Brow Beat

The Seven Biggest Surprises of the 2017 Oscar Nominations

Two-time Oscar nominee Passengers?

Jaimie Trueblood/Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

For the most part, the 2017 Academy Award nominations went according to script: La La Land dominated, Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea were right behind, and #OscarsSoWhite could finally be put to rest … for now. But as ever, there were a few major snubs (Annette Bening!) and surprises (Mel Gibson?) that had us scratching our heads. Below are seven that shocked us—for better or worse.

Michael Shannon beats out Hugh Grant in Best Supporting Actor.

Seeing as he’d received every precursor nomination of note, it was widely predicted that Hugh Grant would nab his first Oscar nomination this year for Florence Foster Jenkins. And there was also the matter of Nocturnal Animals breakout Aaron Taylor-Johnson surging: Days after his shocking Golden Globe win, the British actor picked up an equally surprising British Academy of Film and Television Arts nomination, thrusting him into serious contention. But the academy went a different way, looking to a critical favorite and past nominee: Taylor-Johnson’s Nocturnal Animals castmate Michael Shannon. As gruff detective Bobby Andes, Shannon stole virtually every scene he appeared in, but it seemed that the awards wave was not headed in his favor. Fortunately, the tide turned when it counted most.

13 Hours: Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is an Oscar nominee.

It’s not unusual for a bad movie get nominated for an Oscar—there could be a performance too great to be ignored, perhaps, or too impressive a set of costumes. (Looking at you, Allied.) But even so, it’s a little bizarre to see 13 Hours: Secret Soldiers of Benghazi among this year’s crop for Best Sound Mixing. Michael Bay’s film was disliked by critics, underperformed at the box office, and was maligned for sticking itself into an ugly political battle. 13 Hours also had to overtake several relatively strong awards contenders, such as Sully and Silence (more on that one in a minute), to sneak into the category. Perhaps the academy’s conservative wing went out on a limb?

Silence, Martin Scorsese’s religious epic, is ignored in key categories.

Given how the race shook out over the past few months, this isn’t a huge surprise. But still—that a celebrated, ambitious Martin Scorsese passion project could be as ignored as it was? Pretty disappointing. The film did receive a mention for Rodrigo Prieto’s gorgeous cinematography, but Martin Scorsese’s direction and the sweeping production design—not to mention every other exemplary component of the film—were left unrecognized. Let it sink in that Scorsese was passed over in Best Director for, of all people, Mel Gibson. Speaking of which …

Mel Gibson makes a true comeback, gets nominated for Best Director.

Gibson’s World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge was a quiet hit with critics and audiences, well on its way to a bevy of technical Oscar nominations. But the film evidently struck an even stronger chord with academy voters who cited Mel Gibson for Best Director and shortlisted the film among the nine movies nominated for Best Picture. Gibson overtook Scorsese, Jackies Pablo Larraín, and Fences Denzel Washington—among many others—to make it into the Final Five, overcoming his Directors Guild of America and BAFTA omissions. He’d been a toxic name in Hollywood for a while, but clearly, voters were more than ready to forgive.

Passengers gets some love.

I guess we should never underestimate the academy’s love for a Morten Tyldum movie. The Imitation Game director’s new movie Passengers was panned by critics (including our own) and was not expected to contend for any Oscar nominations whatsoever. Nonetheless, the movie scored a twofer: for Best Production Design and, more notably, Best Original Score. The latter category is one typically reserved for major movies of the year—indeed, this year it’s filled out by Moonlight, La La Land, Lion, and Jackie. At least Chris Pratt wasn’t nominated?

Ruth Negga fits into a competitive Best Actress field—and boxes out Amy Adams and Annette Bening.

Best Actress was among 2017’s most competitive categories, with a long list of great performers in career-best roles vying for only five slots. (Hooray for first-time nominee Isabelle Huppert!) Inevitably, a few would be left out—and it seemed all but certain that Loving breakout Ruth Negga would be one of them, without the steam to push past the likes of Annette Bening (overdue and brilliant in 20th Century Women) and Amy Adams (whose Arrival was among the Academy’s favorites this year). In a nice surprise, however, Negga managed to do just that, earning her first major award nomination and serving as the sole representative of Loving, a very good movie that was otherwise ignored.

Kubo and the Two Strings is the first animated movie nominated for Best Visual Effects in over 20 years.

Arguably the most welcome surprise of the nominations this year, Kubo and the Two Strings made its way into the Visual Effects field—the first animated film to do so since 1994’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Laika’s stop-motion animated feature was a visual feast, revolving around a young boy with magical powers and a missing (stolen) eye. If not for typical awards biases, it’d be an obvious choice. Voters’ conception of categories like these are often exceedingly rigid, but here was the perfect example of an outside-the-box choice being too deserving to ignore.

Read more in Slate about this year’s Oscar nominations.