Friday, January 15, 2016

Oscars 2015, Prediction Results: The Revenant Leads the Way

"The Revenant" led the way with 12 Oscar nominations, including one for Leonardo DiCaprio
My modest goal in predicting this year's Oscar nominations was to exceed my success rate from last year, when I hit on 80% (55 of 69). Well, things really changed this time around, when I connected on... 80%. (Between the variable number of Best Picture nominees and the category ambiguity with Alicia Vikander, there's some fuzzy math involved, but you'll just have to take my word for it.) I can't decide if this means I'm impressively consistent or consistently mediocre.

In any event, there's plenty to unpack following yesterday's announcement. Let's take a quick category-by-category scan through the lineup and see where things stand.

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

Analysis: My biggest fear with this year's Oscars was that both Brooklyn and Carol would fail to land Best Picture nominations. Fortunately, that fear was only half-realized, as Brooklyn made the cut. Nevertheless, the exclusion of Carol really leaves a mark, and I'm similarly disappointed that Sicario couldn't crack the lineup. With that said, I'm very pleased for Room, a terrific movie whose appeal with voters I clearly underestimated.

Current favorite: It's probably The Revenant, which led the field with 12 total nominations. That said, this remains a very close race. Mad Max: Fury Road finished second with 10 nominations, though most of those were in the crafts categories. The bigger threats are Spotlight and The Martian. The latter is a real crowd-pleaser, but I think the former poses the greater challenge, as it popped up in a number of major categories.

Snubbed: Inside Out. I am angry, disgusted, and sad all at once.

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

Analysis: I figured I'd miss one in this category, but I certainly didn't expect it to be Scott, whom I confidently declared a lock alongside Iñárritu. Furthermore, while I speculated that Room at least had an outside chance at cracking the expanded Best Picture lineup, I never imagined Abrahamson would show up here. In a slate of nominees with a healthy share of surprises, this one counts as the most knee-buckling curveball.

Current favorite: Iñárritu. The only thing working against him is that he won last year for Birdman. But The Revenant is a massive directorial effort, and I suspect voters will respond to that. Of course, if Spotlight picks up steam as a Best Picture contender, then McCarthy could be in play here.

Snubbed: David Robert Mitchell—It Follows. Modern horror is experiencing a bit of a resurgence of late—those with strong stomachs are advised to check out Goodnight Mommy (everyone else should stay far away)—and Mitchell generated great mileage (and terror) from his simple, brilliant conceit.

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

Analysis: Ho hum. Also, before you start firing off enraged #OscarsSoWhite tweets, remember that the vast majority of films eligible for the Oscars star white actors. That certainly needs to change, but the problem is at the industry level—the Academy is just choosing from what's available.

Current favorite: DiCaprio. And if I'm the one presenting this award, I'm announcing, "Leonardo DiCaprio for... The Departed!"

Snubbed: Tobey Maguire—Pawn Sacrifice. The movie has its flaws, but Maguire's evocation of a paranoid genius is, well, ingenious.

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

Analysis: As I said: Never count out Jennifer Lawrence. (And good for her. Joy is problematic, but it's almost become underrated, and Lawrence is terrific in it.) Also, I didn't so much miss on Vikander as place her performance in The Danish Girl in the wrong category. The Oscars are weird sometimes.

Current favorite: Larson, but only barely, as Blanchett and Ronan are major players as well. This one will go down to the wire.

Snubbed: Nina Hoss—Phoenix. It may not have been the best movie of the year (as many critics contend), but Hoss's riveting performance is a tour de force in persuasive acting.

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

Analysis: I suspected one of the two Spotlight stars might miss (if I were voting, I would have easily taken Keaton over Ruffalo), but I certainly didn't think Hardy would show up in his place. It's a great performance, but it also illustrates the length of The Revenant's coattails.

Current favorite: This one is a toss-up between Rylance and Stallone. The former is wonderful as the soft-spoken mole in Bridge of Spies, but Stallone's poignant reckoning with mortality in Creed may be too powerful for voters to pass up.

