The Oscar goes to… My 2016 predictions

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For the first time in a while, I’m behind on many categories with quite a few films yet to see. My ballot is cast, but there were lots of uninformed guesses. But as we all know, you don’t have to see the films to predict the Oscar® winners, you just have to read a lot of press about them. But it’s more fun to watch the films, and then cast your ballot.

Many good films floated around in 2015. From my best picks for 2015, my favorite film of the year was Ex Machina, and at least it’s represented among the nominations for Original Screenplay and Visual Effects. Much to my surprise, the 12 nominations were a landslide for The Revenant, which I liked very much but never expected it to nab so many noms.

Again in 2015, I would have spread the love around more than that of the Academy to more indie and quirkish films, but box office take, studio releases and sentimentality generally rule the Oscars. See the breakout nomination totals by film with The Revenant leading the pack.

The year in film 2015

> It was a fairly good year for women in leading / supporting roles, directing / screenwriting and at the box office. Of the eight films nominated for best picture, women are well represented in four of them. Add in roles in Carol, 45 Years, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Spy and even Star Wars: The Force Awakens with Rey as the lead, and we may have made some inroads.

> In terms of gains in diversity for women and minorities within the film industry, the stats say otherwise.

> In the acting categories, the the Brits, Aussies and Irish figure prominently (Eddie Redmayne, winner in 2014, Cate Blanchett, Charlotte Rampling, Mark Rylance, Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Michael Fassbender) Treading the boards may be the the leg up to Oscar.

> What is it with these random number of nominated best films? Pick 5 or 10 and match the directing category with them, otherwise these two categories are bizarre.

> On the Indie scene, I’m happy to see Spotlight, Room and Anomalisa represented. The End of the Tour, Slow West and Mistress America were some of 2015’s indie standouts.

The un-nominated and the favorites

> Snubs included Ridley Scott’s direction of The Martian. Idris Elba for supporting actor in Beasts of No Nation is a big one. Straight Outta Compton’s omission in the best picture mix is another, as is my fav, the aforementioned Ex Machina. No mention of Aaron Sorkin’s adapted screenplay for Steve Jobs. Emily Blunt killed it in Sicario. Same for Charlize Theron as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. I would have included them as Best Actresses.

> Surprises included Jennifer Lawrence for Joy – it’s that halo effect. Creed’s Sylvester Stallone – sentimentality and the Phoenix effect. I’ve been a huge fan of Tom Hardy for ages but his best supporting actor nomination for The Revenant seems odd. It’s as though the Academy is finally recognizing him – many extraordinary performances too late. (Where were they for Hardy’s Locke or The Drop?)

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The predictions

Based on the nominations, my thoughts on who will take home Oscar begin here. I’ve also thrown in my picks for who should take home the gold – nominated or not.

Best Picture comes down to a three-way race: Spotlight, The Big Short or The Revenant. Spotlight ticks all the boxes to be the Best Picture winner, and won the SAG award for the best cast. Contemporary news story, great performances, strong script. “Important.” It’s a safe choice – catnip for the Academy. The Big Short ticks some of the same boxes and won the Producers Guild Award. It may have had the edge a month ago, but The Revenant, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s vision and with a cast led by DiCaprio, has come on as a strong favorite. And won the BAFTA. As of now, I’m torn. Thinking The Revenant will finds its way to Oscar. My pick of the eight: Spotlight.

All of  the Best Director nominees did terrific work on their films and are deserving of the win. Alejandro G. Iñárritu will win in back-to-back years, as he did with the Directors Guild Award. George Miller may be the spoiler.

For the Best Actor race, I think we all know that this is Leonardo DiCaprio’s year. While I have loved many of Leo’s performances (The Departed and Django Unchained), this one is not as rich as those. Damon, Fassbender and Cranston were all on their game. Redmayne has done terrific work in his young career, but this wasn’t one of my favorite performances. I’m happy to see DiCaprio finally get the gong, but if we’re talking best of the nominated performances in 2015, I would give the award to Fassbender.

In the strong Best Actress category, it looks as though Brie Larson has crossed from Indie princess to bona fide Hollywood queen with her strong performance in Room. Cate Blanchett – I feel as though I’ve seen her do this role before. Saoirse Ronan was terrific in Brooklyn, but Oscar’s not going home with her. Charlotte Rampling’s turn in 45 Years was superb, I would give her the award – never gonna happen. Congrats Brie.

For the Best Supporting Actor category, I haven’t seen Creed, but Sylvester Stallone’s comeback role will be the one to beat. Hollywood loves a good 30+ year-comeback, especially from the same character in an Oscar-winning film. Great work from Bale and Ruffalo, but I would hand Oscar to Mark Rylance for his subtle, witty performance as the spy in Bridge of Spies.

Best Supporting Actress is trickier, I’m thinking Kate Winslet since she’s picked up quite a few awards for her role in Steve Jobs or Rooney Mara (really a lead performance) since Carol has been snubbed for a Best Picture nomination. I haven’t seen Jennifer Jason Leigh’s performance in The Hateful Eight at this writing. My vote would go to Alicia Vikander for her terrific performances in The Danish Girl (a lead performance as well) and Ex Machina. This a tough pick too, and may be the most interesting category of the night…Alicia Vikander for the win.

For Best Foreign Language Film, I’m hoping to see all of them. It seems as though Son of Saul is a lock.

In the Best Documentary Feature race, I’ve only seen Amy – a very good doc. Since it won the Producers Guild Award, it may be the one.

This year’s telecast will be very interesting given the boycott from many black actors, and with Chris Rock hosting. I’m hoping that Rock will make his point wisely, and won’t turn the night into an us vs. them scenario. The voting Academy should be more representative of both the talent and audiences in 2016. But I think the weight falls on the studios, and anyone who greenlights and finances films. If a film can’t get made, it can’t be in the mix.

As always, I’d be happy to be wrong and to be surprised in all the categories. To play along on sunday / 28 february 2016, cast your ballot online with The New York Times, or the LA Times, or download a paper copy here.

May the force be with your predictions.

Photos: Alejandro G. Iñárritu by Jason Bell; Leonardo DiCaprio, still from The Revenant; Brie Larson, still from Room; Sylvester Stallone in Creed from Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, and MGM; Alicia Vikander, still from The Danish Girl / © The Weinstein Company; Ridley Scott, Director of The Martian © 20th Century Fox; Idris Elba, still from Beast of No Nation, A Netflix Original; Emily Blunt, still from Sicario © Lionsgate

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