Oscars: Taking stock of a wide-open Best Picture race.

As awards season heats up, with the first batch of critics prizes already done and SAG ballots out, I take stock of a Best Picture race that’s without a clear frontrunner. That’s not to say it’s a weak field, there’s just no clear battle at the top like there has been the last few years. No Birdman vs Boyhood. No Spotlight vs The Revenant vs The Big Short. No La La Land vs Moonlight. We’ll learn more over the coming weeks as precursors start but it’s already Thanksgiving and Oscar pundits everywhere seem lost.

For full predictions in every category, updated every week or so, check here.

Despite the wide open nature of the race there are four films that appear to be near-locks for at least a nomination, so I’d like to run through those first and explain why they’re such safe bets. Nine out of the last ten years the people’s choice prize winner at the Toronto International Film Festival has gone on to score a Best Picture nom, and the one that didn’t was a foreign language film. It’s become the most significant Oscar forecaster. This year, in a relative surprise, Martin McDonagh’s black comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri took home the prize. While it’s far from your typical Oscar film and the Academy hasn’t responded to McDonagh’s past work, Fox Searchlight is campaigning it across nearly every major category as their primary pony and it looks like a major threat to win Actress (Frances McDormand), Supporting Actor (Sam Rockwell), Original Screenplay (McDonagh), Film Editing (Jon Gregory), and even Original Score (Carter Burwell). If you had to peg a Best Picture frontrunner right now, Three Billboards is the smart choice.

Fox Searchlight has another strong player with Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. A passion project for GDT, said to be a blend of Creature from the Black Lagoon and Beauty and the Beast, it’s played the festival circuit very well and even won the Golden Lion at Venice. Guillermo has always flexed his visual muscle, and he appears to have crafted a story that pulls at the heartstrings as well. However, there is certainly some genre stigma to overcome with it being a blend of fantasy, horror, and classical romance. Its chances of actually winning could come down to how popular it proves once it actually comes out. It’ll pick up at least five nominations nominations, both in major categories and “below-the-line” technical categories, and that could lead to Guillermo winning Best Director while something else wins Best Picture (there’s been a Director/Picture split four of the last five years). Another film that looks like a lock for a nomination in both those categories and a real chance to win in Director is Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. The most significant Oscar player from the summer, Nolan’s film is arguably his best work yet as a director and will hit with most technical branches, making it a possibility to pick up the most overall nominations on Oscar morning. Support from those branches combined with the overdue narrative from Nolan never having been nominated as a director before could catapult him to a win. Warner Bros is also giving it a December re-release in IMAX 70mm to ensure that all interested parties see the film in its intended format. I don’t see any scenario where it wins Best Picture, however. The acting branch is the largest of the Academy. Not since Braveheart in 1995 has a film won Best Picture without getting a SAG Ensemble nom. Dunkirk is simply not an “actor’s film”. Perhaps veteran and recent winner Mark Rylance scores a nom. But even then, the film won’t have the passionate support from the most important branch necessary to win.

My final “lock” would be Lady Bird, the exceptional directorial debut of Greta Gerwig. Critically-adored (a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with 146 reviews) and a huge hit with audiences so far, the coming-of-age film is looking like another force to be reckoned with from A24 Films, the hot indie studio who won the big one last year with Moonlight. The film will score two acting nominations (Saoirse Ronan & Laurie Metcalf) and an Original Screenplay nod. It’s also very much a player in editing, cinematography, and director. Maybe it feels too small to win Best Picture, but so did Moonlight.

After those four, there are a handful of really strong bets, but strong bets that have one potentially fatal flaw as far as awards makeup goes. First is Darkest Hour, the film the everyone assumes Gary Oldman (playing Winston Churchill) will win Best Actor for. It has the traditional Oscar DNA as a talky period piece with a juicy performance that’ll resonate both with older voters and the oft-overlooked British sect of the Academy. But the Academy is getting younger and less traditional. I still believe the film will have a strong box office and drum up enough support to get in, but the days of stuff like The King’s Speech dominating the night are over. On the opposite end of this spectrum is the surprising smash hit Get Out, which could make for the most subversive Best Picture nominee ever. There are certainly concerns -genre stigma for both horror and comedy, lack of buzz in the acting categories- but the film’s momentum has held strong throughout the year. It should continue to pick up a ton of critics prizes and will probably win Best Comedy/Musical at the Globes. It’s hard to pick out any places where it’s a real threat outside of screenplay, but this is hugely popular film getting a giant push from a major studio. It doesn’t need to take the traditional path to a nomination.

Call Me By Your Name has been a critical favorite since Sundance, and Sony Pictures Classics believes they may have a winner on their hands. I don’t buy people’s concerns over the subject matter (both the romance between a 24 y/o & 17 y/o being problematic & another “gay” film the year after Moonlight). If voters love the film none of that will matter. But it remains to be seen how the film plays with mass American audiences and Oscar voters. Critics don’t matter as much as we often pretend they do when it comes to industry awards. Another critical darling is The Florida Project, which I have seen and think is very strong, but feels small for a Best Picture run, especially considering A24 has Lady Bird as well. The brilliant but understated filmmaking may not jump out at voters, and the only place it feels like a threat to win is Best Supporting Actor (Willem Dafoe). It certainly could have a nice run with critics prizes and precursors, but other indies seem to have much more buzz right now so I don’t feel too comfortable predicting it despite the fact that it plays as a crowd-pleaser.

The biggest mysteries right now are The Post from Steven Spielberg and Phantom Thread from Paul Thomas Anderson. They won’t hit theatres until the end of December, but will screen for guilds beforehand and are getting screeners sent out in time to qualify for critics awards and major industry precursors like SAG and DGA. Spielberg saw Bridge of Spies score six nominations, and The Post is a more timely historical story given our current president and that it deals with freedom of the press. He has both Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in tow this time. There were early rumors of the film having problems in the editing room, but with it getting screeners out in time for SAG, those rumors don’t appear to have any basis in reality. Phantom Thread is a tougher film to assess with Oscar until reviews start rolling in, as Paul Thomas Anderson’s work doesn’t always resonate with the Academy. Inherent Vice didn’t really land with Oscar, and The Master missed out in Best Picture despite THREE acting nominations. But he’s back with Academy favorite Daniel Day-Lewis this time around. Their previous collaboration, There Will Be Blood, scored eight nominations including Best Picture and saw Day-Lewis win. Phantom Thread looks very unique, to say the least, but I don’t doubt PTA or DDL. It’s also the only pony Focus Features has this year, so it’ll surely get an aggressive campaign.

Then there’s All the Money in the World, Ridley Scott’s film that formerly starred Kevin Spacey but saw him replaced with Christopher Plummer and is currently re-shooting hoping to make its Dec. 22nd qualifying release. This is an unprecedented move from Sony, to say the least. I have no idea how to look at it. If it’s good, will it matter? Does the fact that it originally starred Spacey damn it entirely, or will that have the reverse impact and give the film bonus good will? All I know is that he original trailer looked great and that while Ridley is hit-or-miss with Oscar, he hit big as recently as two years ago with The Martian.

There are other films from major studios getting campaigns. Blade Runner 2049 (Warner Bros) received strong reviews but the box office was simply terrible, and genre films really need to emerge as popular hits to have a chance (Arrival, also from Denis Villeneuve, doesn’t get in last year if it doesn’t surprise and put up big numbers). But it’s going to pick up some technical noms and will probably win Roger Deakins his long-deserved cinematography Oscar so you can’t rule it out. Fox is pushing War for the Planet of the Apes. I personally think it’s deserving of a great many noms, but its Oscar upside is likely limited to a victory in Best Visual Effects. The Academy has ignored the franchise to this point. Fox also has a musical starring Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams in The Greatest Showman. While that seems Oscar friendly, early buzz surrounding the film is dreadful.

