Monday Morning Critic – 2016 Oscar Predictions


The Oscars are entertainment’s Heisman award ceremony; long, full of bluster and at the end of it no one really cares. The Oscar ceremony itself is long, bloated and overdone on a consistent basis. Yet I’ll watch and tweet the whole thing with friends, of course, because despite all of the eye rolling I make when it comes to it the Oscars still feel special for some reason. They really aren’t, as it’s the best of the year that hits a number of categories and release dates, but we can pretend that they’re recognizing the best of the year’s entries in cinema.

Ratings will still be terrible, of course, as no matter what the Academy does it seems people still tune out more than they tune in. Thus I’m going to sit down and predict this year’s Oscars for the only categories I really care about. To be fair the awards for the technical side of things are usually more interesting than the big ones. Yet the big ones are the only ones we really discuss every year; I don’t see people going back and discussing why Bram Stoker’s Dracula should have lost to Under Siege in Best Sound Editing in 1992.

Yet we always go back to discuss who should’ve really won Best Picture, etc.

Thus It’s time for my easiest column of the year with my annual Oscar predictions … for the categories I care about. As always I’ll predict who should win as well as who will most likely win. Travis Leamons is joining me, per usual, to give his picks as well.

Best motion picture of the year

“The Big Short”
“Bridge of Spies”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”

Who Should Win: Spotlight
Who Will Win: Spotlight

Scott’s Commentary and Stuff: This is arguably the weakest selection of films for Best Picture ever. It’s the most diverse, too, as there’s a handful of films that normally wouldn’t sniff an Oscar here. They also have directorial nominations, which is wildly interesting too, as this might be one of the wildest fields ever there too. The two films that should be the favorites, though, are The Big Short and Spotlight. The former has all the right stars. The latter has all the right buzz and award wins coming into it and feels like an Oscar winner. It’s also an amazing film, as well, and it should walk away the winner. Don’t be shocked if The Big Short wins as well; it has that American Hustle type vibe because of its star power.

It’d be a good way of rewarding a lot of people who are liked without rewarding any one of them individually. Plus it speaks to a certain political leaning that Hollywood emulates and rewards come awards season.

The wild card is The Revenant, which has been cleaning up in a lot of ancillary awards. I think it’ll split Director/Picture as Iñárritu looks to be a lock for Best Director and Spotlight grabs this as a consolation.

Who Should Win: Spotlight
Who Will Win: The Revenant

Travis’s Commentary and Stuff: The decision to expand the Best Picture category to more than five nominees after The Dark Knight got shafted several years back has seen the category become saturated to the point that it has diminished the award’s importance (if there is any). Seriously, in years past you had films like The Blind Side, Precious, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, War Horse, and Philomena all nominated because of the rule change. It seems with the expanded line-up it’s like the Academy voters are trying to fill up a card to appease a certain audience. Which would explain the Mad Max: Fury Road nod. What is interesting is not seeing Pixar’s Inside Out nominated. Then again, having netted two Best Picture nods after the category expanded and coming away empty-handed, it’s just filler (which makes what Beauty and the Beast did in 1991 all the more impressive, as the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture).

Regardless if The Revenant wins, which I think it will, based entirely on guild awards and whatnot, in the years that follow people will look back at this crop of nominees and see how well Spotlight and The Big Short hold up. Both films are ensemble-driven with the former going with a more straightforward approach to tell its story and Short being crafty with editing and fourth-wall breaks in dispensing information to a viewing audience that is mostly ADHD when it comes to paying attention.

Performance by an actor in a leading role

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

Who Should Win: Cranston
Who Will Win: DiCaprio

Scott’s Commentary and Stuff: Mike Noyes and I discussed this the other day and the one thing about Leonardio DiCaprio is that this doesn’t feel like an Oscar he should win. He was out-shined in this film by Tom Hardy and that’s been a recurring theme for DiCaprio in his big movies as of late. He’s good, sometimes great, but he’s never “OMG LEO DICAPRIO IS SO AMAZING YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS FILM!” level good. He’s been very good in films where someone else has been amazing. The film he should’ve won for was Inception, which he wasn’t nominated for, and he’s come close for so long that this feels like DiCaprio’s Erin Brockovich moment. This isn’t a make up Oscar, either, as DiCaprio hasn’t had that nomination where you think “Leo really should win because he’s the best” either.

This is a “we like you” kind of Oscar because right now he’s the most prolific actor without a win still working. Cranston had the best performance of the year but I don’t think it’ll be enough.

