By Murphy Kenefick, Columnist
To say that 2015 was a bizarre year in film, in regards to awards season, would be an understatement. In years past, there has been a clear front-runner for Best Picture: “The King’s Speech,” “The Artist,” “12 Years a Slave” and so on. Even if there was not a clear winner, there was at least a close two-way race. This year, however, it seems that everything is up in the air. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announced its nominations for the 88th Academy Awards a few weeks ago early in the morning. The most dramatic category, Best Picture, can have anywhere from five to ten nominees. In a year that has been inconsistent among critics and movie-goers alike, the voters elected to choose eight films: “The Big Short,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Brooklyn,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant, Room” and “Spotlight.” Having seen all these films prior to the definitive nominations, I can attest that it is a fairly good bunch, with three of those films in my top ten of the year.
No announcement ceremony comes without notable snubs, however, leaving people irritated that certain actors or directors did not make the cut. This causes contained outrage at the Academy, often because one’s personal favorite did not get the praise it apparently deserved. The biggest one this year among many was the omission of “Carol,” Todd Haynes’ lesbian romantic drama starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, for Best Picture. I can sympathize with this disappointment, seeing as “Carol” was one of the better films of the year, certainly better than a select few of the nominees. There were plenty more exclusions that surprised prognosticators everywhere, such as leaving Ridley Scott (director of “The Martian”) out of Best Director, who was thought to be a potential candidate for winner. Aaron Sorkin, my favorite screenwriter, who wrote “Steve Jobs,” was surprisingly left out of the Adapted Screenplay category this year, though he is a two-time Oscar winner and just won the Golden Globe for “Steve Jobs” the same week.
The majority of the acting nominees were as expected for the most part representing fifteen different films and several studios. Frontrunners in these categories include Brie Larson (“Room”), Sylvester Stallone (“Creed”) and, of course, Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant”), who will most likely take home his well-deserved first Academy Award for his performance as a fur-trapper who was left for dead by his team and struggled to survive in the wilderness. While this critic personally believes that Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs”) gives the best performance in this bunch, I will be rooting for DiCaprio on Oscar night.
As for Best Picture, the tentative frontrunner remains to be “Spotlight,” the story of the Boston Globe’s investigation into the Catholic Church due to claims of child molestation. While I do not believe it to be the best film of the year, I do think that it is the best of the Best Picture nominations. The biggest threats to its victory, based on wins with various film guilds, are “The Revenant” and “The Big Short,” respectively.
The 88th Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 28, 2016.