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.

FINAL 2017 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture

This post was updated January 23rd and these predictions are FINAL

The Predicted Nominees

We’ve finally made it down to the deadline, and the best picture nomination race still seems wide open after the top 3 slots (La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea). It’s going to be a numbers game. Anything between 6-10 nominees is a possibility. Remember, when it comes to nominations, films that receive a lot of #1 votes even if left off many ballots score big. Think, what films will certain sectors of the Academy absolutely fall in love with even if others haven’t?

I feel good about Arrival, especially after its director landed a DGA nom. It’s a popular/acclaimed film that should get love from many branches above and below the line. Oscar has warmed up to sci-fi as of late, too. Lion is reportedly playing much stronger to the Academy than precursors suggest. It’s a skillfully made tearjerker, and Oscar loves those. Hidden Figures has put up strong numbers and is the feel-good film of the year. I don’t think its PG-rating hurts it here.

Hacksaw Ridge and Hell or High Water have both done better than anyone expected throughout the season. They’re both in play in many categories, including some acting categories. Both would make for fine selections and precursors suggest they should be in. My big shocker is Sully, which hasn’t popped anywhere yet. It’s the type of film that plays well to Oscar, and Warner Bros is running a strong campaign (it’s all they have). I don’t doubt the power of Eastwood/Hanks/true story. I think it sneaks in and that’s the big shocker in the category this year.

1) La La Land

Distributed by Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate (Dec. 9th). Directed by Damien Chazelle.

2) Moonlight

Distributed by A24 Films (Oct. 21st). Directed by Barry Jenkins.

3) Manchester by the Sea

Distributed by Roadside Attractions/Amazon Studios (Nov. 18th). Directed by Kenneth Lonergan.

4) Arrival

Distributed by Paramount Pictures (Nov. 11th). Directed by Denis Villeneuve.

5) Lion

Distributed by The Weinstein Company (Nov. 25th). Directed by Garth Davis.

6) Hidden Figures

Distributed by 20th Century Fox (Dec. 25th). Directed by Theodore Melfi.

7) Hacksaw Ridge

Distributed by Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate (Nov. 4th). Directed by Mel Gibson.

8) Hell or High Water

Distributed by CBS Films (Aug. 12th). Directed by David Mackenzie.

9) Sully

Distributed by Warner Bros. (Sept. 9th). Directed by Clint Eastwood.

 

On The Bubble

We know the actors will go for Fences. Hell, Viola Davis is winning her category and Denzel is the #2 contender in his. But I have doubts how the almost anti-cinematic film plays to other branches, and while everyone agrees it’s good it doesn’t seem like something many will write down as #1. Silence got into the season very late, and it’s a very challenging film. It getting director and editing nods (like I’m predicting) while missing here would be unprecedented, but where’s the fun in not predicting any shockers?

Jackie and Loving both seem dead in the water here, and I almost want to slot the divisive but passion-inspiring Nocturnal Animals ahead of them. Any of the three could get in.

10) Fences

Distributed by Paramount Pictures (Dec. 25th). Directed by Denzel Washington.

11) Silence

Distributed by Paramount Pictures (Dec. 23rd). Directed by Martin Scorsese.

12) Jackie

Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures (Dec. 2nd). Directed by Pablo Larraín.

13) Loving

Distributed by Focus Features (Nov. 4th). Directed by Jeff Nichols.

14) Florence Foster Jenkins

Distributed by Paramount Pictures (Aug. 12th). Directed by Stephen Frears.

15) Nocturnal Animals

Distributed by Focus Features (Nov. 18th). Directed by Tom Ford.

16) Patriots Day

Distributed by CBS/Lionsgate (Dec. 21st). Directed by Peter Berg.

17) Captain Fantastic

Distributed by Bleeker Street (July 8th). Directed by Matt Ross.

See predictions in other categories here.

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 Picture

this post was updated January 7th (FINAL PREDICTIONS)

One week to go, below you’ll find my FINAL 2016 Oscar predictions for Best Picture.

So, the Producers Guild of America (PGA) showed everyone how little they knew about this crazy race. The usual suspects (Spotlight, The Martian, The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Revenant) all scored there and given the support they have from multiple guilds, as well as the fact that they’re all likely to get AT LEAST four total noms, make me confident in locking them in. Brooklyn and Bridge of Spies being cited by the PGA showed that both never really lost momentum like most thought; they’ve both reportedly played very well within the Academy above and below the line. The big surprise was the PGA going for Sicario, Ex Machina, and Straight Outta Compton over Room, Carol, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Room and Carol are both films that play better with the entire Academy than just the producers, but man, Star Wars really needed the PGA.

