Well, it’s all come down to this; the final week leading up to Oscar Sunday where new memories will be made. Now, for those new or those that have forgotten, this last week features what I feel were the best from a year ago. Notice I didn’t say what I liked the best, as that would be an entirely different list. No, this final week actually features the two films I feel have the greatest chance at winning the night’s top prize. And while I may joke and ridicule about why a certain film should or shouldn’t win, it’s all in the spirit of what makes this ceremony so grand. Because let’s face it, unless you’re one of the roughly 6,261 Academy members with an actual vote to cast, none of us know what it’s like to have to pick and choose one great film over another great film. That’s the reality in most of the categories, as just being in the mix is an achievement for those who will be in attendance. And yes we all make our own picks, but do so with nothing on the line. So, I won’t pretend to know the pressure, but if I had a vote, I would definitely pick the film that deserves to win the Academy Award for ‘Best Picture,’ not the one that would be politically right for Hollywood. But, politics are as much a part of this ceremony now as the actual 13.5 inch tall, gold-plated statuette handed out to each winner has been over the years. And this year we have had no short of stories consuming this category and ceremony, which is only days away.
History tells us that in most years, the film that win’s the Producers Guild of America Award has a good shot at Best Picture. Including last year, the past eight PGA winners went on to win the corresponding Academy Award. That’s quite the stat, but one that is far from invincible as just before those eight years, we went a period of three with the PGA winner losing out on the Academy Award. So, while I would love to say that streak will reach nine, I simply can’t as this year’s PGA winner, “The Big Short” will not win the Oscar for Best Picture. Nope, that honor will go to either “Spotlight” or “The Revenant,” the two films I felt were the best of 2015. It’s no doubt a tight race and even up to this very minute, I’m not 100% “The Revenant” will win despite it being my final pick. But, it certainly deserves the ‘W’ as very few films rival what Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu was able to do with his film. Might as well start with this mastermind, who just won the Directors Guild of America Award for ‘Outstanding Directing – Feature Film’ in consecutive years; the first to ever do so. Last year it was for “Birdman” and this year it’s for “The Revenant,” so the writing is all over the wall for him to walk home with the Oscar. Especially when you look at the fact only seven times we have not seen the DGA winner go home with the Oscar. The last time was just four years ago with Ben Affleck, who wasn’t even nominated for Best Director yet won the DGA award for his work with “Argo.”
Once upon a time I thought director Alejandro Inarritu was a joke. I know, I can’t believe it either, but go back and watch “Babel” and you will quickly see why I would have come to such a conclusion. Good news is, that was 10 years ago and now I have seen the light. As a matter of fact last year, I wrote Inarritu might be a director to keep an eye on after what I witnessed in “Birdman” with his long shots and crafty imagery. Well, he did it again and if you can believe it, went even further with those long shots. This time it was outdoors though in a forest with guns, arrows and horses. To have the kind of beginning that Inarritu put together for this film is just uncanny. You feel as if you are right there holding the camera which quite honestly is something very few directors can achieve. I mean, we saw it last year with “Birdman,” so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, but somehow I was. That’s brilliant and why Inarritu deserves so much credit here. To do all this without CGI was remarkable and the shots he got of the Canadian landscape were some that took your breath away. He shot in trees, out of trees, using every bit of sunlight he could catch. He shot in rain, snow and even wind. He even allowed the breath of his lead actor to fog up the camera in key moment. That’s directing and something we just don’t get all the time. To have the patience to wait and get that one shot at the end of the day says a lot about Inarritu, who will be the first director to win back to back Oscars for directing since Joseph L. Mankiewicz did it back in 1949-50.
Leading all films with 12 nominations has a nice ring to it for “The Revenant.” Technically it’s virtually flawless and from an acting standpoint, I just don’t see how you could do any better. But, before I get into all that, let me do a little housekeeping with the “other” categories being handed out much earlier during the ceremony. First of all, I could find some reason to give the Oscar to this film in every category it is nominated in, but in the spirit of this preview, I will talk about its overall chances starting with Best Costume Design, which I doubt it will win. Sure, the clothes were set to the times of this story, but I just can’t see it winning that one against competition like “Cinderella” and “The Danish Girl.” Same for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, which again it could win, but won’t considering what you had with the cast in “Mad Max: Fury Road.” That leaves all the aforementioned “technical” categories, which it has a legitimate chance at winning one or five in. Especially Cinematography, which if it doesn’t win, I might boycott these awards myself next year as no one was better than Emmanuel Lubezki. His work with this film is the very definition of cinematography if you looked it up, so let’s just say he is the winner now and stop the madness. Ironically, you could say the same thing about Jack Fisk and Hamish Pury for Best Production Design, but somehow I think they will lose to Colin Gibson and Lisa Thompson for “Mad Max: Fury Road” given how that entire film was set-up and shot. That leaves categories like Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects. Out of those four, I could see it winning maybe one of the sound categories and editing given it has zero chance at winning for Visual Effects. Just couldn’t tell you which one given how unpredictable those categories tend to be.
When it comes to leading men, it’s hard to do better than Leonardo DiCaprio. The guy seemingly has done everything, but here, I saw something new. Leo has always been known for really getting into his characters’, but he took it to whole other level with this role. You believed you were watching Hugh Glass, not Leonardo DiCaprio. I was amazed and I’m a fan, so I can only imagine what others thought when he was crawling around all by himself within the rugged terrain that was this set. To commit that much and virtually “sell out” every step of way truly was a sight to endure and exactly why he is virtually undefeated this award season. That’s good news for Leo and me, who can finally put to bed the notion that he, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt are too big to win an Oscar for acting. Supporting Leo, just like he did in “Inception” was none other than Tom Hardy, the guy people can never picture when they hear his name. Well, they will after this film as it might have been his best to date and one he could walk away with the Oscar for if the Academy somehow forgets about Sylvestor Stallone, who I still feel is the sentimental favorite. What a raw performance from Hardy though, who I have always felt could do more if given the chance. Only question is, will the Academy agree when the envelope is opened come Sunday?