Industry News: 2016 Oscar Predictions

imageOscar weekend has arrived, and starting tomorrow I’ll be reporting live from Hollywood thanks to Dolby Laboratories, who is sending me on my first official press junket and Academy Awards experience. I look forward to sharing technology, stars and events here on the blog and will Tweet from my handle @StephenATL.

This is the biggest weekend for the movies all year; and despite the lack of diversity in the nominations, people are expecting to see pomp and pageantry and host Chris Rock to skewer the establishment when televised proceedings begin on ABC Sunday night.

Some of you are likely cramming to see the Best Picture nominees, many of which are on video and on-demand (The Martian, Spotlight, Bridge of Spies, Mad Max: Fury Road) and some that are still in theatres (The Big Short, The Revenant, Brooklyn, Room). Incidentally, Room, The Danish Girl and Youth – one of my favorites – come out Monday, March 1 to view at home.

But the real question everyone’s asking (other than what will Lady Gaga wear?) is who will win the awards? There are many rules when filling out your mock-ballot; and there are always head-scratching surprises, but it’s Friday, so I better commit these to pixels.

Of the movies that are actually nominated, here’s what I believe will win and why — with hyperlinks to my reviews on this blog:

Best Picture

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

Although my sentimental favorite is the true-life journalism crackler Spotlight, my prediction is The Revenant, because the Oscar voters have just discovered it in the past two months, because it is epic and sprawling and because it looks like it was hard to make. The story behind the story – about director Alejandro González Iñárritu and star Leonardo DiCaprio braving the wilderness to make this passion project on the brink of madness – is just what Hollywood loves. The topical message movies that don’t “appear” as “directed” as the outdoor epic will likely split the vote, and then only cult favorite Mad Max: Fury Road could sneak in as a dark horse. All the rest in this category should consider the nomination their reward.

Best Director
Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Adam McKay, The Big Short
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Lenny Abrahamson, Room

After winning last year for Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu will score for a second year in a row for The Revenant. An epic story well-told and a move well-made by a beloved auteur of Hispanic descent stands out among the smaller dramas. Plus, he makes moviemaking look incredibly exciting! Again, veteran director George Miller is a close second!

Best Actor
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Matt Damon, The Martian

Although he got to flex his acting muscles even more in The Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio suffered for his art this year and will get his belated Oscar for The Revenant. There’s not even a strong second, although it’s disappointing the superb Michael B. Jordan in the audience and critical favorite Creed or Will Smith as the real-life doctor in the underappreciated Concussion didn’t make the short list.

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Brie Larson is absolutely the favorite for Room, with no close second, because two of the year’s best actresses are in the supporting category. Brie is great in the role and beloved on the Hollywood scene. Did you know she also played Amy Schumer’s sister in this year’s summer comedy hit Trainwreck?

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

Sylvester Stallone in Creed will narrowly defeat Bale and Hardy for the nifty performances in films released in the past two months. Stallone has one of those classic Hollywood stories, and it’s nice to see him return to his roots and return to form after a multi-decade acting wasteland.

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

This is the biggest wild-card race of the night, but It-Girl Alicia Vikander is the likely winner for The Danish Girl. Her role in the film was actually the female lead plus there are many fans of her work in the sci-fi film Ex Machina, also released this past year. She does a lovely, dare I say fierce job in both. This could also be one of those colossally split votes that somehow lifts the ship of Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs to join her Titanic star in the night’s bounty.  But Vikander has the edge.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Drew Goddard, The Martian
Nick Hornby, Brooklyn
Adam McKay and Charles Randolph, The Big Short
Phyllis Nagy, Carol
Emma Donoghue, Room

Folks were impressed with the topical dark comedy The Big Short and the ability of a comedy writer/director – Adam McKay – to bring such panache to a story about the housing crash. This could be its only win of the night.

Best Original Screenplay
Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, Spotlight
Matt Charman, Joel & Ethan Coen, Bridge of Spies
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Ronnie del Carmen, Inside Out
Alex Garland, Ex Machina
Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus, Andrea Berloff, Straight Outta Compton

Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer developed the true story Spotlight without any source material, which is unusual for a film of this type. It is a great film and will at least be rewarded in this category. This will likely be the consolation prize for what was believed to be the Best Picture front-runner for most of the awards season.

Best Foreign Language Film
Son of Saul (Hungary)
Mustang (France)
A War (Denmark)
Embrace the Serpent (Colombia)
Theeb (Jordan)

Son of Saul is a searing masterpiece that could have easily snuck into the overall Best Picture race.

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

Amy, the documentary about Amy Winehouse captured the most acclaim and buzz this year.

Best Animated Feature
Inside Out
Anomalisa
Shaun of the Sheep
When Marnie Was There
Boy and the World

Inside Out, an expected candidate for Best Picture that didn’t make that cut, seems destined to take the animated glory.

