Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Revenant." Image from official trailer
Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant.” Image from official trailer

By Megan Bianco

This year’s Oscar season has been both perplexing and pleasantly surprising with its contenders, frontrunners and snubs. Not only with the vast variety in types of films being nominated, but also the preferences of films being chosen to win. Of course there was failed Oscar bait as there always is, this time with “Black Mass,” “Suffragette,” “Concussion” and “Youth.” But there are also the shocking snubs of “Straight Outta Compton,” “Love & Mercy” and “Carol.” For the first time in a long time the awards are at their least predictable with almost no frontrunners except for maybe Leonardo DiCaprio and Brie Larson.

Let’s look at the winners so far: at the Gotham Awards and the Critics’ Choice Awards, “Spotlight” won best picture, but at the Golden Globes the Hollywood Foreign Press Association chose “The Revenant.” Best actor at all three has been DiCaprio for “The Revenant” and Larson won best actress for “Room” at the Critics’ and best dramatic actress at the Globes, so it’s safe to say they’ll probably strike Oscar gold next month, though Matt Damon won best comedic actor for “The Martian” and Jennifer Lawrence did take home best comedic actress for “Joy” at the Globes.

But supporting actor started out with Mark Rylance for “Bridge of Spies” on most critics’ “best of 2015” lists, but suddenly Sylvester Stallone gained momentum at the Globes and Critics’ with the latest Rocky flick “Creed.” Best supporting actress at the Globes had a surprise win from Kate Winslet for “Steve Jobs,” while early frontrunner Alicia Vikander won more hype from the Broadcast Film Critics Association as their choice for “The Danish Girl.” Best director is up in the air currently between George Miller for “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which won at the Critics’, and Alejandro G. Iñárritu for “The Revenant,” which got the Globe.

There have been quite a few controversies with the nominations this go-round, one of which is that the widely acclaimed lesbian romance “Carol” barely made it into the acting categories through nomination fraud. Lead Rooney Mara is in the supporting category, while Cate Blanchett is nominated as a lead despite playing a supporting character, and was snubbed for best director (Todd Haynes) and best picture. What’s just as frustrating is how actors like Tom Hardy and Mark Ruffalo, who got pretty mixed reception for their performances in “The Revenant” and “Spotlight,” were nominated for best supporting actor over Paul Dano for “Love & Mercy” and Benicio del Toro for “Sicario,” who up until now had been big contenders for the category.

Even Oscar Isaac or Samuel L. Jackson could’ve easily fit that spot for “Ex Machina” or “The Hateful Eight.” Hollywood golden boy Quentin Tarantino missed the boat on best director and best original screenplay nominations, though that’s most likely because “Hateful” just wasn’t as loved as much as his previous movies. To some, blatant favoritism and ridiculous politics like the Academy’s nominations can make you cynical and stop caring about awards season. Especially someone like me who loved “Love & Mercy” and “Carol,” but found “The Revenant” and “Spotlight” disappointing. But it can also be a reminder that awards at the end of the day are subjective and don’t decide which films get remembered most in the long run. But for now we can sit back and enjoy viewing some quality films that were both nominated and snubbed.

Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.

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