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Category Archives: 2016 Academy Awards

Oscars 2016: Best Picture

What a crazy Oscars season wasn’t it? Some categories have been locked up since last fall, others have come down to today, and others are legitimately too close to call. The best part of the Oscars is the unpredictability, and when they do throw a curveball into the mix, things get much more interesting. So let’s over-analyze things and see if we can score big on our ballots come Sunday.

Best Picturespotlight-xlarge

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies

Brooklyn

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenantrevenant-gallery-20-gallery-image

Room

Spotlight Will Win, Should Win

Power Rankings: Spotlight-The Big Short-The Revenant-Mad Max: Fury Road-The Martian-Room-Bridge of Spies-Brooklyn

This has been a close race all season, as no one film is dominating the conversation. The Big Three, that is; screenplay-director-picture is typically vital for a clean sweep, but this year it’s all hazy. In the end though, I think Spotlight will triumph. First, it’s the right kind of film that wins Best Picture, it’s a success story for director Tom McCarthy, and it has scored acclaim across the board for its three main performers. While the same can be said for The Revenant and The Big Short, they came into the game too late and don’t have the edge that Spotlight does.

Historically, Golden Globe success doesn’t always translate into Oscar gold, and while The Revenant scored a whopping twelve Oscar nominations, it might have to settle with a win for DiCaprio and Iñárritu while Spotlight takes top prize. The film has many fans but just as many polarized haters, so it will be interesting to see if The Revenant has the mileage to sneak ahead. This is the kind of win that can only be called during the broadcast itself, as we’ll have to see how each film is doing throughout the evening. This happened last year when Birdman snuck ahead and took it from Boyhood. Switch those films with The Revenant and Spotlight respectively and it might just happen.

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I also wouldn’t count out The Big Short, which has had the strangest underdog story. It’s a film that is almost universally loved, and despite the subject matter and comedic tone, like Spotlight it’s the kind of film that historically wins. Timely, relevant, and well-made, it’s this year’s The Wolf of Wall Street (minus hookers and cocaine).

Also interesting to look at are the remaining nominees. Of course Mad Max and The Martian made it in, but the last three are well-deserved nominations. Bridge of Spies may end the night with zero wins, but Spielberg’s craftsmanship rarely goes under appreciated. Additionally Room and Brooklyn are the little indies that could this year. Any other year they would be left out, but since the rule change in 2009 it’s allowed room (get it?) for smaller films to earn recognition. The controversial rule change allows films like Beasts of the Southern Wild, Winter’s Bone, and Nebraska to call themselves nominees despite their smaller voices.

So who missed the cut? Just on the edge was Straight Outta Compton, which many thought would take a ninth slot after earning a SAG award for ensemble, which typically translates to Oscars success. Instead, it had to settle for a screenplay nomination. Also left out was Todd Haynes’s Carol, which may have lost out to Brooklyn as the small period indie piece. It’s unfortunate, as the preferential ballot may have screwed it over, but the subject matter may be too progressive for voters. Also for a while, we were all taking about Steve Jobs, The Danish Girl, and The Hateful Eight as well, but these are examples of films that didn’t live up to their hype, whose reviews may have caused them to miss out on the final list.

 

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2016 in 2016 Academy Awards

 

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Oscars 2016: Best Director

This is one of the few legitimately interesting categories to watch. Will we have a back-to-back winner and make history in Iñárritu? Will we have a winner in the technical mastery of George Miller? Or could Adam McKay sneak in thanks to a last-minute boost? A Best Picture/Best Director split isn’t unprecedented, and lately has seemed the norm, and this is one category that will definitely come down to the wire.

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Adam McKay, The Big Short

George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road Should Win

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant Will Win

Lenny Abrahamson, Room

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Power Rankings: Iñárritu-McCarthy-Miller-McKay-Abrahamson

I’m honestly at a loss for who could and should win this year, but we can rule out one director, Lenny Abrahamson for Room. While beautifully directed, the film is too small and Abrahamson too small a name to make an impact. He nabbed the spot from Golden Globe winner Ridley Scott, who just missed the cut and could’ve shaken up the five-way tie even more.

So let’s examine each director individually, starting with McKay for The Big Short, whose name has come up more and more as guild awards are revealed. McKay snagged a DGA nomination (essential in this category), but other than that nothing too substantial. It’s worth noting his omission from the Golden Globes, where the film did not score any wins, despite the Globes’ effect not being what it used to be.

