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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Final Oscar Predictions 2015

        *Each category's nominees are ranked from most to least likely to win, with the projected winner highlighted in red*

Best Picture:
1. The Revenant (Previous Ranking: 3)
2. The Big Short (Previous Ranking: 4)
3. Spotlight (Previous Ranking: 1)
4. Mad Max: Fury Road (Previous Ranking: 5)
5. Room (Previous Ranking: 11)
6. The Martian (Previous Ranking: 6)
7. Brooklyn (Previous Ranking: 7)
8. Bridge of Spies (Previous Ranking: 2)

        Get excited, people; this is the most interesting Oscar race since... 2014. OK, that number might not be all that impressive, but the 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and American Hustle trifecta was a pretty wild one, representing the first race in years wherein there were three legitimate contenders. This year is no different, with The Revenant, The Big Short, and Spotlight separating themselves from the rest of the pack. The last movie listed in that threesome emerged early as the Best Picture frontrunner, but minimal box office returns and a middling performance through the guild has it all the way back in the third spot as of now. The fact that it won the SAG ensemble award, as handed out by the Academy's largest voting body, keeps it alive for now, but as of this writing, it could fairly accurately be described as a dark horse.

        Next up is The Big Short, the housing market collapse comedy that snagged the PGA award for best feature film, an honor that has been matched with a Best Picture win all but 7 times in its 26 year history... including the last 8. That's obviously a pretty heartening marker, but I still can't shake the feeling that tonight will belong to The Revenant. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu took home the DGA for Best Director, a prize that's corresponded with Oscar glory 51 out of 62 times. In related news, only 23 times in Oscar's 87 year existence has a Best Picture winner not also sported the Best Director winner, and if you're as sure that Leonardo DiCaprio will take home Best Actor as I am, wouldn't it be a bit odd to watch a film win Actor and Director back-to-back, and them lose to something that had only managed a screenplay win? On the flip side of the argument, The Revenant would mark the first film since Braveheart to win without a SAG Ensemble, and the first flick since Titanic to win without a screenplay nomination. Yes, it's a glorious mess this year, but I'll go with the impressively mounted epic with box office receipts to spare. This is an industry award after all; the money might not be make-or-break, but it certainly influences things.

Best Director:
1. Alejandro González Iñárritu---The Revenant (Previous Ranking: 2)
2. George Miller---Mad Max: Fury Road (Previous Ranking: 3)
3. Adam McKay---The Big Short (Previous Ranking: 5)
4. Tom McCarthy---Spotlight (Previous Ranking: 1)
5. Lenny Abrahamson---Room (Previous Ranking: 11)

        As previously stated, Iñárritu took home the DGA prize, which has thus far matched Oscar's selection 82% of the time. Logic dictates that The Big Short and Spotlight's chances to ultimately swipe the big prize should have their directors in the #2 and #3 slots, but I can't shake the feeling that the Academy might come to their senses, and recognize the career achievement of 73-year-old industry mainstay George Miller. It's probably just wishful thinking, but I'll take a flyer on my man Miller. Abrahamson's invitation is his award.

Best Actor:
1. Leonardo DiCaprio---The Revenant (Previous Ranking: 1)
2. Matt Damon---The Martian (Previous Ranking: 3)
3. Machial Fassbender---Steve Jobs (Previous Ranking: 2)
4. Bryan Cranston---Trumbo (Previous Ranking: 4)
5. Eddie Redmayne---The Danish Girl (Previous Ranking: 5)

        Literally the single most predictable category of the whole evening, the stars have aligned, and Leo is finally going to win his coveted first Oscar (never mind that 41 is still on the young side for a Best Actor winner... he's just waited so long!). I once liked Damon as a spoiler, but when The Martian director Ridley Scott missed out on a nomination in favor of a dude who shot half a movie in one room, it spoke volumes about how the Academy really feels about the film. Put all your chips on DiCaprio.

