Sunday, January 31, 2016

AFT Awards: Best Actress in a Leading Role


This is the second category of the 9th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them and drawn from a pool of approximately 122 films. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
Alice Braga (Kill Me Three Times), Brooke Bloom (She's Lost Control), Cate Blanchett (Carol), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), Geraldine Chaplin (Sand Dollars), Giulia Salerno (Misunderstood), Greta Gerwig (Mistress America), Günes Sensoy (Mustang), Hadas Yaron (Felix and Meira), Hannah Murray (Bridgend), Helen Mirren (Woman in Gold), Jennifer Aniston (Cake), Jennifer Prediger (Apartment Troubles), Jess Weixler (Apartment Troubles), Joséphine Japy (Breathe), Julianne Moore (Freeheld), Juliette Binoche (Clouds of Sils Maria), Lola Kirke (Mistress America), Lou de Laâge (Breathe), Margot Robbie (Z for Zachariah), Melissa Rauch (The Bronze), Regina Casé (The Second Mother), Yanet Mojica (Sand Dollars)

Runners-up:
Alison Brie (Sleeping with Other People)
Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)
Rooney Mara (Carol)
Taylor Schilling (The Overnight)
Maggie Smith (The Lady in the Van)

The winner:
Brie Larson (Room) molded a mother with literally nothing besides her son in her life, creating a character so strong and full of happiness that in no way matched the horror of her reality.

Other nominees:
Jennifer Lawrence (Joy) teamed up with David O. Russell for another immensely successful collaboration, this time playing a real person defined by perseverance against all odds and a fantastic driven lead for a superb film. Ronit Elkabetz (Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem) was an inspiring emblem of fruitless efforts, constantly crying out for freedom and being repeatedly denied any rights. Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) stole her film from her costar with a more enticing role as a spirited, opinionated wife not content to be relegated to the shadows in any part of her relationship. Lily Tomlin (Grandma) walked all over every single other person in her film, creating a nightmare of a grandmother who actually has more heart than she cares to admit.

AFT Awards: Best Actor in a Leading Role


This is the first category of the 9th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them and drawn from a pool of approximately 122 films. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
Abraham Attah (Beasts of No Nation), Adam Scott (The Overnight), Alex Jennings (The Lady in the Van), Asa Butterfield (Ten Thousand Saints), Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Z for Zachariah), Christopher Abbott (James White), Domnhall Gleeson (Ex Machina), Geza Rohrig (Son of Saul), Jack O'Connell ('71), Jason Segel (The End of the Tour), Jason Sudeikis (Sleeping with Other People), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Walk), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Slow West), Lembit Ulfsak (Tangerines), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Märt Avandi (The Fencer), Martin Dubreil (Felix and Meira), Michael B. Jordan (Creed), Michael Keaton (Spotlight), Rafael Spregelburd (The Film Critic), Ryan Reynolds (Woman in Gold), Simon Abkarian (Gett: The Trial of Vivianne Amsalem), Thomas Mann (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Will Smith (Concussion)

Runners-up:
Jemaine Clement (People, Places, Things)
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
Andrew Garfield (99 Homes)
Ryan Reynolds (Mississippi Grind)
Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)

The winner:
Jacob Tremblay (Room), at just nine years old, offered a fascinating perspective on the world through Jack’s eyes, so filled with wonder and an intense, naive maturity.

Other nominees:
Johnny Depp (Black Mass) disappeared physically and emotionally into the body of a mobster with his most memorable performance in a long time. Michael Shannon (99 Homes) eviscerated those around him with Rick’s cutthroat drive to succeed and crush all who weren’t willing to meet him at the same level. Ben Mendelsohn (Mississippi Grind) offered a complex, endearing portrait of a gambler who can’t possibly hope to stop himself when the time is right. Matt Damon (The Martian) dominated an entire planet with his sense of humor and film-carrying energy.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Movie with Abe: Portrait of a Serial Monogamist


Portrait of a Serial Monogamist
Directed by John Mitchell and Christina Zeidler
Released January 29, 2016

The term “serial monogamist” is never meant to be a compliment. Not nearly as bad as a serial killer, someone known for being in a series of committed relationships that never seem to make it past the short-term phase is rarely held in high regard. Often, these people are well aware that they have trouble with longevity and seem to have an exit strategy prepared whenever anything threatens to get too serious or permanent. This portrait of a serial monogamist shows exactly such a character, someone who, after being broken up with once, vowed never to feel that way again and to always be one step ahead of any possible negative outcome.