On the superhero front, there’s been talk about how Logan and Wonder Woman could break through genre stigma and land with Oscar. I don’t buy it as anything more than clickbait fodder, personally. Both films appear much more likely to hit a couple Globe noms and maybe score with PGA like Deadpool did last year. Wonder Woman remains a talking point though and I wouldn’t completely rule it out with Oscar. Love for the film could spill over to a nom in Visual Effects (not deserving imo) or Costume Design (very deserving imo). There’s also an added and very legitimate female empowerment narrative surrounding the film that’s only made more relevant every time a sexual harasser within the industry is exposed. If it wasn’t such a loaded Best Actress race this year, I’d consider Gal Gadot a real threat, which would really help the films chances overall. Logan seems relatively forgotten at this point.

The big wildcard is Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The Force Awakens was much closer to getting a Best Picture nom than you think. It scored five nominations including the very important Best Film Editing, and was a PGA nominee as well. If TLJ ends up being the improved sequel most expect it to be, it certainly is a contender. At the very least it’ll pick up a handful of technical noms like its predecessor. Disney doesn’t have to push it hard. Everyone will see it regardless and it campaigns itself.

Among the dark horses are a few films hoping to ride lead acting contenders to overall Oscar love. A24 Films is already making a strong effort to campaign James Franco for The Disaster Artist, which he also directed. While the film -a comedy telling the story of cult midnight film The Room– is far from traditional Oscar material, it’s in part a love letter to filmmaking that folks in the industry should relate to. Critics already love it. We’ll see if audiences respond. Stronger did not have the box office Lionsgate was hoping for but Jake Gyllenhaal is probably getting nominated and there’s some real love for the film as a whole. It’ll need to surprise with precursors, but I wouldn’t stick a fork in it just yet. Molly’s Game, the directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin featuring an acclaimed Jessica Chastain performance, played well at Toronto and is now closing AFI Fest. It could be a late riser like Lion and Hidden Figures last year, or it could be just a screenplay contender. Wonder may be overly sentimental but that hasn’t stopped a great many films from hitting with Oscar. It had a huge opening weekend and Lionsgate should recognize what they have and push the film and Julia Roberts as this year’s Lion/Nicole Kidman.

Some lesser-known distributors are hoping to break through. NEON is a new company but they seem to have a real contender in I, Tonya, which is likely looking at nominations for both Margot Robbie and Allison Janney. The Tonya Harding biopic is another film that surprised on the festival circuit and it’s stylistically different from anything else in the race this year. Can NEON score the film a SAG Ensemble nom? Getting the actors to bite is key. Hostiles, a challenging and violent western from rising director Scott Cooper, was picked up last minute by Entertainment Studios. It isn’t typical Oscar material but it features an acclaimed Christian Bale performance and Oscar absolutely loves him. Also, Netflix has their best chance yet at major nominations with Dee Rees’ Mudbound, but there’s still a huge hurdle for the company to jump and the film doesn’t appear to be playing as well with general audiences as it did with critics at Sundance. I’ll believe it’s got a real shot if it gets a SAG Ensemble nom.

A great many assumed contenders appear dead in the water. Wind River has strong box office, solid reviews, and features a powerhouse Jeremy Renner performance…but it’s mostly been forgotten and no matter how hard writer/director Taylor Sheridan tries, it’s tough to separate the film from Harvey Weinstein. Annapurna Pictures is trying to get Detroit back in play with a re-release, but the passion for the film just isn’t there and it’s got some potentially messy racial commentary attached to its third act. Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying has a big-name cast but hasn’t opened well or sparked much passion with anyone. It’ll need a surprising late boost. Along with that film, Amazon Studios co-distributed The Big Sick, which proved surprisingly popular on top of critical acclaim. It’s a crowd-pleaser but the momentum seems to have really slowed down and I don’t see it competing anywhere outside of screenplay. Maybe critics groups can push it back into the discussion over the next few weeks. We’ll see. Breathe has not received good reviews and is being called pure Oscar bait. Wonder Wheel has not received good reviews and is directed by Woody Allen. Downsizing and Wonderstruck are ambitious films from beloved directors (Alexander Payne and Todd Haynes, respectively) but neither are said to be anything special as experiments. Battle of the Sexes has Emma Stone and Steve Carrel, and it certainly tried on the festival circuit, but the reviews are just okay and Fox Searchlight already seems to be forgetting about it in favor of Three Billboards and The Shape of Water. Darren Aronofsky has hit before with Oscar, but mother! has proven very divisive and didn’t do anything at the box office. It has Jennifer Lawrence and I think it’s possible the DGA will acknowledge the ambition and cite Aronofsky. Maybe it can get some late momentum but it’ll be awfully difficult for Paramount to get it major love.

Anyways, that’s my commentary for now. I’ll do a similar post looking at the acting categories sometime over the next week.

2016 Oscar Predictions (Winners)

We’ve made it. The 88th Academy Awards will go down on Sunday. IT’S FINALLY OVER. I say that as someone who follows the Oscars year round and genuinely cares who wins (why, I haven’t a clue). This awards season has been particularly tiring. There was simply too much to keep up with and argue about. Before I get into my FINAL predictions, I’d like to list some of the storylines I for one am sick of.

  • Leonardo DiCaprio. Both how “hard” his performance in The Revenant was and how overdue he is. I don’t care how cold it was. I don’t care that he ate raw bison liver. He chose to do those things and was paid handsomely. The shameless DiCaprio Oscar campaign started before this film even finished production. DiCaprio is one of my favorite actors but I find myself rooting against him because of this crap.
  • “Timely” films. Whether it was the borderline offensive treatment of early trans issues in the unsuccessful piece of Oscar bait The Danish Girl, or the overly simplistic yet somehow confusing look at the subprime mortgage crisis in The Big Short, we had some BAD movies sell themselves as being “important” and people certainly bought into it. The types of people who see movies this way are the ones who allowed fucking Crash to win Best Picture. It’s actually possible to make a socially/politically relevant film without oozing self-importance (see Carol, Sicario, Beasts of No Nation, even Spotlight).
  • #OscarsSoWhite. Don’t get me wrong. This issue is very real and needs to be addressed. But popular treatment of it was simply people who don’t follow awards season seeing that no black actors were nominated and then screaming about it. The blame goes partially to the Academy for having a very, how do I say it, old and white membership basis. Part of it also goes to an industry that hasn’t created enough opportunities (beyond acting) for different groups (it’s not just a black-white thing, either). And THIS year, much of the blame goes to the studios for not giving their “black” films the proper push. For example, people are crying about Michael B. Jordan missing out for Creed (which is fair, to an extent). But the reality is he was never a contender for that film. Warner Bros didn’t realize what they had until it was too late. Creed was positioned as just another Rocky sequel, not the critically-acclaimed urban tale of individuality that it actually was.
  • Category fraud. While it’s sort of frustrating to see Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) and Rooney Mara (Carol) take two spots in supporting when they’re so clearly leads, it’s even more frustrating to see people argue about. Different precursors slotted them in different spots. Unless a clear standard is set based on amount of screentime, there are always going to be issues.

 

The following predictions are for what I think WILL win on Oscar night. I’ve written my personal ballot, as well as my list of top 10 movies of 2015, if you’re interested in my opinions.

Nominees are ordered by likelihood to win via Gold Derby, which polls various Oscar pundits. GREEN means it’s my choice to win.

Best Picture

  1. The Revenant
  2. The Big Short (will win)
  3. Spotlight
  4. Mad Max: Fury Road
  5. The Martian
  6. Room
  7. Brooklyn
  8. Bridge of Spies

This has developed into a three-horse race. BAFTA/DGA winner The Revenant leads in overall nominations, and with its box office take approaching $400M, is probably the popular choice. It’s also a clear frontrunner in Best Director and Best Lead Actor. It’s not without its detractors but the support should be there both above and below the line. On paper, it looks like a pretty clear favorite and the logical choice.

