This year is probably more straightforward in the big categories, but quite the troublesome hedgemaze in terms of technicals and short films and such. Here be my picks, complete witommentary, a confidence-inspired ranking system*, and binary Who Will Win/Who Should Win tags:
*The ranking system is based on confidence in each category. A score of 24 – since there are 24 categories – carries the most confidence, and therefore the highest point value. As the score lowers, start loading up on grains of salt. A perfect score will only make me look all the Wieser…
Documentary Short (2)
This is tough, as the offerings really run the gamut in terms of content. We have a Holocaust eulogy, an Ebola crisis piece, a piece on domestic violence in Pakistan, a Vietnam vet think piece, and a short on a Vietnamese teenage artist affected by Agent Orange. My gut tells me to go with Body Team 12, the Ebola one, though I feel A Girl in the River, the Pakistani film, deserves a look for the cultural horrors it produces on viewing.
Will Win: A Girl in the River // Should Win: A Girl in the River
Amy is the one that will win. It’s inevitable, like other awards later on. Cartel Land and the Nina Simone piece were intriguing, but they lack the controlled manipulation that director Asif Kapadia holds in the tragic overview of the short starburst of a career that belonged to Amy Winehouse.
*The Hunting Ground was nominated for Song, and while I acknowledge some of its content is dubious and controversial, I feel the content and filmmaking should be acknowledged for its headway in dealing with collegiate sexual assault cases.
Will+Should Win: Amy
Should’ve Been Nominated: The Hunting Ground
Live Action Short (1)
I really have no opinion, having not seen any yet. But research is edging me towards Stutterer. Eh, might as well.
Will Win: Stutterer (??)
History has taught me that if it has Disney plastered on the product (Sanjay’s Super Team), bet on it stealing the Oscar over usually much more interesting and rewarding things like Don Hertzfeldt’s jaw-dropping World of Tomorrow and the equally inspired Russian entry We Can’t Live Without Cosmos. They’ll listen to me eventually.
Will Win: Sanjay’s Super Team
Should Win: World of Tomorrow / We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
Pixar has had this one in the bag since the film made a splash back in June when it was released. It is sad, because it was a really extraordinary year for feature animation, between the Ghibli coming of age drama When Marnie was There, the mimed hijinks of Shaun the Sheep, and the intriguing headpiece Anomalisa. Still mad that Peanuts wasn’t nominated, by the by.
Will Win: Inside Out
Should’ve Been Nominated: The Peanuts Movie
Sound Editing (19) +Mixing (8)
Fury Road really should have this in the bag, but research tells me assorted experts expect The Revenant to steal one or both for some reason that is unfathomable by me. Thing is, I remember the hellish soundscapes of the furious roadway, but aside from the bear attack, I remember nothing remarkable from The Revenant. Ugh, you people are all crazy, Academy.
EDITING – Will+Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
MIXING – Will+Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Film Editing (5)
A tough call to end all tough calls.
In one corner, we have Best Picture front-runners The Big Short, The Revenant, and Spotlight. In the other, we have wild-card options Fury Road and the latest in the legendary Star Wars series. What to choose, what to choose…?
Twist my arm and I’d say The Big Short. If not, I blame John Serba.
Will Win: The Big Short
Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Makeup and Hairstyling (11)
Another one that I am proud to say Fury Road has in the proverbial bag. Just look at the level of creativity and imagination given to ol’ Immortan here.
Long Live Mad Max! Long Live The Wasteland! Sing, Brothers! Sing, SING!!
Will+Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Original Song (4)
Please don’t let Fifty Shades of Grey get past Oscar-nominee status. Just give it to Gaga and spare us the pain of remembering. My heart can’t take the strain.
Will+Should Win: “Til It Happens to You”, from The Hunting Ground
Tarantino’s little outburst at the Globes, spouting that Morricone has never won an Oscar, (technically untrue, he won an Honorary Oscar at the 2007 ceremony) basically ensured that H8ful Eight will garner one, and only one, award over the course of the evening.
That being said, Carter Burwell’s score for Carol was an exquisite treat that deserves to be recognized above Maestro Morricone, sorry to say.
