This column was a yearly feature on my old site, so it brings me great pleasure to showcase my prediction skills (or lack thereof) here on The Geek Infusion.
This will be my seventh year predicting the Oscars. I’ve averaged just under 75 per cent or so in past years (i.e. I generally get 18 or 19 out of 24 correct).
Join me, as I quest to beat my average!
Best Picture: Here we’re looking at Spotlight, The Big Short, or The Revenant as the most likely candidates
I’m going to let the cat out of the bag now and say I’m picking Alejandro Iñárritu as best director. And in the past, the film that won best director also won best picture 63 out of 87 times. Not a guarantee, but certainly a strong indicator.
But hold on. There’s a statistical anomaly here. The Revenant is not nominated for a best screenplay award. Only seven best picture winners in Oscar history have won best picture without a screenplay nomination. The last one was Titanic in 1997, and before that, you’d have to go back to The Sound Of Music in 1965.
Of course, the counter to all this is that, outside of the screenplay awards, nobody is expecting either Spotlight or The Big Short to win much of anything. Whereas The Revenant is considered a frontrunner in multiple technical categories.
I’ve gone back and forth several times over the course of writing these last few paragraphs, but ultimately I think I’ll go with Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro Iñárritu, Mary Parent and Keith Redmon for The Revenant.
Best Actor: There’s a meme going around about how Leonardo DiCaprio will never win an Oscar, but the odds are very, very strongly in his favour this year. So far, he’s won the Critics’ Choice Award, the Golden Globe, The SAG Award, and the BAFTA. Looking back over the last 20 years, only two people have won the Oscar without winning at least one of those other major awards first in the same year. Denzel Washington won in 2002 after Russell Crowe had swept the precursor awards (although it’s worth noting that Crowe had just won a best actor Oscar the year before), and the following year Adrien Brody beat out Daniel Day-Lewis in the same situation.
I could throw in a lot of “what-ifs” here, but just going by the numbers I find it extraordinarily unlikely that someone other than DiCaprio will win here. If you had to pick someone as the spoiler, I’d say Matt Damon for The Martian. I certainly liked that movie a lot better than The Revenant.
But no, the winner will be Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant.
Best Actress: Here, the presumptive favourite is Brie Larson, largely for the same reason DiCaprio is favoured to win best actor. She’s swept the precursor awards, so while there’s always the chance for an upset, I don’t know where it would come from. Cate Blanchett certainly got a lot of praise for her work in Carol, but she already has two Oscars. Jennifer Lawrence is another recent winner. That leaves Saoirse Ronan and Charlotte Rampling, who both seem like huge long shots.
Keep it simple and tick Brie Larson for Room on your Oscar ballot.
Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone and Mark Rylance have the most momentum going in, having won the majority of the precursor awards (Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice for Stallone, BAFTA for Rylance).
On the one hand, I find it troubling the only recognition being given to Creed – a movie featuring many excellent actors of colour – is for Stallone’s performance. On the other hand, Stallone’s story still carries a really cool underdog mythology. It’s been almost 40 years since he burst onto the scene as Rocky and earned himself his first two (and until this year, only two) Oscar nominations. Now, all these years later, he’s getting another day in the sun. That’s pretty neat.
So in short, shame on you, Academy, for not recognizing the contributions of Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, and too many others to list. But kudos to you, Sylvester Stallone, for a long overdue Oscar win.
Best Supporting Actress: On paper this one is a 50-50 between Kate Winslet (who won the BAFTA and Golden Globe) and Alicia Vikander (who won the Critics’ Choice and the SAG award).
The conventional wisdom I’ve seen repeated a bunch is that “Hollywood loves an ingenue,” which goes hand-in-hand with another frequently stated truism, “Hollywood is ageist.” I think this is true in the overall sense. I mean, how often do you see actors in their forties and fifties and up paired with actresses ten or twenty or more years younger? Happens all the time.
But as it relates to awards, things are a bit more spread out. In Oscars history, 36 of 79 best supporting actress winners were over 40 at the time they won. So that’s darn close to half.
This doesn’t really get me closer to an answer about who’s going to win, I’m just pointing out Alicia Vikander isn’t a shoo-in because she’s in her twenties.
I’m at a bit of a disadvantage here, because I haven’t seen The Danish Girl yet. And to make matters more confusing, I saw and greatly enjoyed all the other performances nominated in this category. Winslet, McAdams, Mara, and Leigh… All excellent.
All I really know about Vikander is she was super good in Ex Machina, which also came out this year. So I’m going to trust the pundits, and trust that her work in The Danish Girl was of similar quality. Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl.
Best Director: Alejandro Iñárritu seems poised to become the first person to win back-to-back best director Oscars since Joseph Mankiewicz did it in 1949 (for A Letter To Three Wives) and 1950 (for All About Eve). The only other director to accomplish this feat was John Ford in 1940 (for The Grapes Of Wrath) and 1941 (for How Green Was My Valley).
This kinda makes me super bummed.
I’ll be the first one to praise Iñárritu’s technical prowess – both Birdman and The Revenant are cinematic marvels. And given the Academy’s struggles to make their membership diverse, it’s pretty great to see a dude from Mexico getting recognized for his talents.
But the thing is, his movies don’t really do anything for me. I can appreciate the look of them, the craftsmanship. But on an emotional level, I walked away from both of his last two films going, “Ehhh….”
In some fantastic alternate universe, George Miller wins this award for Mad Max: Fury Road. I mean, it is possible. He picked up the Critics’ Choice award earlier this year, which is the same award Steven Soderbergh won in 2001 when he beat out the heavily-favoured Ang Lee on Oscar night. Nothing would delight me more.
