Commentary and predictions on this year’s Oscars ceremony!

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2015 oscars featured image

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2016 Academy Awards

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The Oscars results are almost upon us, which means it’s time to guess what they are before they’re revealed. I came really close to skipping out of watching this year’s ceremony and following the once exciting journalism hype leading up to the big show. Not because of the #OscarsSoWhite protest or the way it was handled (although both things bothered me a great deal), but because #OscarsSoWhite was all that my go-to entertainment information channels seemed to care to talk about. As a person who is largely defined by his love of cinema, it was disappointing to see my personal Super Bowl become another battlefield for keyboard activists and their shallow opponents to fight their petty differences. It was easy to find think pieces asking why this year’s acting field wasn’t more ethnic and gender diverse, census data on the Academy’s voting members, and whatever Jada Pinkett Smith was rambling about last month. Hardly a whisper was heard about the films being celebrated, the performances that stood out in memory, the stories that enthralled, or anything that….you know….had anything to do with the Oscar race itself. Next year when there’s inevitably a pair of black actors/actresses nominated for awards and inevitably a moment of pause where the world wonders if that happened because the landscape had changed or because the Academy was too scared to vote otherwise, I hope we can at least get back to talking about the movies. Please don’t make me type #IanSoDone again.

Now that the bitter notes are out of the way, I will run down each of this year’s major Oscar categories that I am at least somewhat familiar with and pick which movies I predict will win each respective award. I’m confident that next week I’ll be reviewing this article in embarrassment and wonder why I ever thought I could write this without having seen The Revenant yet.

P.S. For a year that will be remembered as criticized for lack of diversity, my list is predicting a very diverse array of wins.

Not every nominee will be mentioned, so please visit http://oscar.go.com/nominees to see the complete list.

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Best Production Design, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Costume Design, Visual Effects, CinematographyMad Max: Fury Road

It will be a near clean sweep in the technical categories for Mad Max: Fury Road aka this year’s Gravity: a film that won critical praise for everything except the most important parts of Best Picture winners: a lengthy-enough conventional plot and adequate-enough character study. Charlize’s moment alone on her knees in the desert tried, but wasn’t enough. Fury Road is so obviously the product of a specific imagination that it really wasn’t too surprising to see George Miller get Best Director consideration. Miller’s vision called for the best his business had to offer and he got it six times.

mad max fury road poster

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Best Animated FeatureInside Out

Interview transcripts with Academy members tend to leave me with the impression that they pick their animation winners based on whatever movies their kids like the best. This is usually the same favorite as the rest of America’s kids. Shaun The Sheep is British, so that’s ruled out. Anomalisa was a stop-motion film made for adults, which means nobody watched it because heaven forbid animation ever gets a decent amount of respect in North America. Inside Out is the clear winner. And despite my grumblings, my ballot would have that one marked too. Inside Out was owed Best Picture consideration too, but I’ll take what I can get.

inside out poster

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Best Film EditingThe Revenant

The reason I’m giving this prize to The Revenant instead of Fury Road is because last year was a near miss for Alejandro Inarritu’s Birdman. Inarritu’s editing style leads the viewer to initially believe that his scenes are constructed as one long take, but they are actually the result of the most careful precise editing anyone is likely to witness. It’s the same reason Gravity won it years back, so now The Revenant will reward Team Inarritu with its first but not last award of the night.

revenant poster

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Best Documentary FeatureCartel Land

I’m betting on a form of home field advantage with Southern California’s Mexico border. It will hit home to someone.

cartel land poster

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Best Adapted ScreenplayThe Martian

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Drew Goddard’s take on Andy Weir’s scientific novel translated perfectly well to the blockbuster-starved crowd. The Martian was a gigantic hit for 20th Century Fox and it would be silly to not award it with at least one top prize. Matt Damon is still too Matt Damon to get a statue, so Goddard will be the one “bringing it home.”

martian poster

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Best Original ScreenplaySpotlight

The close runner-up is Inside Out because of its use of real scientific knowledge to create the emotion characters’ universe. The winner and most deserving of the bunch however is Spotlight. The usual screenwriting guideline is to “show, don’t tell” in order to avoid redundant exposition. But to tell the story of widespread sexual abuse by representatives of the Catholic church, Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer’s script omitted any visual depictions of the crimes and wrote it to exist solely in the words of the victims. There is never a moment of too much explanation. Spotlight draws worrisome desires to hear and know more from the subjects: enabling it to become the gripping thriller that it is.