Proud Toronto native Elsie (Diane Flacks) doesn’t make a great first impression to her audience, but she’s quick to defend herself. To break up with her latest live-in girlfriend, Elsie cooks her a meal that reminds her of their first date, and, after pointing out that they’ve had problems recently, forces her rib-consuming girlfriend to be the one to casually suggest they break up before walking out when a conveniently-invited buffer guest arrives to soften the blow. Elsie is well-known in her circle of friends for this behavior, and therefore it’s no surprise when the woman Elsie starts to realize might have been the real deal doesn’t so easily exit her life, sending her into an agonizing period of self-examination that has her reconsidering her whole approach to romance.

Billed as a lesbian romantic comedy, “Portrait of a Serial Monogamist” is certainly that. There are few men who appear in the film, and they are inconsequential at best since Elsie’s relationship drama pertains only to women. There seems to be no problem or stigma with Elsie’s sexual orientation, and her family is more fixated on her choice of specific partner rather than her gender. Elsie’s mother frequently reminds her daughter that she is just a “nice Jewish girl from Montreal,” a fact that matters little in the film save for the scene in which Elsie brings a date wearing a cross to a Shabbat dinner, a faux pas that is barely mentioned.

Elsie is meant to be flawed, but it’s hard to find a central character more irritating who doesn’t have many redeeming qualities. She is irritating, selfish, and elitist, and there isn’t much in the film that suggests otherwise or offers her the opportunity to change. That makes it difficult to connect with her and the film in general, leaving it as a passable but hardly essential look at one woman so obsessed with being in control of everything that she is not prepared to relinquish anything in the pursuit of happiness.

C+

Friday, January 22, 2016

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble Cast


The competition: The child soldiers of “Beasts of No Nation,” the money makers of “The Big Short,” the dogged journalists of “Spotlight,” the groundbreaking musicians of “Straight Outta Compton,” and the devious screenwriters of “Trumbo.”

For your information: Only two of these films - “The Big Short” and “Spotlight” - are nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Only one film - “The Birdcage” - has ever won without a Best Picture nomination, and only two films have ever won without individual acting nominations. “Trumbo” has two acting nominations, and “The Big Short” and “Spotlight” both have one each. The cast credited for “Beasts of No Nation” includes just three actors, which is a shame considering the many children who were great in the film.

Who should win: “Spotlight,” though these are all strong nominees

Who will win: As best summarized by Nathaniel of The Film Experience, the big joke in this category has been which four films will have the honor of losing to Spotlight. If it was “The Big Short,” that would be a game-changer, but anything else would just be interesting. “Spotlight” does deserve it, so I hope it’s not robbed.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a Supporting Role


The competition: Rooney Mara’s impressionable salesgirl (Carol), Rachel McAdams’ determined reporter (Spotlight), Helen Mirren’s gossip queen (Trumbo), Alicia Vikander’s supportive wife (The Danish Girl), and Kate Winslet’s loyal collaborator (Steve Jobs).

For your information: This is Winslet’s tenth individual nomination. She has won three times, twice in this category. Mirren has been nominated nine times before and won four times. She is also nominated for Best Actress. The last time she was nominated in two categories (2006), she won both awards. This is the first nomination for Mara, McAdams, and Vikander. McAdams and Mirren are both nominated as part of their films’ ensembles.

Who should win: Winslet or Vikander

Who will win: Winslet won the Golden Globe, but she only beat Mirren’s performance, which is the only one she’s not facing at the Oscars. There isn’t a lock in this category, but I think that Mara is the strongest contender, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Winslet won here too.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a Supporting Role


The competition: Christian Bale’s brilliant numbers guy (The Big Short), Idris Elba’s fearless commander (Beasts of No Nation), Mark Rylance’s quiet spy (Bridge of Spies), Michael Shannon’s fearsome real estate developer (99 Homes), and Jacob Tremblay’s bright-eyed world experiencer (Room).

For your information: Bale has been nominated - and won - once before, in 2010 in this category for “The Fighter.” This is the first nomination for Elba and Rylance, and both of them are also nominated for their TV miniseries work this year too. Shannon and Tremblay are first-time nominees as well. Bale and Elba are also nominated as part of their films’ ensembles.

