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The Oscars Always Offer a Surprise or Two

I studiously avoid the word “shoo-in” when asked to predict the nominees, although I might have caved this year when it came to Leonardo DiCaprio. (I started hearing that he was “a lock” for Best Actor back in June. Is that just aggressive p.r. or did someone on high determine that “this was his year?”)

But I never dreamt that after the success and rightful acclaim heaped upon The Martian Ridley Scott wouldn’t be one of the Best Director nominees. I’m happy for relative newcomer Lenny Abrahamson, who did such a fine job with Room, but I wish they both could have been recognized.

With its weighted, preferential voting system, the Academy only filled eight of its potential ten slots for Best Picture. That meant there was room for Straight Outta Compton, but it was not to be… yet its Best Original Screenplay nod is impressive recognition from one of the tougher branches of the Academy…the same folks who overlooked Aaron Sorkin and recognized the exceptional screenplay of Pixar’s Inside Out. (Just a reminder: only writers nominate writers, only art directors nominate art directors, etc.)

As for Sylvester Stallone, I resist calling him a sentimental favorite because he’s so damn good in that movie. Naturally we respond not only to his performance but to the forty-year accumulation of movie history it represents. Nevertheless, he earned that nomination by doing a terrific job.

So while the complainers get busy griping and grousing, I salute the Academy for being so welcoming to newcomers like Abrahamson, not to mention actresses Brie Larson and Alicia Vikander. Any award roster that covers a spectrum from Lady Gaga to 82-year-old animator Richard Williams can’t be all bad.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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