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spotlight poster

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Best Supporting ActressJennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight

Before and after my viewing of The Hateful Eight, all I ever heard from the acting criticism is “OMG Jennifer Jason Leigh! Jennifer Jason Leigh!” And then the hype died down for no apparent reason. I still think there’s enough momentum for her to get the win. The other factor on her side is that Leigh disappeared into her role whereas many of her co-stars behaved as caricatures of their screen personas to that date.

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Best Supporting ActorMark Rylance in Bridge Of Spies

As much as a Sylvester Stallone win would make me smile, I can’t vote against Mark Rylance or count him out. An actor drawing more wonder to his character than Tom Hanks does in the same movie is worthy of his own medal. Rylance’s Russian spy character is mysterious enough to instill a portion of the fear his surrounding co-stars show on screen, yet he’s human enough to justify his lawyer’s dedication to giving him as much of a fair trial as possible. I was left wanting to know more about the character’s past and future, so long as Rylance would remain the face.

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Best DirectorAlejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for The Revenant

Okay, I’ll admit it. I drew this one out from a hat. This has to be closest Best Director race in ages. Adam McKay is a favorite for his sheer number of friends alone. George Miller will have to hope one of the crew members allows him to borrow their statue. Tom McCarthy’s creative decisions were genius. Lenny Abrahamson managed to tell two different stories of equal great quality. I’m guessing Inarritu might get it because he already has the respect, but not the year’s awards to back him up until the envelope is opened.

revenant poster

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Best ActressBrie Larson in Room

My fellow movie aficionado girlfriend recently observed that the key to winning an acting Oscar (more often than not) is to have that one memorable moment where your character completely snaps and goes off on someone or something. Jennifer Lawrence had that moment in the diner in Silver Linings Playbook. Lupita Nyong’o had that moment in 12 Years A Slave where she got in the face of her master right before taking that devastating lashing. Brie Larson joined the club when she vented her frustration toward her screen parents in Room. For once though, Brie’s moment didn’t feel forced. I would have screamed along with Brie, only for her to scream back to me, prompting me to run upstairs and start a Facebook status update with something along the lines of “I need to move out of this house now.” Anyway, yeah, Brie has this in a landslide.

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Best ActorLeonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant

Leo: “Hey, Kate. Remember when we made Titanic and everyone loved us except teenage boys who called me Leonardo DiCraprio? And then a few years passed and everyone started hating us for no apparent reason? And then we started making a bunch of good movies that gained us respect at an unfairly slow rate? Oh well, at least all’s well that ends well, right?”

As much fun as it is to see Leo destroy himself onscreen year after year for our amusement, this is the year the Academy finally says enough is enough. That’ll do, Leo. That’ll do.

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Best PictureSpotlight

The Big Short’s chances of victory depends on how strong the “Those Wall Street bastards must pay!” vibes are among voters. My guess is it died down a little too much since it happened. Room is all-around excellent, but has no momentum. I was one of the few that didn’t fall in love in Brooklyn. Fury Road, Bridge of Spies and The Martian have no chance because……they just don’t. What we’re left with is a dance-off (wouldn’t that be a fun way to decide the winner?) between The Revenant and Spotlight. I almost voted for The Revenant becuase Inarritu has the respect and it would give the Academy another chance to say “Ha! You call us racist, but we gave the top prize to a Latino two years in a row now!” But I’m predicting the votes will be so scattered that the steady momentum of Spotlight will finally pay off in a sorta upset win. I would personally approve of the choice as well.

spotlight poster

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And that’s it from me. Post your own Oscar predictions in the comments section below and then tune into the Academy Awards telecast Sunday, February 28th at 7:00 PM EST to find out the winners. Happy popcorn munching!

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