Who should win: Tremblay or Shannon, though they’re both in my lead actor category

Who will win: Golden Globe winner Sylvester Stallone isn’t nominated here, so that leaves this category, which contains only two Oscar nominees, wide open. The safe choice is Rylance, and obviously I’d love to see Tremblay or Shannon, but I’m going to go with Elba.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a Leading Role


The competition: Cate Blanchett’s unhappy wife (Carol), Brie Larson’s loyal mother (Room), Helen Mirren’s persevering heiress (Woman in Gold), Saoirse Ronan’s optimistic immigrant (Brooklyn), and Sarah Silverman’s drug-addicted mother (I Smile Back).

For your information: This is Blanchett’s ninth solo nomination, and she has won twice, most recently in 2013 in this category for “Blue Jasmine.” Mirren has been nominated nine times before and won four times. She is also nominated for Best Actress. The last time she was nominated in two categories (2006), she won both awards. This is the first nomination for Larson, Ronan, and Silverman. Mirren is the only one nominated as part of her film’s ensemble.

Who should win: Larson

Who will win: Putting Mirren and Silverman into this race doesn’t change the odds - it just makes Larson all the more likely.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a Leading Role


The competition: Bryan Cranston’s communist writer (Trumbo), Johnny Depp’s intimidating mobster (Black Mass), Leonardo DiCaprio’s determined trapper (The Revenant), Michael Fassbender’s brilliant inventor (Steve Jobs), and Eddie Redmayne’s transitioning artist (The Danish Girl).

For your information: Redmayne won this award last year, his only previous solo nomination. No actor yet has won this trophy two years in a row. Depp won in 2003 for “Pirates of the Caribbean” and was nominated again the following year for “Finding Neverland.” This is DiCaprio’s fifth Actor nomination. He has never won. Fassbender has been nominated once before, in 2013 for “12 Years a Slave.” Cranston has been nominated for five TV Actors, and won two of them for “Breaking Bad.” He is the only actor in this race also nominated as part of his film’s ensemble.

Who should win: Depp or Fassbender

Who will win: Depp being in this race doesn’t change anything - it’s time for DiCaprio to ride the momentum to his first SAG trophy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tuesday’s Top Trailer: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Welcome back to the inaugural 2016 edition of a weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Tuesday's Top Trailer. One of my favorite parts about going to see movies is the series of trailers that airs beforehand and, more often than not, the trailer is far better than the actual film. Each week, I'll be sharing a trailer I've recently seen. Please chime in with comments on what you think of the trailer and how you think the movie is going to be.

10 Cloverfield Lane – Opening March 11, 2016


What trailer could be better to restart this feature for the first time in months than what may well be the most talked-about trailer in some time? Unlike many delighted moviegoers, I did not have the opportunity to see this trailer in a theatre before a movie without knowing what it was for and experience the rush of realizing it. I’m most intrigued by the way in which this film has been marketed, completely under the radar and then gaining considerable momentum just two months before its theatrical release by catching the world by surprise. While I did get a serious headache from the handheld camera cinematography, I thoroughly enjoyed the 2008 film that spawns this sequel of sorts. This film looks like something completely different, showing a much more contained and isolated world that exists as a subset of the greater universe of the original film. The cast is small and strong, featuring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, and John Gallagher, Jr., a great trio if ever I’ve seen one. It appears, from the trailer, that these three live in an underground bunker in whatever remains of the world that was torn apart by the mysterious monster from “Cloverfield,” and Winstead’s character, possibly a daughter, is eager to escape despite harsh warnings from Goodman’s character, possibly her father, not to go outside. It’s sure to be just as mysterious and enthralling as the first, and hopefully not as headache-inducing. I’m not sure that I need to rush to go see it in IMAX the day after my birthday when it comes out, but I’m definitely interested and most of all curious.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Oscar Nominees: Best Picture


My predictions: 7/8, picking “Carol” over “Bridge of Spies”
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight

I’m not as annoyed about eight nominees this year, mainly because I already expected that. I’m also happy that, even though I missed one of the nominees, it was my #9 pick and my #8 pick was the one that didn’t make the cut. I personally prefer “Carol” to “Bridge of Spies,” which I found to be disappointing when I saw it, but I don’t care that much. Out of this list, I loved “Spotlight,” “Room,” and “The Martian,” really liked “The Revenant” and “Brooklyn,” liked “The Big Short,” and didn’t love “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Bridge of Spies.” Still, there isn’t a real dud in this list, which is nice. Aside from “Steve Jobs” and “Joy,” both of whose chances were dashed a while ago, there isn’t a film that was ever a truly serious contender in this race that I would have preferred to see here, so that’s saying something. It’s clear in my mind that “Spotlight” is the best film here - will Oscar voters agree?

