Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Urgent and Horrifying News: 2016 Oscar Nomination Predictions

I have some urgent and horrifying news: Oscar nominations are announced tomorrow morning. This year, I feel even more behind on awards season than usual. (Don't feel bad for me though—a big reason is that I spent a week in Hawaii for Christmas.) I've caught up as best I can in the cultural wasteland that is Arizona (seriously, sometimes it's harder to see an art film here than it is for Mad Max to find water), but there are still a number of prestige films I haven't seen, including Bridge of SpiesRoomJoy, and The Danish Girl. The former two are on my must-see list regardless of nominations; tomorrow morning will tell me if I have to slog through the latter two. (I'd be totally okay if Jennifer Lawrence and Eddie Redmayne stopped making movies.) But, underprepared as though I am, it's time to make my annual Oscar nomination predictions. Even though I was better prepared, I didn't do so hot last year—31/45, a failing grade at 69%. The bar is low, but hopefully I can improve on that this year. Here goes. (I'll list everything in order of likelihood of a nomination.)

* = haven't seen it
^ = early winner prediction

Adam McKay and Charles Randolph – The Big Short^
Aaron Sorkin – Steve Jobs
Emma Donoghue – Room*
Drew Goddard – The Martian
Phyllis Nagy – Carol
Next in line:
Nick Hornby – Brooklyn
Alejandro González Iñárritu and Mark L. Smith – The Revenant
John McNamara – Trumbo*

Comments: As a huge fan of Anchorman (and Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers), I'm ecstatic to see Adam McKay as a possible Oscar contender. I was also blown away by his movie, as were a number of critics and awards bodies. He's a lock here. I was less blown away by Steve Jobs—it's a fine movie, but it fell far short of its spiritual prequel, The Social Network. Still, it's a strong script (last 5 minutes aside), and it's hard to bet against Aaron Sorkin here. He's in. The rest is a fustercluck. I have yet to see Room, but those who have *love* it, so I'm thinking it scores a nom here. I'm less sure of The Martian, as popcorn movies don't typically fare well in the screenwriting categories, but a *lot* of people like it, and how cool would it be for the guy who wrote The Cabin in the Woods to get nominated for an Oscar? The last spot could go to Carol (good but perhaps too austere), Brooklyn (good but perhaps too maudlin), or The Revenant (not at all the strength of the movie). (Trumbo got the fifth WGA nom, but doesn't seem to figure here.) I'll give the final spot to Nagy's script for Carol, as it's better than Hornby's work on Brooklyn and is more "writerly" than The Revenant's script.

Wishful thinking: Charlie Kaufman – Anomalisa*

Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer – Spotlight^
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley – Inside Out
Matt Charman and Joel and Ethan Coen – Bridge of Spies*
Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff – Straight Outta Compton
Alex Garland – Ex Machina
Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight
Amy Schumer – Trainwreck
Taylor Sheridan – Sicario

Comments: Ah, my favorite category, and a really interesting race. About the only sure thing is Spotlight, which might be the closest thing to a Best Picture frontrunner there is right now. It's strong work—it's well paced and juggles a multitude of characters and avenues of investigation effectively. Inside Out is a good bet to be the first animated film since 2010 (Toy Story 3) to get a screenplay nomination, and it'd be well deserving—Bing Bong, we hardly knew ye! The other three spots could go to any of the other six—or even a wild card, as this category is notorious for (In Bruges, et al.). I think the air of prestige Bridge of Spies brings—not to mention the Coens—has it looking good for a nomination. Straight Outta Compton has a number of flaws (e.g., treatment of women and the third act), but I could see the Academy embracing it after snubbing Selma in multiple categories last year (even though both writers are white). The last spot... *Chris Mannix impression* hoo boy, I have no idea! I have a feeling Tarantino's name won't be called in the morning—the dialogue pops and crackles like usual, and the interwoven histories and motivations of the characters is masterful. But I think the rampant n-bombs and misogynistic overtones will turn off a lot of voters. I liked Trainwreck but I think a lot of voters won't think it's "Oscar fare." I *loved* Sicario, but it has no buzz, save the WGA nod. So maybe Ex Machina, which is well liked, can snag the last spot. However this category winds up, there will be no complaints from me.  Strong work all around.

