It’s that time of year again and, with two weeks left to go until Oscar night, I’ve put together my predictions for the main categories. Even though I am completely obsessed with award shows, I’ve always been kind of aware of how out of touch they can be. The failure on the Academy’s part to show any diversity in their nominees for the second year in a row despite the number of worthy contenders (Michael B. Jordan, Idris Elba, Jason Mitchell, Benicio del Toro, Ryan Coogler, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Samuel L. Jackson, etc) is pretty weak of them. While I’m not in favour of having political correctness play a role in determining the nominations, the simple truth is there are some (just a few) nominees this year who simply aren’t as deserving as the names I’ve provided. With that said there are some great films and great performances this year that absolutely deserve the recognition they’ve received. Putting together these predictions is always a lot of fun and hopefully I can do better than I did last year.
This was a tough one to call. Even though my head tells to me to go with the most nominated film, I’m just not convinced by The Revenant as a Best Picture winner. I haven’t predicted it to win Best Director and it wasn’t even nominated for its screenplay. The last time a film won without a win in either category was Chicago in 2002. On that basis my choice was narrowed down to Mad Max: Fury Road, Spotlight and The Big Short. In the end I decided to go for Spotlight because it just seems like it could be this year’s Argo. It isn’t the most creative or innovative film to be made this year nor is it necessarily the most deserving. It’s simply the film that seems to have the most support. The Critics’ Choice Awards certainly helps as does its SAG win for Best Ensemble. Every Academy member may vote in this category so the support of the actors could go a long way.
Runner Up: To be on the safe side I’m going to predict The Revenant just in case voters do decide to pick the film with the most nominations. The film’s Golden Globe and DGA victories definitely help and the Academy certainly proved last year that they are fans of Alejandro G. Iñárritu.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Because in The Revenant DiCaprio delivers a fully-committed physically demanding performance to stunning effect. Because this is his fifth acting nomination without a win. Because he’s won every major award so far. Because he’s bled for it. Because the internet will explode if he wins. Because dammit, he’s earned it.
Runner Up: Michael Fassbender is unstoppable in Steve Jobs. He single-handedly carries the film all the way through and commands the audience’s complete attention. He is loud, energetic, charismatic and larger than life. Steve Jobs is packed with great performances and yet Fassbender still stands out above them all. No other nominee completely dominates their film the way Fassbender does.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Brie Larson delivers a breathtaking performance as a prisoner whose only source of comfort and enjoyment is her son, a boy who has never known a world beyond the room they live in. Larson is excellent at both conveying the touching bond that she and her son share and the despair she feels from being held against her will and cut off from the rest of the world. This performance has already won her accolades across the board, including a Golden Globe and SAG, and so Larson is in the best position out of all the nominees for an Oscar victory. A well-deserved one.
Runner Up: In Carol Cate Blanchett delivers a sublime performance. There is nothing quite like watching a great actor at the peak of their abilities and this performance is one of Blanchett’s finest.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
When Stallone won the Golden Globe in this category he was met with a standing ovation. Not only is Rocky Balboa the character that made Stallone’s name, he’s also the most iconic and beloved character he has ever played. Watching him return to the role was like watching a returning champion. He plays the role so naturally and organically that it hardly seems like he’s even acting. I never thought I would ever say this but Sylvester Stallone truly does deserve to win this Oscar.
Runner Up: I really cannot imagine the Academy choosing anybody else over Stallone but, if they did, I guess it would probably be Mark Ruffalo. Out of the remaining nominees, his role seems the most geared towards winning an Oscar. He even has an impassioned speech in Spotlight that’ll make for a great clip when they read out the nominees at the ceremony.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Even though she hasn’t won any major awards and isn’t the favourite to win, I’m going to take a risk by predicting Rooney Mara for Carol. Her performance is just too good not to win. It isn’t as showy a performance as Blanchett’s which is probably why voters were able to accept her more easily as a supporting role. In any case the quietness of her performance is a part of what makes it great. There are scenes in which she conveys an entire spectrum of emotions with just her eyes. This is more of a hopeful choice than it is a calculated one but she really does deserve to win.
Runner Up: The most likely actress to win is probably Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl. She gives what is by all means a strong performance worthy of recognition and has a SAG and a Critics’ Choice Award to show for it.