My current bet to win: I’ll still go with Spotlight at this point.

Oscar Nominees: Best Director


My predictions: 4/5, picking Ridley Scott over Lenny Abrahamson
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: Adam McKay (The Big Short), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant), Lenny Abrahamson (Room), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)

We’re used to such surprises in this category that this year almost feels tame by comparison. It’s very nice to see Abrahamson make the cut for a terrific film, and I’m still just sad that the amazing Jacob Tremblay couldn’t be a part of the love for that film, which somehow managed to get only four nominations, well behind a number of other films, and still showed up here. What I realized as soon as all the names were read is that Ridley Scott, who should have been a sure thing, got unfairly snubbed for making a great movie that scored seven nominations, including Best Picture. This would have been Scott’s fourth nomination, and it’s a shame he missed out. I’m glad to see Tom McCarthy didn’t get left off. McKay is a fine inclusion, though he doesn’t need to be here, and naturally Inarritu and Miller are here. Inarritu won last year on his second try, and he’s actually the only returning nominee in this race, which I’ll have to research but may well be a record-setting statistic. This list will definitely look almost nothing like my list.

My current bet to win: It’s hard to tell now whether buzz for Inarritu’s film will make him the first director in over fifty years to repeat, and so I still think Miller is the way to go. I’d love if it was McCarthy, but that’s hoping a lot.

Oscar Nominees: Short Films

I’ve been predicting these categories for a few years now knowing little to nothing about them, and this year I scored 8/15. I’ve had the chance to screen all of the nominees the past few years, and I hope to do the same this year. All I’ve seen is “Sanjay’s Super Team,” which managed to get a nomination even though the much better feature it played before, “The Good Dinosaur,” didn’t, so I’ll wait to offer commentary until them. All images below are from Oscar.com.

Best Documentary Short Film


My predictions: 2/5
The nominees: Body Team 12, Chau Beyond the Lines, Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, Last Day of Freedom
The frontrunner: TBD

Best Live Action Short Film


My predictions: 3/5
The nominees: Ave Maria, Day One, Everything Will Be Okay, Shok, Stutterer
The frontrunner: TBD

Best Animated Short Film


My predictions: 3/5
The nominees: Bear Story, Prologue, Sanjay’s Super Team, We Can’t Live Without Cosmos, World of Tomorrow
The frontrunner: TBD

Oscar Nominees: Best Documentary


My predictions: 2/5, picking only “Amy” and “The Look of Silence”
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: Amy, Cartel Land, The Look of Silence, What Happened Miss Simone, Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

I don’t know how I expected to accurately predict this category having seen only one out of fifteen contenders, but I tried. I’m sad that “Best of Enemies” isn’t here, but maybe these five are better. I’m surprised that “He Named Me Malala” isn’t here, while I was never so sure about “Going Clear.” Both “Amy” and “The Look of Silence” are on DVD, and “Winter on Fire” and “What Happened, Miss Simone,” which showed as one of the opening night films at Sundance last year, are on Netflix. I just have to find a way to track down “Cartel Land” and I’ll be back before the Oscars with much more to say!

My current bet to win: I still think Amy, but let me get back to you once I’ve seen everything.

Oscar Nominees: Best Foreign Film


My predictions: 2/5, picking only “Mustang” and “Son of Saul”
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia), Mustang (France), Son of Saul (Hungary), Theeb (Jordan), A War (Denmark)

This category offered some surprises, snubbing “Labyrinth of Lies” and Golden Globe nominee “The Fencer.” I’m all for “Mustang” and “Son of Saul” being here, and I don’t understand the hype about “Theeb,” which does not deserve a spot. I know that “Embrace of the Serpent” will be released in New York about two weeks before the Oscars, so hopefully I’ll catch that then, and it looks like “A War” isn’t scheduled to be released until April! I’m going to try to see it before then, but we’ll see.