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Moving on to Tom McCarthy, hot off the biggest disaster of his career (The Cobbler), he resurrects it with Spotlight, and since November the conversation has been focused on Spotlight‘s inevitable sweeps, some of which didn’t happen. McCarthy scored a DGA nomination, a Critics’ Choice nom, and the film also did well at the independent shows. McCarthy clearly isn’t out of the conversation, and the understated tone of Spotlight has earned him many fans. If we’re looking at a split, however, and Spotlight does win Best Picture, McCarthy might leave this one empty-handed. That seems most likely at this point, as when Best Director does split, it goes to the most technically impressive film, and Spotlight is not it this year. This last happened in 2014, when Cuarón took it home for Gravity while 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture.

FURY ROAD

Now to the two technical beasts, first George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road, which is feeling like this year’s Gravity. While it’s shot at Best Picture is low, I’m anticipating a sweep in the craft and technical categories for Mad Max, including sound mixing & editing, film editing, makeup, and possibly production design and visual effects. The craft categories will be interesting ones to watch this year because of Mad Max but also because of The Revenant and The Martian, which will both put up a fight. Miller has scored in all the right places for this film, and he’s my personal winner for this category, which feels like a career victory lap for the acclaimed veteran.

But then there’s Iñárritu, previous winner for 2015’s Birdman and he will not go down without a fight for The Revenant. He won the Directors Guild Award earlier this month, which possibly could have cemented his victory. The last winner of the DGA who did not go on to win the Oscar was Ben Affleck in 2013 for Argo, and that one was an anomaly since he did not even score a nomination. DGA almost always signifies an Oscar victory, but if the voters are feeling Iñárritu fatigue, and for a film that has many vocal detractors, he could miss out.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2016 in 2016 Academy Awards

 

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Oscars 2016: Best Actor

Boy, this is a weak category isn’t it? I could re-do this category with five completely different performers, something I couldn’t do for the previous categories. I’m not really sure what happened here, and the conversation for this category seems surrounded over DiCaprio finally receiving his Oscar. Thankfully I hope it happens so that Twitter pundits will finally have somewhere else to put their repressed anger. I could rant about how awful his performance is, but I don’t want to take away from the other four talented performers, so let’s just dive into this mess.

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Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Matt Damon, The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant  Will Win

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs – Should Win

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Power Rankings: DiCaprio-Fassbender-Cranston-Redmayne-Damon

Let’s get the other guys out of the way. A back-to-back win is often unprecedented, and as good as Eddie Redmayne is, overexposure is never a good thing. While his performance is hailed, the same can’t be said for the film, so let’s leave The Danish Girl to the craft categories. Ditto to The Martian for tech awards. The love for The Martian can be explained by the box office numbers but also the love for Ridley Scott and straight-up crowd pleasers. There’s always a film like this in the mix, one universally loved and nitpicked. While it just missed my top ten, and swept in the “Comedy” categories at the Golden Globes, I don’t see Damon walking away with the prize in any universe. Additionally, Cranston falls in the “it’s an honor just to be nominated” echelon, and the rising adoration for Trumbo may have been too little, too late.

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If I had my pick, Fassbender would have this one in a heartbeat. Danny Boyle’s film is a masterpiece, and it’s a tragedy alone for the film to be left out of top categories, but that one I can forgive. Unforgivable however, would be missing out on Michael Fassbender’s remarkable performance. He’s an actor that is revered in some corners, yet completely obscure in others, and an Oscar might be just what he needs to break out. Still though, if a loss means we’ll be treated to more performances like MacBeth, then it’s fine by me.

And now we come to Leo, poor Leo, who will most likely win for one of his worst and least memorable turns in The Revenant. Asking where his Oscar is at this point is unproductive, since he probably has his acceptance speech for this one ready. I wish he had received an Oscar for a role more daring however, one like he gave in Catch Me If You Can or even 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street. His performance in The Revenant is uninspired, and a plain bore to sit through.

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In a perfect world, Steve Carell would be back in the mix again for his role in The Big Short. His transformation throughout the film is heartbreaking to watch, and always entertaining. He’s better than Bale in my opinion, and his omission is an unfortunate one. For a while, many thought Johnny Depp was number one for this category, but the mixed response to Black Mass and simple lack of conversation about his performance may have hurt him. I haven’t seen the film, but like DiCaprio, Depp is the owner of zero statuettes.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2016 in 2016 Academy Awards

 

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Oscars 2016: Best Actress

Curse you, Charlotte Rampling (for a number of reasons). All of the women nominated in this category were nominated for films with one-word titles, but you couldn’t just star in “45” could you? I digress, although this may be the best category this year, full of outstanding actresses giving career-best performances. Three first-time nominees are going head-to-head with old Academy favorites, and the talent on display here is impeccable. Even though there may be a blatantly clear winner, like often happens with the Best Actress category, that doesn’t mean she’s out of the woods yet, as much can change in four weeks like we all know too well.