Wishful thinking: Rick Famuyiwa – Dope, David Robert Mitchell – It Follows

Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs
Rooney Mara – Carol^
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl*
Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
Next in line:
Helen Mirren – Trumbo*
Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina
Jane Fonda – Youth*

Comments: This one is about impossible to predict because of a little thing called "category fraud." Basically, Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander are co-leads in their films, but they are being campaigned in the supporting category to give them a better chance to win. There's a long history of this (just look at the awards Kate Winslet won for her role in The Reader), and it usually pays off. Buuut, just because a performance is campaigned as a supporting role doesn't necessarily mean Academy voters will listen. So I'm hinging these predictions on the Academy actually slotting Mara and Vikander as supporting. So yeah. Complicated. About the only sure things are Leigh (great in a thankless role) and Winslet (good as always, even with a finicky accent). If Mara and/or Vikander are nominated for lead instead, well, at least Vikander would be fine here, as she'd very likely snag a nomination for her (very good) work in Ex Machina. McAdams (well liked and in a very much admired movie) and Mirren (well liked and with a SAG nom to boot) are also very much in the conversation. The tiebreaker here is who's in the better regarded movie, so McAdams gets the last hypothetical spot here. This could look *very* different come morning though.

Wishful thinking: Laura Dern – 99 Homes, Rachel McAdams – Aloha (not even kidding)

Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Christian Bale – The Big Short
Sylvester Stallone – Creed^
Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation*
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
Next in line:
Michael Keaton – Spotlight
Jacob Tremblay – Room*
Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
Tom Hardy – The Revenant
Paul Dano – Love & Mercy*

Comments: This is a *loaded* category. The only sure things are Rylance (haven't seen the movie, heard he's great) and Bale (good, but not the best supporting performance in the film—Jeremy Strong, yo!). No, Stallone is no lock—standing O at the Globes notwithstanding. He's missed a ton of precursors and wouldn't be the first "lock" to miss out in this category (Albert Brooks in Drive comes to mind). But if he's in the field—and I think he will be—he could easily take home the statue, deserved or not. (It's not a great or even good performance from a technical standpoint, but it's a great narrative, which the Academy could go along with.) Elba has a good shot to pick up a much-deserved first nomination (Stringer Bell, yo!), but will the Academy go for a performance first released on a new-fangled platform (Netflix)? The final nomination beats me—it could be either Spotlight guy, SAG nominees Tremblay or Shannon (one of the best, most intense actors around), latecomer Hardy, or early favorite Dano. But it's bad form to root against one of your favorite actors, so I'll give the spot to consensus favorite Ruffalo (he's a spot or two above Shannon on my list). This is a category I'll be eagerly checking come morning.

Wishful thinking: Walton Goggins or Kurt Russell – The Hateful Eight, Benicio Del Toro – Sicario, Michael Shannon – The Night Before (only kind of kidding)

Brie Larson – Room*^
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Cate Blanchett – Carol
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years*
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy*
Next in line:
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl*
Rooney Mara – Carol
Helen Mirren – The Woman in Gold*

Comments: Again, this one largely hinges on what happens in the supporting category. If the Academy slots Mara or Vikander here instead (I can't imagine either performance not getting nominated somewhere), Rampling and/or Lawrence would suffer. Larson, the presumptive frontrunner, Ronan, of whom I've been a fan since Atonement (and Hanna, yo!), and Blanchett, very good but not even her best role in a Todd Haynes movie (Jude Quinn, yo!), are all presumptive locks. This category more than any will tell me what I need to catch up on—I haven't seen a number of the contenders. (I'm really hoping Joy misses out though; I'm *so* over the Russell/Lawrence combo. Yawn.)

Wishful thinking: Emily Blunt – Sicario, Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road

Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant^
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl*
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Matt Damon – The Martian
Bryan Cranston – Trumbo*
Next in line:
Johnny Depp – Black Mass
Steve Carell – The Big Short
Will Smith – Concussion*

Comments: This may be a bit hubristic, but this is a pretty simple category (I think). The first four should all be in, with either Cranston or Depp picking up the fifth nom. DiCaprio will win this thing in the biggest lock in this category in years. I think he's deserving, too, despite a bit of frontrunner backlash I've been seeing. He's certainly better than any of the other potential nominees (at least the ones that I've seen). In fact, there's only one male lead performance I prefer this year (see below). Of the rest, I just can't stand Eddie Redmayne; he's been on my shit list ever since My Week with Marilyn (one of the worst "prestige" movies I've ever seen), and him beating out Keaton last year didn't help anything. Fassbender plays a great asshole, which means he's a perfect fit for a Sorkin script. He could very well win a statue someday, but not this year. Damon was great in The Martian and is my second favorite performance of these contenders; the movie suffered noticeably when he wasn't on screen. I haven't seem Trumbo, so I won't comment on Cranston (Walter White, yo!). As far as Depp goes, he was actually pretty good—I was glad to see him retreat inward for a performance rather than lash outward as he has been wont to do in recent years. Someone remake The Departed shot for shot with Depp instead of Nicholson, ASAP. (Those are your contenders. I'd be shocked if anyone else cracked the top 5 tomorrow.)

