Friday, 26 February 2016

88th Academy Awards: My Predictions and Picks (Ranked)

Cinema is the most commercialised form of art that exists. Nearly the entire film industry is based on the box office, on pitching screenplays and ideas to studios, revitalising and forming franchises, on marketing to an audience. What started as an art form with little to no money in it has become a field of investment and greed. There is no other way to explain why twelve Nicholas Sparks movies have been made, each slightly more terrible than the last and why Michael Bay has 21 directing credits to his name. This is an industry which almost tossed out Marlon Brando for being "unbankable". So you can see why a great film released in 2016 is something of a miracle. Most of these films come about in one of two ways. Firstly, there are directors such as David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino and Woody Allen whose work exists in the tiny sliver of the middle section of the Venn diagram: they produce films of merit with loyal and large followings. Everyone loves Pulp Fiction, Fight Club and Midnight in Paris. The only other way is via film festivals, where hopeful filmmakers fund the entire production on their own dime (or by generous benefactors), then distributors see potential and purchase the rights to it (e.g. Like Crazy, Winter's Bone, Whiplash). All of the nominated films fall into one of these categories. Each year out of the thousands of films which are released, there will be about ten great ones and the prestigious award incentive, the Academy Awards, are usually the closest to distinguishing these.

Below are both my predictions and my personal choices.

Best Visual Effects

1. The Revenant (will win)

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (could win)

3. Ex Machina

4. The Martian

Visual effects in a just world would undoubtedly  go to The Revenant. The CGI of the bear mauling scene alone blows any of the other nominees out of the water. Star Wars could rock the boat with some pretty spectacular visuals and although the Academy does at times appreciate subtly Ex Machina is unlikely to win. The Martian and its tacky visual effects can go fuck itself.

Best Film Editing 

1. The Revenant

2. Mad Max: Fury Road (will win)

3.  The Big Short

4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens 

5. Spotlight

The film editing for Mad Max: Fury Road was incredible. No screenplay ever even existed for it. George Miller and his team simply story-boarded the entire thing. They story-boarded an ENTIRE 2-HOUR MOVIE. When word got out that the Omaha Beach scene in Saving Private Ryan was entirely story-boarded the film community couldn't stop talking about it. But I'm a sucker for Inarratu's signature long shots which were the best they've ever been in the Revenant and I loved the constant perspective changing so my vote goes the The Revenant again.

Best Costume Design

1. Mad Max: Fury Road (will win)

2. Carol (could win)

3.  The Revenant

4. Cinderella

5. The Danish Girl

Because Mad Max is a completely visual, heightened cinematic experience, the costume design played a much bigger part than in any of the other nominees. The costumes for the road warriors, the five wives, Furiosa and the Immortan are all vital and almost story-telling devices. Carol's period pieces were notable and could possibly take the Oscar home. Cinderella also managed to conjure up a dress that in theory sounded tacky but actually looked pretty nice but this is the Oscars so I'm afraid a shiny dress simply don't cut it. I haven't the faintest clue why The Danish Girl was nominated when they really should've gotten a participation sticker from putting lipstick on Eddie Redmayne. It feels like the Academy flailing at the prospect of offending the transgender community.

Best Cinematography 
1. The Revenant (will win)

2. Sicario (could win)

3. Carol

4. Mad Max: Fury Road

5. The Hateful Eight

Emmanuel Lubezski is usually the best in the game any year and this year is no different. The Revenant's cinematography is far more accomplished than any of the other nominees. Although, Roger Deakin's sundown and wondering overheard shots for Sicario were the stuff of dreams and reminiscent of the subtlety in his earlier work for No Country for Old Men and I wouldn't be too bothered if John Seale won for Carol. Seale's patient, detail-focused work (The Virgin Suicides, Far From Heaven) is nothing to sneeze about. There were two films whose visual capacity was limited to one room and The Hateful Eight was not the one which deserved the nomination this year.

Best Production Design

1. Mad Max: Fury Road (will win)

2. The Martian

3. Bridge of Spies

4. The Revenant

5. The Danish Girl

Just look at that shot. The attention to detail of its moving set is an exorbitant affair and a worthy visual feast.

Best Sound Mixing

1. The Revenant (will win)

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

4. Bridge of Spies

5. The Martian

The sound mixing and score are beautifully integrated in Mad Max and endures spectacularly throughout the entire desert chase, but The Revenant's sound mixing is a truly masterful affair, it lingers and swells with the story, evolving from mournful to vengeful to triumphant. 