Will Win: Ennio Morricone, The H8ful Eight
Should Win: Carter Burwell, Carol
Best Visual Effects (10)
Fury Road vs Star Wars. Sometimes I despise that so many good genre films come out in one year, looking so technically flawless.
I really wish Ex Machina had gotten more love, but at least it also has a screenplay nomination.
Will+Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Costume Design (3)
I am torn.
Carol was a truly gross oversight by the Academy on two of the big categories (Director and Picture) and deserves every nomination and more. But I really want Fury Road to walk away with the night.
Don’t Make Me Choose! -cries-
Will Win: Carol
Could Tie With: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Production Design (17)
George Miller and his crew of lunatics crafted one of the craziest worlds ever in Fury Road. Frankly, nothing else comes close to its achievement in sheer world-building, even with its non-existent exposition.
Ex Machina and the under-seen Crimson Peak could also have benefited from some love here, but the Academy can’t help but shovel nominations out to lackluster things like The Danish Girl and Bridge of Spies. Heaven forbid we don’t give credit to the movies that will be remembered down the years as the best alternatives for sleep aids.
Will+Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Cinematography (13)
Ugh. Look, I like pretty pictures as much as anybody, but ‘Chivo’ has already won 2 consecutive Oscars, and his work on The Revenant proved more distracting than masterful. I much preferred the laid-back grain of Ed Lachman’s photography in Carol. Plus, lots of soft focus to increase the romantic tension.
Will Win: Emmanual Lubezki, The Revenant
Should Win: Ed Lachman, Carol
Foreign Language Film (18)
Son of Saul has been picking up a ridiculous amount of hype and awards buzz since mutterings of its power escaped the festival circuit early last year. Plus, it’s a Holocaust tale, and y’all should know how much the Academy loves that subject matter.
*Note that I haven’t seen any of the nominees yet, as foreign releases are negligible outside of the big, big cities (LA and NY), and Saul won’t see the silver screen in MI until March 4th. This is all gut instinct based on patterns in other award circuits. This is why there is no “should win” below. I feel I haven’t seen enough to make a confident choice.
Will Win: Son of Saul
Another tough call. Typically, the Best Picture winner will pick up its assigned screenplay award, as with the case of the last few ceremonies. However, this is not always the case, as neither Million Dollar Baby nor The Artist picked up a screenplay award the night they won big.
In terms of original work, the Straight Outta Compton script could pick up the win as a peace-offering from the Academy for the #OscarsSoWhite debacle. But, Spotlight is the clear-cut victor of the bunch, seeing as it is neck and neck with The Revenant for the big prize. And Ex Machina gets a sympathy nomination knowing it won’t win anything. Cursed anti-science fiction Academy voters.
In the realm of Adapted work, critics and audiences have shown a lot of love for Brooklyn, the little movie that could, which could manifest into it’s only award of the evening. On the other hand, The Big Short had one of those scripts that was equally nutty and rage-inducing in all the right ways. Plus, Drew Goddard’s clever writing made The Martian the box office smash of the third quarter of 2015. This is a literal crapshoot, but with unbelievably high-quality pigeons.
Original, Will Win: Spotlight // Should Win: Ex Machina
Adapted, Will Win: The Big Short // Should Win: Brooklyn
Best Supporting Actress (7)
Another one I am truly torn on for different reasons. As I explained in a previous editorial, Alicia Vikander is only nominated for The Danish Girl because she was the best part of the cursed flick. She played a much more interesting character and delivered a perfectly nuanced performance in Ex Machina, but alas the Academy voters are still wholly anti-genre films, so no dice there.
In addition, Kate Winslet has been picking up mucho praise for her work in Steve Jobs; she even picked up the Golden Globe and was honestly shocked. This category, along with Best Picture, could go either way.
Will Win: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Should’ve Been Nominated: Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
Best Supporting Actor (23)
For the longest time, it seemed like Mark Rylance’s quiet spy from Bridge of Spies was the easy choice, but Sly Stallone is another one of those inevitable picks that only became apparent to me once the Golden Globes hit. When Sly picked up the Globe, there was a standing ovation. If that’s not a guaranteed in for Sly, I don’t know if such a thing exists.