Wishful thinking: Samuel L. Jackson – The Hateful Eight (yep, that's the one), Michael B. Jordan – Creed

Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
Alejandro González Iñárritu – The Revenant
Ridley Scott – The Martian^
Adam McKay – The Big Short
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Next in line:
Todd Hayes – Carol
Steven Spielberg – Bridge of Spies*
F. Gary Gray – Straight Outta Compton

Comments: The top 5 all feel like they *should* be in, which is why this category reeks of upset to me. I have a feeling one or even two of these guys won't make the cut. (This category has been rife with curveballs in the past. Remember when Ben Affleck won Best Director? Me neither, because he wasn't even nominated.) To be honest, I'm not 100% about any of these guys (and they are all guys, again). I feel the best about McCarthy, director of the best bet for Best Picture (though I don't think he's much of a contender for the trophy here), and Iñarritu, who something, something, natural light (seriously though, The Revenant is excellent). If he's nominated (and the signs are pointing that way), Scott could become a cause célèbre as a beloved veteran without a statue, like the Martin Scorsese of action/sci-fi movies. (I'd totally be okay with that. Kingdom of Heaven, yo!). I think McKay's was the directorial achievement of the year—The Big Short is brimming with vitality and a fresh approach to storytelling, not to mention making opaque such dense subject matter. But is the Academy ready to anoint the guy who once filmed Will Ferrell putting a fake ballsack on a drumset? (To be fair, Scorsese just a couple years ago put Jonah Hill's prosthetic dong on camera). And George Miller... MAN, what a ride Mad Max was. I take back what I said about McKay—*this* is the directorial achievement of the year. The practical effects, the visual palette, the Doof Warrior. But is there room for two popcorn movies in this prestigious category? I have my doubts. If those doubts prove true, Haynes (Carol feels more like a curated museum piece than a film), Spielberg (haven't seen it), or Gray (strong work, and he's black—that's a toofer!) figure to benefit.

Wishful thinking: Denis Villeneuve – Sicario, David Robert Mitchell – It Follows, Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight, Ryan Coogler – Creed

The Revenant
The Big Short
The Martian
Mad Max: Fury Road
Bridge of Spies*
Straight Outta Compton
Next in line:
Inside Out
Beasts of No Nation*

Comments: This one is notoriously tricky to call, as there can be anywhere from 5 to 10 nominees. That said, I think the first 7 are pretty safe and all follow recent nomination narratives. Spotlight is the consensus "important issue" prestige drama (Dallas Buyers Club). The Revenant is the big, showy spectacle (Gravity). The Big Short is stylish, witty ensemble piece (American Hustle). The Martian and Mad Max are the critically respected popcorn movies (Inception). Bridge of Spies and Carol are the distinguished period pieces (Lincoln and An Education). Pretty safe bets. Of the rest, Straight Outta Compton is the "Hey, we're not so out of touch!" nomination (Selma), and Room is the little indie that could nomination (Beasts of the Southern Wild). Of course, Inside Out could snag the Toy Story 3 animated film nom, while Brooklyn has the "overly sentimental Euro drama" nom written all over it (a la The Theory of Everything). Neither would surprise me. There's not a great parallel for Sicario (Captain Phillips maybe?) or Beasts of No Nation (never been a Netflix Best Picture nominee), so I'm leaving them out. I'm reasonably confident in the first 8, with one or two of the next three as solid possibilities. (I'd love to see Sicario nominated, but I don't see it happening.) Regardless, I've actually seen most of the contenders here (unlike, say, Best Actress), so not much research will be required.

Wishful thinking: It Follows, Dope, The Hateful Eight, Bone Tomahawk

Looks like I got it in before midnight. We'll see how I did in less than 7 hours. I'm just hoping to beat last year's 31 and for Sicario to get nominated for anything big. In other news, posts on my favorite movies and music of 2015 are forthcoming (late as ever), as well as actual Oscar predictions. So keep a lookout. As always, thanks for reading!

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