Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Oscars 2015: The Little Techies

Tom Hardy in "Mad Max: Fury Road"
The 88th Academy Awards are airing on Sunday. Are you excited? Neither am I. OK, that's a lie. As much as we complain about the Oscars, whether because of their racial homogeneity or their self-congratulatory atmosphere, the fact remains that they routinely honor some pretty good movies. Besides, the Manifesto has been obsessively analyzing the Oscars for the last 14 years, so we aren't about to stop now.

This means that we have 21 feature awards to predict between now and Sunday. (Per usual, I'm excluding the three short-subject categories.) Today, we'll be looking at a number of below-the-line categories that tend to be buried early in the show. For those interested in some sexier (but still technical) fields, you can find our analysis of those here. Tomorrow and Saturday, we'll dig into the high-profile categories.


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

NOMINEES
Anomalisa
Boy & the World
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There

WILL WIN
Inside Out. See, wasn't that easy? Technically, there's a minuscule chance that Anomalisa could pull the upset here—it's critically beloved (arguably more so than Inside Out), and the Academy has honored Charlie Kaufman before (he deservedly won a Best Original Screenplay trophy in 2004 for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). But let's not kid ourselves.


SHOULD WIN
Take a guess.


THE MANIFESTO'S BALLOT
Anomalisa
The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out
When Marnie Was There

Of the 114 different 2015 theatrical releases I watched, only four were animated. Pathetic. The good news is that they were all worth seeing. My thoughts on Inside Out are clear, but Anomalisa makes for a fascinating counterpoint, a decidedly adult picture that wields the imaginative possibilities of animation to deliver a sorrowful meditation on human connection, or lack thereof. The Good Dinosaur slips and slides in its early going, but it finds its footing, and it provides some of Pixar's grandest imagery yet. And When Marnie Was There is a touching, whimsical look at the fragility of youth, aided by Studio Ghibli's typically wondrous visuals.

The Manifesto's ideal winner: Inside Out.




BEST COSTUME DESIGN

NOMINEES
Carol
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

WILL WIN
This is likely a battle between Cinderella and Mad Max: Fury Road, which is not a sentence I would ever have predicted writing. I expect the latter to pick up a ton of below-the-line trophies as the consensus pick for best-crafted movie of the year (though it may have to fight for The Revenant for a few of those). But it's set in an apocalyptic wasteland, and this category tends to favor sumptuous over grimy. In recent years, a lavish period piece or fantasy film has felled a more highly regarded Best Picture nominee; these include The Great Gatsby (defeating 12 Years a Slave), Anna Karenina (defeating Lincoln and Les Misérables), and Alice in Wonderland (defeating The King’s Speech). And Cinderella’s costumes are nothing if not lavish. The princesses fend off the polecats.

Lily James in "Cinderella"


SHOULD WIN
This is a tossup for me as well, though it's between Cinderella and Carol. As much as I admire the dazzling threads of the Disney film, they can't top Carol's gorgeous '50s fashions. Rooney Mara isn't the only one who freezes in her tracks when she sees Cate Blanchett in that magnificent mink.

Go ahead and stare, Rooney Mara


THE MANIFESTO'S BALLOT
Brooklyn
Carol
Chi-Raq
Cinderella
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The progression of costumes in Brooklyn tells its own mini-story about the protagonist's arc, while Chi-Raq's brazen fusion of Aristophanes and gangland culture receives a visual kick from its purple and orange outfits. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. makes '60s Cold War Europe look like a ravishingly good time.

The Manifesto's ideal winner: Chi-Raq.

Samuel L. Jackson in "Chi-Raq"


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

NOMINEES
Amy
Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom

WILL WIN
Cartel Land tackles a freighted subject, while The Look of Silence is one of the best-reviewed films of the year (it dominated its competitors in the sanctified Village Voice poll). Still, Amy is the clear pick here. It's beloved, and it's about a controversial artist who died too young. In other words, it's Oscar catnip.


BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

NOMINEES
Embrace of the Serpent
Mustang
Son of Saul
Theeb
A War

WILL WIN
The favorite here is the bruising Son of Saul. France's Mustang is a sexy upset pick, but it's hard to envision the Academy passing up on a Holocaust drama, much less one so well-received and hard-hitting.