Best Original Song 

1. "Manta Ray" - Racing Extinction 

2. "Earned It" - Fifty Shades of Grey (could win)
3. "Simple Song #3" - Youth 

4. "Writing's On the Wall" - Spectre

5. "Til it Happens to You" - The Hunting Ground (will win)

This category recovered well from its bland nominations last year. The nominees this year consist entirely of pop songs with the exception of David Lang's operatic composition for Paola Sorrentino's film. Of course.
Best Original Music Score

1. Sicario 

2. The Hateful Eight (will win)

3. Carol

4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

5. Bridge of Spies

I usually love this category but the eligibility system was total bullshit this year. Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and electronic musician Alva Noto's revolutionary score for The Revenant was deemed ineligible to compete by the Academy because Sakamoto incorporated works he had previously composed. One of the eligibility requirements is that the score be composed "specifically for the motion picture" and yet Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails took home the Oscar for his score in 2011 for The Social Network, which incorporated two tracks from previous works. Not to mention Quentin Tarantino admitting on record that pieces of the score for the Hateful Eight were taken from unused material once composed for The Thing

 Best Animated Feature

As I have seen only two of the five nominees in this category, my opinion probably does not count for very much. Disney's Inside Out and Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa are the only ones I managed to watch. Anomalisa was a far superior production to Inside Out, which I honestly never understood the fuss about. Kaufman is known for his warped depictions of sad men (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and his latest is a great addition to his repertoire of films about the great midlife crisis and its accompanying awkward and occasionally hilarious torment. A win for Kaufman in this category would earn the Academy a great deal of respect but its Inside Out which is pegged to win this year.

 Best Adapted Screenplay

1. The Big Short (will win)
2. Room

3. Brooklyn

4. Carol

5. The Martian

With movies like The Big Short who needs business school? The film is patronising as shit which is pretty accurate because I'm pretty sure 80% of people in my corporate finance lectures last year had no fucking clue what was happening and dozed off after 15 minutes. Adam McKay taught me, in two hours, more about credit ratings, bonds, mortgages and the entire GFC cockup, than all the academically verified 2 years of plowing through a commerce degree has. Aaron Sorkin's screenplay for Steve Jobs would have been my number 2 but of course it wasn't even nominated.

Best Original Screenplay

1. Spotlight (will win)

2. Straight Outta Compton

3. Ex Machina

4. Inside Out

5. Bridge of Spies

Best Original Screenplay is usually a weak (albeit an empty) category seeing as most films are adapted from other sources these days. If you want to know why this is the case studios often see adapting bestselling novels as safe in terms of box office sales. Its a story that's proven marketable and a fan base already exists. Spotlight here wins by a long shot. Its a spectacular original work which portrayed a huge contemporary news event in a smart, simple and illustrative manner. Ex Machina was charmingly original but was flawed in its ambiguity which was aimed at something artistic but came out only as pretentious.

 Best Supporting Actress

1. Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl (will win)

2. Kate Winslet - Steve Jobs (could win)

3. Jennifer Jason Leigh - The Hateful Eight

4. Rooney Mara - Carol 

5. Rachel McAdams - Spotlight

The supporting categories never make much sense. Alicia Vikander and Rooney Mara were clearly in leading roles which makes it an uneven race. This category is the most competitive its been in years which is unusual for the performance categories where the winner is clear weeks before the its actually announced. Winslet may win on part of her adamant campaigning for an award she is almost worthy of but Swedish visionary Vikander is easily most deserving here. She supplied a heart-stopping performance to an otherwise mediocre film. The Danish Girl is worth watching for her show alone. Jennifer Jason Leigh may not be my number one choice but I would be content if she won simply because my favourite moment of cinema last year came from her fist pumping the prospect of her own execution. Yes Tarantino.

Best Supporting Actor

1. Tom Hardy - The Revenant

2. Christian Bale - The Big Short

3. Mark Ruffalo - Spotlight (will win)

4. Mark Rylance - Bridge of Spies

N/A: Sylvester Stallone - Creed

Tom Hardy was uncannily convincing in his role as a brutish, hateful man and really fleshed his role. It is also always fun to watch Christian Bale portray neurotic characters, but he proves this not to be a shtick but a skill as each of these maniacs are distinctly different.
The many snubs for the category this year include Indris Elba for Beasts of No Nation and Jacob Tremblay for Room. Never did I think I would say this but Seth Rogen should have been nominated. For anyone doubting my conviction watch the clip below and then come back tell me Rogen wasn't as good as Christian Bale or Mark Ruffalo. As I didn't get a chance to see Creed I can't predict who the Academy will go with here.

