The 88th Academy Awards – Predicting the Unpredictable

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Last year, we had a two-way race between Birdman and Boyhood but by the time Oscar night came around, it was Birdman‘s to lose. This year, precursor awards have been spread all around. Spotlight dominated the regional critics’ awards but the major guild awards spread love around a bit. The Big Short surprised by taking the Producer’s Guild Award, which is always the top indicator of what will win Best Picture. Alejandro G. Inaritu made history by winning back-to-back at the Director’s Guild Awards (he won last year for directing Birdman and this year for directing The Revenant). Spotlight won Best Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which is less of an indicator in terms of Best Picture but still makes the film viable for the big win.

So, now it’s time to predict who is going to take home the gold in a very confusing and frustrating year. Logic indicates The Big Short wins but the tide is changing and The Revenant continues to build traction. Here is a look at the top eight Oscar categories (the technical awards will rotate between Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant all night).

Best Picture:
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

I don’t remember the last time I was so apathetic towards the selection of nominees. Two of the frontrunners, The Big Short and The Revenant, are movies that I don’t even care for. Everything else were good or underwhelming movies. Spotlight and Room are the only two in this group that I love and only Spotlight has an outside chance of winning.

Will Win: The Revenant
Should Win: Spotlight
Should Have Been Nominated: Ex Machina 

Best Director:
Adam McKay – The Big Short
George Miller  – Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro G. Inaritu – The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson – Room
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

I was very pleased to see the surprise inclusion of Lenny Abrahamson for Room. I’m not as in love with Mad Max: Fury Road as everyone but George Miller did craft a fine action film. I would love to see Tom McCarthy win for his wonderfully subtle direction of Spotlight but subtly won’t overtake the look-at-me direction of Alejandro G. Inaritu for The Revenant. He could very well be the first director to win back-to-back trophies in 66 years.

Will Win: Alejandro G. Inaritu – The Revenant
Should Win: Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
Should Have Been Nominated: Alex Garland – Ex Machina

Best Actor:
Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
Matt Damon – The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

It’s Leo’s to lose (haven’t we heard that before?) This time, however, it really is DiCaprio’s time to take the Oscar stage. His win will bring the house down and the audience to their feet because this is a long time coming. I do not like The Revenant or think this is the defining performance if DiCaprio’s diverse career but it will be a great Oscar moment, nonetheless. In any other year, Fassbender could have easily won for his portrayal of Steve Jobs but the film failed to gain any traction. Cranston is a terrific actor but Trumbo is a little too big and broad and Damon essentially played himself in space. Redmayne is wonderful in The Danish Girl and could have been a threat if he didn’t just win last year.

Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Should Win: Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Should Have Been Nominated: Jacob Tremblay – Room (yes, in lead – not supporting)

Best Actress:
Cate Blanchett – Carol
Brie Larson – Room
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn

Brie Larson is one of the night’s biggest locks. Her performance as Ma in Room is astounding and she and young co-star Jacob Tremblay were the year’s best acting duo. Blanchett never hits a false note in anything she does but just won a few years ago for Blue Jasmine. Joy was a mess but Lawrence was great in it but she has no shot of taking Oscar #2. Rampling is quietly effective in the languid 45 Years and fresh-faced Ronan lights up every frame of Brooklyn. Strong line-up but this is Larson’s to take.

Will Win: Brie Larson – Room
Should Win: Brie Larson – Room
Should Have Been Nominated: Lily Tomlin – Grandma

Best Supporting Actor:
Christian Bale – The Big Short
Tom Hardy – The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone – Creed

Like the leading actor category, the supporting one is a bit of a mess. Bale is one-note in The Big Short. Good on you if you can understand a single word Hardy says as he grumbles throughout The Revenant. Ruffalo is always great and has several standout scenes in Spotlight but I would have preferred to see Keaton representing that film. Rylance is eerily stoic and the best thing about Bridge of Spies. Stallone has a few great scenes in Creed, which will find him at the podium on Oscar night.

Will Win: Sylvester Stallone – Creed
Should Win: Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Should Have Been Nominated: Jason Mitchell – Straight Outta Compton; Michael Keaton – Spotlight

Best Supporting Actress:
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara – Carol
Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

This is one of the trickier categories of the night. Mara and Vikander are unquestionably leads in their films but were campaigned in supporting. Leigh got MVP reviews for The Hateful Eight but I found her grating (I enjoyed her sympathetic voice work in Anomalisa much more). McAdams was a nice surprise, delivering an empathetic performance in Spotlight. Even though Vikander is a lead, she is so powerful in The Danish Girl and will take the Oscar home. She is a great new talent, who really exploded this year, and deserves a win. My vote would go to Winslet for her fearless devotion to Steve Jobs and for never being afraid to spar with him.

Will Win: Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Should Win: Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs
Should Have Been Nominated: Alicia Vikander should have been nominated for The Danish Girl in lead so she could have been nominated for Ex Machina in supporting.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Adam McKay and Charles Randolph – The Big Short
Nick Hornby – Brooklyn
Phyllis Nagy – Carol
Drew Goddard – The Martian
Emma Donoghue – Room

Having won the Writer’s Guild Award, The Big Short is the frontrunner. I must have completely missed the mark on this film because I did not care for it. Brooklyn is sweet and a well-structured script and probably my second favorite here. The inclusion of The Martian was interesting and frustrating because it’s all one big wait-and-see. Room is the best screenplay here. Donoghue adapted her best-selling novel and really created a world and placed us in this tiny shed with her two characters.

Will Win: The Big Short
Should Win: Room
Should Have Been Nominated: Steve Jobs – How did the Academy not nominated Aaron Sorkin? How?!

Best Original Screenplay:
Matt Charman, Joel and Ethan Cohen – Bridge of Spies
Alex Garland – Ex Machina
Pete Doctor, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley – Inside Out
Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer – Spotlight
Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus  – Straight Outta Compton

For its dedication to telling its story as detailed and empathetically as possible, Spotlight is the clear and deserving winner.

Will Win: Spotlight
Should Win: Spotlight
Should Have Been Nominated: Paul Weitz – Grandma

That’s it for the big eight. Oscars will be held on Sunday, February 28, 2016.

 

 

 

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