It comes as no surprise to me that Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith are boycotting this year's Academy Awards.
The Oscar nominations have drawn a lot of ire over the last few years for a lack of both gender and racial diversity. This typically is a larger indicator of how the film industry is clearly biased toward rewarding white men, not necessarily the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the voting body for the Oscars) in and of itself.
However, considering three of the films in my 2015 top 10-"Creed," "Beasts of No Nation" and "Straight Outta Compton"-feature strong turns both in front of and behind the camera by people of color, this is quickly turning into an Academy problem, too.
Sylvester Stallone rightfully was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his return to the big screen as Rocky Balboa in "Creed," but his was the film's sole nomination. Nothing for actor Michael B. Jordan, who (notwithstanding "Fantastic 4") has been turning heads left and right with his strong performances in this and other films. Nothing for "Creed" writer-director Ryan Coogler, who proved he was immune from the sophomore slump after first impressing audiences with 2013's "Fruitvale Station" (which stars Jordan, too).
"Straight Outta Compton" was one of the biggest commercial and critical successes of the year. Box office shouldn't (and usually doesn't) have a play on Oscar nominations, but the film currently has an 88 percent (out of 100) score on Rotten Tomatoes, based on the opinions of 195 critics. So yes, it really is that good, and the only Oscar nomination it got is for Best Original Screenplay. But I can't say the Oscar snubs were a huge surprise, as the movie has failed to get much attention from most of the major movie awards this season.
On the other hand, Idris Elba was considered an early Best Supporting Actor frontrunner for his dark turn in "Beasts of No Nation." He was even nominated for a Golden Globe. But his name was not mentioned Jan. 14 when the nominations were announced.
Best Picture shocks
In the past, awards-voting bodies including the Academy have been praised for their recognition of LGBT-related films such as "Boys Don't Cry" and "Brokeback Mountain." So it came as a huge shock when frontrunners "Carol" (featuring a lesbian love story at its core) and "The Danish Girl" (a biopic about transgender artist Lili Elbe) were left off the Best Picture list.
They weren't completely blocked out of the Oscars this year, though. "Carol" received six nominations, including Best Actress for Cate Blanchett and Best Supporting Actress for Rooney Mara. "The Danish Girl" received four nominations, including Best Actor for Eddie Redmayne and Best Supporting Actress for Alicia Vikander.
Part of this is the new Best Picture rule the Academy started using a few years ago, where there could be anywhere between five and 10 nominees in the category, dependent on some ridiculous equation, so there are eight nominees this year. There should be five nominees (just like most of the other categories) or 10. Pick a number.
If we had 10 this year, "Carol" and "The Danish Girl" likely would have filled the last two spots.
'Bridge of Spies'
Because all of these people and films were snubbed, of course there are a few surprises.
The biggest is all the love for the Steven Spielberg-directed "Bridge of Spies," which stars Tom Hanks as an American lawyer who defended a Russian spy during the Cold War. Spielberg didn't get a directing nod and Hanks wasn't recognized for his acting, but the film did get a surprising six nominations, including one for Best Picture.
That Best Picture nom was stolen from "Carol" and "The Danish Girl," and if my idea to just round up to a nice even number of 10 had been the case, "Straight Outta Compton" or "Creed" would be suitable replacements for this lackluster Spielberg-Hanks film.
The Best Original Screenplay nomination "Bridge of Spies" received for Matt Charman, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen also could be seen as the reason why Coogler and co-writer Aaron Covington didn't get a nod for "Creed."