Who Should Win: Fassbender
Who Will Win: DiCaprio

Travis’s Commentary and Stuff: This is the year where it’s Let’s-Give-DiCaprio-An-Oscar-Already. And while it is a good performance, a lot of the film buzz was regarding to DiCaprio doing stupid-human stuff as if he were in a survivalist Jackass movie. Granted, he should have won an Oscar by now, and was previously nominated for the wrong performance (where he got the nod for Blood Diamond instead of The Departed), but the same can also be said for Matt Damon in The Martian. Oh, sure, he’s got an Oscar for original screenplay (Good Will Hunting) and was overlooked for The Talented Mr. Ripley (not even a nomination). Redmayne didn’t do much for me in The Danish Girl, but Cranston was great at chewing scenery in Trumbo. My favorite is Fassbender but his performance doesn’t really have an arc, which is a downside. Plus, Fassbender’s greatest strength is the verbosity supplied by Aaron Sorkin’s script, the MVP of Steve Jobs (which also did not get nominated).

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

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

Who Should Win: Hardy
Who Will Win: Stallone

Scott’s Commentary and Stuff: It’s crazy to think two of the best performances of the year were from Tom Hardy and he won’t win an award for either. He’s the best part of Revenant and owned a bad movie in Legend but he’s stuck in a year where sentiment is going to overshadow a lot. Stallone is a long time Hollywood icon and Creed is a continuation of one of Hollywood’s most lucrative franchises. The Rocky franchise doesn’t make ungodly amounts of money … but it’s fairly inexpensive and as such it’s cost to earning ratio is substantial. He won a Golden Globe and seems to be the odds on favorite; it’s not the best performance of the year but Stallone is in his Scent of a Woman moment. We want to reward him for everything he’s done over the years as Stallone probably doesn’t have another Oscar caliber performance in him and Hardy probably does.

He’d be getting rewarded for the bulk of his career, as well as not winning for the Rocky screenplay. This is more of a lifetime achievement Oscar than anything else. Mark Rylance wouldn’t be a surprise, as he just owned Bridge of Spies, but this feels like Stallone’s to lose.

Who Should Win: Hardy
Who Will Win: Stallone

Travis’s Commentary and Stuff: The actors that had the best year for 2015 was Tom Hardy and Alicia Vikander. Hardy didn’t leave much of an impression with Mad Max: Fury Road, but he was solid doing double duty in Legend and as the foil to DiCaprio in The Revenant. But this looks to be one of those years where the acting class will give it to Stallone. Bale and Ruffalo are singled out for the ensembles they are a part of and Rylance’s small role is the best aspect of Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, but like Scott I’m in agreement that this is a lifetime achievement award for Stallone close to 30 years after the original Rocky won Best Picture.

Performance by an actress in a leading role

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

Who Should Win: Larson
Who Will Win: Larson

Scott’s Commentary and Stuff: This is an odd field to pick because there isn’t one outstanding, dynamite performance to run away with the field. Larson has been winning enough leading up to this that it feels like hers to win. Ronan is the spoiler and don’t be shocked if she picks up the little golden man.

Who Should Win: Larson
Who Will Win: Larson

Travis’s Commentary and Stuff: If there was a lay-up pick for the Oscars, it is the Best Actress category. Brie Larson’s performance in Room was dynamite. Ronan and Rampling are the highlights in their respective films but what Larson does as a captive and the troubles with re-acclimating to newfound freedom is the stuff Academy voters eat up. Why Jennifer Lawrence made the cut for a nomination is a mystery, unless it is a case where the best roles for women in 2015 were found on television and not on the big screen.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

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

Who Should Win: McAdams
Who Will Win: McAdams

Scott’s Commentary and Stuff: Supporting categories can be such a crap shoot when there isn’t an overwhelming favorite. Usually there’s a good lean to one person or the other but Supporting Actress this year has no favorite. McAdams feels like she should win as it’d be a nice notch for Spotlight and she’s been so good for so long that a strong role in a front runner feels like it’s going to happen.

The wild card in this category is that supporting actress is always where the upsets happen. Throw that in and anything’s possible here.

Who Should Win: Leigh
Who Will Win: Mara

Travis’s Commentary and Stuff: I’m in total agreement that supporting categories are a crap shoot to pick. There is no overwhelming favorite this year for supporting actress. You want to be analytical and look at past performance as a measuring stick. Winslet finally got her Oscar for The Reader in 2008. Vikander had one of those Jessica Chastain years where she was great numerous films (my favorite being Ex Machina). Rachel McAdams could win just to throw Spotlight a bone if it looks to be shut out of the major categories. But while many were looking at Cate Blanchett in Carol, I was more entranced by Rooney Mara’s character. It was akin to Brokeback Mountain, where Heath Ledger was up for lead and Jake Gyllenhaal was up for supporting. Ledger had the tougher performance because of how his norms were challenged when meeting Jack Twist, much like Mara when she meets Carol. As for Leigh, as one of the few females in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight she more than holds her own with the boys, but her Oscar may come next year playing Lady Bird Johnson in a biopic about LBJ.

Achievement in directing

Adam McKay for “The Big Short”
George Miller for “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Alejandro G. Iñárritu for “The Revenant”
Lenny Abrahamson for “Room”
Tom McCarthy for “Spotlight”

Who Should Win: McCarthy
Who Will Win: Iñárritu

Scott’s Commentary and Stuff: Iñárritu has been cleaning up every award coming into the ceremony, including the proven indicators, and it’d be an upset if anyone else did. I think Miller is the spoiler here based on legacy, of course, but that’s a long shot at best.

