Thursday, February 25, 2016

88th Academy Awards Preview & Predictions

Welcome to the official Oscar Predictions, with Mike Drinan and myself.  We'll each go through the major categories (plus a tiebreaker) and offer our predictions for who'll be taking home the statuettes.  Seems like a fairly predictable show this year but you never know.  So let's get to it....

Best Picture

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies


Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Mike: This year I was able to see 5 of the 8 nominees.  Not terrible but I decided to not watch Mad Max: Fury Road (even though it was free on HBO) because I’m not into the Mad Max movies. I could’ve rented Bridge Of Spies but I was just flat out not interested. The previews for that movie looked so cheesy and overdone. I still have questions as to why it’s even nominated in the first place. The movie Brooklyn was the only one of the nominees that I wanted to see but didn’t get a chance to, however I’m confident that I was able to watch the eventual Best Picture winner. Both Room and The Martian were excellent movies, intelligent movies, that had interesting, complex characters with plots that allowed the audience to see them and dissect, even question their motives (in the case of Room). But this race narrowed late in the year and if you would’ve asked me Thanksgiving weekend which film I thought would be Best Picture, I’d have told you Spotlight. It was dramatic, insightful, subtle with its tension and certainly controversial. The acting was tremendous. The screenplay damn near spotless. BUT...then came The Revenant and just sealed the deal. I don’t think it was a better movie than Spotlight, I just feel that the Leo for Best Actor campaign has reached such a fever pitch that it will transfer over to the Best Picture category. Plus, that bear attack scene was pretty dope. I also don’t count out The Big Short either. It’s a topical film, tied closely to the country and times we live in now and we’re all well aware that Hollywood loves a good cause. The Big Short and Spotlight are prime contenders to play spoiler.

Prediction: The Revenant

Justin: I've also seen five of the nominees but I'm hoping to watch at least Spotlight before Sunday.  Bridge of Spies is pretty low on my to-do list as well.  With a lot of these awards there'll be a discrepancy between what I'd like to see win and what I think actually will (which is not at all uncommon).  Of the five nominees I've seen (The Big Short, Mad Max, The Martianm, Room & The Revenant) I'd say The Big Short was my favorite overall.  Mad Max is my sentimental favorite because I love that franchise and it's so refreshing to see a movie like that get this kind of critical recognition.  The Martian was really well done and surprisingly light and upbeat given the subject matter.  Room was haunting, disturbing, heartbreaking, and yet ultimately hopeful, even buoyant.  Now, about The Revenant.  Visually The Revenant is unlike anything I've ever seen.  Innaritu has taken a timeworn film genre and made it look completely different that what you'd expect, from the intimate wide-angle shots that place the emphasis squarely on the subject, to the meditative landscape montages, this movie should absolutely win Best Cinematography (I'll actually be angry if it doesn't).  It's gorgeous.  However, the story doesn't quite sustain itself for the 150+ minutes.  This film really needed about twenty minutes trimmed to keep things moving a little faster.  By the time the story reached its climax I found myself emotionally disengaged, and that's not where the viewer should be at this point in a film about revenge.  I watched a video review of this film (at where one sentence really summed it up for me: I appreciated The Revenant more than I enjoyed it.  That said, this movie is a mortal lock to win Best Picture.

Prediction: The Revenant

Best Director

Adam McKay - The Big Short
George Miller - Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro G. Inarritu - The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson - Room
Tom McCarthy - Spotlight

Mike: I go back and forth on this category. Originally, I thought Inarritu was all but assured for this award. Then Adam McKay had to remind me he actually made a very serious film and it was so...fucking...good. Then there’s Tom McCarthy and that whole story with its great cast. Lenny Abrahamson also did a great job but there’s somewhat unfinished business I felt at the end of Room that doesn’t make me confident he’s in the running here. George Miller comes to mind quickly. He’s 70 and a first-time nominee and the consistently great reviews for Mad Max lead me to believe that this race is between him and Inarritu. What Miller has going for him is Inarritu won this category last year and I think people might be kind of tired of him. However, Innarritu did win the Director’s Guild Award and historically the winner of that award usually goes on to win the Oscar. (In 67 years, only 7 winners of the DGA have not won the Oscar) I think I’m going chalk here.