That said… Ugh… Alejandro Iñárritu for The Revenant.
Best Original Screenplay: Pretty much everyone says Spotlight, and as a journalism grad I was certainly a sucker for its charms. It would be awesome to see Ex Machina get some recognition, but it’s just not in the cards. Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer for Spotlight.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Another no-brainer. This ones going to The Big Short. Personally, I think Drew Goddard deserves a lot of credit for adapting The Martian. He kept in a lot of science from Andy Weir’s book, but changed things up enough to keep the story moving. But I’ll take Adam McKay and Charles Randolph for The Big Short.
Best Cinematography: Chivo! Chivo! Chivo! It would be pretty darn surprising if Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki didn’t pick up another Oscar here, his record-breaking third in a row. So much was made of the approach he used for The Revenant, especially his use of natural lighting. To me, it gave things a bit of a dull appearance. Especially when compared to something like Mad Max: Fury Road, which featured eye-popping visuals from John Seale.
Really, you could make the argument that any of these movies deserves to win. Robert Richardson’s 70 mm photography for The Hateful Eight is a thing of beauty. Edward Lachman brought a lush warmth to his visuals for Carol. And then there’s Roger Deakins, who spent another year putting out consistently excellent work (this time he’s nominated for Sicario) and will once again get no recognition from the Academy. Some day his name will be called, but today is not that day.
Emmanuel Lubezki for The Revenant.
Best Editing: This one seems to come down to either The Big Short or Mad Max: Fury Road. The former is noted for its somewhat flashy approach to what could’ve been a dry subject, while the latter is a complex action movie in which a reported 470 hours of location footage were whittled down into the compact two-hour movie you saw in the theatre.
I’m going to go with Margaret Sixel for Mad Max: Fury Road.
Best Production Design: Ditto, this one’s going to Colin Gibson, Katie Sharrock, and Lisa Thompson for Mad Max: Fury Road.
Best Costume Design: Sandy Powell is a double nominee for Carol and Cinderella, with the other frontrunner being Jenny Beavan for Mad Max: Fury Road. Conventional wisdom says period pieces have the edge, and the more lavish the movie, the better. So on that basis, I say Sandy Powell for Cinderella.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Everyone seems to agree that Mad Max: Fury Road has the edge here, and I’m not going to argue. Lesley Vanderwalt, Damian Martin, and Elka Wardega for Mad Max: Fury Road.
Best Original Score: It’s a little surprising to learn Carter Burwell is getting his first Oscar nomination this year. He’s written a lot of great scores for a lot of great movies, especially those he worked on with the Coens. Unfortunately for him, the consensus pick here is Ennio Morricone. This legend has never won an Oscar in five previous nominations, but did receive an honorary award in 2007. Morricone is 87 now, so it feels like he might not get that many more kicks at the can.
If I’m being totally honest, I didn’t feel like The Hateful Eight was among Morricone’s best work. But, when you’re as good as he is, your best isn’t always required to win. Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight.
Best Original Song: First off, I’ve never heard a single one of these. A far cry from past years when you couldn’t turn around without hearing “Let It Go” or “Skyfall”. So again, we go with the consensus pick: Lady Gaga and Diane Warren for “Til It Happens To You”.
Best Sound Mixing: The sound categories are still poorly-understood by much of the moviegoing public, so they’re always a little tricky to pin down. The contenders are Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant, but who wins what exactly is still up in the air. I’m going to take a stab and say Chris Duesterdiek, Frank A. Montaño, Jon Taylor, and Randy Thom for The Revenant.
Best Sound Editing: And for editing we’ll go with Mark Mangini and David White for Mad Max: Fury Road. Sure, that’ll do…
Best Visual Effects: Chalk up another for Mad Max: Fury Road here. Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver and Andy Williams, for Mad Max: Fury Road.
Best Animated Feature Film: It would be pretty surprising if Inside Out didn’t win this one. Anomalisa is great and all, but come on guys, Pixar hasn’t won this award for like a whole two years! Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera for Inside Out.
Best Foreign Language Film: Son Of Saul is a strong favourite here. Mustang has an outside chance, but it’s the Oscars. Holocaust dramas were made for this. Pick Hungary’s László Nemes for Son Of Saul.
Best Documentary, Features: This one looks likely to go to Amy. I could second guess it, but I think I’ll just go with my first instinct here. Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees for Amy.
Best Documentary, Short Subjects: The contenders here are Body Team 12, about the Ebola epidemic, or Claude Lanzmann: Spectres Of The Shoah. I’ll go with the latter, because lol Jews run Hollywood lol. Adam Benzine for Claude Lanzmann: Spectres Of The Shoah.
Best Short Film, Animated: Impossible to say. Sanjay’s Super Team played in front of The Good Dinosaur, so it’s gotta be the most widely seen. But then Don Hertzfeld (who was previously nominated for this slice of genius) is also in the running for World Of Tomorrow. And Bear Story also seems to be on a lot of people’s minds.
Not so coincidentally, these are also the three shorts I’ve seen. Of the three, I dug Sanjay’s Super Team the most. So yeah, we’re just gonna go with that. Sanjay Patel and Nicole Grindle for Sanjay’s Super Team.
Best Short Film, Live Action: Alright, last one. Here I’m reaching into my hat and picking… Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage for Stutterer.
There we have it, folks. Enjoy the show, and enjoy the relentless Twitter cynicism and snark even more!