Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Lucasfilm Ltd.
By Eliza Berman
January 14, 2016

The 2016 Oscar nominations were announced Thursday morning, with many nominees’ names ringing bells first rung when the Golden Globe and SAG nominations were announced back in December. But there were more than a few surprises in the mix to keep things interesting come showtime on Feb. 28.

Read next: The 13 Biggest Oscar Nomination Snubs

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road.
Warner Bros. Pictures

If someone told us six months ago that Mad Max would end up with 10 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, we might not have believed them. And even after accumulating great momentum in the lead-up to the Academy Awards, it’s still somewhat unexpected to see the blockbuster action flick get so much love—second only to The Revenant’s 12 nods.

Read more: Why It Matters That Mad Max Was Named Best Movie by the National Board of Review

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Lucasfilm Ltd.

Though Star Wars was one of the most discussed movies of 2015, its name came up most in terms of box office records and bouts of nostalgia. But Episode VII picked up five nominations, mostly in the technical categories.

Read more: This Video Shows Why Star Wars Is So Special

Rachel McAdams

Rachel McAdams is seen on Jan. 11, 2016 in Los Angeles.
Tibrina Hobson—Getty Images

Most of the attention for Spotlight’s acting has gone to its entire ensemble, as well as to Mark Ruffalo, who also got an Oscar nod for Supporting Actor. McAdams’ inclusion in the Supporting Actress field is a welcome nomination for a movie with acting so good across the board, it was hard to know who to shine the spotlight on.

Read more: Rachel McAdams Has Always Wanted to Play Unlikable Women

Tom Hardy

Tom Hardy is seen on Dec. 16, 2015 in Hollywood, Calif.
Steve Granitz—Getty Images

The bulk of the attention for The Revenant has gone to star Leonardo DiCaprio (who received a Best Actor nod) and director Alejandro González Iñárritu (who was nominated, as well). So Hardy’s name on the list of Best Supporting Actor nominees was a somewhat surprising addition to the movie’s impressive awards haul this year.

Read more: The True Story Behind The Revenant, as Told in 1939

Adam McKay

Adam McKay is seen on Jan. 9, 2016 in Los Angeles.
Mike Windle—Getty Images

Though The Big Short was nominated for a Golden Globe and received positive reviews, less attention has been paid to director Adam McKay, whose transition to more serious (though still funny) fare is notable given his previous work on comedies like Anchorman and Step Brothers.

Read more: What to Know About the Housing Bubble Before You See The Big Short

Lenny Abrahamson

Lenny Abrahamson is seen on Jan. 5, 2016 in New York City.
Mike Pont—Getty Images

It’s not altogether surprising to see Abrahamson among the field of Best Director nominees given that he directed Room all the way to a Best Picture nomination. But his name has been conspicuously absent from the discussion of likely nominees, with many assuming veteran directors Ridley Scott or Quentin Tarantino would land a nod instead.

Read more: Room Writer Emma Donoghue: ‘This Is Not a Horrifying Film

John Williams

John Williams is seen on Dec. 14, 2015 in Hollywood, Calif.
Todd Williamson—Getty Images

Williams is the most famous film score composer alive today, with five Oscars and a whopping 44 additional nominations in his pocket—make that 45 after today. But the announcement of his name for Best Original Score Thursday morning was unexpected, as Star Wars’ score received less attention than other aspects of its filmmaking.

Read more: Star Wars Composer John Williams to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award

Boy and the World and When Marnie Was There

When Marnie Was There.
Studio Ghibli

Two of the contenders for Best Animated Feature came as a surprise, with distributor GKIDS’ flicks Boy and the World and When Marnie Was There edging out more commercial fare like The Good Dinosaur and The Peanuts Movie.

“Til It Happens to You”

Lady Gaga is seen during the 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 10, 2016 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Mark Davis—Getty Images

Lady Gaga’s song about surviving rape received as much attention as the documentary film for which she wrote it, a documentary about campus sexual assault called The Hunting Ground. It’s nice to see an emotional song that weighs in on an important conversation included among Oscar’s honorees for Best Original Song.

Read more: Lady Gaga on Being Raped at 19: It Changed Who I Was Completely

“Manta Ray"

"Manta Ray" by J. Ralph + Antony.
Rumor Mill Records

Another nominee for Best Original Song, “Manta Ray,” comes from a documentary, Racing Extinction, about endangered species and mass extinction. It’s a fresh alternative to a song widely expected to receive a nod, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s “See You Again” from Furious 7.


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