Monday, January 18, 2016

Oscar Nominations: What a Day! What a Lovely Day!

I know, I know, who wants to read about these four days after they came out, but I was traveling, and I picked up a pretty nasty cold while I was out, so I spent the past day and a half lolling around in a dayquil-tinted fever dream. ...Which I'll probably do today as well.
What a strange, silly year it's been for the Oscars--and that's mostly reflected by this year's crop of strange, silly nominees. Sure, there are dull moments, poor choices, and default votes, but there's also a guy in a bright red suit playing a flamethrower guitar, so we take what we get. And what we got was actually pretty good, at least by Academy standards. So let's see what exactly it is we got!

Note: I'll put an asterisk next to the nominees I predicted, so you can see how I did.

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

My biggest mistake in predicting was assuming Carol would out-perform Mad Max--shame that only one of them could do well, but the Academy only has room for one super off-brand fantastic movie in their lineup. Still, I thought Carol would be more the Academy's type--and it certainly is, but they decided to date outside their social circle this year and go crazy for the wacky road movie. Interestingly, I don't hate anything in this lineup, which hasn't happened since 2008, I think. I mean, I don't *love* The Revenant or The Big Short, but I don't hate them as much as I think I'm meant to, so there's that. Fun fact: Toy Story 3 is the only sequel other than Mad Max has been nominated for best picture when the original film wasn't nominated.
Early Winner Prediction: Spotlight

Lenny Abrahamson-Room
Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu-The Revenant*
Tom McCarthy-Spotlight*
Adam McKay-The Big Short*
George Miller-Mad Max: Fury Road

And yet strangely I'm less enthused about this category than picture. I hate that Abrahamson got in over Todd Haynes/Carol, or pretty much anyone, really, but oh well. And I get what Innaritu and McKay are doing, but that doesn't mean I have to love it. Who wins this category is anyone's guess, though. Both Spotlight and The Big Short seem like best picture winners destined to force a picture/director split, but will they give Innaritu another Oscar after he won last year, or would they really give Mad Max and all its glorious insanity a major Oscar? No idea.
Early Winner Prediction: Tom McCarthy-Spotlight (but I'm not confident at all)

Bryan Cranston-Trumbo*
Matt Damon-The Martian*
Leonardo Dicaprio-The Revenant*
Michael Fassbender-Steve Jobs*
Eddie Redmayne-The Danish Girl

Ugh, this category. Two performances I like (Damon and Fassbender), two that are....ok (Cranston and Dicaprio), and one I think is actively awful (Academy Award Winner Eddie Redmayne, ladies and gentlemen!). Maybe the ugliest category of the morning (although supporting actor gives it a run for its money).
Early Winner Prediction: Leonardo Dicaprio-The Revenant

Cate Blanchett-Carol*
Brie Larson-Room*
Jennifer Lawrence-Joy
Charlotte Rampling-45 Years*
Saoirse Ronan-Brooklyn*

This category, on the other hand, is probably the best; although you couldn't swing a dead cat this year without hitting a fantastic lead female performance. Seriously, I have 21 women in my 'best of the year' list and I have no idea how to narrow it down. With this nomination, Jennifer Lawrence becomes the youngest person to ever get 4 nominations at 25. Previous record was Jennifer Jones at 27. Being named Jennifer helps, I guess.
Early Winner Prediction: Brie Larson-Room

Supporting Actor
Christian Bale-The Big Short*
Tom Hardy-The Revenant
Sylvester Stallone-Creed*
Mark Ruffalo-Spotlight*
Mark Rylance-Bridge of Spies*

I've thought it over, and best actor is definitely worse than this one. It's got two good performances (Rylance and Stallone, shockingly), two that are fine, if not really my thing (Ruffalo and Hardy), and one that is a slow creeping nightmare showcase of overdoing it (bet you can't guess who). Originally, I was surprised to see Tom Hardy here, but given The Revenant's gargantuan haul on Oscar morning, it ought to have been expected. At any rate, I'm glad for Tom Hardy, my favorite violent hulking muppet of a man. We'll pretend this was for Bronson or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or Locke and call it good.
Early Winner Prediction: Sylvester Stallone-Creed

Supporting Actress
Jennifer Jason Leigh-The Hateful Eight*
Rooney Mara-Carol*
Rachel McAdams-Spotlight*
Alicia Vikander-The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet-Steve Jobs*

