As is the case every year, the announcement of the Oscar nominees came with several squeals and numerous head-scratches. We are covering this year's snubs in a separate feature (and even a standalone column, because c'mon Academy, you are OK leaving Amy Adams out of the Best Actress race?!). But here, it's all about the surprises -- most of the positive, yet one or two of them that come with a shrug and a genuine, "Huh?"
I know that the biggest surprise of the morning has to be our first one, because it now means that David Ayer's much-derided super-villain team up, Suicide Squad, has the distinction of calling itself an Oscar-nominated film.
Suicide Squad, Makeup and Hairstyling
Yes, it's in the category of Makeup and Hairstyling, a below-the-line group that tends to recognize blockbuster fare. And yes, the creations of Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, Enchantress, The Joker and more deserve some recognition. But the biggest shock has to be that from here on out, Suicide Squad has an Oscar nomination under its gaudy, bedazzled DCEU belt, and I doubt anyone suspected that as an option heading into this Awards season.
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Second chances are real in Hollywood, a town that thrives on professional redemption stories. So when Mel Gibson's name was called over the likes of Clint Eastwood (Sully), Denzel Washington (Fences), Martin Scorsese (Silence) or even David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water), it meant two things: Academy members loved Hacksaw Ridge; and Hollywood forgives Gibson for his off-screen transgressions. I'm a little surprised.
Viggo Mortensen, Best Actor
Pretty much everyone who saw Captain Fantastic loved the movie, and loved Viggo Mortensen's performance as an offbeat father who must pull his children from their alternative lifestyle so they can attend the funeral of their beloved mother. And when you stepped back, you realized that the actor was getting a ton of traction on the circuit, getting a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, a SAG, a BFCA nomination and more. Now, with an Oscar nom, Viggo's journey is complete... and it continues!
Ruth Negga, Loving
Similarly, Ruth Negga has been picking up recognition all season for her tender, subtle performance in Loving, where she plays one half of an interracial couple fighting for their right to be married in Virginia. The BFCAs, the Golden Globes and many more nominated Negga for her role, but I'm not sure I thought her Oscar odds were strong... especially over Amy Adams, who we have covered in great detail. It's a great lift for Loving, and a real shot in the arm for this fantastic actress.
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals
Michael Shannon steals every damn scene he is in in Nocturnal Animals. And it's a movie that is geared to shock and awe the audience at almost every turn. But even though Aaron Taylor Johnson landed a Golden Globe for pooping on an outdoor toilet, the Academy woke up and realized the beauty that is Shannon in the movie. Now, about those ladies dancing in the movie's opening...
Star Trek Beyond, Makeup and Hairstyling
I love Star Trek Beyond. I think it's a terrific entry into the ongoing Trek reboot, and I warm up to the re-jiggered timeline every time I catch up with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and this younger cast. Beyond is a blast... but is it Oscar worthy? Probably not, though the makeup is put of this world ('natch), so I'm calling this surprising Oscar nod a win.