The Big Short won the all-important PGA, and is the timely film in the race this year. What it lacks in noticeable craftsmanship it appears to be making up with sheer importance buzz.

Spotlight has the actors behind it and was once seen as the frontrunner before the above two emerged. There are concerns that ultimately, when it comes to the finish line, a small company like Open Road Films can’t beat 20th Century Fox (The Revenant) or Paramount (The Big Short) in a year where the nominees actually fared pretty well with average viewers.

As recently as two days ago, I was thinking Spotlight for the upset. But I don’t have to balls to pick it. I’m going with The Big Short, despite it being my least favorite film in the hunt. The Revenant has some haters, and people WILL leave it out of their top 5. The PGA really is telling for me. Audiences and critics responded to The Big Short, and that has to excite the industry. I never thought I’d say this but I think we’re about to have a Best Picture winner directed by Adam McKay.

Best Picture tidbit: The Revenant is 156 minutes long. The last Best Picture winner to be 2 & ½ hrs+ was The Departed (2006, 151 minutes).

Best Director

  1. Alejandro G Inarritu – The Revenant (will win)
  2. George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. Adam McKay – The Big Short
  4. Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
  5. Lenny Abrahamson – Room

Inarritu won the DGA and he appears to be a good bet to become the first ever to direct back-to-back best Picture winners. So much has been said about how arduous of a shoot The Revenant went through, and that’s helped the film become viewed as more of a directorial achievement than anything else this year. His film doesn’t need to win BP for him to win here. That’s what people SHOULD be saying about George Miller and Mad Max: Fury Road, but it really feels like Miller needed more precursor love (specifically, DGA).

The other three gentlemen, whose films aren’t nearly as flashy on a directorial level, all get their win from just being nominated, though I wouldn’t completely rule out a lovefest for The Big Short resulting in Adam McKay stealing this.

Best Director tidbit: This is Inarritu’s second straight nomination. The last director to win and then be nominated the next year was Woody Allen (won in ’77 for Annie Hall, nom’d in ’88 for Interiors).

Best Lead Actor

  1. Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant (will win)
  2. Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
  3. Matt Damon – The Martian
  4. Bryan Cranston –Trumbo
  5. Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

By now you’ve surely heard that DiCaprio is expected to finally walk across the stage and accept his Oscar. The narrative is just too strong and all the precursors have been there for him. He’s overdue, and the performance was a physically-demanding one that apparently had him eating actual raw bison liver (I don’t know why, but whatever). My personal choice would be Matt Damon, whose charisma by himself on screen managed to keep The Martian interesting even during its supposed lulls. DiCaprio is winning, but if I had to point to a possible spoiler, it’d be Bryan Cranston, who theoretically will capture the older vote.

Best Lead Actor tidbit: This is Eddie Redmayne’s second straight nomination here (last year he won for The Theory of Everything). The last back-to-back lead actor nominee was Jeff Bridges (won in ’09 for Crazy Heart, nom’d in ’10 for True Grit). The last person to WIN two years in a row was Tom Hanks (’93 for Philadelphia, ’94 for Forrest Gump).

Best Lead Actress

  1. Brie Larson – Room (will win)
  2. Saorise Ronan – Brooklyn
  3. Cate Blanchett – Carol
  4. Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
  5. Jennifer Lawrence – Joy

Saorise Ronan has won her fair share of awards and worked the circuit hard enough to keep this somewhat interesting, but it still figures to be Larson in a landslide. My personal problems with Room aside, Larson was exceptional, and no movie this year asks as much out of its lead as Room does with her. She may not be a DiCaprio-level lock, but I’d bet the house on her. Jennifer Lawrence probably would’ve had a real shot had Joy been viewed more positively all-around.

Best lead Actress tidbit: This Cate Blanchett’s 4th nomination in this category. The all-time leader is Meryl Streep, with 15.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Sylvester Stallone – Creed (will win)
  2. Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
  3. Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
  4. Christian Bale – The Big Short
  5. Tom Hardy – The Revenant

While Stallone appears to have emerged as a favorite and I think he’ll ultimately win, he’s without SAG or BAFTA, which keeps this wide open (it’s one of the more interesting races, as the SAG went to Idris Elba, who’s not nominated here). Mark Rylance was the safest bet in this category all year but he hasn’t won a single major precursor and his film feels minor compared to the others in play. Spotlight features my favorite Mark Ruffalo performance, and if it wins BP like I think it will Ruffalo certainly gets a boost here. But he’s a guy seen as an actors-actor who failed to win SAG. I don’t think the support will be there. Christian Bale is here representing for all the high-profile men in The Big Short. I’m not sure if that hurts or helps him. Tom Hardy got his first nomination for The Revenant. He has a lot of fans and if the film dominates the night perhaps he’s brought along for the ride.

Best Supporting Actor tidbit: This is Mark Ruffalo’s second straight nomination in this category (Foxcatcher last year). The last actor with back-to-back noms here was the late Philip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson’s War in ’07, Doubt in ’08).

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl (will win)
  2. Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs
  3. Rooney Mara – Carol
  4. Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
  5. Rachel McAdams – Spotlight

Vikander appears to be a pretty safe bet. She’s the breakout star of the year and her great work in numerous films only helps her (it could’ve been a problem had Ex Machina been nominated as well). She’s great in The Danish Girl and would be deserving but I wonder if category fraud could hurt her since it’s so clearly a lead performance. Kate Winslet appears to be very capable of topping her, with the Globe win and the fact that she’s an Academy favorite. Maybe they make Vikander earn it a couple more times?

Rooney Mara, in another true lead performance, sadly hasn’t gotten the boosts along the way to keep up with Vikander and Winslet. Rachel McAdams’ work is a little too reserved, while The Hateful Eight failed to pick up the necessary steam to make Jennifer Jason Leigh a possible winner here (despite the overdue narrative).

Best Supporting Actress tidbit: The last person that won in supporting actress without another acting nominee in their film, which Jennifer Jason Leigh will hope to do, was Penelope Cruz (’08, Vicky Cristina Barcelona).

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer – Spotlight (will win)
  2. Various – Inside Out
  3. Various – Straight Outta Compton
  4. Alex Garland – Ex Machina
  5. Matt Charman & The Coen Bros – Bridge of Spies

An easy spot to award Spotlight writer/director Tom McCarthy, as the film is a writing achievement above all else this year. He and writing partner Josh Singer won both the WGA and BAFTA, the two most telling precursors. This a pretty weak category otherwise. Ex Machina isn’t a big enough player overall, while Bridge of Spies being nominated was probably due more to lack of alternatives than anything else. Inside Out failed to gain the necessary traction to win here (it needed a BP nom), and the Oscars could be in for an even bigger controversy if they award the all-white writing team of Straight Outta Compton.

Best Original Screenplay tidbit: Both Inside Out and Straight Outta Compton have four credited writers. Birdman, which won last year, also had four credited writers.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. Adam McKay & Charles Randolph – The Big Short (will win)
  2. Emma Donahue – Room
  3. Phyllis Nagy – Carol
  4. Drew Goddard – The Martian
  5. Nick Hornby – Brooklyn

This probably a runaway for The Big Short, which won the BAFTA and WGA. I was thinking Room for awhile after it got its director nominated, but it really does look like that movie is riding Brie Larson.

Best Adapted Screenplay tidbit: A female has not won in this category since Diana Ossana shared the prize with Larry McMurty in ’05 for Brokeback Mountain.

