” Steven Spielberg’s Cold War thriller “Bridge of Spies,” Adam McKay’s Michael Lewis adaptation “The Big Short,” the mother-son captive drama “Room” and the ’50s Irish immigrant tale “Brooklyn.”
Left on the outside were Todd Haynes’ lesbian romance “Carol” (which fared better in acting nominations for Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) and the N.W.A biopic “Straight Outta Compton” (which still landed a nod for original screenplay). The miss for “Carol” meant one usual Oscar heavyweight – Harvey Weinstein – won’t have a horse in the best picture race for the first time since 2008.
The acting nominees, which notably omitted Idris Elba for “Beasts of No Nation” and Benicio Del Toro for “Sicario” – both of whom were predicted by many handicappers – gave the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences an awkward repeat of the “OscarsSoWhite” backlash that followed last year’s acting nominees.
Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs has since redoubled efforts to diversify the academy’s membership, and slated Chris Rock – who a year ago famously labeled Hollywood a “white industry” – to host this year’s Feb. 28 ceremony.
“I really was disappointed,” said Isaacs after nominations were announced. “What is important is that this entire conversation of diversity is here and that we are talking about it. And I think we will not just talk because people will say, ‘Well don’t just talk. You gotta do.’ Talking gets to the doing, and we are going to do.”
Alongside DiCaprio and Damon, the best actor nominees are: Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs”), Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”) and Bryan Cranston (“Trumbo”). Two big names were left out: Johnny Depp for “Black Mass” and Will Smith for “Concussion.”
In a statement, DiCaprio, who’s expected to land his first Oscar in his fifth nomination, called making “The Revenant” ”one of the most rewarding and collaborative experiences of my life.”
The best actress field is led by favorite Brie Larson for “Room,” along with Jennifer Lawrence (for “Joy,” making her, at 25, the youngest four-time nominee), Cate Blanchett (her seventh nod, for “Carol”), Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”) and Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”).
After seemingly slipping in an unpredictable awards season, “Spotlight” rebounded Thursday, landing six nominations including best director for McCarthy, best screenplay for McCarthy and Josh Singer, best supporting actress for Rachel McAdams and best supporting actor for Mark Ruffalo.
Sylvester Stallone, reprising his role as Rocky Balboa in “Creed,” looms large in the supporting actor category. His stiffest competition is seen as Mark Rylance, best known for his stage work, for “Bridge of Spies.” Also nominated were Tom Hardy (“The Revenant”) and Christian Bale (“The Big Short”).
“I am incredibly humbled by this honor,” Stallone, first nominated for the role in 1976 for “Rocky,” wrote in an email. “I was not expecting it … especially at this time in my life. I am certainly grateful to the artists and collaborators who helped make it possible.”
Stallone was the only nominee for Ryan Coogler’s “Creed,” which drew raves for its director and star, Michael B. Jordan.
“Irony of ironies, the only actor who received a nomination for ‘Creed’ is white,” said Gil Robertson, president of the African American Film Critics Association, which named “Straight Outta Compton” best picture. “The academy really needs to look at itself. Under Cheryl Boone Isaac’s direction, they have been making terrific strides toward diversity. Hopefully that will start to pay off over time.”
Nominees for best director shunned not just one filmmaking legend in Scott, but also Spielberg. Instead, Lenny Abrahamson for “Room” was the unexpected addition along with Adam McKay, known best for his broader Will Ferrell comedies, for “The Big Short.”
McKay by phone said he made a pre-dawn party of watching the nominations, inviting over co-writer Charles Randolph and film editor Hank Corwin and his wife for some early breakfast.
“It was thrilling. We were screaming like idiots in the pitch black with the smell of waffles in the room,” McKay said.
Along with Mara and McAdams, the best supporting actress nominees were Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl”), Jennifer Jason Leigh (“The Hateful Eight”) and Kate Winslet (“Steve Jobs”), her seventh nod.
As expected, Pixar’s “Inside Out” landed a best animated feature nod, as did the Charlie Kaufman-penned stop-motion animation “Anomalisa,” ”Shaun the Sheep Movie,” ”Boy and the World” and “When Marnie Was There.”
The nomination for Pixar (which also landed a best screenplay nod for “Inside Out”) restores its nearly unblemished record of Oscar nominations, broken only by 2011’s “Cars 2” and 2013’s “Monsters University.”
The foreign language category drew films from Hungary (“Son Of Saul”), France (“Mustang”), Jordan (“Theeb”), Denmark (“A War”) and Colombia (“Embrace the Serpent”). Jordan and Columbia celebrated their first nominations.
Though some fans had hoped for a better showing, the box-office behemoth “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” failed to land a best picture nomination. It instead scored five technical nods for editing, score, visual effects, sound mixing and sound editing.
Since the best picture field was expanded from five nominees to up to 10, in 2009, partly to make room for bigger, more populist films like Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” alongside acclaimed independent releases.
But the chances for “The Force Awakens” were hurt because the category already has one sci-fi blockbuster (“The Martian”), as well as a number of major studio releases. 20th Century Fox had an especially good day, led by “The Revenant” and “The Martian.” Two indie upstarts, Open Road (“Spotlight”) and A24 (“Room”), notched their first best picture nominations.
Netflix, which has previously scored nominations for documentaries, fell short in its first bid for fiction film nods. Its first original feature, Cary Fukunaga’s West African child war film “Beasts of No Nation,” was shut out.
Netflix did, however, again break into the documentary category with “What Happened, Miss Simone?” and “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.” The other nominees were “Amy,” ”Cartel Land” and “The Look of Silence.” Surprisingly left out was Alex Gibney’s incendiary “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.”
Nominations were announced shortly after the passing of Alan Rickman, famed for “Die Hard” and “Harry Potter” but never Oscar-nominated, at 69.
Associated Press’ Sandy Cohen, Lindsey Bahr and Michael Cidoni Lennox in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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