Looks like the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite will be trending on social media again. For the second year in a row, every one of the acting nominees in lead and supporting roles is white. The academy had plenty of opportunities to nominate a performer of color: Michael B. Jordan (funny how his "Creed" co-star, Sylvester Stallone, got a supporting nomination), Will Smith ("Concussion"), Samuel L. Jackson ("The Hateful Eight"), for example.
In addition, "Straight Outta Compton," the biopic of rappers N.W.A., seemed a strong prospect for a best picture nomination — after all, it's up for the prestigious Screen Actors Guild Awards ensemble prize. But it must settle for just one category, original screenplay (written by two white people).
Also for the second year in a row, the one consolation is that one of the five nominees for best director is Mexican: Alejandro G. Inarritu, who won last year for "Birdman," was nominated for "The Revenant."
Last year, Academy Awards host Neil Patrick Harris opened the ceremony with this line: "Tonight we honor Hollywood's best and whitest. Sorry, brightest." This year's host, Chris Rock, should have plenty more to say.
"Star Wars: The Force Awakens"
This is exactly the sort of movie that spurred the academy to expand the best picture category from a mere five nominees to as many as 10: so that the list wouldn't be limited to critical darlings that no one saw and so that audiences might actually care to tune in to the awards ceremony.
J.J. Abrams' "Star Wars" is America's top-grossing movie of all time, racking up $820 million in less than a month, and critics love it too — its Rotten Tomatoes score is 93 percent. It delivered on every level: excitement, drama and aching emotion.
OK, this year we can't say the academy's noses are so high in the air they can't smell an obvious contender. Two of the eight best picture contenders are sci-fi blockbusters: "The Martian," which has grossed $227 million so far, and "Mad Max: Fury Road," $154 million. And expect Leonardo DiCaprio's Western "The Revenant," which just opened in smaller markets like Kansas City last week, to easily top $100 million.
"Star Wars" did pretty well for itself in technical categories, racking up five nominations for original score, editing, visual effects, sound mixing and sound editing.
"The Martian" has a whopping seven nominations, including best picture, actor and adapted screenplay, but the director who made it all happen got no recognition. Ridley Scott is a respected veteran, a current Directors Guild nominee, who has been nominated three times before (for "Black Hawk Down," "Gladiator" and "Thelma & Louise") but has never won.
Going in to the nominations, Scott was considered a possible front-runner to win, much as Alfonso Cuaron won for "Gravity." Seems there was only one slot for a sci-fi director, and it went to a man who has never been nominated in this category: "Mad Max's" George Miller.
Meanwhile, this snub will cripple "The Martian's" chance for the top prize: Only four films have ever won best picture with no director nomination, most recently 2012's "Argo," when director Ben Affleck was infamously ignored.
How could this glittering drama have been left out of the best picture category? As our review said, the film, "so elegantly staged you can practically smell the characters' perfume, is as much of a sensory experience as it is an emotional one." Director Todd Haynes was ignored as well. Perhaps while the academy has no problem with the gore of "The Revenant," the members are squeamish over a 1950s lesbian love story. At least it received six nominations, including recognition for its stars: Cate Blanchett is up for best actress and Rooney Mara for supporting actress.
Yes, this biopic of Apple's founder got two important nominations: best actor for Michael Fassbender and supporting actress for Kate Winslet. But it's surprising it didn't get more, especially a nod for the adapted screenplay written by beloved Aaron Sorkin (who won the Golden Globes). He wrote the poetic, rat-a-tat dialogue spoken by those acting nominees. Maybe the academy voters use PCs.