Prediction: Alejandro G. Inarritu for The Revenant

Justin: I agree with Mike's take, it's clearly between Inarritu and Miller.  I'd love for Adam McKay to win, particularly since he's a screwball comedy director who clearly stretched his legs with The Big Short.  It's funny but also deals with a heavy topic, and visually it's completely different from McKay's previous work.  But yeah it'll either be Inarritu, to rack up the awards for The Revenant (He'd be the first director to ever win back-to-back Oscars), or George Miller for reinventing Mad Max for the 21st Century (not to mention a pretty darn good overall career).  Just to keep things interesting I'll go with Miller, as the Academy loves to give out unofficial Lifetime Achievement awards.

Prediction: George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Actor

Bryan Cranston - Trumbo
Matt Damon - The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant
Michael Fassbender - Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne - The Danish Girl

Mike: Let’s be blunt. We don’t need to go in depth here. I mean, if Leo has any competition its Michael Fassbender for his immaculate portrayal of Steve Jobs. Normally Eddie Redmayne would get my attention for playing artist Einar Wegener preparing to undergo the first sex change operation because the commitment to the role and character is brutal. I love Bryan Cranston and Matt Damon and both did a really good job with their characters, but there’s no way Leo loses this category. Do you remember all the “When will Leo get an Oscar?” posts after he lost in 2013 to Matthew McConaughey (and rightfully so) for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club? Oh man, you would’ve thought they amputated his legs and waterboarded the guy. It was insane. In any other year DiCaprio would’ve won for that role. He was astounding. Watching him in that movie was the only time I hated DiCaprio because his character pissed me off. But, it just wasn’t meant to be. The campaign for Leo to FINALLY get his Oscar ramped up as soon as The Revenant premiered, and with that brutal bear scene, there wasn’t a chance in hell he was NOT leaving without this Oscar. The dude even ate a real buffalo liver despite being vegetarian. He knows the sacrifice. Plus, Oscars love giving “make up awards” for previous snubs.  This is an easy prediction.

Prediction: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant

Justin: This is the most predictable category.  Leo's taking it home.  But does he deserve it for this particular role?  In my opinion, not really.  Not over Fassbender or even Damon.  Look, DiCaprio gave a fine performance that was obviously VERY physically demanding.  But does physically demanding equal a great performance?  Let me ask you this: would you give Tom Hardy a Best Actor award for Mad Max?  That role was certainly taxing and Hardy and Leo probably had about the same number of lines.  Would you give Harrison Ford an Oscar for Raiders of the Lost Ark?  The guy had a plane roll over his leg during shooting, which tore his knee to pieces.  Leo worked his ass off in this film, no question.  But is that enough to call his acting in the film "great?"  For me the answer is no.  Leo's career performance was in The Wolf of Wall Street, not so much The Revenant.  But that's just my take.  Leo's winning regardless.

Prediction: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett - Carol
Brie Larson - Room
Jennifer Lawrence - Joy
Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan - Brooklyn

Mike: A category filled with great actresses. Charlotte Rampling has always been great but never got the attention she deserves. Jennifer Lawrence has quickly become one of my favorite actresses (She’s also in my personal Top This is Saoirse’s (pronounced SIR-SHA, like “inertia”) 2nd Oscar nomination (2008 nomination for Atonement...awful movie but she’s great). However, this category is between Cate Blanchett and, my girl, Brie Larson. The Academy looooooves Blanchett, and understandably so. She’s always amazing. Brie is a rather newcomer to the scene. She made a lot of noise with her performance in Short Term 12 (Take my word for it, and SEE THIS MOVIE!!! One of my personal, all time faves) and also in my opinion got snubbed for an Oscar nomination. Seriously, did Meryl Streep REALLY need a nomination for her role in August: Osage County? Come on! Brie’s performance in Room is an absolute powerhouse.  How her character navigates through the different traumatic situations while providing for her son at the same time keeping her sanity is spellbinding and that scene when she’s being interviewed by the local news station is heartbreaking. The emotional breakdown isn’t acted out but put on full display in Brie’s facial expressions. If she doesn’t win this award I’m going to flip the fuck out!