I feel very confident in my top 7. From there, it’ll probably come down to how the voting system plays out and how many films are nominated. Room, Carol, Ex Machina, Brooklyn, Sicario, Inside Out, and probably a few dark horses are fighting for 1-2 spots that may or may not exist. Should be a fun revelation on Oscar morning. There will surely be surprises. I know nothing, and nobody else does either.

My FINAL predicted nominees are…

1. Spotlight

It’s stayed strong, popping up in pretty much every place it needed to. As always, voter fatigue is a possibility when a film has been a frontrunner for this long but it’s getting nominated. Whether or not it wins could come down to how many total noms it gets.

Michael Keaton & Rachel McAdams in ‘Spotlight’ your safest BP bet right now.

2. The Big Short

No longer a late-season dark horse; now it’s a frontrunner and possible winner. Guild support will be there from the actors, writers, and editors. The vocal detractors in the criticism world don’t really matter. Paramount wants the win and they can give Spotlight a run for its money.

3. Mad Max: Fury Road

The rare film that can battle for a win here even without the actors or writers behind it (though both groups SHOULD be). It’s just that good on a technical level and the necessary places have recognized that. I’m rooting for it. It’s locked in for the nom.

4. The Martian

Whenever we seem to think its losing steam, it gets a huge boost (in this case, from PGA and the editors). It’s hard to find a category where The Martian isn’t at least in the discussion (actresses, obviously).

5. The Revenant

It’s gotten the guild support it needed to overcome some good but not great reviews. DiCaprio himself is winning, which keeps the film in play. If it gets in for Editing, I think it may just win.

6. Bridge of Spies

We thought it was down but the industry guilds (save for the actors) proved that the critics and a modest box office didn’t matter. It’ll be all over the place in below-the-line categories. I don’t think it can win but it’s good for a nom here despite a less than stellar campaign from Disney.

7. Straight Outta Compton

Despite its lack of potential for other noms (screenplay, editing are huge “ifs” and that’s really it), this film looks more and more like a BP nominee every day. It’s popping up EVERYWHERE. The industry clearly loves it. Dre & Cube are about to officially become Oscar nominees, methinks.

Multi-Platinum rappers and ‘Straight Outta Compton’ producers Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, both likely to become Oscar nominees next week.

8. Brooklyn

PGA appears to have saved it, though many have said its chances have been underrated all along as it’s working the circuit as hard as any film out there. It’s going to pick up some tech noms. After Straight Outta Compton, I don’t feel comfortable with anything here but I’ll put my money on Fox Searchlight.

9. Ex Machina

PGA nom was a statement for this film, if not here than for Garland in screenplay, the visual effects team, and for Vikander. It’s put up outrageous on-demand and streaming figures. Even those who missed it at first are loving it. I’m going with this as my surprise of the morning (maybe just because I love the movie so much).

RIGHT on the bubble…

10. Room

Some big misses as of late (PGA, editors). Though this always appeared to be a film the Academy as a whole would be more likely to embrace than any one guild. Brie Larson’s place in her race also keeps it in the discussion. I really just have a gut feeling that many see this as a great performance in an alright movie (like with Ex Machina, maybe just because that’s how I see it).

11. Carol

I really expected this to pop up with the PGA, and that was a big miss. Has Harvey Weinstein blown it this year with this and The Hateful Eight? Carol remains a factor in many races so it’s in play but it never really took off like I thought it would. At one point I thought it might win.

Can Weinstein get ‘Carol’ in even without support from producers/directors?

12. Sicario

PGA forces us to at least consider this. I do really believe it has more support than journalists led us to think all year. It’s been talked about since Cannes. Is it really Oscar material though?

13. Inside Out

It’s right there on the bubble, but so are 3 or 4 live-action films that will likely have more guild support.

And your possible spoilers…

14. Trumbo

While this looked very likely after SAG announced, the films momentum seems to have come back down to earth. It’s just not a good movie and people are realizing this.

15. Steve Jobs

Needed last minute guild support. Didn’t get it. It’s riding Fassbender & Winslet. Universal is working Straight Outta Compton harder.

Once pegged as a frontrunner, it appears unlikely that ‘Steve Jobs’ manages a BP nom.