Best Actress:
1. Brie Larson---Room (Previous Ranking: 1)
2. Saoirse Ronan---Brooklyn (Previous Ranking: 2)
3. Cate Blanchett---Carol (Previous Ranking: 3)
4. Charlotte Rampling---45 Years (Previous Ranking: 4)
5. Jennifer Lawrence---Joy (Previous Ranking: 5)

        I was somehow once foolish enough to view this as a real race, but in truth, this has been Larson's Oscar all along. The fact that her film got into almost every major category at the very last minute only solidifies her front-runner status. Ronan sits in a distant second as the only other thespian in the category to steer a Best Picture nominee all by herself. Blanchett is an Oscar favorite, and Rampling might still have the veteran card to play, though that's most frequently a narrative reserved for actors, because the Academy is not only racist, but sexist as well. JLaw never stood a chance.

Best Supporting Actor:
1. Sylvester Stallone---Creed (Previous Ranking: 6)
2. Mark Rylance---Bridge of Spies (Previous Ranking: 1)
3. Christian Bale---The Big Short (Previous Ranking: 2)
4. Tom Hardy---The Revenant (Previous Ranking: 5)
5. Mark Ruffalo---Spotlight (Previous Ranking: 4)

          It's ironic that Best Actor is such a done deal, because Supporting Actor is probably the messiest category of the whole evening. All three of the Best Picture frontrunners are represented by a male in a side role, and yet they've somehow found themselves in the bottom three slots according to my math. Rylance is the only one of the bunch who's been present every step of the way, from the Globes to SAG to the various critics' groups. He also represents the kind of due diligence pick that the Academy often strays away from by the time of the ceremony, so I'll close my eyes, cross my fingers, and prioritize sentiment over logic. Stallone is a film legend by any measure, and allowing him to ride off into the sunset with the first acting Oscar of his storied career would undoubtably create many misty eyes throughout the room. I'll go with Sly, but I honestly think all five have a shot at this thing, and if one of the gentlemen from The Big Short, The Revenant, or Spotlight ends up taking it, consider it a sign that their respective film is about to run the table.

Best Supporting Actress:
1. Alicia Vikander---The Danish Girl (Previous Ranking: 3)
2. Rooney Mara---Carol (Previous Ranking: 2)
3. Kate Winslet---Steve Jobs (Previous Ranking: 1)
4. Jennifer Jason Leigh---The Hateful Eight (Previous Ranking: 6)
5. Rachel McAdams---Spotlight (Previous Ranking: 4)

        This one feels almost as up for grabs as Best Supporting Actor, but with one crucial difference; where Idris Elba took home the Supporting Actor SAG and threw the whole race out of sorts, Vikander is here to defend her prize from the actors' guild. Winslet is still in the race, as evidenced by her victories at the Globes and BAFTA, but I'll still slot Mara above her by simple virtue Oscar's more pronounced affection for Carol, as evidenced by its six nominations. Leigh would be a great story on top of a stellar career, but I just don't think the voters liked The Hateful Eight enough to give it one of the night's top prizes. McAdams is way to subtle to actually hold the golden man in her hands.

Best Original Screenplay:
1. Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer---Spotlight (Previous Ranking: 1)
2. Bob Petersen and Pete Docter---Inside Out (Previous Ranking: 3)
3. Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge, and Alan Wenkus---Straight Outta Compton (Previous Ranking: 4)
4. Alex Garland---Ex Machina (Previous Ranking: 5)
5. Matt Charman, Joel Coen, and Ethan Coen---Bridge of Spies (Previous Ranking: 5)

        Being a Best Picture nominee obviously helps a film's chances in any below-the-line category wherein it's cited, but something tells me that Oscar isn't giving the Coen brothers another prize for a screenplay that is, by their lofty standards, average at best. That leaves Spotlight as the obvious favorite, but I wouldn't sleep on Inside Out's immaculately constructed script to become the first animated feature to ever snag this prize. Straight Outta Compton and Ex Machina are passion picks that should also stay on the radar, but the top two are awfully clear.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
1. Adam McKay and Charles Randolph---The Big Short (Previous Ranking: 1)
2. Emma Donahue---Room (Previous Ranking: 6)
3. Nick Hornby---Brooklyn (Previous Ranking: 2)
4. Phyllis Nagy---Carol (Previous Ranking: 4)
5. Drew Goddard---The Martian (Previous Ranking: 5)

