As most of you know, my first gig out of college was as a film critic, and since then I keep up with the field. So every year when the Oscar nominations come out I go ahead and make an early guess as to what’s the frontrunner for the statuette that year. It’s 2016, the Oscar nominations are out, let’s stop the filly-faddle and get to it.
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
As a general rule (Argo being a recent and notable exception), you can toss out the Best Picture nominees that don’t have an accompanying Best Director nomination, and this year I would definitely say that means so long to Brooklyn and Bridge of Spies. I’m hesitant to just chuck out The Martian, however. To be clear I think it’s a dark horse, but I’d be interested to see there’s any sort of groundswell of feeling for Ridley Scott. His movies are often nominated for (and even win) Best Picture, but he gets nominated for Best Director rather less so. If there’s a sense this year he needs to be recognized, it’s possible this movie has a chance, as he’s a nominated producer this year. See, again, Argo, and Ben Affleck. But again: Probably a dark horse.
(Note to the Academy: Give Scott an honorary Oscar, already. You can’t say he hasn’t earned it at this point.)
Of the remainder I think The Big Short is probably out first as the comedy (comedies tend not to do well in Oscar races), probably Mad Max next, although it’s my favorite, and then at this point it’s three-way between Spotlight, Room and The Revenant, with the twist being last year’s Best Picture and Best Director win were for Birdman and Alejandro G. Iñárritu, and it would be very unusual for the Academy to award a Best Picture to the same director back-to-back. Not impossible but unusual.
Put a gun to my head and at this moment I would nudge toward Spotlight, because it’s weighty, historical and has a great ensemble cast. But this is one of those times where I think you have to wait to see how things shake out.
My Bet: Spotlight
My Choice: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Big Short, Adam McKay
Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller
The Revenant, Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Room, Lenny Abrahamson
Spotlight, Tom McCarthy
See above. Generally — but not always, and less in recent years — the Director nod is paired with the Picture nod, so depending on how things sort out, Iñárritu, Abrahamson and McCarthy are all in the running. Plus there’s a wrinkle, as I see it: As noted, the Academy is less fussy in recent years about pairing Director and Picture, and I think there’s some high regard for George Miller out there. He’s had a film nominated before as a producer (Babe, if you can believe it), won for an animated film (Happy Feet(!)) and otherwise had a career that’s best described as delightfully eclectic. Even though I think Mad Max is not a likely winner, it’s possible Miller sneaks in, and reasonably so, because Max is a hell of an impressive directorial effort.
Otherwise, you got me. The only one I’m certain is in the “just happy to be here” boat is Adam McKay; otherwise it’s up in the air for now. Right now, my very super mega tenuous nod is to McCarthy, but I’m not putting any money on it. We’ll have to see.
My Bet: McCarthy
My Choice: Miller
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Saorise Ronan’s well-regarded and I see more opportunities in the future for her, but I’m not entirely sure Brooklyn is the right vehicle for Oscar gold. Charlotte Rampling must have been delighted to hear the news and it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility that she’s a winner, but she’s been out of Hollywood in any significant way for a while now. Cate Blanchett is becoming the new Meryl Streep and won very recently. Jennifer Lawrence will take up the Meryl Streep role should Blanchett falter.
Meanwhile there’s been a whole lot of love (not to mention a Golden Globe win) for Larson in Room, and the thought is that the Oscars is hers to lose this year. I’m inclined to agree; there’s also the wrinkle that it’s possible this will be Room’s Oscar, i.e., the one given to the film so the Academy voters feel fine about skipping over it in other categories. Which is good for Spotlight and The Revenant.
My Bet: Larson
My Choice: Larson
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Redmayne won last year and Tom Hanks aside, I suspect the Academy is not keen on back-to-back awards in this category. Fassbender’s problem is his film was a flop. Damon I suspect will have to be happy with a Golden Globe. For my money it’s down to Cranston and DiCaprio, and who will win will depend on whether voters want to rub out the stain of the Blacklist from its history by celebrating by proxy its most famous victim (and, to be sure, Cranston’s fine performance), or give DiCaprio the Al Pacino Memorial Academy Award for Being Nominated a Lot So Fine, Here You Go Already. My money is on DiCaprio — hell, I want him to win myself! — but don’t count Cranston out.
My Bet: DiCaprio
My Choice: DiCaprio
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Alicia Vikander is have a very nice year between The Danish Girl and Ex Machina (let’s quickly slide by The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), and I think the nomination itself is the topping on this particular cake. Likewise a very nice career bump for McAdams, who is moving to more Oscar-friendly roles in her career. Winslet has the same problem to a win that Fassbender has. For my money the race is between Leigh and Mara and which film the Academy decides it wants to honor more. I’d vote for Leigh, personally; I suspect the Academy might go the other way. Which is fine!
Also note: This is the category I historically have the worst luck in guessing, so maybe you should ignore me here.
My Bet: Mara
My Choice: Leigh
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge Of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Look, I’m just going to toss everyone else off the side and say that I will be stunned as fuck if this doesn’t go to Stallone. At this point, it’s the “I Survived Everything And Am Still Around And You Just Have To Honor That” award, and why not. Also, you know. Rocky Balboa. And Creed was otherwise generally stiffed, so this will be a fine tip of the hat to that film.
And yes, we can have the discussion of why only Stallone is nominated in Creed, particularly in a year where there are very few people of color in major award categories (and none in the acting categories) — and should, because damn, Oscar, you really kind of showed your cranky whiteness this year. In this particular case, however, it’s worth nothing that there is literally no path to Creed without Rocky Balboa, and Stallone. While not disagreeing with the general side-eye being given to the Oscars this year at all, I think the Stallone nomination stands on its own merits. He should win this, period.
My Bet: Stallone
My Choice: Stallone
Thoughts in other categories: There’s no way Inside Out doesn’t win Best Animated, and delighted to see it get an Original Screenplay nod as well. On the topic of screenplays, if Spotlight wins the Original Screenplay award, that may be director Tom McCarthy’s Compensatory Oscar, given to directors who don’t get the Director award (see: Tarantino, Welles, Jane Campion, etc). Don’t feel too bad for him; an Oscar’s an Oscar. Suspect The Hateful Eight might win cinematography, not only for its own merits but also for Robert Richardson working with lenses they literally had to dust off to use. Finally, I don’t think I’ll be wrong in thinking that the Academy will find the combination of Diane Warren and Lady Gaga too tempting to resist for Best Original Song (“Til it Happens to You”).
Those are my first-pass guesses. As always, I’ll check in closer to the actual ceremony date with updates. In the meantime, head to the comments to tell me how wrong I am.