Finally! The awards season draws to a close with this weekend’s Academy Awards (find out how to watch it with me here!), and it simply couldn’t come quickly enough. For me, the talk of Oscars began last year when I saw Brooklyn at the Sundance Film Festival, noting at the time that it would unquestionably be a contender. And yep, it sure is. So this has felt like a long time going, and I can’t wait for it to be over.
The Best Picture race is interesting in that the frontrunner has been shifting between “The Revenant”, “The Big Short”, and “Spotlight” over the last few months. My thoughts on which one will ultimately win out will be revealed later, but the guilds have been pretty split on this category, making prognostication difficult. On the other hand, the acting categories seem to be all but locked up and any deviation from that will be a major surprise. In other words, get ready to see lots of Leonardo DiCaprio waiting eagerly at his table.
As for the show itself, Chris Rock is bound to stomp a mudhole in the whole #OscarsSoWhite controversy, until we’re all so sick of it that we won’t care about the white-washing anymore. The issue has both made the awards more interesting and sucked all of the air out of the room, so who knows how the broadcast will eventually go,especially with the proposed “ticker tape” change to winners’ speeches.
Anyway, here are my picks for who will win, who I think should win, and any films that should have been contenders but were left out in the cold. Feel free to scrutinize (you always do) and hold me accountable later if I’m wrong (you always do). But give me credit if I totally rock this joint, cool?
This has been one of the most competitive Best Picture races in ages. “The Big Short”, “The Revenant”, and “Spotlight” have been trading wins throughout the season, and each comes with certain strengths and weaknesses. “The Revenant” has the best box office, and the boost of expected wins for Leonardo DiCaprio and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Spotlight had the momentum early but seems to have faded, perhaps because it’s such an ensemble with no clear standout performances. And then there’s “The Big Short”, which is timely, has an A-list cast, and features a director in Adam McKay who is moving outside of his comfort zone. It’s the kind of film Hollywood tends to like and also likes to reward. That’s where my money’s going. Obviously, with ten nominations it’s tough to totally leave out George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road”, but it’s likely to do well in the technical categories, not here.
Will Win: The Big Short
Should Win: The Revenant
Dark Horse: Mad Max: Fury Road
Shoulda Been a Contender: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
It’s always rare to have a back-to-back Best Director win, but Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu looks like he’s about to pull it off with “Birdman” and “The Revenant”. While there’s a little bit of momentum for Adam McKay and “The Big Short”, that’s likely going to end up with some gold for Best Picture (or at least it’s the apparent frontrunner). What’s for sure is that we won’t see the unicorn-like Best Picture/Best Director combo, although wouldn’t it be cool if George Miller pulled it off for “Mad Max: Fury Road”? Talk about a shockwave that would cause! To get an idea of how competitive the running was this year, look at all of the names that didn’t make the final cut: Todd Haynes, J.J. Abrams, Quentin Tarantino, Ryan Coogler, David O. Russell…and the list could go on and on.
Will and Should Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant
Dark Horse: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Shoulda Been a Contender: John Crowley, Brooklyn
This one won’t take long: the guy from “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” is going to win. No, not Johnny Depp for “Black Mass”! It’s Leonardo DiCaprio’s time, of course. In this age of hyper-partisanship and contentiousness, DiCaprio finally winning his first Oscar is the one thing that can unite us all. Now watch it not happen. Oh, the memes that would follow.
Will and Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Dark Horse: Say what? Dark horse? What’s a dark horse? Oh alright…ummm, Bryan Cranston for Trumbo.
Over on the ladies’ side, Brie Larson’s performance in “Room” has been the clear favorite since the beginning. Nothing has really changed, except for maybe Charlotte Rampling’s chances tanking due to her ill-timed comments on Hollywood diversity. For me, I’ve been torn between rooting for Larson, who I genuinely love and think was unfairly ignored for “Short Term 12”, and Saoirse Ronan who gave a more elegant, subtle turn in “Brooklyn”. But Larson’s performance is one of raw emotional power, and it’s going to be impossible for voters to ignore. And what happened to Cate Blanchett? It’s like “Carol” doesn’t even really exist, and the same could be said of Jennifer Lawrence in “Joy”.
Will Win: Brie Larson, Room
Dark Horse: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Talked Herself Out Of Any Chance: Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Best Supporting Actor
There’s nothing Hollywood loves more than a comeback story, especially if it comes with narrative synergy. Sylvester Stallone’s heart-tugging return as Rocky Balboa in “Creed” (a film which should be in the Best Picture race) is exactly the kind of comeback story the industry craves, and it’s one that is worthy of the iconic Philly boxer. There’s always a chance Tom Hardy sneaks out a win for “The Revenant”, and he seems to be gaining steam, but not enough to floor Stallone. And then there’s Mark Ruffalo for “Spotlight”, but that film is such an ensemble he seems unlikely. For some reason there isn’t much buzz for Mark Rylance in “Bridge of Spies”, as he’s the guy who seems to have the strongest universal reaction.
Will and Should Win: Sylvester Stallone: Creed
Dark Horse: Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Shoulda Been a Contender: Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Best Supporting Actress
The one acting category that doesn’t seem to have been decided months ago, this one is genuinely too close to call. The popular consensus is that Alicia Vikander will take it for “The Danish Girl”, because she was genuinely better than Eddie Redmayne’s more showy performance. But the response to the film has been lukewarm, at best, and that could hurt her. Rooney Mara seems like a distant choice for “Carol”, a film that nobody is talking about for much of anything. My gut tells me the Academy follows suit with the Golden Globes and BAFTAs by giving it to Kate Winslet for “Steve Jobs”, another coolly received drama that was largely ignored. If it were up to me, Jennifer Jason Leigh and her pot-stirring, villainous turn in “The Hateful Eight” would take it, but if it were up to me she’d win everything every year.
Will Win: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Should Win: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Dark Horse: Rooney Mara, Carol
Best Animated Feature
After taking the year off in 2014, Pixar came back in 2015 with two movies, “Inside Out” and “The Good Dinosaur”. The latter was a disaster, the studio’s first money loser and a critical disappointment. But “Inside Out”, long hailed as one of their most ambitious projects ever, more than exceeded expectations and seems like a shoe-in to win. That said, Charlie Kaufman’s inventive, stop-motion “Anomalisa” was just as strongly reviewed, and may be perceived as a more mature effort.
Will and Should Win: Inside Out
Dark Horse: Anomalisa
Best Adapted Screenplay
Will Win: The Big Short
Should Win: Brooklyn
Dark Horse: Room
Best Original Screenplay
Will Win: Spotlight
Should Win: Ex Machina
Dark Horse: Inside Out
Shoulda Been a Contender: The Hateful Eight
Will and Should Win: Amy
Dark Horse: The Look of Silence
Shoulda Been a Contender: Best of Enemies
Best Foreign Language Film
Will Win: Son of Saul
Should Win: Mustang
Dark Horse: Embrace of the Serpent
Shoulda Been a Contender: Victoria