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By Jeffrey M. Anderson
January 14, 2016—It was a pretty good year for movies, but as the critics' lists came in, it became apparent there there was little or no consensus, except maybe an all-out love for Mad Max: Fury Road. Now the Oscar nominations have arrived, and over the past few weeks the good movies have been weeded out in exchange for the more mediocre ones, the ones that are the most typical "Oscar" movies. (The voters cannot resist their "Oscar bait.") Following is the official list of Oscar nominees, with my own personal notes, to be updated throughout the coming weeks. The awards will be announced on Sunday, February 28.
My Picks: Mad Max: Fury Road, followed by Spotlight, Bridge of Spies, and Brooklyn
Notes: I can't figure out if I've completely missed the boat on The Revenant, but it is the lowest-rated of
the eight movies on Rotten Tomatoes, and I do think that, if you look past the amazing cinematography, you can see a creaky,
cliche-ridden revenge Western that has been expanded and covered up. I think it has only become the front-runner because of the clear lack of
consensus this year... it's the most "Oscar-Like" of the eight movies... the longest, the most epic, etc.
My Pick: Bryan Cranston
Notes: This is DiCaprio's fifth acting nomination (he was snubbed for Titanic), with no wins. It's Cranston's first nomination,
Fassbender's second (after 12 Years a Slave), Redmayne's second (he won last year for The Theory of Everything), and
Damon's third acting nomination (after Good Will Hunting and Invictus; he won a screenplay award for Good Will Hunting).
My Pick: Saoirse Ronan
Notes: This is Blanchett's sixth nomination; she has two previous Oscars (for The Aviator and Blue Jasmine). It's Lawrence's fourth nomination; she has one previous Oscar (for Silver Linings Playbook). It's Ronan's second nomination (after Atonement), and Rampling and Larson have their first nominations this year.
Best Supporting Actor
My Pick: Sylvester Stallone
Notes: Hardy and Rylance have their first nominations this year. It's the third for Bale, who won for The Fighter, and the third for Ruffalo (after The Kids Are All Right and Foxcatcher). It's Stallone's first nomination in almost 40 years; he was previously nominated for Best Actor and Best Screenplay for Rocky, but did not win either. I'm reluctant to pick here, because Stallone is my personal favorite, and Creed is one of my favorite movies this year, and whenever emotions get in the way of predictions, it leads to wrongness. But this would be the best comeback story of the year... and Oscars love this kind of thing. Not to mention that Bridge of Spies was not a hit... but I worry that Tom Hardy will sneak in there, riding the coattails of a Revenant sweep...
Best Supporting Actress
My Picks: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rachel McAdams
Notes: McAdams, Vikander, and Leigh all have their first nominations (a long time coming for Leigh!); Mara has her second (after The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Winslet has her seventh (she won for The Reader). There's still no front-runner here, though I think we can eliminate Mara and McAdams. Leigh has been so good for so long and has never been nominated before, so she's a possibility, but I've been seeing Vikander coming up a lot, and Winslet won the Golden Globe. Since I usually go with whatever choice would be the most annoying to me personally (The Danish Girl is pure Oscar bait), I'll go with Vikander. Too bad she wasn't nominated for Ex Machina.
My Pick: George Miller
Notes: Abrahamson has his first nomination this year. McKay has his first and second (for screenplay). McCarthy has his third (he is also nominated for screenplay and has a prior nomination for the screenplay of Up). Iñárritu has his third in this category (he won last year for Birdman); he has seven nominations and three Oscars overall for writing, directing, and producing. Miller now has six nominations overall; two are for writing and two are for producing, this is his first for Best Director, and he previously won for Best Animated Feature for Happy Feet. This is a supremely annoying category; everyone agrees that Miller is actually the year's best director, but because his film is a summer popcorn film and a sequel, it's not deemed worthy of winning, so they're going to give it to a guy who is not only not a good director, but a guy who already won last year! If you hear griping and complaining when this one is announced, it's just me.
Best Screenplay (Original)
Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen for Bridge of Spies
My Pick: Inside Out, though all five are good!
Notes: Lotsa committees here, which is fine. Love the Coens, who are among the best screenwriters of all time; this is their sixth screenplay nomination. Ex Machina is sci-fi based on ideas rather than battles, which I love. Spotlight is like great journalism, and I'd be happy if it won. Straight Outta Compton is good, but perhaps a bit too long (I was shocked to learn that all four nominated writers are white! What does it take to get some non-white nominees?). My favorite, because it's my favorite movie of the year, is Inside Out.
Best Screenplay (Adapted)
My Pick: Brooklyn or The Martian
Notes: I'm not much for Room, but the other four here are solid. Goddard's snappy dialogue made The Martian more fun than it could have been and Horby's treatment of Brooklyn made it less treacly than it could have been. Carol is nicely literary, and Adam McKay does an admirable (if not totally successful) job of getting across complex information in an entertaining way in The Big Short, although, truth be told, I preferred his work on Ant-Man.