        Unlike the Original Screenplay category, only one of these films was left off the Best Picture list, which essentially means that Carol is dead in the water. Same goes for The Martian, which leaves us Brooklyn (from three-time nominee and zero-time winner Nick Hornby), Room (whose late surge of passionate support I've already beaten into the ground by now), and The Big Short (the only one with a clear shot at the night's top award). I'll stick with the WGA winner The Big Short, but watch out for Room.

Best Foreign Language Film:
1. Son of Saul
2. Mustang
3. Embrace of the Serpent 
4. A War
5. Theeb

        Son of Saul has swept this award at nearly every precursor, and Mustang is the only other film of the bunch that's even opened stateside. This one's a no-brainer.

Best Documentary Feature:
1. Amy
2. The Look of Silence
3. Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom
4. What Happened, Miss Simone?
5. Cartel Land

        I probably shouldn't even be predicting this category as I haven't seen a single nominee, but my guess is that voters haven't exactly rushed out to see all five. Netflix has already developed a solid track record with this award, meaning that Winter on Fire and Miss Simone are still very much in play, but when in doubt, I'll pick by far the most widely seen entrant, and that's undoubtably Amy.

Best Animated Feature:
1. Inside Out
2. Anomalisa
3. Shaun the Sheep Movie
4. When Marnie Was There
5. Boy in the World

        There was a time when I thought Anomalisa had a shot to steal this one at the very last second, but missing out on a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination has all but snuffed that flame out. Pixar is always the odds-on favorite to take this Oscar anyway, so don't let me over-think it. The other three are just happy to be here.

Best Cinematography:
1. Emmanuel Lubezki---The Revenant
2. John Seale---Mas Max: Fury Road
3. Roger Deakins---Sicario
4. Edward Lachman---Carol
5. Robert Richardson---The Hateful Eight

        Lubezki appears to be headed for his third-straight Oscar victory, the ACE award already in his pocket, and only a potential backlash against his recent Oscar dominance standing in his way. If the Academy does decide they don't want to hear Lubezki's speech for a third year in a row, they'll hop on over to John Seale. Carol and The Hateful Eight simply aren't impressive enough to actually win, and if they've already made Deakins sit through 12 ceremonies without a citation, what makes you think Sicario is finally the one to do it?

Best Editing:
1. Hank Corwin---The Big Short
2. Margaret Sixel---Mad Max: Fury Road
3. Stephen Mirrione---The Revenant
4. Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey---Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
5. Tom McArdle---Spotlight

        It kills me to envision anyone other than Margaret Sixel winning this Oscar, but I'm here to make predictions, not wishes. The Big Short is defined by its schizophrenic editing, and if the film at large has any chance on god's green earth to win the big one, it will almost undoubtably scoop up this prize along the way. That said, Mad Max is right on its heals, and if The Revenant starts taking everything, this prize could follow suit. Star Wars' chances are on life support, and Spotlight is already dead.

Best Production Design:
1. Adam Stockhausen, Rena DeAngelo, and Bernhard Henrich---Bridge of Spies
2. Eve Stewart and Michael Standish---The Danish Girl
3. Colin Gibson and Lisa Thompson---Mad Max: Fury Road
4. Jack Fisk and Hamish Purdy---The Revenant
5. Arthur Max and Celia Bobak---The Martian

        The Art Director's Guild, in their infinite wisdom, assigned its Best Period Piece award to The Revenant, a movie that mostly just takes place in the snow. As much as I usually listen to the guilds, I simply cannot accept that as a reasonable answer, and will blindly go with the two films that it beat in that very category over Leo's epic quest for revenge. The Danish Girl is the exact kind of movie that tends to win this award, but Bridge of Spies is best in show, and I'll roll the dice with the Academy realizing that at the last minute. Mad Max's people have been campaigning hard, but too many voters might wonder what the desert tundra is doing in this category.

