February 26, 2016

Oscar 2016 - Predicting the Winners

Before the Academy Awards are handed out this Sunday evening, here’s my annual primer of what/who will and should win each of the six main categories, plus which actors and films were robbed of their rightful Oscar nominations.

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

What Will Win: The spectacular neo-Western The Revenant has forged to the front of Best Picture favorites, ahead of Spotlight, the early critics darling, and The Big Short, which won the Producers Guild Award.

What Should Win: While The Revenant was my third-favorite film of 2015 and would be a worthy Oscar winner, my second-favorite film was Mad Max: Fury Road. Repeat viewings of this tour de force from director George Miller accentuate its feminist undercurrents without blunting the audacious action.

What Got Snubbed: Just my number one movie of the year: Ex Machina. Writer-director Alex Garland earned a screenplay nomination for this A.I. update on “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” an arresting, sobering portrait of humankind’s predilection for both invention and self-destruction.

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

Who Will Win: Alejandro Iñárritu won the Directors Guild Award, and the last time a DGA winner nominated for the Academy Award the same year didn’t take home the Oscar was Rob Marshall for Chicago in 2002. Iñárritu will ride The Revenant wave for his second straight Best Director Oscar (he won last year for Birdman).

Who Should Win: Iñárritu’s work on The Revenant is already the stuff of movie lore. But the creatively breathtaking work of George Miller in Mad Max: Fury Road is the stuff of film school lectures.

Who Got Snubbed: Ridley Scott should have been in the running to win this Oscar for The Martian Somehow, some way he didn’t even get a nomination over of lesser efforts from McKay, Abrahamson and even McCarthy. Heck, Ryan Coogler also deserved a nom for Creed over those three.

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

Who Will Win: Call it a career achievement award, but Leonardo DiCaprio appears the odds-on favorite to win his first Oscar. His leading role in The Revenant isn’t his finest work, but it’s a durable, arduous effort of the sort the Academy likes to recognize.

Who Should Win: Michael Fassbender deservedly won the vast majority of early critics awards, until the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) vaulted DiCaprio into the pole position. Fassbender’s portrayal of Apple founder Steve Jobs is the clear best lead actor performance of the year, much less these five nominees.

Who Got Snubbed: Sir Ian McKellen doesn’t need more plaudits, but his affecting portrait of an aging Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes somehow got lost in the awards season shuffle.

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

Who Will Win: Long consigned to supporting roles, Brie Larson finally got to show her lead acting talents in Room, and she’s romped through the awards season. She’ll cap that off with an Oscar this Sunday.

Who Should Win: Cate Blanchett is a critics’ favorite for Carol, and Charlotte Rampling is captivating and affecting in 45 Years. But Larson deserves this prize.

Who Got Snubbed: Action heroines don’t often merit Oscar attention. But Charlize Theron stole the show in Mad Max: Fury Road, likely by design. Her expansive physical and emotional performance in the film deserved recognition.

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

Who Will Win: This is the most contested category of the year, with a number of performances that would merit a win in past years not even nominated. That said, it appears a Sylvester Stallone win is inevitable—the only major award he didn’t win, the SAG, was the one for which he wasn’t nominated.

Who Should Win: While DiCaprio will likely win an Oscar for The Revenant, Tom Hardy is the best performance in the film (just like most of his films). Mark Rylance is a close second in this category.

Who Got Snubbed: It’s hard to decide who deserved a nomination more between Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation and Benicio Del Toro for Sicario. Elba won the SAG, but industry politics over his Netflix-distributed film, and perhaps institutional racial bias, denied him an Oscar nomination. And Del Toro’s haunting turn was the best thing about the already excellent Sicario.

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

Who Will Win: Kate Winslet won the Golden Globe for this category. But Alicia Vikander’s SAG win is a better predictor, and Vikander benefits from votes for her nominated role in The Danish Girl as well as those who admired her supporting performance in Ex Machina, which had earned her a Golden Globe nom.

Who Should Win: I’m a big fan of Steve Jobs and Winslet. But Rooney Mara is the aching heart and soul of Carol, and her performance is the aspect of that film most deserving of recognition.

Who Got Snubbed: Again, I can’t decide between two performances: Tessa Thompson for Creed and Rebecca Ferguson for Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. Neither of them were under serious consideration for any awards, but they should have been. Thompson was the authentic, unsung heart of Creed. Meanwhile, Ferguson’s action work matched and occasionally surpassed Tom Cruise in the same film, which is no easy task.

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