Thursday, February 25, 2016

88th Academy Awards: Predictions: 'The Revenant' is Coming

There might be a repeat of Golden Globes
night on Oscar Sunday
You can hope and you can pray, but in the end, the inevitable comes to fruition. The Revenant has won the Golden Globe for Best Picture - Drama, it has won the BAFTA award for Best Film, and it has won the Director's Guild award. To not consider The Revenant the favorite to win the Oscar is to cling desperately to a reality that isn't quite there. The fact that there is such open speculation proves just how derisive The Revenant has been amongst audiences. You can read and you can hear about how much I simply hate the film, but considering that it's biggest competition is Adam McKay's tongue-in-cheek "issue" movie, The Big Short (which won the Producer's Guild Award), it's hard to see how Alejandro González Iñárritu's latest mixture of anguish and human spirituality doesn't win out. It's true, the Academy has never truly warmed to Iñárritu's more forceful style, but I think it's safe to say that that time has passed, considering that he not only won three Oscars last year for the more effervescent Birdman, but that they went ahead and gave Revenant TWELVE nominations (more than any other film). No director has ever won Best Director Oscars in back-to-back years. Does the feeling to avoid that even come across the voters' minds? Perhaps the opposite is true. Like I've said, it's hard to predict otherwise when all the preamble has made the outcome obvious. That's not to say that I've given up my hoping and praying. I'm truly wishing that I'm wrong here.

Larson is pulling away from her
Best Actress competition
The acting awards become a tad more interesting, though The Revenant has all but won Best Actor for it's ever-devoted lead, Leonardo DiCaprio. The Best Actor category is fraught with error, including two nominations (Bryan Cranston, Matt Damon) that are little more than industry thank-you's, two more (DiCaprio, Redmayne) that are just pandering Oscar bait, and one single performance that can truly be called exceptional (Michael Fassbender), which of course has close to no shot at winning. As for Best Actress, it's also probably all tied up for Brie Larson in Room, but I don't want to ignore just how good these five nominees are. I may be talked into Charlotte Rampling's phenomenal performance in 45 Years having a shot at a win if she didn't personally sabotage her campaign with a truly unfortunate public comment on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Jennifer Lawrence continues to rise above the growing cult of personality and give tremendous performances, and her work in Joy is just about the only thing worth watching in that maddeningly obtuse film. Saoirse Ronan gives the kind of performance in Brooklyn that makes you ponder the roads and alleys of a career; no longer is she simply the dependable child actor from Atonement, but a fully-formed performer capable of the kind of deceptively complex work that comes in Brooklyn. And lastly, there's Cate Blanchett, who's shown since Blue Jasmine that she is ready to grab the title of Best Actor on the Planet, and it's just a matter of the human race being humble enough to give it to her. Her work with Rooney Mara in Carol is stunning, beautiful, heartbreaking and most of all regal. Todd Haynes' film makes love to her character with the camera (no Best Picture/Best Director nominations for Carol are the only snubs that have true reasons for a gripe), and the audience is culpable. It's a staggering piece of work in a tremendous career.

Seventh time's a charm:
Will Creed bring Stallone his Oscar?
The Supporting categories are more unpredictable. We have front-runners, but nothing is cemented. In Supporting Actor we have the unorthodox battle between Hollywood main-stay Sylvestor Stallone and British acting royalty Mark Rylance. Rylance's performance in Bridge of Spies is the actor's first truly recognized film performance after years of gracing the London stage and a heralded performance in the BBC mini-series Wolf Hall. Stallone is playing what is his most beloved film character, Rocky Balboa, for the seventh time, in Creed, a boxing movie and Rocky sequel that works in so many more ways than one would expect (thanks mostly to its star Michael B. Jordan and director Ryan Coogler). The two nominees both have compelling narratives (action star who's maintained a decades-long career vs. the pure thespian making his breakthrough in Hollywood movies), but it seems like the mostly American Academy is feeling more empathy for Stallone's case; the most impressive thing one can do in Hollywood is sustain. Supporting Actress is probably the most wide open of the major categories. Kate Winslet's superb performance in Steve Jobs has won a lot of pre-Oscar awards, including the Golden Globe and the BAFTA, but there just never seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for Jobs (even though it's excellent, I think). There's Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) and Rooney Mara (Carol) who are both actually leads paraded by awards campaigns as supporting. Mara's performance is the best of the five, but it's Vikander who won the SAG award, and seems to be the only person giving Winslet a real run. I'm thinking Vikander has the edge here considering the Oscars' history of awarding actresses when they're at their most young and beautiful.

Fury Road has a great chance at
sweeping many of the tech awards
This year's awards are a lot less stamped than most recent years, but we will learn a lot about how the awards will skewer by who wins the technical awards early. If The Revenant wins in categories like Costume Design and Production Design (Jack Fisk is a wonderful art director, but should he really get credit for the woods?) then my worst fear of a Revenant table-running scenario will probably come true. But there is also the undead specter of Mad Max: Fury Road which has the most claim to get awards for Visual Effects, Cinematography, Production Design and the two Sound categories. If Mad Max proves victorious in these categories then maybe The Revenant isn't quite as beloved by the Academy as I suspect. I personally see a split between the two box office hits, a kind of spread-the-wealth result where The Revenant walks away with Cinematography and Costume Design, while Mad Max gets Production Design, the Sound categories and Make-Up/Hairstyling. Films like Spotlight and Carol - both critical darlings - will not fare well, I fear. Carol's nominations for Cinematography, Adapted Screenplay and Costume Design are on point, but I don't see it getting enough support from voters following its inability to get neither a Best Picture or Director nomination, though I think it has some front-runner status for Carter Burwell's Original Score and Sandy Powell's costume work. As for Spotlight - my personal favorite of the Best Picture nominees - it will likely have to settle for a single award, Best Original Screenplay. My hope is that the Academy recognizes its brilliant editing, and I do think this is a category where Spotlight has a legitimate shot, but I still see The Revenant as the front-runner here. I foresee a similar fate for The Big Short, where Best Adapted Screenplay is the only award I see it having a true shot at, but if Short walks away with an award like Best Editing, don't be surprised to later see it walk away with both Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.

Here's a list of my official predictions:

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Best Actress: Brie Larson, Room
Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Best Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, The Revenant
Best Original Screenplay: Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer, Spotlight
Best Adapted Screenplay: Adam McKay & Charles Randolph, The Big Short
Best Picture: The Revenant

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant
Best Editing: Stephen Mirrione, The Revenant
Best Production Design: Colin Gibson & Lisa Thompson, Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Costume Design: Sandy Powell, Carol
Best Sound Editing: Mark A. Mangini & David White, Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Sound Mixing: Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo, Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Make-Up/Hairstyling: Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin, Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Visual Effects: Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver, and Andy Williams, Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Original Score: Carter Burwell, Carol
Best Original Song: "Til it Happens to You" from The Hunting Ground
Best Animated Feature: Inside Out
Best Documentary Feature: Amy
Best Foreign Language Feature: Son of Saul
Best Live Action Short Film: Stutterer
Best Animated Short Film: Sanjay's Super Team
Best Documentary Short Film: Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah

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