Nominations for the 88th annual Academy Awards were announced this morning. Many of the names called out were foregone conclusions: “Spotlight” for Best Picture, Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant” for Best Actor, and Cate Blanchett in “Carol” for Best Actress.
But as usual, it’s some of the names that weren’t called out that really have Tinseltown tongues wagging.
Here are the five most glaring and inglorious Oscar snubs of the year.
1. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
The newest (and highly anticipated) chapter in the long-running saga received stellar reviews and is breaking box office records. With the expanded Best Picture field now including up to ten nominees, “The Force Awakens” looked like a real contender. Alas, the highbrow Academy overlooked it for both Best Picture and Best Director for J.J. Abrams. “Star Wars” did manage to snag five nods in various technical categories, including John Williams for his dazzling score. When it comes to fighting the Dark Side, “The Force Awakens” seems to have lost with the Academy.
2. Ridley Scott
He led “The Martian” to an impressive seven nominations, including Matt Damon for Best Actor. But the acclaimed, veteran director failed to reap a bit himself – his slot likely taken by dark horse Lenny Abrahamson for the independent drama “Room.” It’s somewhat surprising that the Academy didn’t make room for Scott. He previously competed for noteworthy films like “Thelma and Louise,” “Gladiator” and “Black Hawk Down.” At 78 years of age, many considered this to be his last chance to finally take the prize. Oscar or no Oscar, Scott is still regarded as one of the finest directors on the planet – and the entire universe.
3. Will Smith
The one-time rap star has been a box office heavyweight for more than two decades, with blockbusters like “Independence Day,” “Men in Black” and “I Am Legend” all under his belt. While he may not be considered a thespian legend, he does have two previous Academy Award nominations for “Ali” and “The Pursuit of Happyness.” His latest release, “Concussion,” earned him the best reviews of his career for playing the real-life doctor who exposed the brain injury dangers faced by professional football players. Smith was recognized by the Golden Globes and had an aggressive Oscar campaign. But for now, his pursuit of Oscar will have to continue.
4. “Straight Outta Compton”
The biographical film about the hip hop group N.W.A. was both a commercial and critical success, making a number of year-end top ten lists. With key nominations from both the Producers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild, most pundits (including myself) predicted it for a Best Picture nomination. But “Compton” failed to make the cut, earning just one bid for Best Original Screenplay. Was the subject just a little to unnerving for older members of the Academy? The organization has long been considered to be out of touch with the movie-going public. Acknowledging “Compton” in the most prestigious category would have been a good way to set the record straight.
5. Johnny Depp
A three-time Oscar also-ran, Hollywood’s favorite pirate seemed to be sailing towards an Academy Awards nomination with a well-received turn in last fall’s “Black Mass.” As the notorious mob leader Whitey Bulger, Depp was virtually unrecognizable in the starring role. Most observers praised the performance, with many calling it his best work to date. A Critics’ Choice and Screen Actors Guild nominee, the former Jack Sparrow seemed like a logical bet for a Best Actor Oscar nod. But alas, the Academy overlooked the film entirely. A black day indeed for Depp’s masses of fans.