‘The Revenant’ poised for a big haul come Oscar night

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

A cold wind blew through the Hollywood frontier Thursday morning, as the brutal survivalism tale “The Revenant” was the most honored film when nominations for the 88th Academy Awards were unveiled.

Other top films were the post-apocalyptic epic “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the outer space saga “The Martian” and the newsroom procedural “Spotlight.”

There’s plenty to chew on before the awards are doled out Feb. 28, so let’s get right into it:

Who are the favorites? With 12 nominations overall, the bloody revenge epic “The Revenant” is poised for a big night, while “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which collected 10 nominations, might find itself going home and dumping sand out of its shoes. (Madman director George Miller, 70, is “Mad Max’s” best hope; his chief competition, “The Revenant’s” Alejandro G. Inarritu, just won last year for “Birdman.”) Sylvester Stallone, who brought the house down at the Golden Globes when he won for his reprisal of his Rocky Balboa character in “Creed,” is a favorite for Best Supporting Actor, while the Best Supporting Actress category looks like a foot race between newcomer Alicia Vikander (in “The Danish Girl”) and Kate Winslet (in “Steve Jobs”). Best Actress is one of the year’s tightest races: Brie Larson is the favorite for “Room,” but Saoirse Ronan (in the lovely “Brooklyn”), Cate Blanchett (in “Carol,” which was left out of the Best Picture field) and Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”) could shake things up. If there’s one safe bet you can take to Vegas right now, it’s that Leonardo DiCaprio will finally win his first Oscar for surviving “The Revenant.” Go back and watch it again, and picture the entire thing as a metaphor for him clawing his way to the Oscar podium. It’s much more fun that way.

Who got lucky, and who was snubbed? The “Youth” team, including Michael Caine and Jane Fonda, was unfairly left out in the cold for their remarkable work in Paolo Sorrentino’s meditation on life, which was blanked save for a lone Best Original Song nomination. And while “Spotlight” was well-represented with six nominations (including Best Picture and Best Director), the two acting nominations went to Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams, while the movie’s standouts, Michael Keaton and Liev Schreiber, were snubbed. Paul Dano also was ignored in the Best Supporting Actor category for his role as young Beach Boys visionary Brian Wilson in “Love & Mercy.” Among the surprises, Adam McKay (“The Big Short”) and Lenny Abrahamson (“Room”) both scored their first nominations in the Best Director category (leaving out “The Martian’s” Ridley Scott), while Rampling in “45 Years” turned heads in the Best Actress category (the film opens locally on Jan. 29).

White out: Issues of diversity within the nominations surfaced again, with white nominees occupying all 20 of the acting slots for the second year in a row. Samuel L. Jackson in “The Hateful Eight” and Michael B. Jordan in “Creed” were extreme long shots heading into the nominations, while Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation” and Benicio del Toro in “Sicario” were in the conversation. The N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton” was considered an outside contender for a Best Picture nomination but settled for an Original Screenplay nod for its team of (white) writers.

Welcome to the club: The pool of acting nominees includes eight first-timers (Bryan Cranston, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Brie Larson, Charlotte Rampling, Alicia Vikander, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rachel McAdams) and six previous winners (Eddie Redmayne, Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Winslet and two-time winner Cate Blanchett). Winslet is the most decorated nominee, earning her seventh nomination, followed by DiCaprio, chasing his sixth nomination (his fifth for acting). Rampling, who turns 70 next month, is the oldest nominee, followed by 69-year-old Stallone. At 21, Ronan is the youngest of the acting nominees.

Money talk: Of the eight Best Picture nominees, “The Martian” is the highest-grossing film with a $227 million take at the North American box office. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is the only other nominee to gross more than $100 million (hauling in $154 million), though “The Revenant,” which opened wide last weekend, will likely soon be joining that company.

Being the biggest movie of all-time doesn’t guarantee a Best Picture nomination. Heading into Thursday, one of the big questions was whether “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” would be in the running for the year’s top prize, but it was (rightfully) left out of the field of candidates. It did score five nominations in technical categories, but none of the year’s biggies. It will have to settle for the consolation prize of grossing more than $800 million in less than a month.

agraham@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/grahamorama

Top Oscar categories

Best Picture

“The Big Short”

“Bridge of Spies”

“Brooklyn”

“Mad Max: Fury Road”

“The Martian”

“The Revenant”

“Room”

“Spotlight”

Best Actor

Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo”

Matt Damon,

“The Martian”

Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”

Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs”

Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl”

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett, “Carol”

Brie Larson, “Room”

Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy”

Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years”

Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale,

“The Big Short”

Tom Hardy,

“The Revenant”

Mark Ruffalo,

“Spotlight”

Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”

Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”

Rooney Mara, “Carol”

Rachel McAdams, “Spotlight”

Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”

Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”

Best Directing

Adam McKay, “The Big Short”

George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Alejandro González Iñárritu, “The Revenant”

Lenny Abrahamson, “Room”

Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”