What a weird little category. Category fraud wins the day, as Mara and Vikander both get in as 'supporting' even though they're both arguably the protagonists of their films. Jennifer Jason Leigh shows up for getting hit in the face for three hours, and McAdams wins the Riley Finn "I Got Here Early, So I Get to Be Cowboy Guy" award for excellence in participation (that was a Buffy joke, by the way) (also her performance is fine but she's clearly here for being the only woman in the best picture frontrunner). Really, the fact that Spotlight managed to nab both its possible acting nominations might put to bed my suspicion that it wouldn't win best picture.
Early Winner Prediction: Rooney Mara-Carol

Original Screenplay
Bridge of Spies*
Ex Machina*
Inside Out*
Straight Outta Compton

So that happened. Perplexed but delighted to see The Hateful Eight not nominated (we don't need to encourage all of Tarantino's worst habits), and glad Inside Out made it in somewhere. But this is pretty obviously Spotlight's Oscar.
Early Winner Prediction: Spotlight

Adapted Screenplay
The Big Short*
The Martian*

What a delightful category, give or take The Big Short. Spoiler alert: if Steve Jobs had made it instead, this category would line up 5/5 with my own Adapted Screenplay category as it stands. Although I've still got a ton of movies to see, so I'm not sure the way it stands now is the way it'll stand in a month.
Early Winner Prediction: The Big Short

Production Design
Bridge of Spies*
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road*
The Martian
The Revenant

That was odd. Throwing in Mad Max at the last second was a good idea, but I took out The Danish Girl, so it's a wash. Strange to see The Martian get in here, even though it clearly wasn't loved to the extent we thought it might be (no best director nomination). And The Revenant?! In case you're not clear, 'production design' is for sets. And there is literally one scene in that entire damn movie that takes place inside. And yes, it was a very lovely little fort they built, but I'm not sure it makes sense to give that one little fort an Oscar nomination. Unless the Academy thinks that they built the Canadian Rockies for this movie? Which, spoiler alter, no, they didn't, so stop this silliness.
Early Winner Prediction: Bridge of Spies

Costume Design
The Danish Girl*
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

This is probably a Sandy Powell vs. Sandy Powell showdown (she did costumes for both Carol and Cinderella), as well it should be, given her two films are the best in this category. Surprised (in a good way) to see Mad Max here--to paraphrase my sister, "but they were wearing bedsheets!" And there's obviously more to the design than that, but it could have gotten missed. Surprised (in a bad way) to see The Revenant here, which was very much their 'I don't know, I didn't see that many movies, toss that one in' movie of the morning.
Early Winner Prediction: Carol

Visual Effects
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road*
The Martian*
The Revenant*
Star Wars: The Force Awakens*

Great to see Ex Machina here--I don't love the movie, but little indie movies with effects that support but don't dominate the film are all too rare here. And I'm totally lost for what wins this one. A best picture-nominated movie hasn't lost this category if nominated since the 60s, but there are three best picture nominees here, plus one movie that looks tailor-made to break that rule. Crazy.
Early Winner Prediction: The Martian (I guess)

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

This went down pretty much as expected, and will now be a deathmatch between Mad Max and The Revenant. Which is pretty much the narrative of all the craft categories, actually.
Early Winner Prediction: Mad Max: Fury Road

Film Editing
The Big Short*
Mad Max: Fury Road*
The Revenant*
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Martian missing out here for that *other* space movie was certainly a surprise. Of all its various crafts, I'm not sure editing is where I'd single Star Wars out, but oh well. The Spotlight/Big Short/Revenant best picture bonanza will probably give Mad Max the gap it needs to squeeze through and win the award it deserves.
Early Winner Prediction: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road*
The Revenant*

I hate, hate, hate that The Hateful Eight got in here. Really? Blarg. Were it not for that one, this would be an all-time great category. The other four movies are diverse, fantastic nominees in this category, and the Oscar going to any of them would be well-merited.
Early Winner Prediction: The Revenant

Original Score
Bridge of Spies*
The Hateful Eight*
Star Wars: The Force Awakens*

Sicario getting in here is arguably my favorite nomination of the day--it's so deserving, but it's also very much not the kind of music that the Academy loves. Really, this category is awfully robust, considering it's normally the one that makes my skin crawl. I can't see anything beating Ennio Morricone to his first competitive Oscar for this one.
Early Winner Prediction: The Hateful Eight

Sound Mixing
Bridge of Spies*
Mad Max: Fury Road*
The Martian*
The Revenant*
Star Wars: The Force Awakens*