Best Animated Feature
My Pick: Inside Out
Notes: I admire Anomalisa very much and Shaun is brilliant and delightful, but Inside Out is my favorite movie of the year, and for my money, the best movie Pixar has made. (I have seen, but have not yet written up Boy & the World; I'm not that crazy about it. I haven't yet seen When Marnie Was There.)
Best Foreign Language Film
Embrace of the Serpent
My Pick: ?
Notes: I will have to update my annual rant about this category and how its bizarre rules eventually weed out anything interesting, winding up instead with a series of dreary message movies and only occasionally anything good (when a good director tells a "message" story with a measure of personality). This year, one of the greatest directors in the world, Hou Hsiao-hsien -- who has never been nominated -- released what could be his best movie, or at least his most beautiful and winning movie, The Assassin, and the Academy ignored it. Not to mention that most of the movies that are chosen have yet to even play in American theaters. The rules for this category have to change. Update: I saw Theeb and enjoyed it, but Son of Saul is the front-runner, seeing as how it's both a Holocaust movie (catnip for Oscar voters) and a well-made movie.
My Pick: Roger Deakins
Notes: Lubezki is a genius, and one of the best cinematographers there ever was; but given that he has already won twice (and has eight overall nominations), someone else should get a chance this year. It's Deakins' turn. He's also excellent, and has an astounding 13 nominations without winning. Sicario is among his best work. Richardson has 3 Oscars, and Seale has 1, and Lachman has two nominations. As we move closer, it looks as if Lubezki is riding a wave of Revenant love and will win his third in a row, leaving Deakins a 13-time loser. Not fair? That's the Oscars.
My Pick: Mad Max: Fury Road or Spotlight
Notes: I don't know about anyone else, but I usually judge editing by how tight and how fluid a movie is. Spotlight and Mad Max: Fury Road are both superb examples of editing. The Revenant is too long -- and feels too long -- and therefore shouldn't be here. Star Wars is mostly excellent, but has a few hiccups here and there. If The Big Short wins, it will be for the most editing, rather than the best. Update: So far The Big Short is the front-runner, though Mad Max: Fury Road is also in the running. Once again, I'd put my bets on the choice that will annoy me more, so... The Big Short.
Best Production Design
My Pick: Mad Max: Fury Road or Bridge of Spies
Notes: This one looks to be a consolation prize for Mad Max: Fury Road, though The Revenant could sweep and carry this one away too.
Best Costume Design
My Pick: ?
Notes: Sorry... I didn't see Cinderella. There's no clear front-runner here. Some think it could be another Mad Max: Fury Road consolation prize, or one for Carol. Or that Oscar bait The Danish Girl could take it (it was made for this award). Or The Revenant could sweep...
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
My Pick: ?
Notes: It seems as if Mad Max: Fury Road will be thrown another bone in this category. But The Revenant is here too, so...? In the end, Mad Max has more makeup, so I'm going that way...
Best Original Score
My Pick: Ennio Morricone
Notes: Not sure how this one is going to go, but Ennio Morricone is a living legend; in addition to the dozens (hundreds?) of classic scores he has composed, he has earned five Oscar nominations and never won. This is his sixth. (He did win an honorary Oscar, however.) By contrast, Williams has five Oscars and (I think) fifty nominations (for both Best Song and Best Score). Newman has 13 nominations and no wins. Jóhannsson was nominated last year. And, astoundingly, this is Burwell's first, despite the fact that he scored Fargo! Update: people are predicting that Morricone could win, and I'd concur.
Best Original Song
Fifty Shades of Grey ("Earned It" by The Weeknd)
My Pick: ?
Notes: These are all awful. Someone should make a documentary about this category and its history of picking strange things. Some folks are predicting The Weeknd, and some are for Lady Gaga. I'd probably lean toward the latter, but what do I know?
Best Sound Mixing
My Pick: ?
Notes: Once again, it's between Mad Max and Revenant. Mad Max has more sound, so it's the logical winner, but the annoying factor points toward Revenant. But maybe they'll split the two sound categories?
Best Sound Editing
My Pick: ?
Notes: See above... but please don't blame me if the Academy switches these two around, or picks something else out of left field. It could happen.
Best Visual Effects
My Pick: Mad Max: Fury Road or Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Notes: Just for old times' sake! Would this be cool?
Best Documentary Feature
My Pick: The Look of Silence
Notes: I have now seen all five of these, but have failed to post reviews as of yet... don't give up hope. Amy is the strong front-runner, and a safe bet. Although The Look of Silence has a shot, too, given that director Oppenheimer lost a couple of years ago for his The Act of Killing.
Best Documentary Short
Body Team 12
My Pick: ?
Notes: Still haven't seen any of these. Body Team 12 seems to be the front-runner among people who know, but I wouldn't count out the Claude Lanzmann one, given that Shoah was one of the most highly acclaimed docs of all time and didn't get nominated.
Best Animated Short
My Pick: ?
Notes: World of Tomorrow is amazing! Maybe it will even win!
Best Live Action Short
My Pick: ?
Notes: This isn't a very good batch... some of them are OK. I think I liked Everything Will Be Okay the best, but probably Shok is the front-runner.