Can Mad Max: Fury Road buck the odds and sweep the slate? Will AMPAS award the white people involved in Creed and Straight Outta Compton and then congratulate itself for being liberal and celebrating diversity? Can Leonardo DiCaprio ever forget Mercy Humppe and win an Academy Award? Find out on Saturday night!
Nominees: The Big Short; Bridge of Spies; Brooklyn; Mad Max: Fury Road; The Martian; The Revenant; Room; Spotlight
Rooting for: Room
Betting on: The Big Short
It’s easier to say up-front which movies won’t get the award. Do not expect it to go to Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, The Martian, or (sadly) Room.
The Producers Guild of America gave their award to The Big Short. If the Academy disagrees, it will be the first time since 2006 (when the PGA said “Little Miss Sunshine!” and the Academy said “The Departed!”). Meanwhile, the Directors Guild of America gave its award to Alejandro González Iñárritu for directing The Revenant, and the Best Director usually directs the Best Picture. (See below for further details.) Those are the most realistic options, but there’s enough wiggle room for Spotlight to squeak through, or for Fury Road to pull off an upset.
I’m going with The Big Short, for social conscience value.
Nominees: Lenny Abrahamson, Room; Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant; Tom McCarthy, Spotlight; Adam McKay, The Big Short; George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Rooting for: George Miller
Betting on: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
As already stated, Iñárritu won the DGA; since 1980, the Guild and the Academy have disagreed on only five occasions. (And only once in the last ten years: in 2012, the DGA went to Ben Affleck for Argo, who didn’t even score an Oscar nomination.) He has one tea leaf working against him: he won this award last year, for Birdman; the same director hasn’t won in this category over two consecutive years since 1949-50. That being said, that only makes him the likely winner instead of the certain winner.
Iñarritu’s two biggest competitors here are Miller and McKay. Normally the latter wouldn’t even be part of the convo, but the Best Director usually directs the Best Picture (since 1980, Picture and Director have gone to different films eight times). If McKay wins, The Big Short is all but guaranteed a Best Picture win.
Nominees: Bryan Cranston, Trumbo; Matt Damon, The Martian; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant; Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs; Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Rooting for: Leonardo DiCaprio
Betting on: Leonardo DiCaprio
On paper, the safest prediction here would be Cranston, a beloved actor playing a legendary screenwriter in a film that both mythologizes Hollywood and has a social conscience. The hang-up? Nobody much liked Trumbo, including the Academy. Redmayne has a similar problem; indeed, The Danish Girl seems to be less popular than Trumbo. (Having won last year also counts against him, even though the last consecutive-year Best Actor wins–Tom Hanks for Philadelphia and Forest Gump–are within living memory.) As for Matt Damon, the consensus seems to be that as good as he was in The Martian, he essentially played Watney as the Typical Stock Matt Damon Character. His Globe for Actor/Comedy means nothing here.
That makes the contest between Fassbender and DiCaprio, and I give DiCaprio advantage due to the sheer physical Hell he clearly put himself through in making The Revenant. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the Screen Actors Guild both agree.
Nominees: Cate Blanchett, Carol; Brie Larson, Room; Jennifer Lawrence, Joy; Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years; Saorise Ronan, Brooklyn
Rooting for: Brie Larson
Betting on: Brie Larson
Before the Golden Globes, I had thought the contest would be between Blanchett and Ronan. Then Carol was snubbed for Best Picture and Best Director Oscars, and Brie Larson won the Globe. I had initially assumed Rooney Mara was a spoiler in that category, since the HFPA nominated her as a lead actress instead of supporting. But Larson also won the SAG for this category, and Screen Actors nominated Mara as supporting as well.
I would say the smart money’s on Larson. Is there a chance that anyone can pull off a coup? Probably not.
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Christian Bale, The Big Short; Tom Hardy, The Revenant; Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight; Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies; Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Rooting for: Tom Hardy
Betting on: Sylvester Stallone
I find this a tough category. I haven’t seen either Bridge of Spies or Creed. The SAGs gave the award to Idris Elba, which tells us nothing.