THE MANIFESTO'S BALLOT
About Elly
Mommy
Phoenix
White God
Wild Tales

I've only seen one of the five Oscar nominees, but that's hardly my fault, as theatrical distribution for the remaining four has ranged from pitiful to nonexistent. Thankfully, 2015 offered plenty of appetizing fare from around the globe that didn't crack the Academy's lineup. About Elly, from the director of A Separation, is a gripping study of relationships and deception. Mommy is a hypnotic tale of familial love and dysfunction. Phoenix is a riveting post-war noir, anchored by a tremendous performance from Nina Hoss. White God is a stunning directorial achievement that also happens to be a rousing drama. And Wild Tales—which was actually nominated in this category last year despite not receiving domestic distribution until February 2015—is a kinetic and often hilarious anthology, combining black humor with lacerating insight.

The Manifesto's ideal winner: Mommy.




THE MANIFESTO'S BALLOT: SECOND TIER
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
Goodnight Mommy
Human Capital
Son of Saul
Timbuktu

Why stop at five? Gett turns courtroom drama into blood sport, excoriating Israel's misogynistic legal system without resorting to theatrics. Goodnight Mommy will scare the shit out of you (horror fans, check this one out; everyone else, be warned). Human Capital is a sharply observed melodrama of privilege. Son of Saul's storytelling has its faults, but it's an astonishing formal triumph that features a transfixing lead performance from Géza Röhrig. Timbuktu meanders in spots, but it ultimately accumulates devastating power as a clear-eyed depiction of the stupidity of tyranny.




BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

NOMINEES
Mad Max: Fury Road
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
The Revenant

WILL WIN
I've never seen this 100-Year-Old Man thing, but I have a hunch that it involves some aging makeup. That's typically a hit for the Academy, but there's no way voters are choosing something so obscure at the expense of the only two movies that received 10-plus nominations this year. DiCaprio's beard is practically its own character in The Revenant, but I'll stick with Mad Max: Fury Road, staying true to this year's strategy (i.e., if it's a technical category, go with Fury Road unless convinced otherwise).

THE MANIFESTO'S BALLOT
Mad Max: Fury Road
Predestination
Steve Jobs

Mad Max: Fury Road has Immortan Joe, plus Nicholas Hoult's translucent skin. Predestination somehow has Sarah Snook credibly age into Ethan Hawke. Steve Jobs (also starring Sarah Snook!) features some impressive aging work of its own.

The Manifesto's ideal winner: Predestination.


BEST ORIGINAL SONG

NOMINEES
Fifty Shades of Grey—"Earned It" (The Weeknd)
The Hunting Ground—"Til It Happens to You" (Lady Gaga and Diane Warren)
Racing Extinction—"Manta Ray" (Antony)
Spectre—"Writing's on the Wall" (Sam Smith)
Youth—"Simple Song #3" (David Lang)

WILL WIN
I've never even heard of a few of these, and apparently I'm not the only one, as the producers just cut the performances of "Manta Ray" and "Simple Song #3" from the telecast. In any event, the smart money here is on "Til It Happens to You" from The Hunting Ground, a movie about... actually, I have no idea. But it has Lady Gaga, and Academy voters assuredly remember how she bowled the audience over with her Sound of Music medley last year.

SHOULD WIN
Get lost.

MISSING
Dope—"Can't Bring Me Down" (Awreeoh)

Not only is this song catchy as hell, it was actually performed in the movie, which makes it the kind of music this category should be honoring in the first place.


BEST SOUND EDITING

NOMINEES
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

WILL WIN
Yikes. Both The Revenant and Star Wars are major players here, depending on whether the Academy wants to lean retro or futuristic. Still, I've come this far leaning on Mad Max: Fury Road, so there's no point stopping now.


BEST SOUND MIXING

NOMINEES
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

WILL WIN
See above.

The Doof Warrior, making sounds


That takes care of our quick-hitting analysis of the "lesser" technical categories. For the Manifesto's look at the big techies, click here.

No comments: