Oscar Picks 2016

I realize I said this last year. But it really could go a few different ways at the Academy Awards, at least in the best-picture category. That makes things kind of fun — even though I know my pick for the best movie of the year won’t take home the top prize. Still, here are some thoughts on how things could shake out in the top categories Sunday night — and I’d love to hear your predictions, as well.

BEST PICTURE

Nominees: “The Big Short,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Brooklyn,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant,” “Room,” “Spotlight.”

The Big Short Movie Review

Will win: “The Big Short”

Should win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Wild card: “The Revenant”

I have secret dreams of “Mad Max” sweeping the whole night, but it’s not going to happen. I didn’t love “The Big Short.” It’s not even on my top 10 list. But it vividly captures a devastating point in our recent history with equal amounts of humor and outrage, and it gets its arms around a complicated subject — the events that caused the housing crisis of 2008 — in a way that’s both entertaining and informative. It also has the distinction of taking a dense non-fiction book and turning it into a rollicking feature film. I suspect it’ll resonate with a lot of Oscar voters. Then again, all these main contenders could split the top votes and something like “Room” could sneak in and win, which would be amazing. Who knows? (Also I should mention: I love “Spotlight” but I suspect it will for its screenplay and that’s it.)

BEST DIRECTOR

Nominees: Adam McKay, “The Big Short”; George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”; Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “The Revenant”; Lenny Abrahamson, “Room”; Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight.”

Will win: Inarritu

Should win: Miller

Wild card: McKay

Like “The Big Short,” I didn’t love “The Revenant.” It’s a half-hour too long and it’s a return for Inarritu to the kind of dour, self-serious dramas he made before last year’s mesmerizing “Birdman.” It left me cold, if you’ll pardon the pun. But it is an extraordinary technical achievement, and Inarritu’s daring and artistry — as well as his creative connection with the brilliant cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki — are formidable. Plus, he won at the Directors Guild of America awards, which is a pretty great predictor of what will happen in this category.

BEST ACTOR

Nominees: Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo”; Matt Damon, “The Martian”; Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”; Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs”; Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl.”

The Revenant Movie Review

Will win: DiCaprio

Should win: Damon, maybe?

Wild card: No one.

It’s Leo’s year, right? He’s due, as the logic goes. It’s hard to imagine anyone beating him. This is his fifth Academy Award nomination, and it’s for a role that was notoriously arduous. (Are you aware it was cold in Canada when they shot “The Revenant”? It was really cold.) What’s interesting about it is that his performance as the stoic Hugh Glass is so vastly different from the ones he’s made his name on throughout his career: charismatic, fast-talkers like Jack Dawson in “Titanic,” Frank Abagnale in “Catch Me If You Can” and Jordan Belfort in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Here, he grunts. If that. On the campaign trail, though, he’s been saying everything right. It’ll finally be his night.

BEST ACTRESS

Nominees: Cate Blanchett, “Carol”; Brie Larson, “Room’: Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy”; Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years”; Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn.”

Will win: Larson

Should win: Larson or Rampling

Wild card: Ronan

Brie Larson is just devastating in “Room” as a young mother trying to create a rich, fulfilling life for her 5-year-old son within the confines of a 10-by-10-foot garden shed. I’m not shy about describing the way this film wrecked me, and so much of that has to do with the truth in Larson’s performance and the deeply believable bond she forged with the excellent young actor Jacob Tremblay. But she’s been great for a long time now — even though she’s only 26 — in films ranging from “Short Term 12” to “The Spectacular Now” to “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” The rest of the world is finally figuring it out. (Rampling, by the way, is exquisite in “45 Years,” but maybe her nomination alone will get folks to seek out this intimate, insightful film.)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Nominees: Christian Bale, “The Big Short”; Tom Hardy, “The Revenant”; Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”; Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”; Sylvester Stallone, “Creed.”

Will win: Stallone

Should win: Stallone

Wild card: None

Did you watch the Golden Globes? Did you see the outpouring of affection in that room as Sylvester Stallone took the stage to accept the supporting-actor prize for “Creed”? That’s going to happen all over again at the Academy Awards — only it’s going to be even bigger and more heartfelt. Reprising the role that made him a superstar, he brings both swagger and vulnerability to the older and wiser Rocky Balboa. Stallone is the sentimental favorite but he deserves the award, too. He’s really great in “Creed” — he reminds us he really can act — and he helps Michael B. Jordan achieve his own sensational performance which should make him a superstar in his own right (and should have earned him a best-actor nomination).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Nominees: Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”; Rooney Mara, “Carol”; Rachel McAdams, “Spotlight”; Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”; Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs.”

Will win: Vikander

Should win: Vikander

Wild card: Leigh

For a while, I was certain that Jennifer Jason Leigh would win for “The Hateful Eight” — even though it’s a performance I’m not all that fond of — just because in a room full of outlaws and liars, she’s the showiest and ballsiest of them all. And she still might. But increasingly, I’ve come to think Alicia Vikander will win. Maybe I’m just hoping that will happen. But she’s the real heart and soul of “The Danish Girl” (and she was just as good last year in an extremely different role in “Ex Machina”). Vikander has the more complicated and compelling arc, even though Eddie Redmayne is playing a real-life figure who underwent gender reassignment surgery. Plus she’s an exciting star on the rise — and this award often provides sparkling validation of such on Oscar night.