Best Cinematography

  1. Emmanuel Lubezki – The Revenant (will win)
  2. John Seale – Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. Roger Deakins – Sicario
  4. Robert Richardson – The Hateful Eight
  5. Edward Lachman – Carol

Nearly every precursor has gone to Chivo for his daring use of natural light and smooth camera movements in The Revenant. It’ll be his THIRD straight Oscar. I think he’ll win, but there’s a strong narrative for the other four nominees. John Seale came out of retirement to shoot Mad Max: Fury Road, and the work obviously speaks for itself. Roger Deakins now has thirteen noms and zero wins (but please, go on more about poor old DiCaprio). Sicario is amongst his best. The whole 70mm roadshow hoopla surrounding The Hateful Eight wouldn’t have worked had Robert Richardson not made full use of detailed wide shots in the film. Carol is gorgeously shot by the great Ed Lachman, and maybe the vocal supporters of the film pissed about it missing in BP can find it a win somewhere.

Best Cinematography tidbit: Carol, Sicario, and The Hateful Eight all missed a Best Picture nom. The last film to win here while missing in BP was Pan’s Labyrinth (’06).

Best Film Editing

  1. Jason Ballantine & Margaret Sixel – Mad Max Fury Road
  2. Hank Corwin – The Big Short (will win)
  3. Tom McArdle – Spotlight
  4. Pietro Scalia – The Martian
  5. Stephen Mirrione – The Revenant

McArdle’s work on Spotlight is flawless, and it was shocking that the ACE (American Cinema Editors) left him out. But everyone in the Academy gets to vote here. It’s hard not to notice the work when watching the film. Could also be seen as a spot to award a film some voters may not have #1, but at 2 or 3. The Big Short has picked up some notices along the way. And its position as a BP frontrunner means you have to seriously consider it here (same with The Revenant). I certainly hope Mad Max wins, and there seems to be a ton of support for it. Is it enough to get it over the action movie stigma? We shall see. I’ll go with The Big Short due its BP status.

Best Film Editing tidbit: Last year, Birdman became the first Best Picture winner to not receive an editing nom since 1981.

Best Costume Design

  1. Cinderella
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road (will win)
  3. Carol
  4. The Danish Girl
  5. The Revenant

Some very different nominees in play here. Period work (Carol, The Danish Girl) as well as the more typical extravagant dresses we see lead to wins (Cinderella). I really think it has to be Mad Max though, as the costumes helped build a world.

Best Costume Design tidbit: The last best Picture winner to also win here was The Artist (‘11).

Best Production Design

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road (will win)
  2. Bridge of Spies
  3. The Revenant
  4. The Martian
  5. The Danish Girl

This is hopefully an easy win for Mad Max, ensuring that it’s awarded somewhere. I hesitate to call it a lock though because there are three other BP nominees in play. Bridge of Spies is more typical period piece set work, while The Revenant spared no expense in creating camps (though, frankly, much of its beauty comes from what they didn’t have to create). It’s nice to see The Danish Girl get in here, as its sets are the standout aspect of the film aside from Vikander. Anyways, go Mad Max.

Best Production Design tidbit: The last Best Picture winner to also win here was The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (’03).

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Revenant (will win)
  3. The 100-year-Old Man who Climbed out a Window and Disappeared

Another technical category that looks to be a toss-up between Mad Max and The Revenant (how many of them The Revenant wins could say a lot about its BP chances). I’m leaning towards The Revenant here given just how important the beards and wounds are to the film.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling tidbit: If The Revenant or Mad Max were to win here and in Best Picture, they would be the first film to do so since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (’03).

Best Original Score

  1. Ennio Morricone – The Hateful Eight (will win)
  2. Carter Burwell – Carol
  3. Johan Johannson – Sicario
  4. John Williams – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  5. Thomas Newman – Bridge of Spies

As always, this category is littered with big names. Ennio Morricone appears to have jumped out ahead of everyone else, however. Is there another composer on the planet who fit The Hateful Eight more perfectly? I think he wins, but 2-4 all appear to have a shot. Carter Burwell has the Carol BP snub possibly working in his favor, but it’s only his first nom (unusual for a winner here). Johannson’s work adds so much to the tension of Sicario, and would be a likely winner if the film was a bigger player overall. Then there’s John Williams, the most well-known film composer ever. He could win off name recognition alone, but I wonder if the fact that it’s another Star Wars score hurts him. Morricone should and probably will win this one.

Best Original Score tidbit: John Williams has 45 nominations here, which is the most ever (Alfred Newman has 43).

Best Sound Editing

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Revenant (will win)
  3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  4. The Martian
  5. Sicario

Another Mad Max vs. The Revenant showdown. I believe these two will split here and in sound mixing. I’ll go with The Revenant here because much of its harrowing noise was created, specifically in regards to the scene.

Best Sound Editing tidbit: The last winner here to also win Best Picture was The Hurt Locker (’09).

Best Sound Mixing

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road (will win)
  2. The Revenant
  3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  4. The Martian
  5. Bridge of Spies

Mad Max here. So much noise is occurring at any given point during the film but it never feels like too much. Star Wars: The Force Awakens should be seen as a dark horse for those very reasons (and besides, the film probably should win somewhere).

Best Sound Mixing tidbit: Star Wars will look to win here despite not being a BP nom. The last time that happened was with The Bourne Ultimatum (’07).

Best Visual Effects

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (will win)
  3. The Revenant
  4. Ex Machina
  5. The Martian

A very interesting category with three legitimate, albeit very different contenders. Mad Max features more practical effects, which the branch notices, but still has its fair share of sequences that are more digitally impressive. The Revenant, for the bear attack alone, puts itself in the hunt given its BP chances. But ultimately, I think this is where the Academy awards Star Wars. That should be an easy vote for people who may not really pay attention to or care about contenders in this category. Ex Machina would be my personal choice, but it’s too small to win. The nomination says a lot though.

Best Visual Effects tibit: The last film to win here and also win Best Picture OTHER than Lord of the Rings was Gladiator (’00).

Those are the only categories I’m predicting. Films with multiple predicted wins: The Revenant (5), Spotlight (3), Mad Max: Fury Road (2), Room (2).

I don’t watch enough animation, documentaries, shorts, or foreign films to offer any commentary on those categories. However, it appears that there are some runaways; Inside Out (animated feature), Son of Saul (foreign language), and Amy (documentary feature).

Happy Oscar watching!

Or not. Seriously, find something better to do with your football-less Sunday evening.

Did the Producers Guild of America (PGA) just shake up the Best Picture race?

Well, no. Any actual Oscar race only exists in our heads and keyboards but The Producers Guild of America (PGA) announced their nominations earlier today and it certainly shakes up what we THOUGHT the Best Picture race looked like. The PGA winner has mirrored the Oscar Best Picture winner every year since 2006 (PGA went with Little Miss Sunshine, Oscar went with The Departed). The ten nominees for feature film were…

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Revenant
  • Spotlight
  • The Martian
  • Bridge of Spies
  • Brooklyn
  • Ex Machina
  • Sicario
  • Straight Outta Compton
  • The Big Short

I think you can lock in The Revenant, Spotlight, The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Martian in for Best Picture noms, while I’m very confident in Room, Bridge of Spies, and Brooklyn given how the last couple days have played out. That’s 8. Will the Oscars cite more films than that? That could ultimately be the determining factor for those on the bubble right now.

Now, the obvious surprises are Sicario and Ex Machina. Neither of those two films have really been considered contenders for Best Picture at the Oscars this year. While they figure to make a play in some techs, I still think both are longshots despite them being two of my favorites from 2015 (shameless plug for this post). What this does say however is that, with Alicia Vikander, perhaps the consensus thought that she’s getting in for The Danish Girl is wrong. She’s won some critics awards for Ex Machina and with that film very much on the radar right now I really like here chances to get in for it. I think Sicario is a dark horse in Best Picture. The sound people and the cinematographers will be there for it. It’ll get some #1 votes but it’s hard to feel all that confident in a film not receiving any citations for its cast/writer/director.

