Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Oscars 2015: The Manifesto's Official Nomination Predictions

Can Todd Haynes's "Carol" snag a Best Picture nomination? We can only hope.
With the 2015 Oscar nominations being announced in a matter of hours, the Manifesto is racing against the clock to finalize its predictions. Last year, we hit on a pedestrian 80% (55 of 69), so we're hoping to top that figure this go-round. The good news is that I've actually seen most of the movies in contention this year, which will better inform my speculation. The bad news? I've seen most of the movies in contention, meaning I can't trot out the usual "It's not my fault, I haven't seen it" excuse as a crutch. So it goes.

On to the predictions. Per usual, we're predicting the eight major categories, plus five additional below-the-line fields that I consider to be of significant importance. We'll be back on Friday with analysis of the nominations, with category-specific coverage leading up to the big show on February 28.

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Comments: The Academy has been using the floating system with Best Picture—in which a minimum of five and a maximum of 10 movies can be selected—for the past four years. Each of the first three years, exactly nine movies were nominated; last year, the number dipped to eight. Still, nine seems like the magic number in the preferential ballot system, so I'm sticking with that.

Which nine? Things get awfully murky at the bottom this year, so let's start at the top. The Big Short, The Martian, The Revenant, and Spotlight are all locks, and I'm also comfortable slotting in Mad Max: Fury Road—it may be a populist movie, but it's beloved by critics and audiences alike. And Bridge of Spies scored nominations with both the Producers Guild (the only voting body that uses the same preferential voting method) and the BAFTAs, so I think it's a solid sixth.

After that, things get very tricky. Brooklyn and Carol are essentially flip sides of the same coin, with the former scoring with the Producers Guild but not with BAFTA, and vice-versa for the latter. Both are lovely, beautifully made films, but they're also small in scale, so they may lack the stature that voters are looking for. Still, I think both squeak in. For the ninth and final spot, I'll go with Sicario; it's arguably too brutal for the Academy, but it has a Producers Guild nod, and it's a passion play that should perform well on the preferential ballot.

Potential upsets: I basically flipped a coin when choosing between Sicario and Straight Outta Compton, dismissing the latter only because I perceive it to be well-liked rather than sporadically loved. Still, if there's a single movie out there that's going to crack this field, it's Compton.

Longshots: Inside Out (has a chance if it racks up enough #1 votes); Room (seems to have faded despite sporting the Best Actress frontrunner); Ex Machina (has the Producers Guild nod but is likely too chilly for the Academy's taste); The Hateful Eight (too abrasive); The Danish Girl (beyond its actors, no one's talking about it); Creed (why not?); Star Wars: The Force Awakens (ha); Trumbo (stop it).

Alejandro González Iñárritu—The Revenant
Tom McCarthy—Spotlight
Adam McKay—The Big Short
George Miller—Mad Max: Fury Road
Ridley Scott—The Martian

Comments: You can typically count on at least four of the five Directors Guild nominees to show up here. I'm actually duplicating the full quintet, though I only have real confidence in two (Iñárritu and Scott). Neither Spotlight nor The Big Short is an especially showy film, but I think they're both so highly regarded that voters will nominate their makers. The opposite rationale applies to Miller—Fury Road is so clearly a labor of directorial love that I can't see members spurning its central architect.

Potential upsets: It's killing me to leave Todd Haynes off here, but I'm just not convinced that Carol has a broad enough base of support. The other plausible candidate is Steven Spielberg for Bridge of Spies, but nobody appreciates The Beard's greatness at this point in his career (well, except BAFTA, apparently).

Longshots: John Crowley for Brooklyn (only because it might land a Best Picture nomination); F. Gary Gray for Straight Outta Compton (ibid); Denis Villeneuve for Sicario (ibid the ibid); Quentin Tarantino for The Hateful Eight (don't hold your breath).

Bryan Cranston—Trumbo
Matt Damon—The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio—The Revenant
Michael Fassbender—Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne—The Danish Girl

Comments: This group, which matches BAFTA's lineup, feels pretty solid. Damon failed to score with the Screen Actors Guild, but The Martian has picked up a ton of steam lately, so I can't see him missing out.

Potential upsets: Johnny Depp, who replaced Damon at SAG for his work in Black Mass. It's possible that voters were so impressed by Depp delivering a non-flashy performance that they lean his way in lieu of either Damon or Cranston.

Longshots: Steve Carell for The Big Short (possible, especially after his Foxcatcher nomination last year); Tom Hanks for Bridge of Spies (like his director, forever unappreciated); Michael B. Jordan for Creed (no real buzz).

Cate Blanchett—Carol
Brie Larson—Room
Charlotte Rampling—45 Years
Saoirse Ronan—Brooklyn
Alicia Vikander—The Danish Girl

Comments: Blanchett, Larson, and Ronan are all in, and I'm reasonably confident in Rampling. (Note that 45 Years is one of the few contenders I've yet to see.) The tricky one is Vikander, not because of the quality of her performance but because there's some question whether she belongs in the lead or supporting category. But as we'll see, Vikander is a major player for a different movie in the supporting field, so I think voters are comfortable pegging her as a lead here.

Potential upsets: Jennifer Lawrence for Joy. Never count out Jennifer Lawrence.

Longshots: Maggie Smith for The Lady in the Van (BAFTA nod); Helen Mirren for Woman in Gold (SAG nod); Carey Mulligan for Suffragette (British chick nod); Charlie Theron for Mad Max: Fury Road (badass nod).