Best Film Editing
Hank Corwin, The Big Short
Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road
Stephen Mirrione, The Revenant
Tom McArdle, Spotlight
Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Mad Max: Fury Road could actually win the most Oscars as the adrenaline-soaked action spectacular of the year. Its editing was fast and, well, furious.

Best Original Song
“Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey
Music and lyrics by Abel Tesfaye, Ahmad Balshe, Jason Daheala Quenneville, and Stephan Moccio
“Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction
Music by J. Ralph and lyrics by Antony Hegarty
“Simple Song #3” from Youth
Music and lyrics by David Lang
“Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground
Music and lyrics by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga
“Writing’s on the Wall” from Spectre
Music and lyrics by Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith

“Til It Happens to You” from a documentary about sexual assault called The Hunting Ground, is the likely winner. It’s chanteuse, Lady Gaga, has become the unlikely celebrant of the awards season.

Best Original Score
Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight
Carter Burwell, Carol
Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sicario
John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies

Score one for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight with veteran composer Ennio Morricone taking home the prize for the writer/director’s peculiar revisionist western. Star Wars: The Force Awakens will get locked out of all categories, with the billions it has made its consolation prize.

Best Cinematography
Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant
Edward Lachman, Carol
Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight
Roger Deakins, Sicario
John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road

For wide open expanses, bear attacks and generally amazing cinematography, Emmanuel Lubezki will win for The Revenant. Plus, he will make history as the first cinematographer to win three years in a row after Gravity and Birdman.

Best Costume Design
Sandy Powell, Carol
Sandy Powell, Cinderella
Paco Delgado, The Danish Girl
Jenny Beavan, Mad Max: Fury Road
Jacqueline West, The Revenant

Despite the beauty of many of the period costumes, it’s Jenny Beavan’s renegade post-apocalyptic couture of Mad Max: Fury Road that’s the stuff of pure imagination.

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

The ruggedness and bear-inflicted wounds of The Revenant are one-upped by the gonzo desert ampitheatre of Mad Max denizens. Prediction here is Mad Max: Fury Road.

Best Production Design
Bridge of Spies, Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo and Bernhard Henrich
The Danish Girl, Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Michael Standish
Mad Max: Fury Road, Production Design: Colin Gibson; Set Decoration: Lisa Thompson
The Martian, Production Design: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Celia Bobak
The Revenant, Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Hamish Purdy

Let’s give another to Mad Max, you know, “because.” I do think the “below-the-line” technical awards will nearly all go to Mad Max or The Revenant, with the slight edge on some to Mad Max since voters know they’re giving Revenant lots of the top prizes.

Sound Editing
Mark Mangini and David White, Mad Max: Fury Road
Oliver Tarney, The Martian
Martin Hernandez and Lon Bender, The Revenant
Alan Robert Murray, Sicario
Matthew Wood and David Acord, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Another for the motorcycles and mayhem of Mad Max!

Sound Mixing
Benjamin A. Burtt, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Ben Osmo, Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff, Mad Max: Fury Road
Mac Ruth, Paul Massey, Mark Taylor, The Martian
Chris Duesterdiek, Frank A. Montaño, Jon Taylor, Randy Thom, The Revenant
Drew Kunin, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, Bridge of Spies

And how Mad Max blended breakneck noises into one of the most singular sonic soundscapes of the year!

Visual Effects
Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett, Ex Machina
Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver and Andy Williams, Mad Max: Fury Road
Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence and Steven Warner, The Martian
Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith and Cameron Waldbauer, The Revenant
Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

We loved the practical sets and stunts of both the Star Wars and Mad Max sequels, but Mad Max gets the edge as the “artier” choice.

Best Short Film, Live Action
Basil Khalil and Eric Dupont, Ave Maria
Henry Hughes, Day One
Jamie Donoughue, Shok
Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage, Stutterer
Patrick Vollrath, Everything Will Be Okay (Alle Wird Gut)

Let’s go with Stutterer.

Best Short Film, Animated
Bear Story
Prologue
Sanjay’s Super Team
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow

Let’s go with Bear Story. Some voters will think this is about The Revenant too.

Best Documentary, Short Subject
Body Team 12, David Darg and Bryn Mooser
Chau, Beyond the Lines, Courtney Marsh and Jerry Franck
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah, Adam Benzine
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
Last Day of Freedom, Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman

Let’s go with Body Team 12 since the subject of the Holocaust is already covered in Best Foreign Language films.

Expect pedigreed delights Carol, Brooklyn, The Martian and Bridge of Spies to go home empty-handed. The earthier epics and modern message pics appear to dominate!

Hope you have a great time catching up on Oscar movies and tune in Sunday night for the ABC telecast. Many of you will likely be watching online and all weekend, so thanks for making my blog part of your ritual!

I've reviewed films for more than 20 years. Current movie reviews of new theatrical releases and direct-to-video or streaming films are added weekly to the Silver Screen Capture movie news site. Many capsule critiques originally appeared in expanded form in my syndicated Lights Camera Reaction column.

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