A couple of surprising PGA snubs; Carol and Room. The latter, which is likely winning Best Actress, still feels like a decent Best Picture bet just because there’s been so much love for it throughout the year. The Academy has always shown more willingness to cite smaller films than the PGA. The omission of Carol here concerns me, however. It’s been on the bubble for most of the year. Critics are behind it, tech branches likely will be too. But the producers and (possibly) directors looking elsewhere could curse it. A DGA nom for Todd Haynes would be HUGE. It feels like there’s a single spot reserved for Carol OR Brooklyn, and given how hard Brooklyn has worked the circuit combined with this PGA nom, it seems like a safer bet. Should also be noted that The Weinstein Company went 0-2 with the PGA, as The Hateful Eight missed out.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens was clinging to a possible PGA nom for dear life in the Best Picture race. It’s a bit surprising that it missed given everything Kathleen Kennedy did to get this movie made. Legions of fans who want the film to de well with the Academy will likely have to settle for a couple of wins in some technical categories. Creed also appears to be cooked in terms of Best Picture, which is a shame, I might add.

Straight Outta Compton continues its climb with a PGA nom. It’s been popping up everywhere. While it’s far from typical Oscar material, voters have no choice but to take it seriously. However, its PGA inclusion was predictable given that it was surprising critical and commercial smash. The folks who got it made –including Dr. Dre and Ice Cube- deserve attention. I’m not comfortable with predicting a Best Picture nom for the film quite yet, but it is right there. Would not be surprising in the least. SAG Ensemble (check), PGA (check), and DGA (unlikely) are the three most telling precursors. Straight Outta Compton, The Big Short, and Spotlight are the only films to go two-for-two so far.

My Best Picture predictions were updated yesterday (prior to this news) and I won’t get around to doing the final update until next week (check the menu on the left for more Oscar stuff). But, in light of the PGA news, here’s how I see the race right now…

Locks:

#1) Spotlight

#2) Mad Max: Fury Road

#3) The Big Short

#4) The Martian

#5) The Revenant

Good Bets:

#6) Bridge of Spies

#7) Room

#8) Brooklyn

Right on the Bubble:

#9) Carol

#10) Straight Outta Compton

#11) Inside Out

Dark Horses/Possible Spoilers:

#12) The Hateful Eight

#13) Sicario

#14) Steve Jobs

#15) Ex Machina

#16) Star Wars: The Force Awakens

 

 

2016 Oscar Predictions (All Categories)

2016 Oscar predictions, last updated January 7th (FINAL PREDICTIONS)

We’re a week away from nomination morning and these are my FINAL predictions, thought I reserve the right to make changes in Best Director if the DGA announces a major shakeup.

Click on links for full analysis, this is just a master list. Green text indicates the predicted nominee is a new entry since my last update, while Red text indicates something dropped out since my last update. Predicted nominees are ordered on how confident I feel in each.

Film with Multiple Predicted Nominations: The Martian (8), Bridge of Spies (8), The Revenant (8), Mad Max: Fury Road (8), Spotlight (7), The Big Short (4), Brooklyn (4), Ex Machina (4), Carol (4), The Hateful Eight (4), The Danish Girl (4), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (4), Steve Jobs (3), Inside Out (3), Anomalisa (2)

Best Picture

for full Best Picture analysis, click here.

  1. Spotlight
  2. The Big Short
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road
  4. The Martian
  5. The Revenant
  6. Bridge of Spies
  7. Straight Outta Compton
  8. Brooklyn
  9. Ex Machina

Dropped out: Room, The Hateful Eight, Carol

Best Director

for full Best Director analysis, click here.

  1. George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
  2. Steven Spielberg (Bridge of Spies)
  3. Ridley Scott (The Martian)
  4. Alejandro G. Inarritu (The Revenant)
  5. Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)

Dropped out: Todd Haynes (Carol)

Best Actor

for full Best Actor analysis, click here.

  1. Leonardo Dicaprio (The Revenant)
  2. Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)
  3. Matt Damon (The Martian)
  4. Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
  5. Bryan Cranston (Trumbo) 

Dropped out: Johnny Depp (Black Mass)

Best Actress

for full Best Actress analysis, click here.

  1. Brie Larson (Room)
  2. Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)
  3. Cate Blanchett (Carol)
  4. Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)
  5. Maggie Smith (The Lady in the Van)

Best Supporting Actor

for full Best Supporting Actor analysis, click here.

  1. Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
  2. Sylvester Stallone (Creed)
  3. Christian Bale (The Big Short)
  4. Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation)
  5. Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)

Dropped out: Michael Keaton (Spotlight)

Best Supporting Actress

for full Best Supporting Actress analysis, click here.

  1. Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)
  2. Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
  3. Rooney Mara (Carol)
  4. Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)
  5. Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)

Dropped out: Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)

Best Adapted Screenplay

for full best Best Adapted Screenplay analysis, click here.

  1. Adam McKay & Charles Randolph (The Big Short)
  2. Nick Hornby (Brooklyn)
  3. Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs)
  4. Charlie Kaufman (Anomalisa)
  5. Drew Goddard (The Martian)

Dropped out: Emma Donahue (Room), Phyllis Nagy (Carol)

Best Original Screenplay

for full Best Original Screenplay analysis, click here.

  1. Thomas McCarthy & Josh Singer (Spotlight)
  2. Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight)
  3. Bob Petersen & Pete Docter (Inside Out)
  4. Matt Charman & The Coen Bros (Bridge of Spies)
  5. Alex Garland (Ex Machina)

Best Cinematography

for full Best Cinematography analysis, click here.

  1. Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant)
  2. Roger Deakins (Sicario)
  3. John Seale (Mad Max: Fury Road)
  4. Janusz Kaminski (Bridge of Spies)
  5. Robert Richardson (The Hateful Eight)

Dropped out: Dariusz Wolski (The Martian)

Best Film Editing

for full Best Film Editing analysis, click here.

  1. Hank Corwin (The Big Short)
  2. Tom McArdle (Spotlight) 
  3. Margaret Sixel (Mad Max: Fury Road)
  4. Pietro Scalia (The Martian)
  5. Michael Kahn (Bridge of Spies)

Technical Categories

for full analysis on all technical categories, click here.

Best Production Design

  1. Bridge of Spies
  2. Crimson Peak
  3. The Danish Girl
  4. Carol
  5. Mad Max: Fury Road

Dropped out: Brooklyn, The Hateful Eight

Best Costume Design

  1. Brooklyn
  2. Cinderella
  3. Carol
  4. The Danish Girl
  5. The Revenant

Dropped out: Crimson Peak

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

  1. Black Mass
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. The Revenant

Dropped out: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Best Sound Mixing

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  3. The Revenant
  4. The Martian
  5. In the Heart of the Sea

Dropped out: Sicario

Best Sound Editing

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  3. The Revenant
  4. The Martian
  5. Inside Out

Dropped out: In the Heart of the Sea

Best Visual Effects

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  2. The Martian
  3. Ex Machina
  4. Jurassic World
  5. The Walk

Best Original Score

  1. Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight)
  2. John Williams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
  3. Thomas Newman (Bridge of Spies)
  4. Howard Shore (Spotlight)
  5. Alexandre Desplat (The Danish Girl)

Dropped out: Carter Burwell (Carol)

 

 

2016 Oscar Predictions: Best Cinematography & Best Film Editing

this post was updated January 11th (FINAL PREDICTIONS)

Below you’ll find my FINAL 2016 Oscar predictions for the categories of best Cinematography and Best Film Editing, two categories that often mirror the Best Picture race.

Best Cinematography

My FINAL Predicted Nominees…

It’s looked all year like we were in for another Chivo vs. Deakins showdown and while there are some other names to watch (John Seale for Mad Max, Robert Richardson for The Hateful Eight) it still appears that the top two are a cut above the rest in this branch.

1. Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant)

: Back with Inarritu, the man who’s won the last two years is on full display in The Revenant. Easy box to check off for voters.

