It’s so Hollywood for us to use the word “snub” when it comes to award nominations.
Were Will Smith, Ridley Scott, Michael Keaton, Helen Mirren and “The Force Awakens” literally snubbed by the collective members of the Motion Picture Academy, as in disdainfully and purposely spurning?
I’m thinking probably not. It’d be more accurate to say certain actors and films simply didn’t get enough votes to make the cut — and in some cases, the omissions were unjust, at least according to this Panel of One.
My picks for the biggest surprises among the nominees, and the best films and performances NOT to get nominated:
“Straight Outta Compton.” A breakout hit from late summer, directed by an African-American, featuring a mostly black cast, garnering overwhelmingly positive reviews and grossing $200 million domestic. A nod for “Straight Outta Compton” wouldn’t have been some kind of statement; it would have been Hollywood recognizing that rare, relatively small, original film that resonated with fans on a level the industry didn’t anticipate.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Unlike previous box office champions “Titanic” (14 nominations, including best picture, and 11 wins, including best picture) and “Avatar” (nine nominations, including best picture, and three wins), “The Force Awakens” received only five nominations: four technical salutes and a nod for John Williams’ score. I thought the Academy would have found room for “SWTFA,” (a) because it’s a strong and wildly popular film, and (b) because it sure wouldn’t have hurt viewership on Oscar night.
The “Spotlight” nominations. As much as I admire Mark Ruffalo’s work in “Spotlight,” I’m surprised the supporting actor nomination didn’t go to Michael Keaton, who had the most pivotal role in the film and perhaps should have been slotted in the lead actor category by Open Road Films.
Jacob Tremblay. Tremendous to see the support for “Room”: best picture, Lenny Abrahamson for best director, Brie Larson for best actress. But Jacob Tremblay also deserved recognition for one of the five best performances by a child actor I’ve ever seen.
Will Smith. His work as Dr. Bennet Omalu in “Concussion” was more impressive than his nominated performance in “Ali,” and equal to his second best actor nomination, for “The Pursuit of Happyness.”
“The Martian.” Ridley Scott’s breathtaking and innovative film is up for seven Oscars — including best picture and best actor for Matt Damon — but somehow the director himself was overlooked.
Tom Hardy for “The Revenant.” Leonardo DiCaprio is a heavy favorite to win his first Oscar for his work in “The Revenant,” and indeed DiCaprio was a force as the insanely determined and resilient frontiersman Hugh Glass, but Tom Hardy’s villain was a more complex, more intriguing, more surprising character. Hardy gave a unique spin on a character that could have been reduced to sociopathic clichés in lesser hands. He deserved his nomination. Still, it came as something as a surprise, the crowded field of deserving actors that included “also-rans” Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”), Michael Shannon (“99 Homes”) and Paul Dano (“Love and Mercy”).
A step back for diversity. You can’t put this all on the Academy. Until mainstream Hollywood ups the percentage of films made by minorities and/or starring minorities, we’re going to see at best a handful of minorities getting nominated. As much as it pains me to say this, which black actresses were overlooked this year, either for lead or supporting role? The parts just weren’t there. That’s the REAL injustice.
Alan Rickman. Some 30 years after “Die Hard,” if you ask someone to name the main villain in that film — BOOM! “It was Hans Gruber.” Rickman’s portrayal of the velvet-voiced, America-loathing terrorist was one of the great bad-guy performances in modern movie history — but Rickman didn’t even get a nomination, let alone Oscar gold. Through a brilliant screen career in all eight “Harry Potter” movies and such films as “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” “Dogma,” “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” “Love, Actually,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Bottle Shock,” Rickman was one of the most valuable team players in the movies, one of those actors whose name you might not recognize immediately, but when you saw him onscreen, you straightened up and focused a little more, because: Hey, it’s that guy, I like that guy, he’s great.
This is the thing about the Oscars: Often they get it right, and nearly as often, one can only scratch one’s head over the madness of it all. No offense to Jonah Hill, a fine and growing presence as an actor, but Hill has two acting nominations already, matching Helen Hayes, Kevin Spacey and Vivien Leigh, and surpassing Robert Redford, Myrna Loy, Raul Julia, Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Meg Ryan — and Alan Rickman.
One seriously doubts even Mr. Hill would tell you that seems about right.
What’s wonderful about the movies, and the actors who create those portrayals we remember all our lives, is that in the end, it matters not whether someone was honored with a trophy for enriching our lives. Alan Rickman’s work as Hans Gruber will live on for decades.