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Best Actress: The Nominees

Cate Blanchett, Carol

Brie Larson, Room – Will Win, Should Win

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Power Rankings: Larson-Ronan-Rampling-Blanchett-Lawrence

Brie Larson has this one in the bag, and she deserves it. One of my favorites from last year, Larson is tremendous in Room, exhibiting probably every emotional possible within a two-hour time span. I called this one a long time ago, as Brie Larson was announced to be playing Ma, a pitch-perfect choice for such a brilliant novel. Besides destroying everything in her path at festivals and the guild awards (I managed to catch a glimpse of her at the BFI London Film Festival), the AMPAS adorned the film, and it managed to squeeze into Picture, Director, and Screenplay nominations, earning the big four.

So where does that leave the remaining nominees? Well, one could certainly make a case for the exquisite Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn, another one of my favorites from 2015. While she may not have that scene like Larson, Rampling, and Lawrence, the young Irish actress has managed to snag a number of trophies, mostly from across the pond. Whatever her prospects, this definitely will not be the only nomination Ronan receives in her lifetime.

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Controversy aside, Charlotte Rampling is devastatingly compelling in Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years, which I finally managed to see over the weekend. She doesn’t have many lines, but when she does she delivers with such complexity. She is able to conjure up emotions from just the look on her face. Although it is a small film, Rampling definitely deserves her place. Unfortunately for Cate Blanchett, being a recent winner for Blue Jasmine in 2014 won’t do her any favors for her title role in Carol. I wasn’t as smitten by her performance as I was for her co-star Rooney Mara, but Blanchett does remarkable work (although when does she not?) Academy favorite Jennifer Lawrence takes the final spot for her role in Joy, the film’s only nomination. Her work with David O. Russell keeps paying dividends, and while she took home the Golden Globe in a traditionally weak category, she doesn’t hold a candle to the other ladies.

As for the snubs, there weren’t too many, as this is the strongest category this year. Many thought veterans Blythe Danner, Helen Mirren, or Maggie Smith would take a spot away from Lawrence, although history has shown the Academy loves to skew younger for this category. Wild card Amy Schumer would’ve been a breath of fresh air for her great work in Trainwreck, but the Academy doesn’t normally go for pure raunch. For my personal nomination, I give Bel Powley for The Diary of a Teenage Girl. The young newbie has years ahead of her, but like Rampling, is able to stir up emotions just by facial expression alone. The film may be too progressive for some voters (see the omission of Carol from the top prize), but Powley shines in the indie treasure, and I hope she takes home the Independent Spirit Award in a few weeks.

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Posted by on February 10, 2016 in 2016 Academy Awards

 

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Oscars 2016: Best Supporting Actress

Ditto the most interesting comment from my previous post. Best Supporting Actress has the luxury of being one of the few categories that still doesn’t have a runaway winner. Predictions on who would be nominated in this category were off the wall, as the two frontrunners could have made a case in Best Actress thanks to their heavy screen time. In the end, AMPAS settled with Supporting Actress for these two, and the rest fell into line as SAGs and Globes stirred the pot.

Best Supporting Actressthe-danish-girl

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara, Carol – Should Win

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl – Will Win

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Power Rankings: Vikander-Mara-Winslet-Leigh-McAdams

For a while, it seemed like the only woman in contention here was Jennifer Jason Leigh. While she is indeed the best part of The Hateful Eight, the film’s lukewarm response has killed the buzz significantly. While it would be a big career resurgence for Leigh, the push simply isn’t there right now.

I see this one boiling down to Vikander versus Mara, two young competitors who give beautiful and heartfelt performances. I finally saw The Danish Girl, and thought Vikander nailed it. She’s had quite a year, and the Academy likes to go for the “it girl” of the moment narratives (see: the love for Jennifer Lawrence), even if it may not be the best performance of the bunch. Although many believe Alicia Vikander belongs in the Best Actress category, she may have put herself in a pickle since her more critically-acclaimed and actually supporting role could be found in Ex Machina, which netted her a Golden Globe nomination. As for Rooney Mara, she pairs wonderfully with Cate Blanchett, and her win might be the only one Carol goes home with on Oscars night. A shame because the film is remarkable but Mara did give the best performance of the five.