2. Roger Deakins (Sicario)

12 noms, ZERO wins. That’s a fucking travesty. Sicario is amongst his best, and I think he can win it, finally.

3. John Seale (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Came out of retirement to shoot the film and the work is great. Not sure he can win with Deakins and Chivo in play but lock him in for a nom.

4. Janusz Kaminski (Bridge of Spies)

Has won for Spielberg films before and the work does stand out. BP player and the guild went for him.

5. Robert Richardson (The Hateful Eight)

Guild miss, maybe his film stock work isn’t as much of a homerun as folks thought. I think it should be, and I still think he squeezes in. Got in for Django Unchained and the work here is better.

RIGHT on the Bubble…

6. Matyas Erdely (Son of Saul)

Folks calling it the best of the year and work from foreign language films can sneak in here.

7. Edward Lachman (Carol)

Critics have been all over it and it’s shown up at some places. Can it get in without Carol getting in BP? It really is a great film to just look at.

8. Dariusz Wolski (The Martian)

Great 3D photography in a BP player but I wonder if folks will see it as repetitive, which would be unfair.

9. Maryse Alberti (Creed)

If Creed was a bigger overall factor, this would be a shoe-in. The work is great, best of the year even. Words are being spilled but that’s not enough.

10. Danny Cohen (Room)

Also has The Danish Girl, which is flashier, but I think this BP player is his best bet even though I personally am not a fan of the work.


Best Film Editing

My FINAL Predicted Nominees…

Birdman won BP last year without being nominated here. Don’t read into that, it’s an outlier. Historically, this is the category that coincides with the big prize most often.

1. Hank Corwin (The Big Short)

Corwin has come on strong late and the film certainly puts his work on display. If it’s winning BP, it’s probably winning here.

2. Tom McArdle (Spotlight)

Weird that the guild’s precursor went elsewhere, but Spotlight still looks like a frontrunner here.

3. Margaret Sixel & Jason Ballantine (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Cutting up an action film to move this flawlessly is no small feat. They HAVE to nominate this, no matter how they usually respond to such material.

4. Pietro Scalia (The Martian)

There’s been support, and a nom here would imply it’s an even bigger BP player than most think. I believe it is, so I’d lock it in.

5. Michael Kahn (Bridge of Spies)

Michael Kahn working on a Spielberg movie is always a good bet and Bridge of Spies looks like a BP lock.

RIGHT on the Bubble…

6. Joe Walker (Sicario)

The work is fantastic, and the film is coming on strong. Could this be a “lone editing” possibility?

7. Billy Fox (Straight Outta Compton)

BP player, and there’s been some support for this (guild went for it).

8. Stephen Mirrione (The Revenant)

Mirrione missed here for the BP-winning Birdman, though his newest collab with Inarritu is a more obvious editing achievement. BP player, but hard to tell what they think of it.

9. Maryann Brandon & Mary Jo Mackey (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

The guild went for it. Is it a bigger factor than we think? Won’t sneak in BP without a nom here.

10. Elliot Graham (Steve Jobs)

The film has faded but this work has been cited. It’s deserving, but it’d probably need a surprise BP showing.

2016 Oscar Predictions: Technical Categories

this post was updated January 11th (FINAL PREDICTIONS)

Below you’ll find my FINAL 2016 Oscar predictions for the “technical” or “below the line” categories, if you will.

Best Production Design

Period pieces often dominate the field here and there are plenty of notable ones this year.

  1. Bridge of Spies: Period pieces do well here and this is the most significant period piece of the year.
  2. Crimson Peak: The work is outstanding even if the film wasn’t met with acclaim. Branch will notice it, in theory.
  3. The Danish Girl: Period piece and the work really is quite good but I wonder with other period pieces being bigger factors if it gets forgotten.
  4. Carol: The work speaks for itself. Weinstein is working Carol hard below the line.
  5. Mad Max: Fury Road: Different, but brilliant. Has appeared everywhere in this category thus far. This looks like yet another possible tech win for the film.

On the bubble…

  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Cinderella
  • Brooklyn
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Costume Design

Another category that likes to reward period pieces and fantasy epics.

  1. Brooklyn: Period piece that really captures you.
  2. Cinderella: Sandy Powell. Disney. Flashy dresses.
  3. Carol: Period piece factoring into BP. Sandy Powell. Exquisite outfits for Cate Blanchett.
  4. The Danish Girl: Gender transformation is the story of the film. The work is good, specifically in regards to Eddie Redmayne.
  5. The Revenant: Furs, furs, and more furs. BP player.

On the bubble…

  • Trumbo
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Crimson Peak
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

The Danish Girl, thought of as the frontrunner all year, was deemed ineligible/didn’t make bakeoff list. At least that makes this interesting, I guess.

  1. Black Mass: Depp’s appearance as Bulger is probably the best element of the film. A ton of work was done.
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road: Hard to deny the work. BP player.
  3. The Revenant: Bloods and beards. BP player.

On the bubble…

  • Mr. Holmes
  • The 100-year-Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared
  • Legend
  • Concussion

Best Sound Mixing

One of the categories that already looks like a battle between the “big four” technical masterpieces this year (Mad Max, Star Wars, The Martian, The Revenant)

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road: Engines and explosions and gun shots and screams AND blending all that in with a unique score. Should be an easy win, but there are other players.
  2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The noise never was too much, and that’s a testament to the mixing team. Star Wars is going to win a few of these.
  3. The Revenant: Easy nom. Can win, though the work isn’t quite as flashy as Mad Max or Star Wars.
  4. The Martian: Will be a player in most techs.
  5. In the Heart of the Sea: Best element of the film, which wasn’t good but deserves notice somewhere.

On the bubble…

  • Jurassic World
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Sicario
  • Everest
  • Spectre

Best Sound Editing

Editing is more the creation of sounds than they way they’re blended. Still, it usually shares at least 3 or 4 nominees with mixing.

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road: Not quite as much of a homerun as in mixing but this still SHOULD win.
  2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: So much artificial noise that continues to sound so awesome after all these years.
  3. The Revenant: Bear attack sound creation.
  4. The Martian: An overall technical standout could be an easy box to check here.
  5. Inside Out: An outside the box pick for me, but it’s very deserving.

On the bubble…

  • Jurassic World
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Spectre
  • Sicario
  • In the Heart of the Sea

Best Visual Effects

A few different directions they could go here this year, and a couple of non-blockbusters that look like legitimate contenders.

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Could be a runaway. The work really was great. Technology finally meets Lucas’ original vision.
  2. The Martian: Very impressive work but I wonder if there’s space fatigue.
  3. Ex Machina: I’ve had this unique work slotted in all year. No reason to change now that the film’s gaining momentum.
  4. Jurassic World: $1.5 billion movie and while there’s A TON of CGI you can’t deny it is quite good.
  5. The Walk: Climactic sequence perhaps the most lauded technical moment of the year.

On the bubble…

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Tomorrowland
  • The Revenant
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Ant-Man

Best Original Score

Name recognition means more in this category than anywhere else.

  1. Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight): Morricone is the star of the film. A welcome return to form for one of industries titans. This SHOULD be an easy win but mixed reaction to film overall concerns me.
  2. John Williams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens): The greatest living composer reworking what’s probably his greatest score. Perfect mix of new & old. It’s eligible, so it’s getting nominated.
  3. Thomas Newman (Bridge of Spies): Bridge of Spies puts the great Thomas Newman’s work on full display. Huge part of the film. Plenty of narrative given he’s somehow never won.
  4. Howard Shore (Spotlight): He’s a legend as his work really helps Spotlight Not epic or loud but very good.
  5. Alexandre Desplat (The Danish Girl): Won last year for The Grand Budapest Hotel. His work here is just as good, even if the film isn’t.