Add in the fact that his performance is one of his personal best up there with his work in the seminal Rocky as well as his turn in James Mangold’s Cop Land. His Rocky Balboa is aged, but not down and out quite yet. Stallone’s journey through Hollywood has been a fascinating one, and it’s time he was rewarded for sticking the landing in such a graceful way.
Will+Should Win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Should’ve Been Nominated: Jacob Tremblay, Room
^+Steve Carell, The Big Short
Brie Larson is, along with Leo and Sly, a shoo-in for her award.
She brings a true gravitas that speaks of her patience in the Hollywood landscape so far, and her role as ‘Ma’ was a star-making performance like nothing else offered to the Academy this year.
Now, that is not to say I wouldn’t be disappointed to see Saorise Ronan grab something for her delightful turn in Brooklyn. Both are equally deserving.
Will Win: Brie Larson, Room
Should Win: Brie Larson or Saorise Ronan, Brooklyn
Should’ve Been Nominated: Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Actor (24, Guaranteed)
11 years too late, as well.
Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Should Win: I dunno. . .Fassbender?
Should Have Been Nominated: Michael Keaton, Spotlight
Best Director (9)
My dubious research into the depths of Oscar predictions gave me one significant bright spot/potential upset: George Miller will win Best Director.
At first I was in shocked denial, but then I thought on it more. The Academy loves to hand out career awards, and for once, this could work in ol’ Georgie’s favor. He’s been pulling his weight for nearly 40 years in the business after coming to it from being an emergency surgeon. And this career achievement award would coincide with his greatest, most impressive directorial work since Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior. Plus, AMPAS could see his effort as pulling off what Linklater did with Boyhood last year, with all his struggles, genius choices, and smart editing shining through his action-packed opus. Thank the Academy for that small relief.
Will+SHOULD Win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Should’ve Been Nominated: Sir Ridley Scott, The Martian
+Alex Garland, Ex Machina
~BEST PICTURE~ (6)
All right, let’s get this outta the way at the start:
My two favorites, Brooklyn and Fury Road, don’t have a chance at the top prize, unless the Big Three Choices split the vote, like what happened with Crash back in 2006. Frankly, that would delight me, but I’m gonna be safe and narrow it down from the Big Three: Spotlight, The Revenant, and The Big Short.
Of the three, The Big Short has been picking up the most momentum since it was a surprise Golden Globe nominee. It also won the Producer’s Guild Award, but that is it so far. It could be the surprise winner that takes the audience off-guard, having built up speed over the holiday and corresponding awards season.
The heavy hitter out of the gate is The Revenant, having won the BAFTA (British equivalent of the Oscar), the Director’s Guild Award, the Golden Globe for Best Drama, and numerous others. But, it has no script nomination, and no film has won Best Picture without a screenplay nomination since Titanic in 1998.
Spotlight is the tried-and-true pick of the trio, having won the SAG Award for Best Ensemble, the Gotham Award for Best Film, the Critic’s Choice Award, and the Satellite Award for Best Motion Picture. Its cast is legendary, its script has been lauded all over, and the direction was exceptional, considering the director previously made the universally-hated Adam Sandler vehicle, The Cobbler.
Taking all of this into account, here’s how I narrowed it down. Bridge of Spies leaves no noticeable impression upon viewing, it’s outta here! Room is out due to story structure problems I mentioned in my review. The Martian proved to be a crowd-pleasing box-office smash, but the Academy is still notoriously and inexplicably anti-science fiction. My beloved Fury Road is just too weird for the old fogies of the Academy, so I’m resting on it picking up six other awards. Brooklyn is the quiet innocent among the cutthroat Oscar race, so it’s doomed from the start. On top of all that hype, I’m knocking out The Revenant due to superstition over that phantom screenplay, and plus Alejandro already won big last year.
Between Spotlight and The Big Short, my gut tells me to go with Spotlight, seeing as the Academy could give it to make up for snubbing All the President’s Men way back in ’76 (which lost to Rocky, humorously enough). Though, my subconscious instinct tells me that The Big Short could be the troublemaker that flips the night on its head.
Who knows anyway? We shall see, Sunday evening. Until then, Witness Me!!
Will Win: Spotlight, I guess.
What I Want to Win: Brooklyn // Mad Max: Fury Road
Most Potential to Upset: The Big Short