Best Actress

1. Brie Larson - Room (will win)

2. Saorise Ronan - Brooklyn

3. Cate Blanchett - Carol 

4. Jennifer Lawrence - Joy

N/A: Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years 

From her startling performance in Short Term 12, we all knew it was a matter of time before Larson came into her own and would be hailed as a star. It is also great to see that Saorise Ronan hasn't lost her touch and has retained her talent from her first nomination for Atonement at the tender age of fifteen. It seems the Academy has something against Emily Blunt because this is arguably her third snub (Into the Woods, Young Victoria, Sicario).

Best Actor 

1. Michael Fassbender - Steve Jobs

2. Leonardo Di Caprio - The Revenant (will win)

3. Eddie Redmayne - The Danish Girl

4. Matt Damon - The Martian

N/A: Bryan Craston - Trumbo
Michael Fassbender is simply the finest actor working today and while his performance as Steve Jobs is far from his best (hello Shame) and whilst Di Caprio will more than likely take home the Oscar, the fact remains that Fassbender is a better performer than Di Caprio will ever be. I admit half my indifference to whether Fassbender actually wins comes from the fact that if he doesn't at least the internet can finally shut up about Di Caprio never winning an Oscar. Glenn Close (6), Peter O'Toole (7), Richard Burton (8) and Amy Adams (5) have all been nominated more times than Di Caprio and haven't won that shiny gold statue. I don't see memes about their losses anywhere. And as for Redmayne and Damon's somewhat decent performances, Fassbender simply exists in an entirely different realm.

Best Director


1. George Miller - Mad Max: Fury Road

2. Alejandro G. Iñárritu - The Revenant (will win)

3. Adam McKay - The Big Short

4. Tom McCarthy - Spotlight

5. Lenny Abrahamson - Room

My favourite category of the night. I would be happy with any of these wins. George Miller revived a cult classic franchise and managed to expand his following 100 fold.

Best Picture

1. The Revenant (could win)

2. The Big Short (will win)

3. Mad Max: Fury Road

4. Spotlight (could win)

5. Brooklyn

6. Room

7. Bridge of Spies 

8. The Martian (will cry if wins)

Of the 8 nominees for best picture, I would deem two masterpieces and two completely undeserving of their nominations.

The Masterpieces
 The Revenant and The Big Short. The Big Short, much to the surprise of audiences everywhere, did not indulge in intellectual whims or smugly limit its audience exclusively to those with understanding of banking lingo. And yet nothing is compromised. The film is, of course, still condescending as fuck but almost unprecedented in its accessibility, marvelously structured and edited and supremely well-acted. A masterwork of a different kind is The Revenant, a film with which every surface glimmers with artistry, giddy with emotional prowess and a technical feat to be remembered for years to come. 

The Worthy Nominees
Mad Max: Fury Road boasts the most impressive production of any film in recent years and possibly the greatest reboot of a cult franchise in the history of cinema. Brooklyn and Room were understated, minimalist films with broader ideas and whose impacts on audiences varied widely and on a remarkably personal level. Spotlight portrayed a complex, fascinating historical event and the media's realisation of its scope in a beautifully patient and subtle manner.

 The Trash
Firstly, Spielberg's Bridge of Spies was a competent cold war drama but ultimately forgettable and far from worthy of its nomination. But it is The Martian which really fires me up. Ridley Scott's picture this year is nothing more than a crowd-pleasing smear of cinema: flimsy, boring, predictable, forgettable. There's not a bit of poetry or art to the film. All the fans starry-eyed at its scientific accuracy support the film simply because it validates their own intelligence. Its a narrative film not a documentary. Its a film that consists not of characters but caricatures, scientific nerds who save the day, financing from China (it would be an honour to serve the US), jokes so stale and tired they wither in your mouth and a horrendous number of enthusiastic applauses and standing ovations. 


  1. I agree The Martian is overrated. Best Supporting Actor and Best Picture look to be the big categories with the most suspense this year. I predict Stallone and The Revenant to win.

    1. I would love it if The Revenant won! That would mean Iñárritu taking home best picture twice in a row. It could really go three-ways this year. The Big Short and Spotlight are big contenders! I didn't get a chance to see Creed but I heard Stallone's likely to win.

  2. I still don't get the hype surrounding The Revenant. Overly long, poorly paced, boring as hell. Beautifully shot though I'll give it that. I would prefer to watch more Bear Grylls though.

    1. The Revenant felt controlled and all of most of its components purposeful to forming the story. I was pretty captivated the whole way through. Glad at least we can agree Lubezski deserves the award for Best Cinematography?