Here we are! The 88th Academy Awards will be held tomorrow (29th February, 12:30pm AEST time) from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood hosted by the wonderful (and hopefully very insightful) Chris Rock. This year has proven to be indecisive all round with many categories going into the ceremony with no clear frontrunner. I had a go at deciding who will win, who I really think should win and who has been left out of the race all together.
The Big Short (Adam McKay)
Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg)
Brooklyn (John Crowley)
Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
The Martian (Ridley Scott)
The Revenant (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
Room (Lenny Abrahamson)
Spotlight (Tom McCarthy)
No offence to any of the Best Picture nominees this year, but my god, how dull and predictable is this list? There was not one nomination that surprised me which goes to show how uninspiring the whole Oscars race is this year. It would have been so great to see my favourite film of last year (excluding Birdman) Sicario make the list. It was a film I fell in love with in its opening scene. Not only did Sicario use its thriller genre conventions to its advantage, but it also did something completely unique with a relatively reused storyline. Carol is the most obvious omission from the nominees list (along with its director Todd Haynes from the Best Director list). There is no logical reason why the film was not included, it has been given so much love in other categories and at one point seemed the favourite to win. It just doesn’t make any sense why this perfect film was forgotten and makes me rather angry whenever I think about the snub. Then there’s Quentin Tarantino’s new film The Hateful Eight. Although the film that divided many people, I absolutely loved it and felt it harked back to his earlier talky films like Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown. But it seems like it was a little too extreme (and perhaps overlong) for the Academy.
At this point I have seen all the Best Picture nominees except The Big Short (which I refuse to see due to obvious reasons, much like my defiance against American Sniper last year) and have liked them all to varying degrees.
Let me start with the worst of the bunch in my opinion, which are Mad Max: Fury Road and The Martian. I know I have to be in the minority here when I say I disliked Mad Max: Fury Road but let me explain myself. Besides from its self-aggrandising nature and faux-feminist message, it’s a pure assault to the senses that never lets up and ultimately makes the film feel like one tedious, never-ending car chase. Granted, I think George Miller is an amazing local talent (and has been so for many years) and I would love to see him take home Best Director for his gutsy effort to even get this film made, but it is definitely not the kind of film I usually enjoy nor want to ever see again. Then there’s The Martian. Being a big fan of Ridley Scott (or least a selection of his back catalogue) I had high hopes for this survivalist tale of one man on Mars. Unlike many others, I found the film childlike and patronising; not funny enough to be a comedy and not dramatic enough to be a drama. Furthermore, I found Matt Damon’s character to be incredibly annoying which made the two hour-plus journey with him to be almost unbearable.
On the other hand, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn and Room were all films I really loved but sadly seem to be out of the race. I think Bridge of Spies is Spielberg’s best film in years and featured one of my favourite performances of the year thanks to the wonderful Mark Rylance. Brooklyn was an exquisite film made with care and attention that had no shame in using melodramatic elements and old Hollywood tropes without ever being over-sentimental. Room was a near perfect film about an excruciatingly tough subject matter that never felt it forced emotions out of its audience. It also features two of the best performances of the year from Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay as the most heartbreaking mother-son duo I’ve ever seen on film.
That leaves us to two films: The Revenant and Spotlight. From an outsider’s perspective, it looks like these two completely different movies are the certain frontrunners with each film appealing to the Academy in different ways. The Revenant is obviously the more flashy and artsy film out of the two, with one of the most famous actors in the world giving his all for a difficult and intense role. With Iñárritu winning last year for Birdman, it should seem highly unlikely that the Academy will give Best Picture to the same director two years in a row. Yet The Revenant is now the hot favourite to win after taking Best Picture awards at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. Although I thought The Revenant was an admirably good film, it didn’t leave a profound lasting impression like Spotlight did. Arguably the most deserving and important film out of all the Best Picture nominees, Spotlight is such a quiet and unassumingly heroic film about real people and real situations. It’s not flashy or loud or artsy, and just like its characters, the film gets the job done without asking for reward or recognition. It’s an incredibly moving piece of measured, honest and subtle filmmaking with an amazing ensemble cast, which is why I’ll be cheering it on come Oscar night.
