The Oscars and The Nerds

2015 has come to a close. Various groups have picked their favorite movies of the year, awards have already been handed out, but there is still one ceremony to celebrate the year in film. The nominations for the 88th Academy Awards have been announced and honestly, this is a pretty good batch of nominees.

Every year sites all around the internet give their opinion as to whether the nominees are good or not. Sometimes this misses the point that the Oscars don’t really represent the average film goer, they represent a very specific sect within Hollywood, usually older white men, and they vote for what they think is important. That being said, and this being Word of the Nerd, let’s take a look at the nominees and celebrate the fact that the nerds crashed the Oscar party.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max Fury Road posterIt actually happened, Mad Max: Fury Road was nominated for Best Picture. George Miller’s crazy version of the apocalyptic future, both parts action movie and thematic masterpiece, was able to strike a chord with every sector of the movie business. The film was released to critical acclaim (97% on Rotten Tomatoes), fans have embraced the film as a perfect reboot/sequel to the Mad Max of old, the film made $150 million domestically (not bad for an R-rated action film), and the awards community at large has taken to the film.

To recap how the film made its way to Oscar dominance. First, the critics and fans have been championing the movie as a one of those action movies that is well-made and thematically deep enough to be considered by the Oscars. Then the smaller awards were announced. The film was named best of the year by the National Board of Review, nominated by countless critics groups, and was nominated for best picture by both the Golden Globes and the Producers Guild of America (a huge precursor to the Oscars). There was always a fear though, would the academy really go for a film this crazy, even if it is this well made?

Well, the War Boys have been witnessed, and Mad Max: Fury Road has lived, died, and is now living again in Oscar glory. The movie received 10 nominations, including Best Director for George Miller (when the Oscars have more than five Picture nominees, the Best Director category really tells you their Top 5 of the year). The movie faces some stiff competition, so we’ll have to see what it can win, but for the time being it should be celebrated that Miller and company even made it.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens PosterWhether it be my own personal list or the Top 5 list of our whole community, one thing is for sure, people love Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While the film did not make it into the best picture nominees, the film did receive five nominations and is well represented at this year’s awards.

The movie was nominated for Best Visual Effects, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Original Score. The VFX and two sound awards are usually great areas for nerd movies to make it in, and The Force Awakens has a real shot at winning those awards (unless the Academy throws all of their “this is a nerd category” weight behind Mad Max: Fury Road). In all honesty, I don’t think John Williams’ score for The Force Awakens was all that great. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good, but it mainly relied on the music of the past, I wish there were some more strong musical themes all around.

Though it is good the movie did receive five nominations, there were a handful of other categories it should have been nominated in. Just to name a few, it would have been appropriate to see The Force Awakens nominated for Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Best Costume Design. The Production Design omission strikes as odd, because Abrams and company painstakingly created a practical world for their fantastical characters to live in.

Deep down inside, we knew the film was never going to be nominated for Best Picture, but there was always hope. The film was named one of the best of the year by the American Film Institute, and the Critics Choice Awards retroactively added it to their Best Picture nominees after they saw the movie, so it was getting some awards attention. Best Picture nomination or not, it is exciting to see Star Wars at the Oscars again.

Other Nerd Movies

Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens were the two main nerd movies that were given some Oscar love, but doing a survey of the nominees shows that some other great films received some appropriate attention. A quick breakdown of the nerd-friendly properties:

The Martian received seven nominations, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay. The screenplay nomination is great because now Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods, creator of Netflix’s Daredevil) is an Academy Award nominated writer.

Ex Machina received nominations for Best Visual Effects and Best Original Screenplay. The writer’s branch usually does a good job recognizing some of the smaller films out there, so it is great that Alex Garland’s (screenwriter for 28 Days Later, Dredd) low budget sci-fi film is getting some attention

The Martian posterInside Out received it’s expected nomination for Best Animated Feature, but also received a well deserved nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The film is the definition of original, and it is always great to see a well rounded family film in the mix with the standard dramas.

Creed definitely deserved more nominations, but it does the heart good to see Sylvester Stallone nominated for Best Supporting Actor. This means that Stallone has been nominated twice for playing Rocky, almost 40 years separating the nominations.

Cinderella received a nomination for Best Costume Design

Spectre received a nomination for Best Original Song. This is a head scratcher. I’m saying this as someone who very much enjoys Sam Smith’s music, but “Writings on the Wall” is not a good song, and there are probably some more qualified songs out there. 

As you can see, there are a handful of nerd movies that made it into the mix, but the Oscars are still dominated by straightforward dramas. Having seen all eight nominees for Best Picture, I can confirm that all the films are good movies. Sometimes you wish that the Academy would nominated movies that represents the wide range of films released each year, whether it be recognizing more blockbusters or comedies, or getting away from the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that has plagued them two years in a row now. But for the time being, you have to choose your battles, and I choose to celebrate the nerd movies that made it into the nominees. The 88th Academy Awards will be held on February 28, 2016, full list of nominations below:


Best Original Song

“Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey

“Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction

“Simple Song #3” from Youth

“Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground

“Writing’s on the Wall” from Spectre


Best Cinematography

Ed Lachman, Carol

Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight

John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road

Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant

Roger Deakins, Sicario


Best Documentary Short

Body Team 12

Chau, Beyond the Lines

Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

Last Day of Freedom


Best Documentary Feature


Cartel Land

The Look of Silence

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom


Best Costume Design

Sandy Powell, Carol

Sandy Powell, Cinderella

Paco Delgado, The Danish Girl

Jenny Beavan, Mad Max: Fury Road

Jacqueline West, The Revenant


Best Sound Editing

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant


Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Best Sound Mixing

Bridge of Spies

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Mad Max: Fury Road

The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

The Revenant


Best Live-Action Short

Ave Maria

Day One

Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)




Best Animated Short

Bear Story


Sanjay’s Super Team

We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

World of Tomorrow


Best Animated Feature


Boy and the World

Inside Out

Shaun the Sheep Movie

When Marnie Was There


Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale, The Big Short

Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone, Creed


Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara, Carol

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs


Best Visual Effects

Ex Machina

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Best Film Editing

The Big Short

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant


Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Best Production Design

Bridge of Spies

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant


Best Adapted Screenplay

Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, The Big Short

Nick Hornby, Brooklyn

Phyllis Nagy, Carol

Drew Goddard, The Martian

Emma Donoghue, Room


Best Original Screenplay

Matt Charman, Joel Coen, and Ethan Coen, Bridge of Spies

Alex Garland, Ex Machina

Pete Docter, Megg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley, Inside Out

Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff, Straight Outta Compton


Best Original Score

Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies

Carter Burwell, Carol

Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight

Jóhann Jóhansson, Sicario

John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Best Foreign Language Film

Colombia: Embrace of the Serpent

France: Mustang

Hungary: Son of Saul

Jordan: Theeb

Denmark: A War


Best Director

Adam McKay, The Big Short

George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant

Lenny Abrahamson, Room

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight


Best Actress

Cate Blanchett, Carol

Brie Larson, Room

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn


Best Actor

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Matt Damon, The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl


Best Picture

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies


Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant



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About the author

Josh Tarpley

is a film critic and all around movie enthusiast. Along with being a Marvel fanboy, he is also a husband, college graduate and proud Beagle owner. Josh loves to celebrate art and tries to incorporate his faith into every aspect of life. You can follow Josh on twitter @JoshTarpley7

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