Prediction: Brie Larson for Room

Justin: I've only seen J-Law's and Brie Larson's performances, but I honestly can't imagine any of the other three equal what Brie did with Room.  She was staggeringly good, creating a daring balancing act between being a severely damaged person and still being totally in love with her son.  This could've been an easily descent into overacting but she kept it grounded and believable throughout.  No chance anyone else is taking this award.

Prediction: Brie Larson for Room

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale - The Big Short
Tom Hardy - The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo - Spotlight
Mark Rylance - Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone - Creed

Mike: In previous years, the tight competition was in the Best Actor category. This year, it's in the Best Supporting Actor. Just look at these nominated performances. Tom Hardy was simply awesome as the ruthless trapper in The Revenant. His performance definitely made an impact for me and I just didn’t want the chase and conflict to end between him and Leo. Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight as an investigative reporter chasing down sexually deviant priests was passionate, proving yet again Mark Ruffalo’s talent (Pretty underrated actor in my opinion). You felt this guy’s anger, you rooted for him and watched him deal with his own personal past and present. Christian Bale as the genius Wall Street analyst who discovers and predicts the housing market’s collapse was entertaining and spiritual. He was the guy who you actually rooted for in this film, and his metal preferences were beyond hilarious. I didn’t see the film but apparently Mark Rylance was great as a captured Soviet Spy in Bridge of Spies. Then there’s Sylvester Stallone who revives his Rocky character in Creed. I’m sure his performance was good but this guy’s been playing this character for how long now? I’m sure it's not too much of a stretch for him at this point. This nomination makes me want to throw up and his eventual win is going to be annoying.

Prediction: Sylvester Stallone in Creed

Justin: This category is often one of the strongest, and between Christian Bale's disappearance into the role of Michael Burry, Tom Hardy's portrayal of the loathsome, crude John Fitzgerald, and Stallone's return to the role that made him famous there's no shortage of talent here.  I have yet to see Creed, Spotlight or Bridge of Spies, but of the two performances I've seen I'd personally give a slight nod to Bale.  But that's irrelevant because Stallone's taking this down.  I'd be very surprised if his was actually the strongest performance of the five, but like I said before, the Academy loves giving out Lifetime Achievement awards, and this falls under that category.

Prediction: Sylvester Stallone for Creed

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh - The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara - Carol
Rachel McAdams - Spotlight
Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet - Steve Jobs

Mike: I have a few actresses that I love here so it’s tough to put aside sentimental biases when picking this category. Rooney Mara, for starters, is a young actress who just seems destined to win herself an Oscar in the future. Her talent is undeniable and the emotional struggle she conveyed in Carol was uncanny. Kate Winslet, who can play any role, gave a powerhouse performance as Steve Jobs’ marketing executive. The different levels of conflict her character juggled throughout the film leads me to believe she was the only person who could’ve acted opposite Michael Fassbender. Jennifer Jason Leigh is an all around badass. That woman’s got weight behind any role she chooses. In Spotlight, Rachel McAdams finally got a chance to flex her acting range as an investigative journalist looking into the Catholic Church sex scandal. Alicia Vikander, who many might see as a newcomer but was fantastic in Ex Machina (see it people!) and is spectacular in her role in The Danish Girl as artist Gerda Wegener, who sparks the sexual identity process for her husband Einer (played by last year’s Best Actor winner Eddie Redmayne). For me though, it’s a dead heat between her and Winslet, who won in 2008 for The Reader. I predict they go with someone new this year.

Prediction: Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl

Justin: I've only seen two of these so far as well, and thought Kate Winslet was understatedly excellent as usual, while JJ Leigh played a delightfully over-the-top horrid human being.  Of the two I'd probably give the award to Leigh just because her performance was so noteworthy, while Kate's was by no means career-defining.  But I once again agree with Mike that Ms. Vikander will win.  I'd have preferred she was nominated for Ex Machina (both she and that movie are amazing), but I'm sure she's great in The Danish Girl as well.