Who Should Win: Miller
Who Will Win: Iñárritu

Travis’s Commentary and Stuff: I can’t say that I’m shocked at the five that were nominated with the exception being Lenny Abrahamson for Room. That film was dominated by Larson’s performance, then again one of the less than heralded aspects about film-making is the direction given to an actor (hence, the actor’s director). After all, Abrahamson was the same guy that had Michael Fassbender don a paper mache head for most of his film Frank. I get the feeling this year will come down to the visuals for Best Director, which leaves us with George Miller and Iñárritu. And with Iñárritu winning every award under the sun for his film The Revenant where he’s gone to Coppola-Apocalypse Now-like lengths to alienate the cast and crew during the production (I’ve lost count how many times production quit on account of Iñárritu and his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki insistence on shooting in natural light and conditions), it looks like Iñárritu will win directing honors in back to back years. This would be the second time this has happened in Oscar history. The first was when John Ford won for Grapes of Wrath and How Green Was My Valley (1940 & 1941).

Best animated feature film

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

Who Should Win: Inside Out
Who Will Win: Inside Out

Scott’s Commentary and Stuff: Pixar released a film that crushed it at the box office and got near universal praise. They remain the juggernaut and the prohibitive favorite.

Who Should Win: Inside Out
Who Will Win: Inside Out

Travis’s Commentary and Stuff: Out of the five nominees, sadly, I can only say I’ve seen Inside Out and Anomalisa. I do applaud the animation voters for thinking outside the norm with films that may not have debuted on 3,000-plus screens (say The Peanuts Movie) by nominating Boy and the World and When Marnie Was There. However, you can tell that Pixar is on its game when a film like Inside Out can overshadow the bump in the road that was The Good Dinosaur, the studio’s first big bomb. Pixar films are one of the few animated works that found favor in the eyes of the writer’s branch, as evident with an Original Screenplay nominee for Inside Out as well. That more than helps its case with the animated feature category.

Best documentary feature

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

Who Should Win: Winning, the Racing Life of Paul Newman
Who Will Win: Amy

Scott’s Commentary and Stuff: Adam Carolla’s film was the best of the year, by far, but Carolla doesn’t have the right touch when it comes to winning friends in Hollywood. Amy is the favorite and the last five years the favorite has walked away with the Oscar.

Who Should Win: The Look of Silence
Who Will Win: Amy

Travis’s Commentary and Stuff: Forget The Dark Knight getting snubbed for Best Picture, a greater travesty was the pure neglect of not nominating Hoop Dreams in the 1990s. Documentary is a fickle category. A few years ago The Act of Killing should have won Best Documentary but lost to the more uplifting and voter-friendly 20 Feet from Stardom. Silence is the follow-up to Killing and should be justly rewarded as a make-up win, but will most likely lose to Amy, again a favorite among voters.

Adapted screenplay

“The Big Short” by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
“Brooklyn” by Nick Hornby
“Carol” by Phyllis Nagy
“The Martian” by Drew Goddard
“Room” by Emma Donoghue

Who Should Win: The Martian
Who Will Win: The Big Short

Scott’s Commentary and Stuff: If there’s a place where McKay’s film gets something to bring home it’s probably here.

Who Should Win: The Martian
Who Will Win: The Big Short

Travis’s Commentary and Stuff: Though I’ve never read it, I’m told Drew Goddard’s adaptation of The Martian is infinitely better than the book. I encountered that when I went and read James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential after watching the film. What Brian Hegeland did with that screenplay was remarkable. While it will be nice for The Martian to win something – honestly, I think it will be shut out for most categories, even the technical ones – this could be a case where when we see Adam McKay’s name attached to a new Will Ferrell comedy in the future it can include the words “Academy Award Winner” as added prestige.

Original screenplay

“Bridge of Spies” by Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
“Ex Machina” by Alex Garland
“Inside Out” by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; Original story by Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen
“Spotlight” by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy
“Straight Outta Compton” by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff; Story by S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff

Who Should Win: Ex Machina
Who Will Win: Spotlight

Scott’s Commentary and Stuff: Compton winning would be something I could see based on the controversy of “Oscars so white” in the past month but this feels like one the few places where Spotlight seems to be a lock. Ex Machina is easily the best screenplay of the last decade but Alex Garland will be in the “happy to be nominated” category.

Who Should Win: Ex Machina
Who Will Win: Spotlight

Travis’s Commentary and Stuff: Funny that Scott acknowledging that a Compton win would be something. I can only imagine how people would react seeing a pair of white writers going up on stage to accept an award for penning a biopic about the NWA rap group. I like that Pixar got another screenplay nod (it’s becoming commonplace at this point), but it won’t win. Ex Machina deserves to win; out of all of the nominees it had the best original story. But if Spotlight is to take home any awards it will be in the screenplay category.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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