Thursday, February 25, 2016

The 2016 Oscar Preview

So, I like movies. I really like the ability they provide to visually tell a story. Not to mention, they're often entertaining and funny and a convenient way to express emotions you may not be able to easily connect with in other ways. This year, Sunday will be a ridiculous night for me - the Oscars are on at the same time the d3 basketball committee will be selecting the national tournament and I'll be working on the mock bracket for My twitter feed will be busy and strange - fair warning.

I've gotten to see most of the nominated films this year, so I thought I'd express my opinions on the nominees. I'll be covering only the categories where I've seen all the nominees. Some of them I'll talk about more, others less. I'm not going to list all the nominees, so if you want to know, read them here.  The names listed below are all the performances in a category I deem worth of a nomination in the order I'd vote for them.  Ready? Here we go:

Best Picture is interesting.  Lots of well made, diverse movies - most of them are emotionally gripping.  I think this is an exceptionally strong year.  The Revenant would normally be an easy winner, but it's up against Spotlight this year, which is both superbly well made and deeply important.  I think it's the best movie of the year AND I think it will win.

The Revenant
The Martian
Steve Jobs
Straight Outta Compton

I'll admit, I'm torn over Best Actor. I think Will Smith's performance is the best of the year, although I'm not sure.  It's definitely the best of his career and I don't know if my surprise over its quality creates bias.  I thought Johnny Depp in Black Mass was incredible, but he's almost always incredible, so maybe I'm downplaying that.  Leonardo DiCaprio has been one of my favorite actors since Growing Pains.  I love the guy.  I'm the only fan of "The Beach" in existence.  He put himself through unbelievable hardship to make The Revenant, but I wasn't overly impressed with the performance.  There are some scenes where he's transcendent (towards the end, when he tells the captain he'll be going out to find Fitzgerald), but are a couple scenes really enough?  I don't know.  I love Leo.  I want him to win - I think he will and I'll celebrate, but if I were voting, I'd give it to Will Smith.  He's the one legitimate oversight in this nomination process (probably because the movie was so poorly directed).

Will Smith, Concussion
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Johnny Depp, Black Mass
Jacob Tremblay, Room
Matt Damon, The Martian
O'Shea Jackson Jr., Straight Outta Compton
Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies

Best Actress is sad.  A lot of was made about the whiteness of these Oscars, and there are some legitimate African-American performances that could've been nominated, but to me the real travesty this year is how few good roles there were for women.  As you'll see, I only saw two worth nominating - and they're fantastic.  Vikander is actually nominated in the Supporting Actress category, so both of these can win actual Oscars (and I think they will), but The Danish Girl is really about her character; she's the lead.  As good as Vikander is, Brie Larson is stunning in Room.  She's going to win and she should - it's one of the saddest, most beautiful movies I've ever seen and it's largely because of her unbelievable performance.

Brie Larson, Room
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Best Supporting Actress should go to a women who wasn't even nominated.  In fact, all three of my favorite performances lacked nomination.  Julie Walters (better known to many as Mrs. Weasley) made Brooklyn.  She carried the middle of the movie and kept the plot development from becoming boring.  Brooklyn was my surprise of the year.  I didn't really have any interest in seeing it, but it became the movie I appreciated most.  It's beautifully shot, terrifically acted, and incredibly well made.  It's not a real Best Picture contender, but I hope it takes some of the smaller awards (especially writing).

Julie Walters, Brooklyn
Diane Lane, Trumbo
Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina

I want Stallone to win Best Supporting Actor more than anything else at the Oscars this year.  Everyone forgets that he began his career as a writer - and a darn good one.  He deserves some recognition for his efforts and he puts out a truly stunning performance in Creed.  It's nuanced and heartfelt and real in ways we haven't seen from him, perhaps ever.  He exceeded expectations more than anyone else this year and that's why the Academy will give him the statue.  That being said, Mark Ruffalo not winning will be as sad as Stallone's almost inevitable victory will be joyous.  Ruffalo carries Spotlight.  He's always good, but he's really, really good in this one (I hear he was even better in Infinitely Polar Bear, but alas, I didn't get to see it).  His performance is just head and shoulders above everybody else.

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Albert Brooks, Concussion
Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina
Stanley Tucci, Spotlight
Richard Kind, Inside Out
Tom McCamus, Room

Best Director is Tom McCarthy.  Spotlight is a tough movie to get right and he did an excellent job.  There are so many little touches in the film that make it incredible.  I feel bad bypassing Lenny Abrahamson, because Room was similarly brilliant, but Spotlight is clearly better and the job was more difficult to get right.

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
John Crowley, Brooklyn
David O. Russell, Joy
Alex Garland, Ex Machina
F. Gary Gray, Straight Outta Compton
Ridley Scott, The Martian

Spotlight is the Best Original Screenplay, although it's closer than you'd think.  I didn't think Creed was particularly well directed (in fact I came to appreciate how difficult that original Rocky was to make well by how mediocre Creed really was), but it was so well written.  Ryan Coogler has a real gift for words and story.

Bridge of Spies

The Best Adapted Screenplay is Brooklyn. I saw it early in my nomination watching and nothing (not even my beloved Aaron Sorkin) could hold a candle to it. I didn't even nominate anything else. Part of the reason I don't think it's getting much Best Picture love is because the movie was so well written, it couldn't have been hard to make well. As I said above, it was my surprise of the year and it's one everybody can and should see - if you're a cinephile or just like to be entertained, it's got something for everyone.

Emmanuel Lubeski is the Best Cinematographer who has ever lived and he should win this award any time he makes a movie.  The Revenant is not his best work, but it's beautiful and deep and full of expression and makes every other movie (even the really good ones) pale in comparison.  Seriously, go back and watch Sleepy Hollow with Johnny Depp - you can turn off the sound, because it's really not a good movie at all - just enjoy the breathtaking visuals provided by Lubeski.  He's a gift to the world.

For the rest of these, I'm just going to give you my pick, because I have no clue what might actually win.

Costume Design: The Danish Girl

Film Editing: Star Wars

Original Score: The Hateful Eight

Production Design: Brooklyn

Sound Editing: Star Wars

Sound Mixing: Mad Max

Visual Effects: Ex Machina

Oh, one last prediction: the biggest winner of the night will be Chris Rock. The racial drama will allow him to say whatever the heck he wants, which will be, as always, incredibly funny.

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