On the bubble…

  • Michael Giacchino (Inside Out)
  • Carter Burwell (Carol)
  • Johann Johannsson (Sicario)
  • Michael Brook (Brooklyn)
  • Junkie XL (Mad Max: Fury Road)

2015 Oscar Predictions (Final Predictions part 2 of 2)

Here is part 2 of my final Oscar predictions, where I’ll through the acting, musical, Animated/Foreign, and technical categories. For predictions in other categories, click here.

Let’s start by looking at the acting categories. Best Actor is supposedly as competitive as ever this year while Best Actress feels like a one-horse race.

Nominations will be announced tomorrow morning.

Best Actor

Lock for a nomination…

1. Michael Keaton (Birdman): The perfect narrative and the perfect role. Keaton absolutely nails every high and low the script asks of him. He’s had a great showing at the precursors, capped off by a Globe win, and has remained a frontrunner. The only thing standing is the fact that Redmayne, Cumberbatch, and Oyewolo all played real-life figures in more typical Oscar-roles.

2. Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything): Giving a physically transformative performance as Stephen Hawking, Redmayne’s turn is drawing comparisons to Daniel Day-Lewis’ Oscar-winning turn in My Left Foot. I think that’s a lazy comparison, but the fact remains, Redmayne is in a juicy role that he apparently knocks out of the park. He won the Globe (in Drama) and was cited by the New York critics.

3. Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game): It’s a career-best turn, playing a forgotten hero, from a modern A-lister. The Imitation Game as a whole figures to be a major player and Cumberbatch carries the film. He’ll get nominated for sure, and once they look at the nominees, he could very well emerge as the popular pick.

My final two spots…

4. Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler): Both Gyllenhaal and Nightcrawler have gained so much late momentum just when we thought they were out of the running. His recent transformation to a “really fucking good actor in everything he does” is McConaughey-esque. He got nominated by both SAG and the Globes.

Because I still haven't forgotten
Because I still haven’t forgotten

5. David Oyelowo (Selma): The only reason Oyelowo, who gives a marvelous turn as MLK, didn’t get the SAG nom is because Paramount didn’t send screeners out the guilds. He’s not a lock but I think he’ll get swept in due to overall Selma love.

VERY much in play…

Bradley Cooper (American Sniper): American Sniper continues to gain steam and that has thrown its star and director right into the hunt. Cooper is coming off back-to-back nominations for two very different turns so we know they love him. Ultimately though, I think it’s just too late for Cooper to get the support necessary to crack the top five this year.

Yes, that's actually Steve Carell
Yes, that’s actually Steve Carell

Steve Carell (Foxcatcher): Was nominated by both SAG and the Globes but this is a tough year and there are still concerns that this is really a supporting turn (which it is, more on this later).

Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel): Fiennes has received a lot of citations and The Grand Budapest Hotel looks more lock a Best Picture lock everyday. But there are simply too many other guys giving more Oscar-friendly turns.

Long shots but still alive…

Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner), Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood), Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year), Bill Murray (St. Vincent), Miles Teller (Whiplash)

Given the Boyhood love, it’s surprising to not see Coltrane’s name mentioned more. Both Mr. Turner and St. Vincent are too small to get their veterans leads in. Oscar Isaac has gotten a lot of acclaim this year but he hasn’t been noticed by any precursors outside of the NBR. When people talk about Whiplash, they ignore Miles Teller.

A few GREAT and surprising lead performances they won’t notice: Chris Evans in Snowpiercer. Tom Hardy in Locke. Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher. Chadwick Boseman in Get On Up.

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Actress

The 99.9% favorite…

1. Julianne Moore (Still Alice): This race has been pretty much locked up all year. She’s simply been snubbed too many times. The narrative, and the performance, is there. Bow down.

The very-likely other four…

Felicity Jones and co-star Eddie Redmayne
Felicity Jones and co-star Eddie Redmayne

2. Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything): She’s a rising star and will have the British vote. In a down year, that alone will get her in. Oh, and she’s awesome. Catch her next in the courtroom drama True Story, which also stars James Franco and Jonah Hill (wait, what?).

3. Reese Witherspoon (Wild): She’s had a great comeback over the last couple of years, taking challenging roles and nailing them. I didn’t think Wild was a great movie, but she was certainly great in it.

4. Jennifer Aniston (Cake): You won’t hear the film mentioned outside of this category but she got the Globe and SAG noms she needed.

5. Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl): The Globe and SAG noms are probably enough to get her in this year. There will be a lot of support for the film as a whole. Personally, I don’t think she was very good in it, but I also think D2: The Mighty Ducks is the best movie of 1994.

Could spoil…

Amy Adams (Big Eyes): If Oscar voters turned in ballots after the Globes, she could easily be in, seeing as she won the Globe in Musical/Comedy. They absolutely love her, and she apparently carries the film. But a lot of people are saying bad things about Big Eyes and the top five seem pretty secure for now.

i.1.1-amy-adams-movie-infographic-characters

Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night): Likely to end up splitting the few votes she’ll receive with herself for The Immigrant. But she’s a great actress who they’ve recognized before which keeps her in the hunt.

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Supporting Actor

Pretty clear cut locks…

1. J.K. Simmons (Whiplash): Has been the favorite for most of the year and the film has actually gained late momentum. This is a category that loves to go with oft-ignored veterans in crazy roles.

2. Edward Norton (Birdman): The National Board of Review actually awarded him over Simmons and he’s felt like a lock all year. Playing an actor helps. It’s also been a long time since we’ve talked about him in terms of Oscar chances. If anyone beats Simmons this year, it’s going to be Norton.

Norton has a sour reputation amongst other actors but he’s just sooooo good in Birdman.

3. Ethan Hawke (Boyhood): The Boyhood love is likely to land Hawke his 2nd acting nomination. I don’t think he’s any threat to win, but he’s safe.

4. Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher): A very respected actor who is starting to feel like the only sure thing from Foxcatcher, which early in the year looked like a frontrunner in multiple categories.

My fifth…

5. Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice): A somewhat surprising pick for me, as he’s also an oft-overlooked guy, and voters who are fans of the film may want it to get some sort of nomination. He’s hilarious in the movie.

Thanos-was-in-Goonies

Also fighting for the fifth spot…

Robert Duvall (The Judge): He’s the common fifth pick as he’s obviously a legendary actor. The Judge is just sooooooo awful that people may feel bad nominating it for anything. But, Duvall did score both the Globe and SAG nods (as did my four locks).

Christoph Waltz (Big Eyes): It’s really a lead turn, as the Globes told us, but he’s campaigning here again, in a category he’s won twice over the last five years. There’s not a ton of love for Big Eyes but like his co-star Amy Adams, Waltz is an Academy darling and cannot be counted out.

Tom Wilkinson (Selma): Unfortunately for the great Tom Wilkinson, who I feel did a very nice job as LBJ in Selma, most of the accusations regarding the films inaccuracy surround his character. If those are powerful enough to possibly bump DuVernay, they’re certainly powerful enough to bump him.

Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)?????: Here’s the deal with Carell. Sony Pictures Classics is campaigning him as lead, and the guilds/precursors have gone with that, despite the fact that he’s clearly not a lead in Foxcatcher. The Brits actually nominated him in supporting, and there’s no actual rule saying you can only vote for a guy in the spot he’s being campaigned for. If all the acting branch members exchanged e-mails or something and agreed to consider Carell supporting, he’d be a lock here. Ultimately I think there’s enough competition in both categories that splitting even a few votes with himself will keep Carell out all together.

This would suck because he really is outstanding in Foxcatcher, it’s just that Channing Tatum is the real star of the movie.

Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler): A dark horse in the truest sense of the word but there’s a ton of support for the movie and it’s being called the great under-the-radar performance of the year.

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Supporting Actress

VERY safe bets…

1. Patricia Arquette (Boyhood): She’s the favorite as she gives the most lauded performance in the Best Picture frontrunner. The LA critics went as far as to give her the award in Lead, but it’s a supporting turn.