This one's a four-way race, and any of them could win (sorry, Bridge of Spies). I'm glad I went with my Spies hunch--once I saw it in October, I figured it would show in this category, but I convinced myself otherwise right down to the wire. And yet here it is! Aren't I clever.
Early Winner Prediction: The Revenant (but I really have no idea)

Sound Editing
Mad Max: Fury Road*
The Martian*
The Revenant*
Star Wars: The Force Awakens*

Another four-way race whose outcome is terribly unclear. For those counting at home, that's 3 categories in a row I've nailed 5/5 in predicting. And normally it's the sound categories that really throw me under the bus.
Early Winner Prediction: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (see above, re: no idea)

Original Song
"Earned It"-Fifty Shades of Grey
"Til It Happens to You"-The Hunting Ground*
"Manta Ray"-Racing Extinction
"Writing's On the Wall"-Spectre
"Simple Song #3"-Youth*

Seriously. This category. I don't have words. Two actual songs (Hunting Ground, Academy Award nominee 50 Shades), one nominee from a movie that no one had thought of before and will never think of again (Racing Extinction - but seriously, how many of you remember Oscar-nominated classics like Chasing Ice, Paris 36, and Alone Yet Not Alone? This category is bizarre), one bit of screamy caterwauling over some drone-y violins (hi Youth!), and the sounds of ugly, ugly nightmares lovingly transcribed by an asylum full of Sam Smith's victims, so he can punish us and drink our sweet, sweet tears (I really, really hate that Spectre song). Fun tidbit: this is allegedly the first time in Academy history that all of these songs are the only nomination that their films could manage. So that makes predicting this one an exercise in futility. If it's Spectre I'll probably jump off a bridge.
Early Winner Prediction: "Til It Happens To You"-The Hunting Ground

Animated Film
Boy and the World*
Inside Out*
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie was There*

What an awesome, refreshing change after the Original Song catastrophe. Interesting to note that Inside Out is the only mainstream American movie to make it, shutting out movies like The Good Dinosaur, Minions, and The Peanuts Movie. And all's well, I say, because it made room for a little indie movie from one of our wackiest writers (Charlie Kaufman/Anomalisa), an international claymation romp (Shaun the Sheep), and two other foreign contenders: Studio Ghibli's lovely last film and a wordless Brazilian movie (Marnie and Boy, respectively). Really a fantastic category.
Early Winner Prediction: Inside Out

Foreign Language Film
Embrace of the Serpent-Colombia*
Son of Saul-Hungary*
A War-Denmark

Sadly, I haven't seen any of these, but from what I hear this is a stellar lineup. I'd love to see any/all of these, but we're not allowed to see movies with subtitles in the middle of the country.
Early Winner Prediction: Son of Saul-Hungary

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

So my hunch that Amy would get snubbed didn't work out. I'm still going to go with my hunch and say it won't win despite being the overwhelming favorite. Glad to see The Look of Silence made it--I haven't seen it yet (it's sitting next to my TV), but if it's anything like the director's last film The Act of Killing it's probably the worthies nominee here.
Early Winner Prediction: Cartel Land

Note: of the main nominees (i.e. not foreign, animated, or documentary, since too many of those never come to where I live or get DVD/Netflix releases), I haven't seen 45 Years, Straight Outta Compton, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, The Hunting Ground, Youth, or Racing Extinction. Compton, 100-Year-Old..., and The Hunting Ground just jumped to the top of my Netflix queue, and Racing Extinction can be rented on Amazon, but the others? I've got hope that 45 Years and Youth will come to theaters near me before the Oscars, but who knows, and The Hunting Ground might just evade me entirely. So, sadly, it looks a little far-fetched to think I'll see all the nominees before the night, but who knows?

As far as predicting goes, I did relatively well: I completely nailed Makeup, Original Score, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing, and I only *really* messed up Production Design and Original Song.

For those counting at home, here's a list of the most nominated films:
1. The Revenant-12
2. Mad Max: Fury Road-10
3. The Martian-7
4. Spotlight-6
5. Bridge of Spies-6
6. Carol-6
7. The Big Short-5
8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens-5
9. Room-4
10. The Danish Girl-4

Interesting to note that of these movies, three are big budget action/sci-fi films, two are big studio dramas, two are indie LGBT films, and one is a studio comedy. Definitely not the Academy's usual fare. Which is exciting! And kind of refreshing. In summation: a whole lot of wackiness. What do you think? Is this a good kind of wackiness, or do you find these nominations a little exhausting?

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