Best Costume Design:
1. Paco Delgado---The Danish Girl
2. Sandy Powell---Cinderella
3. Sandy Powell---Carol
4. Jenny Beavan---Mad Max: Fury Road
5. Jacqueline West---The Revenant

        This category almost never has anything to do with the effect of costuming on a film at large, and focuses exclusively on the prettiest dresses. That makes the top three incredibly obvious, with Carol bringing up the rear due to its relatively un-flashy excellence. The Danish Girl won the Costume Designers Guild, so let's just go with that and move on.

Best Make-up and Hairstyling:
1. Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega, and Damian Martin---Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Sian Grigg, Duncan Jarman, and Robert A. Pandini---The Revenant
3. Love Larson and Eva Von Bahr---The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

        This award almost uniformly goes to a creature-feature or accomplishments in aging rather than achievements in gore. By that standard, I don't really see The Revenant winning, and who the hell has heard of The 100-Year-Old Man? It's simple math that leads me to pick Mad Max.

Best Score:
1. Ennio Morricone---The Hateful Eight
2. John Williams---Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
3. Thomas Newman---Bridge of Spies
4. Carter Burwell---Carol
5. Jóhann Jóhannsson---Sicario

        I don't think Oscar even wants to find out what kind of bad karma he might create for himself by not just giving this one to Morricone, the 87-year-old legend for whom this almost undoubtably represents a final shot at winning an Academy Award. After Leo's win, this is probably our biggest standing ovation of the night.

Best Original Song:
1. Sam Smith and James Napier---Writing's on the Wall (from Spectre)
2. Diane Warren and Lady Gaga---Til it Happens to You (from The Hunting Ground)
3. The Weeknd, Belly, Jason 'DaHeala' Quenneville, and Stephan Moccio---Earned It (from 50 Shades of Grey)
4. J. Ralph and Antony Hegarty---Racing Extinction (from Manta Ray)
5. David Lang---Simple Song #3 (from Youth)

        Like Best Documentary, I'm picking this one on the simple grounds of it being the most widely heard entry. Don't sleep on Lady Gaga though; after her standout performance at last year's Oscars, they might want to invite her to the club.

Best Visual Effects:
1. Roger Guyett, Pat Tubach, Neal Scanlan, and Chris Corbould---Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
2. Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver, and Andy Williams---Mad Max: Fury Road
3. Richard McBride, Matt Shumway, Jason Smith, and Cameron Waldbauer---The Revenant
4. Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Williams Ardington, and Sara Bennett---Ex Machina
5. Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence, and Steven Warner---The Martian

        Tonight will probably prove to be a long and arduous affair for lovers of The Force Awakens, but at least they won't go home empty-handed assuming this category is dictated by pure logic. Mad Max and The Revenant remain alive by virtue of their utter dominance of nearly every technical category, but the practical effects featured in Star Wars will most likely win the day.

Best Sound Editing:
1. Mark A. Mangini and David White---Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Matthew Wood and David Acord---Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
3. Martín Hernández and Lon Bender---The Revenant
4. Oliver Tarney---The Martian
5. Alan Robert Murray---Sicario

        If it's me, I've got Star Wars in this category, and Mad Max in the other, but I actually know the difference between the two. History tells us that the Academy clearly doesn't, so I'm looking for a flick that can scoop up both awards, which is why I'm looking at Mad Max. Once again, don't sleep on the chances of The Revenant just winning everything.

Best Sound Mixing:
1. Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff, and Ben Osmo---Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio, and Stuart Wilson---Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
3. Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom, and Chris Duesterdiek---The Revenant
4. Paul Massey, Mark Taylor, and Mac Ruth---The Martian
5. Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, and Drew Kunin---Bridge of Spies

        Copy and paste everything written above.

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