Entertainmental: Oscar? I Barely Even Know Her!

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Let’s just do away with the Oscars. Can we all agree this whole charade needs to go? Instead of getting into a whole ugly debate about racism in the Academy or whether there needs to be some type of profiling system instituted to ensure equality, can we just agree that this is why we can’t have nice things and shut it down?

Since that won’t be happening anytime soon, here are the Oscar predictions.

Normally I wouldn’t be doing my Oscar rundown until much later, but I’ve actually been hitting the old movie house with vigor and I feel qualified to comment on the recently announced nominees with some level of expertise. With no further blah blah blah.

Best Picture
The reason for expanding the best picture category from five to an unspecified number up to 10 was transparently this: so the Academy could throw out soft nominations to pictures that were popular, or maybe not so popular, but deserving in some respect. Maybe it’s just a courtesy nomination for Spielberg, or a shout-out to a politically expedient pick—it can really run the gamut. So right off the bat, I think it’s safe to shave off the unserious nominations, which however deserving they may actually be, have absolutely no chance at all of walking home with a statuette.

And please restrain yourselves from throwing things if I cull your personal favorite.

Brooklyn, The Martian, Bridge of Spies, and yes, Mad Max: Fury Road are all courtesy noms. Don’t get it confused. They all have something or other in their favor, but they’re all deeply unserious contenders for best picture. Rest assured, this race is between Spotlight, Room, The Revenant, and The Big Short. And the smart money here is on The Revenant, though Spotlight and Room have big pushes to make still in the campaign.

The Big Short is a fun bit of the explain-o-journalism-storytelling that is so popular these days. It’s like a documentary, but since half the stuff didn’t actually happen, it just sort of happened, they fill in the blanks with hilarious gimmicks. It works, but it’s not classic. And it’s not quite as compelling as the story of the Globe exposing the Catholic Church in Boston’s complicity in child molestation cases, as told in Spotlight.

The Revenant remains the most impressive piece of filmmaking in the crop and seems poised to make Iñárritu the first successful defending champ in Oscar history. Winning best picture and best director in back-to-back years is insane. If you thought doing it in the NFL is hard, try doing it in Hollywood.

Acting Categories
Best actress in a leading role seems pretty much guaranteed to end up in the hands of Brie Larson for Room. She’s great, the film is strong and innovatively created, and there’s nobody else in the pack who deserves it more by any serious margin, though I personally liked Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years the best. Jennifer Lawrence and  Cate Blanchett are definitely in the mix to be safe votes if the Academy doesn’t feel like anointing anyone new. Saoirse Ronan is a long shot at best for her turn in Brooklyn.

There have been complaints of overwhelming whiteness in the nominees. Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett recently sparked a boycott campaign for this reason, and if there’s an undeserving white guy in this bunch, it’s certainly Matt Damon, who was certainly solid and enjoyable in the fun film, but was just nowhere near what we’d be expecting. Considering he basically was in a futuristic version of The Revenant, but he just didn’t have to do nearly the down and dirty acting job Leonardo DiCaprio did, it’s sort of crazy he has to go up against him for the award. He does have the distinct advantage of being the only actor playing an actual fictional character in the nominee pool.

DiCaprio seems pretty locked-in to win this one, though Bryan Cranston and Michael Fassbender were both quite good in their respective roles as Dalton Trumbo and Steve Jobs.

In the supporting categories, Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) or Tom Hardy (The Revenant) are the frontrunners, with my money on Hardy. Stallone’s nomination is one for the fans, and will not bear fruit for the ageless boxing enthusiast. Meanwhile Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs) looks like the favorite, though Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight) is the most deserving in my opinion.

Best Director
From a purely technical standpoint, it’s pretty much impossible to argue against Iñárritu for The Revenant. Shooting a film as challenging as that in the dead of winter in the wilderness with only natural light is utterly astounding. To be able to get the performances and beauty out of the cast that he did was a whole other achievement. From a cinematic standpoint, which is to say, looking past how amazing the production was, which is the best movie at the end of the day? Most would still have to argue it was The Revenant. So how can you argue against him for direction?

As much as I love George Miller and enjoyed Mad Max a ton, it’s insane to think he has a shot here. Same goes for Tom McCarthy for Spotlight, a film carried by the script, and Adam McKay for The Big Short, which was candy. Lenny Abrahamson could be the darkhorse here for his powerhouse work in Room.

Documentary Feature
This is actually my favorite category of the year with two films I definitely thought deserved to be nominated in the main feature category: Cartel Land and The Look of Silence. While both achieved things probably never before seen in a documentary, The Look of Silence, about the Indonesian genocide of the mid-1960s, deserves the award, and deserves to be seen by everyone. It was the best and most important film of the year, and the thought of it winning a statuette (righting the wrong of The Act of Killing not receiving one in 2014) makes me somewhat happy. Though I’m pretty much a thousand percent sure it’s going to end up going to the documentary about Amy Winehouse.

It looks like Emmanuel Lubezki’s for The Revenant, and it will be hard to make a case against him, again noting the whole natural light, insane beauty and precision thing. But I must confess I will actually lose sleep over both Roger Deakins and Robert Richardson going home empty-handed for their brilliant work in Sicario and The Hateful Eight respectively, two of my favorite films of the year.

I still haven’t seen all the animated or foreign nominees and want to see more of the un-nominated films before I weigh in on the snubs and controversies that this year’s obnoxious ceremony will undoubtedly come equipped with.

 Stay tuned.

By Ygal Kaufman

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