16. The Hateful Eight

Doesn’t seem to have landed with anyone, save for Jennifer Jason Leigh’s performance. But Weinstein is still working it hard below the line, so I’m not going to rule it out entirely.

17. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Feels like it needed PGA. It’s been repeatedly screened for Academy members but there’s little to indicate it’s actually a threat here. Wild card.

18. Creed

Warners, with most of their attention dedicated to Mad Max, hasn’t really worked this film hard despite the positive reviews/box office success.

19. Beasts of No Nation

Netflix has ran an admirable campaign but this film is on the back of Idris Elba right now.

20. The Danish Girl

The guild support is there in a few spots but it’s just not thought of very highly as a whole. Could see as many as 5 noms though.

2015 Oscar Predictions (Final Predictions part 1 of 2)

This is part 1 of my FINAL Oscar nominations predictions; where I’ll go through Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography and the Screenplays. 

The acting categories, animated/foreign, and remaining technical awards will come in part 2 very soon.

We have all the critical reception and precursor information we need to actually make concrete predictions for what will be nominated for Oscars this year. Seeing as nominations will be announced Thursday morning, it’s probably time I get going. Here are part one of my predictions.

Remember, this isn’t what I think SHOULD be nominated. It’s what I think WILL be nominated based on the info I have from the media, industry insiders, and precursor awards.

Best Picture

Lock ’em in for a nomination…

1. Boyhood: Has dominated the precursors, critics awards, and guilds. The scope of the project and the universal love for Richard Linklater are bonuses. It’s been the frontrunner for a couple of months now, but a few films are gaining fast. The Globe for Best Drama was just the latest trophy for Boyhood, however, and it has to be considered the favorite as of now.

Poster-art-for-The-Imitation-Game_event_main2. The Imitation Game: Continues to have a great showing with the precursors, has done well at the box office, and will have the British vote on its side. The Weinsteins are pushing it hard, and we’ve seen them pull off surprise wins before (The Artist and The King’s Speech, anyone?) Read my review here.

3. Birdman: Came out early but has gotten all the helps from critics and precursors that it needed. Is a frontrunner in multiple other categories as well. Probably the greatest “artistic achievement” on the list and could easily walk home with the prize. Personally, it’s the best movie I saw in 2014.

Pretty safe bets…

4. The Grand Budapest HotelCame out sooooo early in the year but has been resurrected by nearly every precursor. Wes Anderson getting the Golden Globe nom as a director was huge, as was the film getting a BAFTA nom (Only other “American” films that did were Boyhood and Birdman). Both the NY and LA critics showed love as well. While none of the Globe voters are also Academy voters, the love for the film in evident by it winning Best Musical/Comedy at the Globes.

5. Selma: Missing the BAFTA hurt, and it was shut out by many guilds (but this has more to do with Paramount not sending out screeners). Still, it’s an acclaimed film coming out at the perfect time and should have a great box office showing in wide release (this weekend).

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6. The Theory of Everything: BAFTA nom confirms the British support, and it’s done fine with American guilds and precursors. It will get a lot of votes from the actors branch. Eddie Redmayne’s emergence as a legit contender to win Best Actor only helps.

Toss-ups, but my final 3 spots go to…

7. Foxcatcher: The early love has been realized again thanks to support from the Globes and SAG. There will be a lot of actors pulling for this, as Foxcatcher is performance showcase for three movie stars (Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo). Oh, it was also just really damn good, read my review here.

8. American Sniper: Despite the mixed critical reception, the film has set records in limited release. Its star (Bradley Cooper) and director (Clint Eastwood) are in the hunt in their races as well. The National Board of Review, the editors, and the producers guild all have fallen for it. In a year with plenty of “war” movies, it appears to be the best.

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9. Nightcrawler: The re-release helped it a lot. Many precursors and guilds have responded positively. It’s the “modern” choice and Jake Gyllenhaal has received so much acclaim that he alone can probably get the film a nomination.

Right in the thick of it, wouldn’t surprise me…

Gone Girl: The PGA nomination was big and it got nominated for pretty much every Golden Globe you can imagine. It’s the popular choice in the hunt this year and Rosamund Pike has kept it relevant with the acting branch. If I went with a 10th, this would be it.

Whiplash_posterWhiplash: Has surprised many by staying right in the hunt thanks to great showings at most precursors and guild awards. It’s the frontrunner for Supporting Actor (J.K. Simmons) and looks more and more like a good bet in editing, which is a very telling category. Ultimately, I think other films are louder though.

Still (kind of) in the hunt…

Unbroken, A Most Violent Year, Mr. Turner, Into the Woods, Interstellar

While it’s had a nice box office showing, Unbroken just hasn’t gotten the acclaim or industry love necessary, same goes for Interstellar and Into the Woods. All three are likely to factor heavily into technical categories though, which keeps them in the hunt. A Most Violent Year and Mr. Turner have already developed cult followings which should get them a few first place votes, but ultimately, I think they’re just too small in a year where a lot of contenders have had surprisingly big showings.

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Director (updated after DGA)

Locks…

1. Richard Linklater (Boyhood): He’s been snubbed many times in the past. Boyhood is the Best Picture frontrunner, and it really is his vision. He’s dominated precursors. Appears to be the heavy favorite.

2. Alejandro González Iñárittu (Birdman): There’s so much love for different elements of Birdman that he has to get nominated. Golden Globe nom confirmed that people recognize him. Unfortunately for Iñárittu, Linklater chose to make Boyhood a 12 year film instead of 11 or 13.

My finals three spots…

3. Clint Eastwood (American Sniper): Winning best director from The National Board of Review put him on the map and the film has gained a ton of steam in limited release. The Academy LOVES Eastwood. We’ve seen him get nominated for much worse before. DGA nom helps.

4. Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game): The film figures to be such a huge player that many are considering Tyldum a shoe-in, but I’m not going to go that far. It could end up being more about the technical aspects and performances, and he’s simply not a big name compared to others in the mix. But he got the DGA nom over DuVernay, which is HUGE.

'Selma' director Ava DuVernay at Sundance
‘Selma’ director Ava DuVernay at Sundance

5. Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel): He’s gotten a lot of love from precursors (the Globe nom was HUGE), and he’s somehow never been nominated in this category before. He’s certainly on the bubble, but I’m going with him. Obviously needs the film to get a Best Picture nom, but that shouldn’t be a problem. DGA nom helps

Very much in the hunt for those finals three spots…

Ava DuVernay (Selma): If they go heavy on Selma, which I think they will, she’s in the mix. DuVernay does a very nice job handling the key scenes in the film. She would be the first woman of color to ever receive a directing nomination. A lot of people are rooting for her. But she missed out on the DGA nom which is a killer and there have been lot of accusations of the film being inaccurate which she has responded to in a not-so-friendly manner.

Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher): A previous nominee who’s film should be a big player, but the real-life subject of his film has went on a social media tirade bashing Miller, which could hurt. If I was picking five based on personal preference, he’d make the cut.

'Gone Girl' director David Fincher
‘Gone Girl’ director David Fincher

David Fincher (Gone Girl): Has been snubbed before and he got the Globe nom. He needs Gone Girl to make an impact in picture. Being the biggest name in the hunt other than Eastwood certainly helps him.

Damien Chazelle (Whiplash): This appears to be the tiny indie that everyone loves this year. If it scores in picture, editing, and screenplay, he has a shot. But this is a category that prefers to award veterans.

Long-shots…

James Marsh (The Theory of Everything), Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler), Mike Leigh (Mr. Turner), Angelina Jolie (Unbroken), Rob Marshall (Into the Woods), J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year), Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice).

Just because The Theory of Everything figures to get a Best Picture nom doesn’t mean its director will follow suit. Jolie and Marshall haven’t gotten the acclaim they needed despite their fame. Chandor and Gilroy are probably not big enough names yet. PTA and Mike Leigh garner much respect from the industry but their films don’t figure to make much of an Oscar impact.

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Film Editing

The predicted five…

1. Douglas Crise (Birdman): The editing certainly helps the film pull off it’s “one shot” gimmick. It’s also a Best Picture frontrunner.

2. William Goldenberg (The Imitation Game): The tight editing allows The Imitation Game to raise the tension up a notch and jump through timelines. Goldenberg is a huge name in the field.

3. Sandra Adair (Boyhood): Favorite to win Best Picture. Adair is receiving a lot of praise for cutting all of this footage together.

'Boyhood' editor Sandra Adair
‘Boyhood’ editor Sandra Adair

4. Spencer Averick (Selma): Some truly marvelous work during the actual march sequences. But he needs a ton of love for the film as a whole due to there being a plethora of contenders.

5. Tom Cross (Whiplash): After J.K. Simmons’ performance, the editing is what people talk about in Whiplash. If it gets a Best Picture nom, this one should be almost automatic.