My gut tells me to go with Stallone for the sake of sentimentality, but much of the pre-ceremony discussion has reflected favorably on Rylance. Spotlight’s Best Cast SAG might work in Ruffalo’s favor (it’s unusual–albeit not actually rare–for that category to not overlap, in some way, with the acting Oscars), or it might highlight that film’s ensemble nature–trying to pick a standout performance was damnably tough.
Also keep in mind: the Oscars also like physical transformation (see: Charlize Theron in Monster, Eddie Redmayne in Theory of Everything…), which bodes well for Bale and Hardy.
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight; Rooney Mara, Carol; Rachel McAdams, Spotlight; Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl; Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Rooting for: Rooney Mara
Betting on: Alicia Vikander
This is another category where my initial assumption was completely obliterated by the actual nominations. I had initially seen Mara as the lock in this category–but the Academy snubbed Carol, Winslet won the Globe, and Vikander won the SAG.
This now makes Vikander the safest bet, even if–and I’m not the first person to observe this–everybody knows she should have been nominated for Ex Machina, not The Danish Girl. If not her, Winslet is the most likely winner, with Mara trailing. Sadly, I don’t think Leigh was ever part of the conversation.
Interestingly enough, there don’t seem to be any reliable tea leaves in these two categories: the Writers Guild of America awards usually agree with the Oscars in one, but not both, and it doesn’t seem to be the same one on a consistent basis.
Nominees: Bridge of Spies, Ex Machina, Inside Out, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton
Rooting for: Ex Machina
Betting on: Spotlight
I’d judge the frontrunners in this category as Spotlight and Straight Outta Compton for the social conscience (slight edge to Spotlight), with Inside Out as a dark horse for the feels. Sadly, I don’t reckon Ex Machina has much of a chance here.
Nominees: The Big Short; Brooklyn; Carol; The Martian; Room
Rooting for: Room
Betting on: The Big Short
The writing categories are where the Academy likes to favor quirky, offbeat nominees, which I think will help The Big Short, along with its political factor. Beyond that, the field’s too wide open to call.
Best Original Score
Nominees: Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies; Carter Burwell, Carol; Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight; Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sicario; John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Rooting for: Jóhann Jóhannsson
Betting on: Ennio Morricone
Morricone won the Golden Globe for this, but the Globes and the Oscars haven’t agreed on this category since 2012. Will this be the year they get back in line? I think so: interest in Morricone has flourished over the years, and his Hateful Eight score is truly a tour de force. I don’t think it will hurt that the “roadshow edition” of the film calls a lot of attention to the music.
If not Morricone, I say Williams. Giving him an Oscar to match the one he received for the original Star Wars has a nice feel to it, and despite his seeming ubiquity in the category, he hasn’t actually won since Schindler’s List.
Burwell’s lovely, jazz-inflected Carol score (okay, two things I liked about Carol) doesn’t call enough attention to itself, while Jóhannsson’s work on Sicario is too damn dark.
Animated Feature Film: Pixar’s record in this category is 7-for-9 and the last time they lost, it was with Cars. That makes Inside Out the only realistic prospect, and I wouldn’t even give Anamolisa or Shaun the Sheep Movie an outside chance.
Foreign-Language Film: Son of Saul.
Documentary Feature: The Look of Silence.
Animated Short Film: I’ve only seen one of the nominees, but even so, it’s hard not to root for World of Tomorrow.
Original Song: More than likely “Til It Happens to You,” from The Hunting Ground, although I will laugh heartily if the statue goes to “Earned It,” thus allowing Fifty Shades of Grey to call itself an Oscar winner.
Cinematography: Worthy nominees all (fine, three things I liked about Carol), but I’m going to give this to The Revenant.
Production Design: Fury Road.
Makeup and Hairstyling: Fury Road.
Costume Design: Carol.
Film Editing: Fury Road, probably, although if The Revenant is on a path to sweep the awards it could win here too.
Visual Effects: Fury Road again, and this is one of the few categories where it has a clear obvious advantage over The Revenant. If there’s a dark horse in this category, it’s The Force Awakens.
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Well, that about wraps it up for this awards season. Before I go, I’d like to remind you of the real best score of the year: