2016 Oscar Predictions

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

The 88th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 28, 2016.

 

Well, the big day is just one day away. The Academy Awards air Sunday and, while I still haven’t seen Best Picture nominees The Big Short and Brooklyn. I can tell you my best guesses about who will take home the tiny little gold guys based on what has happened at various awards and a couple of gut feelings. This is a crazy Oscar year with every awards event and guild honoring a different movie. I am probably going to fare worse than most years because I am going out on a limb here, but as someone who really wants to believe the Academy realizes The Revenant isn’t a very good movie and Alejandro Inneritu does not need to be in the company of greats John Ford and Joseph Mankiewicz as a back-to-back Best Director winner, I am being wildly optimistic and highly unrealistic in some choices.

With that, here goes:

BEST PICTURE

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

Who will win: Spotlight

The Revenant is the favorite here, but not by much. People consider it a fairly open three-horse race between it, The Big Short, and Spotlight. Many think with The Big Short taking the Producer’s Guild Award, it is in a great position, but I am going to disagree. While PGA tends to be the best predictor for this category because of its similar voting system, I am not sure it is so reliable because the list of nominees varied too much. So, I am going with Spotlight, who took the SAG award, a honor The Revenant wasn’t even nominated for. Plus, without a screenplay nomination, The Revenant is facing a big uphill battle because of it, so I am going with the one the actors, who represent the bulk of the Academy, prefer.

BEST DIRECTING

The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

Who Will Win: George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

Again, I realize it is wishful thinking to believe The Revenant doesn’t get both of these awards, but I really do believe there is a backlash forming around it, which leaves me thinking this is a good opportunity for the Academy to honor Miller, who created both the Mad Max and Babe franchises, for being an incredible world builder. While I am not a fan of Mad Max, the universe he built over the course of four movies seems like a perfect alternate option to giving Innaritu a second Oscar for a film no one will claim is anywhere close to as good as Birdman.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Who Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio

Ths is the weakest Best Actor field in a decade and this is a pretty stone cold lock for the “now is our chance to honor a guy who deserves one” nominee.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Who Will Win: Brie Larson

So, I thought this was just a gimmick movie and Larson benefited from being at the center of the gimmick, but having seen it, I can tell you this is actually a really good movie and she is amazing in it. This is a tough category compared to its male counterpart, but she still stands out among the bunch.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Who Will Win: Sylvester Stallone

I cannot overemphasize how stupid it is we are honoring one of the African-American-centric movies that managed to get a nod at the Oscars by telling a guy who has played the person he is playing for the seventh time good job. The Oscars love nostalgia though. That being said, Mark Rylance has a little bit of steam and, should Spotlight pull the Best Picture win, it may mean success for Ruffalo so the film manages to pull off more wins than Screenplay and Picture.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Who Will Win: Alicia Vikander

This category is the only one of the acting ones primed for an upset, so don’t be shocked if Kate Winslet pulls out a win here so we can see pictures of Kate and Leo standing together with their Oscars, but this is a category where the Academy loves to honor the latest young ingenue and Vikander fits the bill with good performances in both The Danish Girl and Ex Machina.

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton

Who Will Win: Spotlight

This is pretty locked up too, as the screenplay is the backbone of this streamlined production with incredible dialogue, story, and characters upon which everything else is built upon.

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
The Martian
Room

Who Will Win: The Big Short

Of its five nominations, this category is the only one where it stands that much of a chance.

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Anomalisa
Boy and the World
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There

Who Will Win: Inside Out

It is kind of surprising this tear-jerking, wonderfully-executed Pixar flick didn’t get a Best Picture nod, so at the very least it is taking this category down.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Carol
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario

Who Will Win: The Revenant

Emmanuel Lubezki is going to win this category for the third year in a row and deservedly so. This movie is too long and kinda boring, but there is never a moment where it isn’t beautiful.

COSTUME DESIGN

Carol
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Who Will Win: Cinderella

The same woman who did Carol also did Cinderella, so the strength of two Oscar-nominated movies should prevail over Mad Max.

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

Amy
Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Who Will Win: Amy

This movie is a critical darling, a popular success, and done entirely with found footage and no talking heads chiming in about her importance.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Embrace of the Serpent
Mustang
Son of Saul
Theeb
A War

Who Will Win: Son of Saul

Holocaust movie, heartbreaking story. Let’s lock this one up.

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Mad Max: Fury Road
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out
the Window and Disappeared
The Revenant

Who Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Another design award for a movie that built a whole world unlike anything else we’ve seen this year.

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

Bridge of Spies
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Who Will Win: The Hateful Eight

Ennio Morrricone will win mostly because of name recognition and the fact this is his first high profile project in a while.

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

“Earned It,” Fifty Shades of Grey
“Manta Ray,” Racing Extinction
“Simple Song #3,” Youth
“Til It Happens To You,” The Hunting Ground
“Writing’s On The Wall,” Spectre

Who Will Win “Til It Happens to You”

Given its serious subject matter (rape and sexual assault), top pop name (Lady Gaga), and Oscar pedigree (songwriter Diane Warren), this seems like an easy pick.

SOUND EDITING
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Who Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

I am just giving most of the technical awards  to Mad Max since it is a genre-defining action film and the Academy will want to reward it as much as it can.

SOUND MIXING
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Who Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

See above.

FILM EDITING
The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Spotlight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Who Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

This is one of those things you’ll just have to trust me on, but what the editing team did to maintain continuity is really impressive, however, if Spotlight is going to take Best Picture, it is possible you can see an upset in this category.

VISUAL EFFECTS
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Who Will Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Since the Star Wars juggernaut probably deserves some recognition and so much of Mad Max were practical (real) effects versus CGI and digital, I see Star Wars managing to take home this single statue.

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Who Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

I keep looking for a technical category where The Revenant can upset Mad Max and I am just not seeing it. Piling fur pelts on guys vs. creating a series of characters and sects of people in Mad Max are just entirely different projects with the latter being much more impressive than the former.

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

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

Who Will Win: Body Team 12

Haven’t seen any of these, but this is the one being listed by pundits on sites like Gold Derby so I say sounds good to me.

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

Bear Story
Prologue
Sanjay’s Super Team
We Can’t Live without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow

Who Will Win: Sanjay’s Super Team

In a pat on the back of making #OscarsNotSoWhite, look for this Pixar short to take the trophy.

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
Ave Maria
Day One
Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)
Shok
Stutterer

Who Will Win: Ave Maria

Sounds like an important enough title to me. That is all I’ve got.

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Oscar Outlook: Spotlight

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to be an alter server during mass. I liked the robes, but mostly I liked the idea of holding the pattons (they aren’t in use any more, but they were small pans held under the priest during Communion so, as my Sunday School teacher explained, “nobody dropped Jesus on the floor.”

During my time alter serving, I got to know one of the new priests at our church in Lexington, Father John. He was young and energetic and his homilies were the best because he would buy a bag of stuff from Wal-Mart and use his stuff as props to get his point across, then give it away like Mass was Let’s Make a Deal.

After my dad died, I grew closer to Father John. On the Alter Server’s trip to the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park, my friend Diana and I hung out with him all day and had a blast. After about a year, Father John was transferred to a parish in Eastern Kentucky, a more impoverished part of the state. My mom explained that oftentimes the promising and energetic young priests get the tough assignments, but could tell I was nonetheless sad he was gone.

There is a moment in Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight which Wesley Morris and Bill Simmons decried as Oscar-baity (it is the clip above) where one of the journalists investigating the Boston priest child abuse scandal, Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) grows impatient with his boss (Michael Keaton) holding the story. The Spotlight team of reporters, all four of which were varying degrees of lapsed Catholics, were clearly conflicted about how and when to get the information out versus how much to research and dig while other children might be preyed upon. Rezendes launches into a tirade pointing out that it could have been any one of them.

What Morris and Simmons found hackneyed, struck me right to the core. I thought of Father John. Then I thought of Father Nienaber, a man who stopped giving Mass shortly after I was born, but was arrested on child abuse charges in 1993 for crimes that took place a decade earlier. Had I been a little younger, I fit the demographic of the kids the corrupt priest preyed on, but I was lucky enough that they primarily kept him in the Rectory away from people. Instead, I got Father John.

When the movie was over, I walked around the block trying to wrap my head about how I felt about being Catholic, about what happened, and how every member of the Catholic community can’t help but feel the accountability you can see weighing Keaton’s shoulders down, weighing down those of his lawyer friend (Jamey Sheridan), and weighing down on every staffer at the Boston Globe.

Then I went home and checked the database of corrupt priests to see if Father John was on the list. He was not and, while I should’ve felt relieved, instead I felt all the more concerned. I’ve spent over 24 hours contemplating what my Catholicism means to me all because of a movie. The actions of these priests and church authorities took something that was pure and wonderful and, for a moment, made me question its motives. Does that mean I can’t have faith in the church anymore? I don’t know. I’d like to hope not.

It is hard for me to accurately assess the cinematic quality of Spotlight, for as a semi-lapsed Catholic, the film stirs up so many feelings and emotions, and I can practically hear the pain and angst the Spotlight team goes through doing their job, but not being able to fix a horribly broken mess that stretched far beyond the city limits of Boston. I don’t know if people who were not part of the church leave with the same experience.

