Hello, readers. February 28th will be the 88th Annual Academy Awards, and unlike Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee, yours truly will be watching the event.
Yes, you may have heard of the recent #OscarsSoWhite backlash, a very reasonable concern considering 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture two years ago, Lupita Nyong’o, a black woman, won Best Supporting Actress that same year, John Ridley, a black man, won Best Adapted Screenplay, last year’s Best Original Song was awarded to Selma, the past two Best Director and Best Cinematography winners were Hispanic (the year before, the Best Director winner was the Taiwanese born Ang Lee) and this year’s host, Chris Rock, is a black man.
Oh, yeah, I definitely see the problem. It’s called butt-hurt. I can understand saying someone like Idris Elba got snubbed in the Best Supporting Actor category for his performance in Beasts of No Nation, but maybe – just maybe a film like Straight Outta Compton didn’t get nominated, aside from Best Original Screenplay (a puzzling nomination since the script was by far the weakest element), ’cause the Oscars saw it as the overrated, generic biopic that it really was?
I digress, though, and if anything, this is great news for Tyler Perry films ’cause you know due to the Academy’s recent tail between the legs reaction to the backlash, they just might over-compensate by nominating the next Madea flick for every category.
Some omissions that are surprising: Ridley Scott being nominated for every other Best Director award but this one, Aaron Sorkin’s superbly adapted work on Steve Jobs, Jacob Tremblay for Best Supporting Actor in Room and Will Smith for Best Actor in Concussion.
That last one’s pretty easy to answer. It’s ’cause dem Negroes aren’t allowed to be nominated.
Anyway, I’m gonna give you my picks for the main categories (acting, directing and film), and why I think they should win, and then give you my predictions for who will win. Following the primary six categories, I’ll do a quick rundown of who I believe will win in the remaining categories.
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
Matt Damon – The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl
Who should win: Leonardo DiCaprio
It’s not as if DiCaprio’s just now finally going all-in with his performance in The Revenant. We’ve been seeing the lengths of commitment he’ll take with a role since as far back as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. This time, though, Leo’s put 200% into the physically demanding role of Hugh Glass, the fur trapper who cheats death and treks through America’s frozen wilderness to avenge the murder of his son. It’s a performance that features minimal dialogue, but every painful step taken on this death-defying journey is performed by DiCaprio with genuine agony. This now makes it nomination five, and it just might be the one that puts him over the top. If so, as they say, better late than never.
Who will win: Leonardo DiCaprio
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
Christian Bale – The Big Short
Tom Hardy – The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone – Creed
Who should win: Sylvester Stallone
I don’t think any one of us would’ve expected this back in the ’90s when Sly was putting out dreck like Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and Judge Dredd, nor in the early 2000’s when he thought Driven and Avenging Angelo were reasonable career choices. But he’s been nominated twice before – Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay – and this third time, fittingly enough for the same role, should finally be the charm for him. Much like in Rocky Balboa, Rocky is thrown through another ringer of a character arc that involves personal tragedy and redemption, and every note hit by Stallone throughout this character’s journey is delivered with great emotional honesty. Now 40 years after first moving us with the first Rocky, the Italian Stallion’s turn in Creed may be the one that wins him the gold.
Who will win: Sylvester Stallone
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
Cate Blanchett – Carol
Brie Larson – Room
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Who should win: Brie Larson
I was late to the 45 Years party, but am pleased that screen veteran Charlotte Rampling is getting recognition, as well as Saoirse Ronan for her wonderful performance in Brooklyn. But I still stand by what I said in my review of Room, and that is Brie Larson gives the best performance by an actress in 2015. I’m not a mother, nor a father, yet Larson still managed to simultaneously rip my heart out and warm it with her heart-wrenching portrayal of a captive mother whose only glimmer of hope is the bond she shares with her son. Fumble a role like this and it turns into “Lifetime Victim of the Week”, but Larson, who’s continued to wow me since first doing so in Short Term 12, shows not the slightest bit of forced melodrama. Every emotional cord she strikes within us is earned. It’s a harrowing yet beautiful performance that gets more and more compelling as the film moves along.