Right in the hunt…

Kirk Baxter (Gone Girl), Joel Cox and Gary Roach (American Sniper), John Gilroy (Nightcrawler), William Goldenberg and Tim Squryes (Unbroken), Lee Smith (Interstellar), Barney Pilling (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Kirk Baxter could easily get a nomination and possibly even win.

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Cinematography

The predicted five…

1. Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman): He won last year for Gravity and his work here is probably even more impressive. It’s one of the many things you notice about the film.

A particularly memorable moment from 'Birdman'
A particularly memorable moment from ‘Birdman’

2. Roger Deakins (Unbroken): Possibly the biggest DP in the game and he’s never won before. Unbroken isn’t getting a ton of love, but the photography in it is.

3. Dick Pope (Mr. Turner): The film will be represented somewhere and this appears to be its best chance.

4. Robert Yeoman (The Grand Budapest Hotel): Some great work here and The Grand Budapest Hotel continues to pick up overall momentum which should make it a homerun in the technical categories.

5. Óscar Faura (The Imitation Game): Personally, I think it was typical period piece photography that got annoying at times. But The Imitation Game is a threat in essentially every category.

Right in the hunt:

Bradford Young (Selma/A Most Violent Year), Benoit Delhomme (The Theory of Everything), Robert Elswit (Nightcrawler/Inherent Vice), Hoyte Van Hoytema (Interstellar), Tom Stern (American Sniper)

Both Bradford Young and Robert Elswit might split votes with themselves. If I had to pick one dude in this group to crack the top five, it’d be Delhomme for The Theory of Everything.

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Original Screenplay

The predicted five…

1. Richard Linklater (Boyhood): The scope of the project alone makes is a safe bet for a nomination. It’s the Best Picture favorite.

2. Alejandro González Iñárittu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo (Birdman): The script, which is all over the internet, is an absolute marvel that lays the groundwork for the films unique visual story telling. It’s also very funny. It’s a shoe-in  

3. Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness (The Grand Budapest Hotel): Another shoe-in. Anderson has gotten love from the writers branch before and this is probably his most intricate story yet.

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4. Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler): Gilroy has a MUCH better shot here than in director, due to name recognition. The script has been cited by critics, guilds, and precursors. It’s a modern idea.

5. E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman (Foxcatcher): FAR from a lock, as Webb or Leigh could easily grab the last spot. Futterman was nominated before for Capote, another Bennett Miller movie.

Right in the hunt…

Paul Webb (Selma), Mike Leigh (Mr. Turner), J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year), Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie), Chris Rock (Top Five)

As a I mentioned, both Paul Webb and Mike Leigh could easily grab one of the last two spots. Selma figures to a major player an despite some of the alleged inaccuracies in the script, it could get swept in. Mike Leigh is a respected veteran. Lord & Miller actually won this award from the NBR, so I wouldn’t count them out. Animated films have made an impact in writing categories before.

 ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

Best Adapted Screenplay

The predicted five…

1. Graham Moore (The Imitation Game): Sat on the “Black List” for a couple of years and has been the frontrunner here from the start.

2. Damien Chazelle (Whiplash): At the last minute, it was deemed adapted instead of original, which could cost it votes. But it’d be a frontrunner if it had be seen sitting in this category all year. Note: VERY weak year for Adapted Screenplay.

3. Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl): The fact that she also wrote the book only drives the narrative, and again, it’s a weak year. Would be a crowd-pleasing selection.

4. Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything): Probably a lock for a nomination in a weak year due to the overall expected impact of the film.

God himself aka Paul Thomas Anderson
God himself aka Paul Thomas Anderson

5. Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice): It’s be quite a story if a PTA movie got NO nominations, despite the almost nonexistent buzz surrounding Inherent Vice. But he adapted Pynchon, and won this from the NBR. I’ll give him the final spot.

Right in the hunt…

Jason Hall (American Sniper), Nick Hornby (Wild), James Lapine (Into the Woods), The Coen Bros/William Nicholson/Richard LaGravenese (Unbroken), James Gunn and Nicole Pearlman (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Hornby and Hall are both very much in the hunt despite heavy criticism of both their work. Guardians of the Galaxy is obviously a long-shot (and a pipe-dream for me), but not as much as you think. The WGA nominated it in hits category. It should have some support from the branch. I, however, don’t have the balls to throw it in the top five.

Check back tomorrow for my picks in the acting categories, foreign/animated, musical categories, and remaining technical categories.