My current bet to win: I can’t imagine it will be anything but Son of Saul.

Oscar Nominees: Best Animated Feature


My predictions: 3/5, picking “The Good Dinosaur” and “Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet” over “Boy and the World” and “When Marnie Was There”
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: Anomalisa, Boy and the World, Inside Out, Shaun the Sheep Movie, When Marnie Was There

Here we have one of the biggest and most unexpected snubs of the year – “The Good Dinosaur” didn’t make the cut, which is a real shame. It’s not a great testament to American animation with dialogue for children, as “Inside Out” is the only conventional choice this year. I don’t think “Boy and the World” needed to be here, and I have to see “When Marnie Was There” as soon as I have the chance. “Shaun the Sheep Movie” is a good choice, and it’s also good to have “Anomalisa” represented. More on this category once I’ve seen all the nominees, but unfortunate to see a good film miss the cut.

My current bet to win: How can it not be Inside Out?

Oscar Nominees: Best Visual Effects


My predictions: 2/5, picking only “Ex Machina” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I’m not sure what I was thinking predicting that three Best Picture nominees eligible in this race wouldn’t show up here, but that didn’t work out so well for me. Looking quickly at past nominees in this category, this isn’t the first time that all five nominated films are honored elsewhere also, but it is the largest contingent of Best Picture nominees that I can find any time in recent history. It’s great to see that “Ex Machina” made the cut, but very disappointing that “The Walk” didn’t since it really should have. Also, surprising that “Jurassic World” isn’t here.

My current bet to win: Unless the bear rears its head, it will be Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Oscar Nominees: Best Makeup and Hairstyling


My predictions: 2/3, picking “Black Mass” over “The Revenant”
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant

I didn’t get the memo that “The Revenant” had to be nominated in every single category, and it’s too bad since the makeup in “Black Mass” for Johnny Depp really was superior. I don’t have too much of a problem with “Mad Max: Fury Road” being here, and I’m very excited about the other film that made the cut here. Who knows, maybe it can even pull off a deserved win!

My current bet to win: I’m going to go out on a limb and say The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared will eclipse the two most-nominated films this year because it should and because voters will be interested by its title alone and check it out to discover the incredible work.

Oscar Nominees: Best Sound Editing


My predictions: 5/5
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Sicario, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Look at me go! I think this is probably the first time I’ve gotten 100% in this category. All deserving nominees with spectacular sound editing, regardless of what you may argue about the content of the films.

My current bet to win: It’s going to be Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Oscar Nominees: Best Sound


My predictions: 4/5, picking “Inside Out” over “Bridge of Spies”
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: Bridge of Spies, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

No big surprises here – the apparently appreciated “Bridge of Spies” grabs a spot away from an animated film, joining four nominees that ended up with a bunch of other nominations but no one should be able to deny deserve to be here.

My current bet to win: I think Star Wars: The Force Awakens sweeps the technical awards.

Oscar Nominees: Best Original Song


My predictions: 3/5, missing the songs from “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Racing Extinction”
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: “Earned It” (Fifty Shades of Grey), “Manta Ray” (Racing Extinction), “Simple Song #3” (Youth), “’Til It Happens To You” (The Hunting Ground), “Writing’s on the Wall” (Spectre)

So, technically I haven’t seen four of these films, but I don’t consider it necessary to see a film with a nominated song to be able to appreciate it, especially when none of the nominees are from musicals and none of them are nominated in any other category. I’m sad that “See You Again” from “Furious 7” didn’t make the cut, mainly because it would have been exciting to see it performed. I have to get to know these songs better, but I know I don’t like the Golden Globe-winning tune from “Spectre,” which becomes the fourth James Bond song to be Oscar-nominated. Interestingly, a different song than the one that earned a Golden Globe bid from “Fifty Shades of Grey” showed up here. More on this category when I really know these songs.

My current bet to win: I see it going to ’Til it Happens to You.

Oscar Nominees: Best Original Score


My predictions: 3/5, picking “The Danish Girl” and “Spotlight” over “Sicario” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: Bridge of Spies, Carol, The Hateful Eight, Sicario, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I have a lot of listening to do to get familiar with these scores, since the recent memory of “The Hateful Eight” is pretty much the only thing that sticks out to me. I do remember that, while I didn’t love the film, the music in the border crossing scene in particular in “Sicario” was definitely intense, and I’m eager to listen to that again. Kudos to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” for picking up a nomination. It’s too bad that “The Danish Girl” isn’t here but good that “Carol” is, and I’ll have to listen to the more melodramatic score of “Bridge of Spies” to become familiar with it. I’m sad that “Spotlight” isn’t here since that really was one of the best scores of the year in my mind.