What Will Win: The Revenant
What Could Win: Spotlight
What Should Win: Spotlight
What’s Missing: Sicario, Carol and The Hateful Eight
Adam McKay, The Big Short
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
The front-runner here is last year’s winner Iñárritu and many think that he’ll take it home again. However, the Academy hasn’t given out consecutive Best Director awards since Joseph L. Mankiewicz in 1950 and 1951. Although I think Iñárritu is an incredibly talented filmmaker, I don’t think anyone should be given consecutive awards no matter how excellent their skills are. It would be great to see Tom McCarthy win for his subtle and unobtrusive filmmaking for Spotlight. But I really hope it goes to George Miller for his blistering work on Mad Max: Fury Road, just so he can be the first Aussie to win the award.
Who Will Win: Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
Who Could Win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Who Should Win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road or Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Who’s Missing: Todd Haynes, Carol and Denis Villeneuve – Sicario
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
It’s Leo’s year. We all know that. In fact I think World War Three may break out if he doesn’t win. However many people have protested that he has been better in many other films and it seems like a win this year will only be making up for what he has lost in the past. There’s also an idea floating around that praise for his performance is not for the best acing but rather the most acting. Perhaps a more deserving winner would be Fassbender for his portrayal of the very complicated genius Steve Jobs. Then again, in my opinion this really should have been Sam Jackson’s year for expertly carrying The Hateful Eight through its never-ending battle between chaos and calm.
Who Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Who Could Win: Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Who Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Who’s Missing: Samuel L. Jackson – The Hateful Eight and Ian McKellan – Mr. Holmes
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Brie Larson has been the favourite here for a very long time, in fact since the very beginning of awards season. And for a good reason too. Her performance as a young woman trapped in a tiny room with her five-year-old son was excruciatingly all too realistic and gut wrenching. I will be so incredibly happy for her win after seeing her in so many small indie films (everyone must Short Term 12, it is just incredible). But then again, if someone else should cause an upset, I hope it will be Saoirse Ronan for her exquisitely subtle performance in Brooklyn.
Who Will Win: Brie Larson, Room
Who Could Win: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Who Should Win: Brie Larson, Room or Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Who’s Missing: Emily Blunt – Sicario, Mia Wasikowska – Crimson Peak and Rooney Mara – Carol (definitely not a supporting role!)
Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Everyone loves a comeback story, in fact the entire Rocky franchise is based on that very idea. Therefore it appears Sly Stallone is the knockout in this category. However, I’ll be cheering on either of the Marks who both give very humanistic and subtle performances in their respective films. The surprising inclusions of Bale and Hardy meant that perhaps more deserving performances like those from Jacob Tremblay in Room, Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation, Benicio Del Toro in Sicario and – the best performance of the year in my opinion – Paul Dano in Love & Mercy were left off the list.
Who Will Win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Who Could Win: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Who Should Win: Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight or Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Who’s Missing: Paul Dano – Love & Mercy, Benicio Del Toro – Sicario, Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation, Jacob Tremblay – Room and Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
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 has to the most indecisive category of the year. It’s extremely complicated trying to decipher which of these incredible actresses has the upper hand with past awards shows like the BAFTAS, Golden Globes and SAGs all giving it to different winners. Winslet and Vikander have to be the front-runners for sure and I think Winslet is ahead only by a fraction. But then again, Rooney Mara won Best Actress at Cannes way back in May and was the clear frontrunner coming into awards season. Personally, I would love to see Jennifer Jason Leigh take it out for her truly gutsy portrayal of the spiteful and bigoted Daisy Domergue in The Hateful Eight.
