The 2016 Academy Awards

Soooo last year I wrote this:

“The big story this year with the Oscars is the lack of white nominees. Wait, no, that can’t be right. Oh, scratch that- um, I’m hearing we’re not supposed to talk about race. Okay. Okay, let’s, uh…hm. What to talk about instead. Huh.


So we’re just gonna go ahead and run that back, huh?


*denotes a movie I haven’t seen

Best Picture

Nominees: The Big Short*
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Will win: The Big Short. Now I don’t think this is the safest bet, or even the second safest bet. The Revenant is the favorite, and it certainly fits with the Academy’s tendency to vote for movies that flatter them. That’s the current frontrunner, and it should surprise no one if it ends up dominating in all of its categories come Oscar night. Spotlight also wouldn’t be a surprise; it’s a well-loved, unassailable movie. If your viewing party has a pool, place your bets on one of those two.

But I kind of think the Oscar narrative will shake out differently this year. This is the most wide open Best Picture race in a long time. The Big Short had late momentum going into nomination morning, and it picked up all the major nominations (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Editing) that point to widespread support. The only major pre-Oscar award that it’s won was the Producers’ Guild Award, but there’s cracks in the other frontrunners’ veneers as well: The Revenant didn’t receive a Screenplay nomination, and Spotlight has only received pre-Oscars support from the acting branch of the industry.

I haven’t seen The Big Short, but all the buzz suggests that it’s truly innovative filmmaking, taking unique approaches to storytelling and combining them with director Adam McKay’s flair for comedy. If Short is actually as impressive as it sounds, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it rides Iñárritu fatigue all the way to the big award.

Should have been nominated: Inside Out. It reflects the large number of strong contenders that Inside Out didn’t make the cut. Past Pixar films have benefited from the expanded field (UpToy Story 3), and I’d argue Inside Out is on those movies’ level, if not a tier above.


Best Directing

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

Will win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road. Let’s all take a second to appreciate that Adam McKay (director of AnchormanTalladega Nights, and Step Brothers) has been nominated for an Oscar- and that he might actually win. It’s not outside the realm of possibility. But the favorite is Iñárritu to repeat, since he won the Directors’ Guild award. I picked Miller here largely because I’ve deluded myself into thinking the Academy will want to recognize the incredible achievement that is Mad Max: Fury Road with more than just technical awards, but, in all honesty, I’m expecting to be completely wrong.

Should have been nominated: Ridley Scott, The Martian. It was a surprise when his name wasn’t on this list, and now that I’ve seen The Martian (Surprise! It’s really good!), I’m still surprised. It’s hard to make a thrilling, crowd-pleasing movie out of a story that has little to no action.


Best Actor

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

Will win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant. I’m kind of annoyed that he’s going to win for this performance, since I don’t think I’d put this even in his top ten. But he undeniably deserves an Oscar, so I won’t complain.

Should have been nominated: Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation. I know he was only 13, and it’s hard to know how much skill is really involved when they’re that young versus how much the director coaxes out of them. But still! He carries that movie to great heights.


Best Actress

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

Will win: Brie Larson, Room. I’ve honestly heard better things about her 8-year-old co-star, Jacob Tremblay, but this one appears to be a lock.

Should have been nominated: Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road. Action heroes and heroines rarely get nominated for Oscars, but if Ripley was nominated, Furiosa surely deserves a nod.


Best Supporting Actor

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

Will win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed. I’d be pretty pumped if Hardy was recognized for his brilliant turn in The Revenant, but the narrative of Stallone winning for an iconic role is hard to ignore.

Should have been nominated: Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation. Having seen at least clips of all of these performances, it’s hard to argue that none of them belonged. But Elba is a force of nature in Beasts– I’d slot him in over Rylance or Ruffalo in a heartbeat.


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*

Will win: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl.

Should have been nominated: Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina. I’m glad she was nominated for something, but it was the wrong movie. She is riveting to watch as a mysterious android in Ex Machina.


Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Straight Outta Compton*

Will win: Spotlight. This will be the only award Spotlight wins on Sunday. That’s a shame, because, after peaking early, it has somehow taken on a reputation as a movie that should have been on HBO. I don’t agree (no offense to HBO). It’s far more artfully considered than that TV-movie designation suggests.

Should have been nominated: Sicario. It’s received attention more for its look than its script, and that’s not a bad thing, considering how it looks. But it’s also a very subtly executed exercise in foreshadowing while withholding information until the very end, and that’s a screenplay strength more than anything else.


Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: The Big Short*
The Martian


Should have been nominated: Paddington. I named one of my dogs after this movie largely because its screenplay was so impressive.


Best Cinematography

Nominees: Carol*
The Hateful Eight*
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Will win: The Revenant. I’d personally give it to Sicario, and that would mean Roger Deakins would win for the first time in his illustrious career (The Shawshank RedemptionFargoA Beautiful MindNo Country for Old MenSkyfallPrisoners) after THIRTEEN NOMINATIONS. Give this guy a freaking Oscar! …But Emmanuel Lubezki is going to win for The Revenant (and deservedly so). It will be his third win in a row, after winning the past two years for Gravity and Birdman, which has never happened before.

Should have been nominated: Bridge of Spies. Bridge of Spies might have actually been forgettable if it weren’t for the immortal Janusz Kaminski. But don’t feel bad, he already has 2 Oscars (for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan).


Best Animated Feature

Nominees: Anomalisa*
Boy and the World*
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie*
When Marnie Was There*

Will win: Inside Out. This one’s pretty locked up.

Should have been nominated: The only other animated movie I saw this year was Minions, and no one in their right mind would think that movie should have been nominated.


Best Documentary Feature

Nominees: Amy
Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?*
Winter on Fire

Will win: Amy. It tells the story of Amy Winehouse really well, but as a movie, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. I’d be much happier if The Look of Silence or Cartel Land won.

Should have been nominated: Going Clear. I wouldn’t necessarily put the Scientology doc in over any of the current nominees, but it would have been deserving.


Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees: Embrace of the Serpent*
Son of Saul*
A War*

Will win: Son of Saul. I’ve heard amazing things about this movie.

Should have been nominated: Foreign language movies are funny, because they are submitted the year they’re released in their home country, not the U.S., so some of these were only recently released here or have yet to be. At any rate, I haven’t seen any of the foreign language films eligible for this year.


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