Charlotte Rampling and Lenny Abrahamson are among the dark horses.
Surprises? There were few when the Oscar nominations were announced Thursday morning.
Given the preponderance of nominations from the various Hollywood guilds — the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild of America and the Producers Guild of America most prominent among them — that are announced before the full membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences weighs in, it’s difficult for dark horses to sneak onto the field.
Lenny Abrahamson, the director of “Room,” is probably the biggest surprise. He likely edged out Academy favorite Steven Spielberg, whose “Bridge of Spies” nevertheless got a best picture nod.
Charlotte Rampling probably comes the closest, with a nomination for her performance in “45 Years” as a wife quietly devastated by a revelation about her longtime husband’s past. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is usually a bellwether for the best actress category, but she didn’t make the cut with that organization. This is her first Oscar nomination.
SAG also dismissed Sylvester Stallone’s return to his iconic Rocky Balboa character in “Creed,” but he was widely regarded as a sentimental favorite in the best supporting actor category in the run-up to Thursday’s announcement. His Golden Globes win Sunday only verified that fact. And remember, he and Oscar are hardly strangers. He was also nominated for the best actor statuette for his work in 1976’s “Rocky,” the movie that launched him to worldwide fame.
A bit of a surprise was the fact that only eight movies make up the field for best picture. These days, the academy allows up to 10 contenders. Last year there were eight also, but between 2011 and 2013 there were nine.
The Academy hoped that by expanding the field, such big bucks crowd pleasers as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” could get some Oscar love and thereby boost audience interest and reverse sagging TV ratings for the Oscarcast. (This year it’s Sunday, Feb. 28, on ABC.)
But that isn’t working out as hoped. The Force wasn’t with “The Force Awakens,” which was left out in the cold.
The Hollywood Reporter has reported the Academy considered earlier this year trimming the number of best picture nominees back to its longtime standard of five. However, with such blockbusters as “The Martian,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Revenant” all in contention this year, the move to reduce the number of possible slots might lose steam.