Christian Bale—The Big Short
Michael Keaton—Spotlight
Mark Ruffalo—Spotlight
Mark Rylance—Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone—Creed

Comments: Of the four acting categories, this one is by far the hardest to predict. Rylance and Stallone are locks, but it's difficult to tell whether the two Spotlight stars will muscle each other out (as they did at SAG) or complement one another—I can't decide which to select, so I'm going with both. It's also possible that Bale will be overshadowed by his own costars, but given that he's already scooped both BAFTA and SAG nominations, I can't leave him off.

Potential upsets: The biggest threat here is Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation, though it'll be interesting to see if the Netflix release ticks off more traditional voters. The other figure looming is Benicio del Toro for his terrifying work in Sicario.

Longshots: Michael Shannon for 99 Homes (SAG nod); Jacob Tremblay for Room (same); Paul Dano for Love & Mercy ("wouldn't it be nice?").

Jennifer Jason Leigh—The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara—Carol
Helen Mirren—Trumbo
Alicia Vikander—Ex Machina
Kate Winslet—Steve Jobs

Comments: Category fraud is the only thing giving me pause here. Mara isn't supporting anybody in Carol, but the Weinsteins are pushing her this way so that she doesn't compete with Blanchett. And Vikander might end up splitting votes with herself if members view her as supporting in The Danish Girl. Otherwise, these ladies are all in good shape.

Potential upsets: The only real challenger here is Rachel McAdams for Spotlight, but the men seem to be getting more plaudits there. There's also Jane Fonda in Youth, which I've yet to see.

Longshots: Kristen Stewart for Clouds of Sils Maria (too off-putting); Julie Walters for Brooklyn (too crisp); Elizabeth Banks for Love & Mercy (now that would really be nice).

Bridge of Spies—Matthew Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Ex Machina—Alex Garland
The Hateful Eight—Quentin Tarantino
Inside Out—Josh Cooley, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve
Spotlight—Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer

Comments: I'm matching up with the BAFTAs here, because these nominees just make too much sense. Inside Out has a brilliant premise, Hateful Eight has flavorful dialogue, Bridge of Spies is a beautifully told story, Ex Machina is boldly original, and Spotlight may be the Best Picture frontrunner. Good luck knocking one of these off.

Potential upsets: The biggest lurker here is actually Amy Schumer's Trainwreck; she's a real talent, and the Academy may want to recognize her.

Longshots: Sicario; Straight Outta Compton.

The Big Short—Adam McKay, Charles Randolph
Brooklyn—Nick Hornby
Carol—Phyllis Nagy
The Martian—Drew Goddard
Steve Jobs—Aaron Sorkin

Comments: The adapted field is more crowded, as it tends to be. But I'm pegging four of these to land Best Picture nominations, and the fifth is written by Aaron Sorkin, who's basically a screenwriting award unto himself at this point.

Potential upsets: The most obvious omission here is The Revenant, but it has so little dialogue that I bet voters pass on it. The other potential candidate is Room, but again, I think its star has dimmed.

Longshots: Anomalisa (never rule out Charlie Kaufman); The Danish Girl (doubtful); Trumbo (please god no).

Carol—Edward Lachman
The Hateful Eight—Robert Richardson
Mad Max: Fury Road—John Seale
The Revenant—Emmanuel Lubezki
Sicario—Roger Deakins

Comments: Four of these seem rock-solid. The Hateful Eight is the only shaky bet, but so much ink was spilled surrounding the movie's use of 70-millimeter, I think it sneaks in.

Potential upsets: Bridge of Spies, with its guild and BAFTA nods, is the pick if Hateful Eight drops out.

Longshots: The Martian, and... that's all I've got.

The Big Short—Hank Corwin
Mad Max: Fury Road—Margaret Sixel
The Martian—Pietro Scalia
The Revenant—Stephen Mirrione
Spotlight—Tom McArdle

Comments: Yikes. You basically need a Best Picture nomination to score here, but given that I'm currently predicting nine of those, that hardly helps. Spotlight is probably the shakiest bet, given its low-key approach, but I'm again relying on its overall appeal.

Potential upsets: Bridge of Spies and Sicario are both sensible picks here, and Carol could show up as well.

Longshots: Brooklyn (Best Picture coattails); Star Wars: The Force Awakens (it's a technical award, and it doesn't get much more technical than Star Wars).

Carol—Carter Burwell
The Danish Girl—Alexandre Desplat
The Hateful Eight—Ennio Morricone
Spotlight—Howard Shore
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Comments: All polished films, all acclaimed composers.

Potential upsets: Of course, you could say the same thing about Bridge of Spies and Thomas Newman, as well as Inside Out and Michael Giacchino.

Longshots: Sicario (Jóhann Jóhannsson earned a nomination last year for The Theory of Everything); The Revenant (too spooky); Brooklyn (who the hell is Michael Brook?).

Bridge of Spies
Crimson Peak
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Comments: I'm getting a bit frisky here with Crimson Peak, as it's hardly a traditional awards play, but I just can't see the Academy ignoring its stunning sets, especially that blood-stained castle.

Potential upsets: Carol is a handsome period piece, so it can't be ruled out. A more intriguing pick would be Cinderella, with its glitz and glamour.

Longshots: The Revenant and The Danish Girl.

Ex Machina
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Comments: The Academy has already whittled this field down to 10 finalists. I think Star Wars, Jurassic World, and The Revenant are all sitting pretty, so it comes down to the final two spots, but I envision voters responding to Ex Machina's sleek CGI and Fury Road's gonzo demolitions.

Potential upsets: The big player here is The Walk, but its effects are probably too good to even be noticed. The Martian is also a possibility, though more for its overall cachet than its effects work.

Longshots: Ant-Man, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Tomorrowland are the remaining three finalists.

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