2. Emma Stone (Birdman): She’s had a nice showing at some critics awards and this is a category that often awards young actresses who step out of their comfort zone and put forth a performance many thought they were incapable on giving. That defines Stone’s work in Birdman.

Don't smoke crack
Don’t smoke crack

3. Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game): She provides a contender with its charm and the Academy does like her. Globe and SAG noms basically make her a shoe-in. British vote.

Last two spots…

4. Renne Russo (Nightcrawler): She’s missed out on most of the key precursors but as Nightcrawler continues to gain steam, it’s looking more and more likely that she could get nominated for this unexpected turn.

5. Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year): She got a Globe nom but missed out the SAG. But the Academy likes her and she’s had a great all-around year when you factor in Interstellar and The Disappearance of Elenor Rigby. They have to nominate A Most Violent Year for something, right?

Could easily get nominated…

Meryl Streep (Into the Woods): In no way do I feel comfortable leaving Streep, who seems to get nominated for even her weaker work, off my list. She appears to be the one redeemable quality from Into the Woods. But I’ll go with the upset and put Chastain and Russo in over her.

Naomi Watts (St. Vincent): SAG nom kept her in the hunt but St. Vincent is a very small film that seems to be more about Bill Murray than anything.

Carmen Ejogo (Selma): I thought she was the best part of Selma, providing the film with its emotional background when the other actors where just giving monologue after monologue. She didn’t score any major precursors though, and she’ll need them to go heavy on Selma to have a chance.

Still in the hunt…

Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer), Laura Dern (Wild), Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice)

Never leave us, Tilda Swinton
Never leave us, Tilda Swinton

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that both Swinton (for her insane turn in Snowpiercer) and Waterston (for her sexy and wounded character in Inherent Vice) SHOULD be nominated. But neither film appears to be a big player.

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Costume Design

1. Sammy Shelton (The Imitation Game)

2. Colleen Atwood  (Into the Woods)

3. Milena Canonero (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

4. Jacqueline Durran (Mr. Turner)

5. Sharen Davis (Get On Up)

Period pieces The Imitation Game and Mr. Turner feel pretty safe, though I’m not so sure that military engineers during WWII actually dressed as well as they did in The Imitation Game. Colleen Atwood is a branch favorite. The costumes in The Grand Budapest Hotel are the technical aspect I noticed most from a film that figures to factor in to many technical categories. Sharen Davis, who’s been nominated for Ray and Dreamgirls, is my dark horse pick. She’ll have industry support and feels like the best chance the underrated Get On Up has of a nomination.

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

1. The Theory of Everything

2. Foxcatcher

3. Guardians of the Galaxy

Only going three here, as the shortlist left off early favorites Into the Woods and The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies. My personal vote would be for Foxcatcher due to some of the insane prosthetics used. Guardians of the Galaxy will be in the mix for a few technical awards and some of the work they did with they did with Gamora, Nebula, and The Collector deserves recognition.

Chin game strong
Chin game strong

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Production Design

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel

2. Into the Woods

3. The Imitation Game

4. Birdman

5. Big Eyes

The Grand Budapest Hotel seems to be the favorite here and for good reason. What the did with the hotel itself was spectacular. Into the Woods features a ton of fantasy sets that always do well here. The Imitation Game did a nice job capturing the era with some of its sets and the machine itself created for the film looked great. The next two are dark horses but I think people will respond to the “back of the theater” look in Birdman. Tim Burton movies do very well here and Big Eyes got this nod from BAFTA.

Interstellar actually used way less CGI than you probably think and much of that had to do with the model space stations that were created. I think it’s in the hunt.

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Visual Effects

1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

2. Interstellar

3. The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies

4. Guardians of the Galaxy

5. X-Men: Days of Future Past

2zzBHbc

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the clear favorite for its groundbreaking motion capture work. The first one probably should’ve won but lost to Hugo. Interstellar, The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies, and Guardians of the Galaxy are here for obvious reasons. The last spot may very well be Godzilla vs X-Men: Days of Future Past and the latter has been mentioned more recently while the formers best chances are in the sound categories.

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Sound Editing

1. American Sniper

2. Godzilla

3. Interstellar

4. Birdman

5. Fury

American Sniper figures to be a major player and this is probably its surest bet for a nomination. For me, Godzilla, above else, was an achievement in sound, and is deserving of a nomination. Same goes for Interstellar. The continuous shot trick in Birdman doesn’t work if the sound isn’t edited perfectly as we go from room to room and character to character. Fury created some war sounds in very unique ways.

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Sound Mixing

1. American Sniper

2. Transformers: Age of Extinction

3. Birdman

4. Guardians of the Galaxy

5. Unbroken

michael_bay_shia

American Sniper is probably safe here as well and I think another war movie, Unbroken, makes the cut due to the work in some of the crash sequences. Transformers: Age of Extinction is a movie that just required so much sound mixing that the branch will recognize it. Both the Cinema Audio Society and BAFTA nominated Birdman here. This feels like a category where Guardians of the Galaxy can make some noise, and would be a popular choice given what they did with Vin Diesel’s voice.

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Original Score

1. Alexandre Desplat (The Imitation Game)

2. Johann Johannsson (The Theory of Everything)

3. Hans Zimmer (Interstellar)

4. Alexandre Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

5. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Gone Girl)

If you consider Unbroken here, as well as The Imitation Game and The Grand Budapest Hotel, Alexandre Desplat has a legit shot at getting three nominations. The Theory of Everything and Interstellar feature acclaimed scores from respected composers.

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Original Song

1. “Lost Stars” (Begin Again)

2. “Glory” (Selma)

3. “Ryan’s Song” (Boyhood)

4. “Everything is Awesome” (The LEGO Movie)

5. “Yellow Flicker Beat” (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1)

Rapper/Actor Common and his 'Just Wright' co-star Drake/Queen Latifah
Rapper/Actor Common and his ‘Just Wright’ co-star Drake/Queen Latifah

This is always a near impossible category to predict but I think the top three here feel pretty safe, with “Glory” (Common & John legend) and “Lost Stars” (Adam Levine) looking like the favorites. “Ryan’s Song” is a selection more about its use in Boyhood than the actual quality of the song. “Everything is Awesome” is an ironically catchy song that will be a popular choice, same goes for Lorde’s entry.

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Animated Feature

The predicted five…

1. The LEGO Movie

2. Big Hero 6

3. How to Train Your Dragon 2

4. The Boxtrolls

5. Song of the Sea

The LEGO Movie (Warner Bros), Big Hero 6 (Disney), and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Dreamworks) are the popular choices pushed by big studios in a category that usually awards popular choices pushed by big studios. My personal vote goes to The LEGO Movie, which isn’t just the best animated movie this year, but one of the best movies. Period.

The animators have spent much of the year lauding the work their counterparts did in The Boxtrolls. Song of the Sea is a small film but it’s received a ton of praise.

In the hunt…

The Tale of Princess Kaguya, Cheatin’, The Book of Life

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Foreign Language Film

1. Ida (Poland)

2. Leviathan (Russia)

3. Wild Tales (Argentina)

4. Tangerines (Estonia)

5. Timbuktu (Mauritania)

I don’t have much to say here as I haven’t seen any foreign language films this year, other than that Wild Tales looks VERY interesting. From what I’m reading, that, along with Leviathan and Ida, seem to be safe bets.

wild-tales-il-poster-orizzontale-372037

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Documentary Feature

1. CITIZENFOUR

2. The Overnighters

3. Life Itself

4. Last Days in Vietnam

5. The Case Against 8

CITIZENFOUR has been considered the heavy favorite all year and I can’t find any reason for that to have changed.

That’s it for me predicting the Oscars, nominations are released tomorrow morning. I’ll have my personal preferences up later today.