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'The Revenant,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' Scoop Up Most Oscar Nominations


There are no bats in this year's Oscar nominations. We're going to have to wait until later this year for the big "Batman v Superman" movie. But there are lots of other films to talk about. And joining us to discuss are our film reviewer Bob Mondello and Linda Holmes, who writes for the NPR pop culture blog Monkey See.

Welcome to both of you.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Good to be here.


SHAPIRO: Let's first talk about who the big winners were. Linda Holmes, "The Revenant" comes away with 12 nominations, most of any film.

HOLMES: Yes, and that means now I have to see, which I've been putting off...


HOLMES: ...I must admit. That one and also "Mad Max: Fury Road," which is - got a whole bunch of nominations and is a tremendously fun movie.

MONDELLO: Well, and the "The Martian," which we both loved.

HOLMES: That's right.

MONDELLO: That one's just great, but those are big pictures already.

SHAPIRO: Let's listen to a little bit of "The Martian."


MATT DAMON: (As Mark Watney) So I've got to figure out a way to grow three years' worth of food here on a planet where nothing grows.

SHAPIRO: These are movies that a lot people saw. We're not talking about nominations for teeny little arty films that people might not have heard of.

HOLMES: Right. And there have been years when that is very much what happens, when you look at the nominations and you think, very few of these have made a lot of money, and very few of them are going to be familiar to the large audience that they hope to attract for the ceremony on TV.

MONDELLO: In fact, that's why they expanded to 10 a couple of years ago. And I think a lot of people...

SHAPIRO: Best picture nominees, you mean.

MONDELLO: Best picture nominations - I think a lot of people were kind of hoping that "The Force Awakens" would be nominated...

SHAPIRO: The latest "Star Wars" movie.

MONDELLO: ...For this. And it would sort of guarantee a huge audience for the Oscars on television.

SHAPIRO: When you move from the best picture nominees to the nominations for best actor and actress and supporting actor and actress, the big story seems to be that for the second year running, there is not one nominated performer who isn't white.

HOLMES: And it's - I think people knew this might happen but were holding out hope for a couple of different performances, probably, most especially, Idris Elba in "Beasts Of No Nation" or my personal pick, Michael B. Jordan in "Creed," who's fantastic.

SHAPIRO: Bob, why do you think these actors of color consistently get passed over when it comes Oscar nomination time?

MONDELLO: Well, the folks who are voting on the Oscars are overwhelmingly white, are overwhelmingly male, are overwhelmingly older. That's a sort of a rationale. You can say well, OK, there's not a lot of diversity in the folks who are voting. But I think the real reason is there haven't been a lot of opportunities for people of color in Hollywood for years. They're forever doing studies of that. And if they aren't on screen very much, then it's going to be hard for them to get nominated.

SHAPIRO: When I read through the list of nominations, as we said, there are big blockbuster films that everybody saw. The one movie that really stood out to me that got a lot of nods - and I, frankly, admit I didn't even know it existed - is "Room," which was an adaptation of a book. Let's listen to a clip


BRIE LARSON: (As Ma) Do you remember how Alice wasn't always in Wonderland?

JACOB TREMBLAY: (As Jack) She fell down, down, down, deep in a hole.

LARSON: (As Ma) All right, well I wasn't always in room. I'm like Alice. I was a little girl named Joy.

TREMBLAY: (As Jack) Nah.

LARSON: (As Ma) And I lived in a house with my mom and my dad.

HOLMES: Yes. It's an adaptation of an Emma Donaghue novel. She adapted it herself. The young actress who is in that film, Brie Larson, who's also nominated, is fantastic in that movie. It's very wrenching. It's about a woman who's held prisoner for a long time with her young son.

SHAPIRO: Strangely, Bob, the list of animated films that received nominations this year is kind of obscure.

MONDELLO: Yeah, well, actually, what's interesting - "Inside Out"...

SHAPIRO: The Pixar film, yeah.

MONDELLO: Made it, and everybody sort of expected that. But the other Pixar film that came out, "The Good Dinosaur," did not make the list. My own personal favorite is "Anomalisa," which is a puppet movie that is very adult and is...

SHAPIRO: By Charlie Kaufman.

MONDELLO: Charlie Kaufman - it's every bit as strange as "Being John Malkovich" was, which is all by Charlie Kaufman.

HOLMES: One interesting note about the animated categories is there's usually very little love for animated shorts. People don't talk about it a whole lot, but one of the few really shining examples of getting out of that experience of exclusively white people making movies about themselves was "Sanjay's Super Team," which is the short that played before "The Good Dinosaur," which was not nominated. But "Sanjay's Super Team" is nominated, and that's a fantastic short. And I hope that everybody will get a chance to seek it out.

SHAPIRO: Before we wrap up, I would like you each to name one nomination you saw on this list and said, yes and one nomination you saw on this list and said, are you kidding me - really?

MONDELLO: (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: Linda, you first.

HOLMES: I think my nomination was probably "Room" on the list of best picture candidates because I just think it's such a good movie and so easily, as you demonstrated, overlooked.


HOLMES: And the one that probably frustrated me the most is - I admire Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks and all those people, but to me, "Bridge Of Spies" is not as good as the other movies that are in this best-picture category. There are other things I would've chosen.

SHAPIRO: OK, Bob, your fist pump and your what-the-what.

MONDELLO: I was so excited about Charlotte Rampling getting nominated for "45 Years."

HOLMES: That's a great one, too.

MONDELLO: She is so fantastic in that picture, and the last, like, 12 seconds of it is just amazing.

And the thing that just - I could not believe - how did it get nominated was in best song, the melody-challenged "Writing's On The Wall" from "Spectre." I swear it doesn't have a melody.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) In honor of that, let's go out on Sam Smith's "Spectre" theme song.


SAM SMITH: (Singing) Because the writing's on the wall.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Bob Mondello reviews for us, and Linda Holmes is our pop culture blogger on Monkey See. Thanks to both of you.

MONDELLO: Great to be here.

HOLMES: Thanks, Ari.


SMITH: (Singing) That haunt me from my past... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.
Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.

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