The last time the Academy awarded a director two consecutive awards in this category was Joseph L. Mankiewicz in 1950 and 1951 when he made A Letter to Three Wives and then All About Eve. I’m just not sure about Iñárritu winning this award when he was awarded last year for directing a better film. Instead I’ve opted for George Miller who directed a film unlike any other made this year. Mad Max: Fury Road was the single most intense, thrilling, adrenaline-pumping movie of the year and this is due to Miller’s vision as a director. The action he created was incredible and absorbing while also coherent and creative. No other director created the enthralling visual experience that Miller made with this film.
Runner Up: If the Academy did decide to award Iñárritu a second time, it wouldn’t be unjustified. The Revenant is a technical marvel with a stunningly directed opening scene and a great command of its tone and environment.
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Big Short did the impossible: it made economics interesting, funny and entertaining. More than that it made an important film about an important story in a creative and accessible way. It is an ingeniously written film packed with complex characters, good comedy and clever ideas. The breaks of the fourth wall, the cutaways and the dialogue are all employed to tell a complicated story in the clearest, most entertaining and most informative way possible and succeeds beautifully. This is an easy pick.
Runner Up: Room seems like the go to choice most Academy voters would go for if The Big Short was not nominated. It is a moving story exquisitely told with exceptionally touching dialogue. Jack’s narration contains a child-like innocence that is nothing less than heartbreaking.
Best Original Screenplay
Another easy pick, this is a screenplay that was written to win an Oscar. Like The Big Short, Spotlight tackles an important, controversial and socially-relevant subject. It tells its story with remarkable insight, intellect and sophistication in a thoroughly captivating way. Spotlight is a brilliantly tight story that employs every second at its disposal towards its telling. It is a marvellous film almost entirely by virtue of its writing and should win this award if nothing else.
Runner Up: Sometimes, as was the case with Her, the Academy proves itself responsive towards truly original and innovative ideas which is why Ex Machina might have a slight edge in this race. Ex Machina was one of the cleverest and most compelling films of the year and kept you guessing with every twist and turn, a credit to its screenwriter/director Alex Garland.
Best Animated Feature Film
This was a no-brainer. Pixar is practically invincible in this category to the extent that the Academy chose Brave over the vastly superior Wreck-It Ralph. Inside Out however is a film that absolutely deserves to win. It is an inspired and cleverly written film with incredible characters, stunning animation and outstanding emotional moments that has brought grown men to tears. I’m surprised this film wasn’t nominated for Best Picture because it absolutely deserves to have been.
Runner Up: Anomalisa is a film I’ve yet to see because it isn’t going to be widely released in the UK until March (although I have booked a ticket to see it at the Glasgow Film Festival at the end of this month). Based on its reception so far it seems that this film could very well challenge Inside Out for the top spot. I would’ve expected nothing less from Charlie Kaufman.
Best Foreign Language Film
Again, I cannot speak for this film because it has yet to be widely released in the UK. It is however unquestionably the foreign language film to have generated the most buzz. As well as winning the Golden Globe and the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, Son of Saul also depicts a challenging story set within the Holocaust, a subject that has often captured and moved Academy voters. This isn’t a category where surprises often happen so whatever film seems like the surest choice is usually a safe bet.
Runner Up: Mustang seems to me like the most likely challenger. It contains what seems like a challenging story, it was nominated for a Golden Globe and it was submitted by France, a country whose number of victories in this category is second only to Italy.
Best Documentary Feature
Depicting the untold story of a beloved singer who died tragically young, Amy provides a moving and sorrowful portrait of the woman behind the icon. Although the film has inspired negative criticism from Amy’s own family, the overall reception has been overwhelmingly positive. As well as winning the Critics’ Choice Award and a wealth of other documentary awards, it is also the single most successful British documentary of all time. Its victory would be well deserved indeed.
Runner Up: Made by the Oscar winning director of The Act of Killing (a marvellous film), The Look of Silence depicts a similarly dark and provocative subject about the survivors of the Indonesian genocide confronting its perpetrators. This is a film that could easily shock and mesmerise Academy voters the same way that The Act of Killing did.
The Oscars is two weeks away and I look forward to watching it and seeing how I do. I’ll also be watching the Baftas tonight, a show that could very well change my perception for some of these choices. Nevertheless, in the words of an Oscar winning song, “que sera, sera”.