Prediction: Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl

Best Original Screenplay

Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Straight Outta Compton

Mike: The difficult thing in predicting the Oscars is you’re not sure how much or when politics plays into it. With all the controversy surrounding the Oscar’s lack of diversity and the #OscarSoWhite campaign, it’s easy to see Straight Outta Compton winning this category. However, momentum seems to trump most things when it comes to the Oscars, and in that case Spotlight is a sure lock for this award after winning in this category in all other awards ceremonies.

Prediction: Spotlight

Justin: With this category you can right away eliminate Bridge of Spies and Inside Out.  Inside Out is taking the Best Animated Feature award and that's sufficient, while BoS is nominated simply because it's a serious Spielberg film.  You're left with Straight Outta Compton, Spotlight, and my personal favorite, Ex Machina, which got criminally shortchanged in the nominations.  I think any other year Machina would be a strong favorite, but I have a feeling the Academy'll go with Spotlight due to the buzz that got when it was released (and the fact that it's losing every other major category to The Revenant).

Prediction: Spotlight

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Big Short
The Martian

Mike: This category is way more competitive than the Original Screenplay category. For me, it’s between The Martian and The Big Short. Both were superb stories and great scripts. The other films I thought didn’t get as much hype or press as these two did, especially The Martian and Matt Damon’s performance. So I was originally leaning toward that film. Then I remembered that this is Hollywood, and there’s nothing Hollywood loves more than a good cause and something to bitch about. Enter The Big Short.

Prediction: The Big Short

Justin: This might be the hardest one to predict.  I could see The Big Short winning.  I could see Room winning.  I could see The Martian winning.  (Side Note: I'm shocked Steve Jobs didn't get a nod here).  Since Ridley Scott's sci-fi adventure got the most nominations of these five, and likely isn't winning anything else, I'll go with The Martian.

Prediction: The Martian

Best Original Score

Bridge of Spies - Thomas Newman
Carol - Carter Burwell
The Hateful Eight - Ennio Morricone
Sicario - Johann Johannsson
Star Wars: The Force Awakens - John Williams

Mike: There’s no way this is a discussion right? It has to be Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight. Look, I’m not trying to take anything away from all the other nominees. Thomas Newman has done fantastic scores for WALL-E and The Shawshank Redemption. Coen Brothers favorite music supervisor Carter Burwell was previously nominated for his score for Fargo which should be reason enough for him to never have to buy a drink at any bar anywhere. Johann Johannsson scored the excellent thriller Prisoners among many others. And, then, John Williams. Everyone knows him. They’ve all achieved excellence with their respective scores but it’s difficult to go against Morricone in this one. His scores are the epitome of film scoring that shouldn’t ever be denied. He’s a legend in the field, been nominated five times before and his score for Once Upon A Time in America is considered one of the greatest scores in film. It’s time he’s known as an Oscar winner instead of just the composer of Metallica’s concert intro song and a Lifetime Achievement recipient.

Prediction: Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight

Justin: Yeah this is as much a lock as Leo for Best Actor.  May as well be a one-horse race.  Morricone's winning this, deservedly so.

Prediction: Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight

Tiebreaker: Best Sound Editing

Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars

Mike: For the sake of transparency, I will admit that I know absolutely nothing about sound editing. I don’t know what to look or listen for, how to determine whether it’s good or really even know what it is to begin with. I have an idea as to what it is but am not really sure. So, here it goes. I’m picking Mad Max because, well, no idea. My explanation is that there’s a bunch of action sequences with a bunch of machinery and shit and editing all of that would be a bitch to do so, there you have it!

Prediction: Mad Max: Fury Road

Justin: I also know very little about sound editing.  They record a buncha sound effects, looped dialogue, etc. and put 'em together so the movie sounds good.  That's about the extent of my expertise on the subject.  Hence, this category is a great tiebreaker.  Mad Max is as good a prediction as any, but in the interest of actually breaking a tie I'll go with the Academy's favorite, The Revenant.

Prediction: The Revenant

That's what we got folks.  Hope you all enjoy the Oscars, and I hope I'm able to catch up on these movies as much as possible in the next three days......

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