Let me try to at least point out why this movie is exceptional beyond just the questions of morality and religion. Unlike Mad Max or The Revenant, the beauty of the direction of Spotlight is Tom McCarthy’s restraint. There are no forced dramatic and suspenseful moments just for effect. The minimalist cinematography keeps the focus on a slew of truly incredible performances. Unlike The Revenant or The Martian, which I found to have major performer liabilities, there is not a soul in this movie I don’t believe gives a thoroughly convincing and compelling performance. The production design is exceptional too. Rather than glam up the gorgeous Rachel McAdams, they keep her in sensible shoes and wide-legged pants with curled hair that even has the occasional spot in the back all of us frizzy-haired girls tend to miss from time to time. They make the movie stars look and feel real. It also has hands-down the best dialogue of any other Oscar-level movie this year, yet makes so much out of a look, a pause, some silence, and shots of reporters doing what they are supposed to do–listen.

In many ways, it is a throwback to the 70s the way Argo was, with a process film that knows the substance is far more important than the style in which it is presented. Subtlety is Spotlight’s best weapon and it is a relief among all the boom and spectacle of some of the other nominees.

I still maintain Bridge of Spies is the best movie of the year because I know it is a story everyone can relate to and I am not sure if Spotlight is something that resonates the same way for those who were not raised in the Catholic community. In other words, I fully admit my personal experiences are clouding my ability to judge it as a film. For the outsiders like Editor-in-Chief Marty Baron, it was easy to say go after the church, get ’em, take ’em down. I know there are others who still believe the world would be better without the Catholic Church. When I think of how, if I was a little younger, I wouldn’t have happy stories of Father John, but horror stories of Father Nieneber, I shudder, because I know people affected by this scandal and it sickens me. I don’t condone it, I hate that it happened, but, naive as it may sound, I have to believe that with movies like Spotlight and people like the team at the Boston Globe and the numerous wonderful selfless members of the clergy, there is still hope for the Church.

Because yes, I could have very easily been a victim, but the other side of the coin is I may not have even been a person were it not for the church. I was put up for adoption by a Catholic birth mother who didn’t believe abortion was the answer. I was adopted by two loving Catholic parents through Catholic Services, whose marriage was strengthened by the Catholic program Marriage Encounter. I literally owe my life to the Catholic Church and, right now, as I go through a very tough time in my life when friends don’t always answer the phone and family can’t always be there, the people who reach out, the people who have guaranteed their support are representatives of the Catholic Church.

There is a moment in Spotlight where Ruffalo’s character expresses a thought many of us lapsed Catholics have had, which is that someday we would come back. Someday it would be a huge part of our lives again. I, like him, enjoy Mass when the priest gives a compelling and thought-provoking homily. I like to go and think about something bigger than myself. I like knowing I am part of a community who has incredibly selfless and wonderful priests and nuns that far outweigh the bad apples in volume. And, just like Rezendes, I know it is silly and painful to consider what it is going to take to get the church back to what it should be, to what I’ve seen it be for so many people, but I can’t help but hope we get better. Not just the cardinals and the corrupt priests, but the journalists, the city leaders, the parishoners, all of us. I left Spotlight feeling a sense of accountability but also a sense of hope that this movie and the journalism that inspired it will continue to move us forward.

This isn’t much of a movie review because, for me, Spotlight isn’t a movie. My friend, who teaches at a Catholic girls’ school in California told me the journalism students at the school were excused from Mass one day to see Spotlight because, “that is a Mass too.”

To the educator who said that, I applaud you because the comparison is so apt. Unlike Mad Max and Revenant where I just left shrugging and saying, “wow that looked really cool,” I left this movie scratching my head, questioning my faith, trying to work through my own personal thoughts about the church, and mulling over how much hope I have that people like the Spotlight team can keep saving us from ourselves. To me, this is a purer cinematic experience than the one with the pretty shots of the South Dakota snow because I would rather leave a theater not thinking, “I wonder how they pulled that off?” and instead thinking, “what about my life might need to change because of what I’ve just witnessed?”

I hope Spotlight can maintain its momentum and take Best Picture, as I think if we look back in 20 years and it is The Revenant, we will roll our eyes like we do with The Hurt Locker or Crash. Meanwhile, Spotlight will be remembered as the next great newsroom drama and will continue to raise questions and demand answers for years to come.

My Rolling Top 5 of 2015

  1. Bridge of Spies
  2. Spotlight
  3. Inside Out
  4. Going Clear
  5. Straight Outta Compton