9 Comments on “Oscar Picks 2016

  1.  by  Steve N

    I pretty much agree with all your picks Christy! What amazes me is how Jennifer Jason Leigh isn’t the frontrunner in the supporting actress category? Apart from her being amazing in the movie, I thought the supporting actor categories usually favored actors in villainous roles? Also I actually think the Revenant or Spotlight have a better chance at winning best picture. The Revenant has the momentum and box office while Spotlight has been pretty much universally praised by everyone. I have a feeling The Big Short will only win Adapted Screenplay…

  2.  by  Krishna

    Christy,

    Looks like all the 4 acting categories are locked in based on earlier awards. It is sad that DeCaprio will win the Oscar because he is due for one not because he is great in a movie. It was not a good year for male acting category.

    My heart has been set for Mad Max since my face melted off when i saw it last spring. Best picture and director both should go to Mad Max, though it seems pretty unlikely. The best picture for Revenant will devalue Oscars. I would be ok for best picture for Spotlight if not Mad Max.

    •  by  Clemery

      I’d argue that the Oscars were devalued long before 2016 in that sense!

  3.  by  jozielee

    Brooklyn. Best Picture? WHAT!

    Brooklyn vs. The Revenant or The Big Short or even Mad Max is like comparing a slice of Mom’s Prize Winning Apple Pie with half a glass of lukewarm Minute Maid orange juice. Not even . . .

    Don’t get me wrong. Brooklyn is a sweet, lush, colorful, nostalgic movie. But where’s the guts? Where’s the grit? The reality? Ok, so a smart Irish girl seeks her dream. She goes to America to work in a cubicle. She meets a nice boy, who’s culture is not her own. Where’s the drama of clashing cultures? Where’s the familial disproval? Just when she’s feeling at home in America she zips back to Ireland. Where’d she get the money? Then she knowingly commits a breach of societal mores but we don’t question her moral turpitude? The story is full-blown fantasy. How it competes with reality-based juggernauts like Spotlight, Revenant, Big Short, Room or even Hateful 8 (sorely missing a nomination) totally escapes me.

  4.  by  Clemery

    I pretty much agree with your picks. Mad Max Fury Road proved that they can make ’em like they used to and is my favourite film in over a decade… but it just doesn’t really fit the Best Picture mold. I remain hopeful that Miller may scoop up Best Director, but I do feel that Inarritu will win again, as The Revenant was a relatively impressive technical achievement (MMFR even more so though).
    I don’t value acting as much, but I would expect it’s Leo’s year. I’m surprised you favour Damon, as he would be the nomination I’d question first (for the record, I don’t support the #oscarssowhite campaign). I wouldn’t be upset if Fassbender won… wasn’t the best film, but I was quite fascinated by his portrayal of Steve Jobs.

  5.  by  jozielee

    Still trying to see as many Oscar nominees before Sunday’s award ceremony.

    Today we watched Amy and Straight Out of Compton. Both tackle the struggles of young artists who rise from obscurity thru the aftermath of fame.

    Amy (Winehouse) is up for Documentary (feature); Straight Out of Compton for Writing (original screenplay). Amy is a compilation of home movies, filmstrips, and shared remembrances told by her friends. Compton is a docudrama about the creation of rap group N.W.A..

    The original music in both films was tantalizing. Although I’m not a jazz fan, or a connoisseur of rap, I found myself tapping my toe enjoying the popular songs. Amy’s duet with Tony Bennett almost made me cry watching her wanting to please him by tirelessly perform the songs over and over again. when Bennett works with Lady Gaga he must reflect on Amy and her road to destruction. In Compton Dre’s meeting with Tupak Shakur and Snoop Dog, pure magic. We see those artists at their best, enjoying what their love of music has earned them.

    We also watch the destructive side of fame. The greed of hangers on and opportunists who leeched their young victims unmercifully. Some survived and excelled. Some did not. Perhaps their stories will be cautionary tales for talents who follow.

    The stories had a lot in common. Great companion pieces.

  6.  by  Jozielee

    Spotlight. A well-told story. Clear, concise with few histrionics and no extraneous information. No love story. No victorious, Bible thumping hero. No exploitation of victims. Just a group of professionals doing their job to change a world-wide corrupt institution. Bravo!

    While I applaud the work here I still think The Revenant is the Best Picture of 2016.

  7.  by  jozielee

    Creed. Watched for Sly Stallone’s performance (since he’s nominated for Actor in a Supporting Role). Found the movie a nice reboot of the Rocky franchise. Stallone was good. But two other aspects of the film stood out to me . . .

    Michael B. Jordan. He’s stunning to watch. The scene where he walks up the stairs to the ring . . . the play of light on his magnificent back was Breathtaking. He’s sex. He’s powerful. He’s mesmerizing. After that he’s all I saw on that screen. He’s a good actor. But I felt the script failed him more than his ability to effectively deliver the lines.

    End credits. The stills with text overlays was simply beautiful. Unexpected. Reminded me why I enjoyed the film so much.

    Sylvester Stallone is expected to win the Oscar. I’m happy to see the attention his presence brought to this new branch of the franchise and thrilled to see Stallone’s small Rocky dream continue to flourish. When Mohammed Ali was in his prime there was nothing more thrilling than watching his matches. Creed reminded me of those moments.