Who Will Win: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Who Could Win: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Who Should Win: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Best Original Screenplay
Bridge of Spies, Matt Charman, Joel & Ethan Coen
Ex Machina, Alex Garland
Inside Out, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley
Spotlight, Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer
Straight Outta Compton, Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus
The fact that The Revenant doesn’t have a screenplay nomination may in fact hurt its chances for the top prize, but as a film with little dialogue and minimal story it’s unsurprising that it doesn’t appear on the (adapted screenplay) list. Spotlight on the other hand is a film based entirely around the strength of its script, which is why I think it’s a better chance for Best Picture, as well as a more deserving winner. But then again, it would be interesting to see an animated screenplay win, and even better, for a completely unique sci-fi to win.
What Will Win: Spotlight
What Could Win: Inside Out
What Should Win: Spotlight or Ex Machinia
What’s Missing: Sicario and The Hateful Eight
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Big Short, Adam McKay and Charles Randolph
Brooklyn, Nick Hornby
Carol, Phyllis Nagy
The Martian, Drew Goddard
Room, Emma Donoghue
It looks like the only film on this list that a) isn’t written by a woman or b) doesn’t feature a woman in a lead or major supporting role, will take out the Best Adapted screenplay prize. Apparently in the book The Big Short is based on there is a prominent woman with her own storyline (Meredith Whitney, look her up), but she was mysteriously cut from the adaptation. However, it’s great to see three screenplays with women in the leading roles and two written by women nominated. Personally I’m hoping Phyllis Nagy’s beautifully crafted work on Carol will take it out, but I’m not counting on it.
What Will Win: The Big Short
What Could Win: The Martian
What Should Win: Carol
What’s Missing: Steve Jobs and Anomalisa
Best Foreign Language Film
Son of Saul (Hungary)
Embrace the Serpent (Colombia)
A War (Denmark)
Son of Saul boasts the not very uplifting or even appealing claim that it’s a “Holocaust movie like you’ve never seen before”. Instead of focusing on the grand scheme of the horrors, the film follows the story of one man’s quest for survival at any cost. Shot in very intimate close up, it’s a confronting look at humanity at its very worst. If the Academy had any sense, they would have not only nominated Son of Saul for Best Foreign Language Film, but also Best Picture, something they do so infrequently it’s absolutely infuriating. A possible upset could be the feminist French/Turkish co-production Mustang, which is the only film in either of the Best Feature Film categories this year that was directed by a woman.
What Will Win: Son of Saul
What Could Win: Mustang
What Should Win: Son of Saul
Best Animated Feature
How amazing would it be if a film featuring a stop-motion puppet sex scene won Best Animated Film? Incredible. There has been a lot said about Anomalisa revolutionising the way we should view animated films as a medium not just used for children’s movies. It’s also brought up the idea that actors could/should be recognised for their vocal acting not just psychical acting, with Jennifer Jason Leigh even being nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Independent Spirit Awards for her work on Anomalisa. But we all know this is – yet again – Pixar’s year, which will win for the tepid and undercooked Inside Out.
What Will Win: Inside Out
What Could Win: Anomalisa
What Should Win: Anomalisa
What’s Missing: Nothing… A relatively poor year for animation excluding those already nominated.
Best Documentary Feature
Amy (dir. Asif Kapadia)
Cartel Land (dir. Matthew Heineman)
The Look of Silence (dir. Joshua Oppenheimer)
What Happened, Miss Simone? (dir. Liz Garbus)
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (dir. Evgeny Afineevsky)
This category has two very distinct and clear frontrunners: Amy – a loving tribute to one of the most tragic musical figures of recent time, and The Look of Silence – a harrowing view of violence and inhumanity. The question is what will the Academy go for? Music docos are always a favourite among the voters with 20 Feet From Stardom and Searching For Sugar Man winning in recent years. Asif Kapadia missed out for Senna in 2011 so this may be his year. But Joshua Oppenheimer lost for The Act of Killing in 2012. His film certainly has more “important” subject matter and a certain grueling intensity, therefore it’s also my predicted winner.
What Will Win: The Look of Silence
What Could Win: Amy
What Should Win: The Look of Silence