Critics' Choice Noms: 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Gets a Credibility Boost (Analysis)

THR's awards analyst also delves into the meaning of noms for 'Sicario,' Tom Hardy and Mark Ruffalo and snubs of 'Hateful Eight,' Will Smith and Jane Fonda.
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Charlize Theron in 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

The Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalist Association have announced their nominations for the newly restructured Critics' Choice Awards, which will honor the best in film and TV at one ceremony, rather than two. Encompassing 28 film and 23 TV categories that will be handed out over the course of three hours, the show will air on the A&E networks Jan. 17. (Full disclosure: I'm a voting member of both groups.) Since Emmy season still is months away, but we're right in the thick of Oscar season, I'd like to take this opportunity to dissect only the film selections.

The big news is that the BFCA — which determined the film noms and has as strong a track record as any precursor group at anticipating the eventual Oscar nominations — gave a big boost to George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road, which led the field with 13 noms, including best picture, best director and even best actress (Charlize Theron). That's four more mentions than the next best finishers: Carol, The Martian and The Revenant.

Will the Academy, a group considerably older and less diverse than the BFCA, follow this lead? I'm skeptical — the BFCA also got very excited about another genre picture, 2008's The Dark Knight, nominating it for best picture and best director, among other major noms, but the Academy essentially took a pass on that one. However, with the Academy membership growing younger and more diverse, thanks to a concerted push by its leadership, and with this announcement coming on the heels of other big endorsements of Fury Road by the National Board of Review (which named it best film), the Golden Globes (which nominated it for best picture and best director) and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (which chose Miller as the year's best director), one certainly has to take the film's awards prospects very seriously.

The fact that the BFCA nominates 10 films for best picture, whereas the Academy only guarantees five but could go as high as 10 depending on vote totals, means that a film's exclusion from the BFCA's 10 is pretty devastating. Among those that failed to make the cut, even though they had been thought to have a real shot, are: Straight Outta Compton and The Hateful Eight (although both did land spots among the five best ensemble nominees); Inside Out (a best animated feature nominee); Joy (a best comedy nominee that also bagged two acting noms for leading lady Jennifer Lawrence, one for best actress and the other for best comedy actress); TrumboThe Danish Girl; Beasts of No NationSteve Jobs; and Creed. Somewhat surprisingly, Sicario, which hadn't received a single SAG or Globe nom, edged out all of the above for a slot — but didn't land another major nom, not even one for supporting actor Benicio Del Toro.

Trumbo's consolation was that it landed, for the third time in a week — after similar SAG and Globe noms — nominations for its lead actor Bryan Cranston and supporting actress Helen Mirren, which were far from assured. (While the BFCA does have six slots in each acting category, versus the Academy's five, this still is quite a significant endorsement.) Other noteworthy acting nominations include supporting actor mentions for The Revenant's Tom Hardy and Spotlight's Mark Ruffalo, both of whom had been left out by the other two groups; Spotlight's supporting actress Rachel McAdams, who landed a SAG nom but not a Globe nom; and three people who had the opposite experience, Creed's supporting actor Sylvester Stallone, Love & Mercy's supporting actor Paul Dano and Hateful Eight's supporting actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, having earned Globe but not SAG noms.

Excluded by the BFCA were two performers who had been nominated by both earlier groups, Beasts' supporting actor Idris Elba (whose costar Abraham Attah was nominated for best young actor) and The Big Short's supporting actor Christian Bale, as well as two others who had landed Globe noms but not SAG noms, Concussion's lead actor Will Smith and Youth's supporting actress Jane Fonda.

Performers who failed to register with either of the earlier groups, and somewhat devastatingly came up short again with the BFCA, include Youth's lead actor Michael Caine, Mr. Holmes' lead actor Ian McKellen, Spotlight's supporting actor Michael Keaton, The End of the Tour's supporting actor Jason Segel, Love & Mercy's supporting actress Elizabeth Banks and the winner of several other critics group awards, Clouds of Sils Maria's supporting actress Kristen Stewart.

Other noteworthy snubs: The Revenant did not land a widely expected best adapted screenplay (Carol and The Danish Girl also were excluded); Joy did not land a best original screenplay nom (neither did Straight Outta Compton, while Ex Machina did); Germany's Labyrinth of Lies and Belgium's The Brand New Testament were not among the best foreign language film nominees (Austria's Goodnight Mommy and Brazil's The Second Mother probably took their slots); Alexandre Desplat's work on The Danish Girl wasn't among the best original score nominees; and Amy Poehler is not a best comedy actress nominee for Sisters, while her costar Tina Fey is.

Only one potential Oscar player was not seen by BFCA members prior to the deadline to return their ballots: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which has its world premiere Monday evening in Hollywood.

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