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While Kate Winslet may have received a last-minute boost from her Golden Globe win for Steve Jobs, the buzz for that film simply isn’t there as well. I wasn’t enamored with her performance, but I did adore the film, and it’s a shame it didn’t receive more love. Chalk it up to Steve Jobs biopic fatigue. And while Rachel McAdams stole the final slot, Spotlight has the disadvantage of being an ensemble. While the SAG Award may have confirmed a Spotlight win for Best Picture, I don’t see any of the cast breaking out last-minute.

Had Clouds of Sils Maria been released with a traditional Oscar-narrative, I could’ve seen Kristen Stewart going home big. She’s my personal nomination for Supporting Actress, for a role that earned her a Cesar Award, the first ever for an American actress. A strong campaign could’ve at least put her further into the conversation. Other omissions include Jane Fonda for Youth and Helen Mirren for Trumbo, but this category tends to skew younger and for more ‘moment’ actresses rather than seasoned pros. The Trumbo miss is troubling, as the film has seen a comeback unlike any other. Great performances also came from Joan Allen in Room and Elizabeth Banks in Love & Mercy, the latter of which I expected over McAdams, for being the best part of one of my favorite films from last year, as well as being an ‘it girl’ right now.

love-and-mercy-2015

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2016 in 2016 Academy Awards

 

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Oscars 2016: Best Supporting Actor

Arguably the most interesting of the acting categories this year, Best Supporting Actor is always prone to a high degree of drama and conspiracy, as category fraud runs amuck post-Golden Globes. You can argue the screen time of these fine actors, but there are never clear guidelines as to what constitutes a ‘supporting’ role. Drama aside, these are one of the few categories this year that don’t feel locked down this point in Oscar season. Surprise nominees have changed the game and studios campaigning in categories where their performers don’t belong have made the supporting roles the most volatile, and we may be looking at some surprises come February.

This photo provided by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures', Warner Bros. Pictures' and New Line Cinema's drama "Creed," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Barry Wetcher/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP) ORG XMIT: CAET190

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale, The Big Short

Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies – Should Win

Sylvester Stallone, Creed – Will Win

Power RankingsStallone-Rylance-Bale-Hardy-Ruffalo

I love Stallone’s narrative after the surprise success of Creed. He’s never won an Oscar, and what a better way to pay tribute to the acting veteran than a win for the role that made him so renown. If the Oscars go this route, which they most likely will, I have no qualms because Stallone is great in the movie, but I think there a few better actors on this list, technically speaking. Mark Rylance, who was probably the only sure thing in this list when we were talking last October, gives a quietly destructive performance in Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies. Despite the film’s wavering success post-release, Rylance has been the one constant that critics can agree on. A first-time nominee, Rylance hasn’t had a role like this before, and it’s a knock out (Creed joke).

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The other three nominees is where this category gets interesting, because I could honestly see any of them taking home the trophy as well. Christian Bale is probably the most likely of the three remainders, which would be a shame because I think Steve Carrell gives the best performance in The Big Short. Nevertheless, Bale is on a roll with supporting roles as of late, able to blend into these eccentric characters (see: American Hustle) with ease. As far as Tom Hardy is concerned, despite being the saving grace in that unbearable film, I wouldn’t count him out as well – we could be looking at another Dallas Buyers Club Actor-Supporting Actor victory. Mark Ruffalo takes the last spot as the inevitable Spotlight nominee, beating out fellow Michael Keaton in an explosive performance, but one that most likely won’t go down as one of his best. Spotlight is juggling a lot on its plate right now, and it may be difficult to gauge its prospects, but I have a hard time imagining a Ruffalo victory Oscars night. His narrative repeats itself again from last year’s Foxcatcher, another chilly film with great performances, and if history repeats itself then he’ll be left out in the cold.

So who was left off the final list this year? Many. Room’s Jacob Tremblay was right on the bubble for this one, and he would’ve been a refreshing change of pace for a category that normally skewers older. Given the AMPAS’s love for the film (including Best Picture and Director nominations), I was shocked by this one after Tremblay’s SAG nomination. Other near misses included Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation and Jason Mitchell for Straight Outta Compton, two diverse performances that are the best parts of their respective films. Elba’s omission is especially head-scratching, given how well he’s been received including a Golden Globe and ISA nomination. My personal nomination for this category, however, would’ve been Jason Segel in The End of the Tour. The quiet Sundance film didn’t make much of a splash on the fall circuit, but Segel gives the performance of his career as author David Foster Wallace.

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Posted by on January 30, 2016 in 2016 Academy Awards

 

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