Snubbed: Oscar Isaac—Ex Machina. I'm pleased that Alex Garland's hyper-smart thriller landed multiple nominations elsewhere, but it's criminal that the Academy couldn't make room for the movie's greatest asset. I mean, did you see this scene? Come on.

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

Analysis: I was very happy to be wrong here, as Mirren is on autopilot in Trumbo, whereas McAdams continues to demonstrate her unappreciated range.

Current favorite: None. I could see this going to Leigh, Mara, or Winslet (or even McAdams if Spotlight sweeps). Good luck pegging this one on Oscar night.

Snubbed: Elizabeth Banks—Love & Mercy. Banks has been an underrated talent for more than a decade (ever since Seabiscuit, really), but she delivered a career-best performance as Brian Wilson's empathetic love interest. She'll get her due someday.


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

Analysis: The Academy typically adores Tarantino scripts, but clearly The Hateful Eight wasn't a big hit with voters. I think Straight Outta Compton's screenplay is one of its weaker elements, but at least the movie popped up somewhere.

Current favorite: Inside Out. Both Bridge of Spies and Spotlight have Best Picture nominations, so they can't be ruled out, but I doubt voters will be able to ignore the breathtaking originality of the Pixar film's premise.

Snubbed: Sleeping with Other People—Leslye Headland. Wait, a romantic comedy that's legitimately funny, features intelligent characters, and doesn't rely on overly contrived situations? This is possible?


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

Analysis: Glad I got this one perfect. All of the nominees make sense, too. The Big Short cleverly turned financial ruin into uproarious comedy, Brooklyn and Carol both told devastating love stories, The Martian is a smartly scripted story of collaboration, and of course there's no way the Academy could possibly pass on Aaron Sorkin's screenplay for Steve Jobs, a brilliant, bracing piece of writing that... wait a minute, Steve Jobs wasn't nominated? What the fuck is going on?? "WE CHANGED TIME ZONES???"

Current favorite: Sorkin. I don't care if he isn't nominated, he's going to win via write-in.

Snubbed: Take a guess.

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

Analysis: This one, I really did get perfect. So there.

Current favorite: The Revenant. If he's ever going to finally win an Oscar, poor Roger Deakins might need to have Emmanuel Lubezki killed.

Snubbed: It Follows—Mike Gioulakis. Precise framing was critical to making this movie work, and Gioulakis hit all of his marks perfectly.

The Big Short—Hank Corwin
Mad Max: Fury Road—Margaret Sixel
The Revenant—Stephen Mirrione
Spotlight—Tom McArdle
The Martian—Pietro Scalia Star Wars: The Force Awakens—Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey

Analysis: Between this and Ridley Scott missing for Best Director, The Martian's Best Picture chances are on life support. (Get it?)

Current favorite: I'd go with Mad Max: Fury Road at the moment, but everyone is a player here.

Snubbed: Sicario—Joe Walker. The film's pacing is just relentless, and Walker's airtight editing is a crucial part of that.

Carol—Carter Burwell
The Hateful Eight—Ennio Morricone
Star Wars: The Force Awakens—John Williams
The Danish Girl—Alexandre Desplat Bridge of Spies—Thomas Newman
Spotlight—Howard Shore Sicario—Jóhann Jóhannsson

Analysis: One of two categories where I missed multiple nominees. Bummer.

Current favorite: Morricone. It's possible that Williams could make some noise here for his Star Wars score, but I expect the Academy to leap at the chance to honor an industry legend like Morricone.

Snubbed: Z for Zachariah—Heather McIntosh. One of the year's most underrated films produced one of its most beautiful scores.

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

Analysis: I dubbed both The Danish Girl and The Revenant "longshots". Shows what I know.

Current favorite: Mad Max: Fury Road. Move along.

Snubbed: Crimson Peak. One of the worst omissions of the entire slate.

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

Analysis: I know The Martian took place on an alien planet and all, but I'm pretty sure it didn't have dinosaurs.

Current favorite: This should be an interesting battle between the invisible brilliance of The Revenant and the eye-popping spectacle of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Snubbed: The Walk. The only way to rationalize this omission is that you thought Joseph Gordon-Levitt was actually doing all of those high-wire stunts for real.

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