Who will win: Brie Larson
Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara – Carol
Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs
Who should win: Kate Winslet
This is easily the toughest category as all five nominees are well-deserved and have a legitimate shot at winning (though an argument could be made that Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett should swap nominations). Next to McAdams, Winslet’s the least showy of the supporting actresses, but it’s the strongest work she’s done in years. Chewing on dialogue written by Aaron Sorkin certainly helps, but it’s the heart and voice of reason she provides Joanna Hoffman, Steve Jobs’s marketing manager, that elevates what could’ve been a thankless supporting role into the wonderful, award-worthy performance that it is.
Who will win: Kate Winslet
Lenny Abrahamson – Room
Alejandro G. Inarritu – The Revenant
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
Adam McKay – The Big Short
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Who should win: Tom McCarthy
First off, even though he’s already won an Oscar for Happy Feet, it’s nice to see George Miller get a nod for the franchise that made him a household name. Last year’s winner Alejandro G. Inarritu has recently been gaining momentum too, and if he wins, he’ll become the first director to win back-to-back Oscars since Joseph L. Mankiewicz won for A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve in 1950-1951. My pick, though, is Tom McCarthy who rebounded big time from his stinker The Cobbler with his in-depth look at the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal investigation. So many things could’ve gone wrong with all the info and plot turns and new discoveries he packs into this film. Exhaustive research could’ve easily turned into an exhausting bore, or the film could’ve been a case of information overload on the viewers, but McCarthy maneuvers through each step of the investigation with razor sharp focus. It’s a tremendous effort from a once underrated director who’s now finally earned his due.
Who will win: Alejandro G. Inarritu
The Big Short – Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner & Jeremy Kleiner
Bride of Spies – Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt & Kristie Macosko Krieger
Brooklyn – Finola Dwyer & Amanda Posey
Mad Max: Fury Road – Doug Mitchell & George Miller
The Martian – Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer & Mark Huffam
The Revenant – Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Inarritu, Mary Parent & Keith Redmon
Room – Ed Guiney
Spotlight – Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin & Blye Pagon Faust
What should win: Spotlight
Those of you who have read my post on last year’s top 10 best films should already know this answer, and if Spotlight wins, that means Michael Keaton sure does know how to pick ’em as he would now have starred in back-to-back Best Picture winners. Featuring the strongest cast ensemble of 2015, a year that had more than its share of strong ensembles – for better or for worse (for every The Martian, there’s a Love the Coopers) – and a smart, comprehensive script, this film is equal parts engaging, intelligent, thought-proving and heart-breaking. Every step of the investigative process is captured with great authenticity, and it speaks incredibly well of the cast and McCarthy’s direction that a film about documents is more engrossing than any other film – big, small, blockbuster, you name it – that I’ve seen this year.
What will win: Spotlight
Okay, so there’s my predictions for the main categories. Here’s a quick rundown of the remaining categories, mostly the technical awards.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Room – Emma Donoghue
Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight – Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy
Best Animated Feature Film: Inside Out – Pete Docter & Jonas Rivera
Best Cinematography: The Revenant – Emmanuel Lubezki
Best Costume Design: Mad Max: Fury Road – Jenny Beavan
Best Film Editing: Spotlight – Tom McArdle
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Mad Max: Fury Road – Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega & Damian Martin
Best Original Score: Carol – Carter Burwell
Best Original Song: “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground – Lady Gaga & Diane Warren
Best Production Design: Mad Max: Fury Road – Colin Gibson & Lisa Thompson
Best Sound Editing: Sicario – Alan Robert Murray
Best Sound Mixing: Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio & Stuart Wilson
Best Visual Effects: Mad Max: Fury Road – Andrew Jackson, Dan Oliver, Andy Williams & Tom Wood
Well, those are my picks, and I’m sticking to ’em. Here’s hoping those honkies at the Academy keep the cross burning down to a minimum this year.