My current bet to win: It probably goes to Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight.

Oscar Nominees: Best Film Editing


My predictions: 3/5, picking “The Martian” and “Sicario” over “Spotlight” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Spotlight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I was so relieved to see “Spotlight” here when I was sure it wouldn’t make the cut that I didn’t even notice a more offensive snub – “The Martian,” which unfortunately predicted a later worse snub you’ll read about in a few hours. “Sicario” didn’t land here but showed up in Best Cinematography and a couple technical categories. Instead, we get “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” honored here, a cool inclusion to go with the four Best Picture frontrunners.

My current bet to win: I actually see it going to The Big Short, but maybe that’s a mistake.

Oscar Nominees: Best Costume Design


My predictions: 2/5, picking only “Carol” and “The Danish Girl”
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: Carol, Cinderella, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant

Congratulations! You have officially arrived to the only category that’s not a specialty one (animated, foreign, documentary) where I haven’t seen a film! “Cinderella” is next on my list since it made the cut here (it’s on DVD!), the only inclusion not to be a contender anywhere else. I actually did better here than last year, when I picked just one. It’s a relief that “Carol” and “The Danish Girl” are here, and it’s a shame that “Brooklyn,” “The Hateful Eight,” and “Trumbo” got knocked out to make room for “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Revenant,” which were apparently required to be nominated in every category. Decent costumes all around though, just not the best of the year.

My current bet to win: I see The Danish Girl winning here.

Oscar Nominees: Best Art Direction


My predictions: 3/5, picking “Carol” and “Brooklyn” over “Bridge of Spies” and “The Martian”
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: Bridge of Spies, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant

This category confuses me, since I would have thought that “Carol” and “Brooklyn” would be here given the other nominations that they earned, but I guess not. They ended up splitting, with “Carol” taking a bunch of the technical bids and “Brooklyn” earning the big nominations. “Bridge of Spies” didn’t have to be here, but the other films, especially “The Danish Girl,” are welcome inclusions. And check this off on the more deserved list of the mandatory nominations for “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Revenant.”

My current bet to win: I’m not sure, but I’m tempted to go with The Revenant.

Oscar Nominees: Best Cinematography


My predictions: 4/5, picking “Bridge of Spies” over “The Hateful Eight”
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: Carol, The Hateful Eight, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Sicario

I don’t have too many problems with this category, and I do think that “The Hateful Eight” was more visually compelling than “Bridge of Spies,” which I’m surprised was left off here given how it was rewarded elsewhere. Whatever qualms I have with “The Revenant,” it totally belongs here. Ditto “Carol” and, to an extent, “Mad Max: Fury Road.” I’m even fine with “Sicario” earning one of its three nominations here, and it’s good to see it technically represented without undeservedly cracking the top races.

My current bet to win: In my mind, this is the surest lock for The Revenant.

Oscar Nominees: Best Adapted Screenplay


My predictions: 3/5, picking “Anomalisa” and “Steve Jobs” over “Carol” and “The Martian”
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: The Big Short, Brooklyn, Carol, The Martian, Room

All of these are very well-written films to be sure, but where the hell is “Steve Jobs”? Aaron Sorkin just won the Golden Globe, and that film needed to be here. I’m surprised that “Carol” made the cut when it got left out of the top races, and I’m just glad that “The Revenant” got snubbed in the only eligible category in which it didn’t place. Everything else is good, and I’m happy to see “Brooklyn,” which pulled off its Best Picture bid, here too.

My current bet to win: Unless it’s eclipsed by “The Big Short,” it will be Room.

Oscar Nominees: Best Original Screenplay


My predictions: 4/5, picking “The Hateful Eight” over “Straight Outta Compton”
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: Bridge of Spies, Ex Machina, Inside Out, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton

I didn’t notice the egregious snub here, which is Quentin Tarantino not being nominated for “The Hateful Eight,” a film that, whatever issues you might have with it, has an undeniably well-written screenplay. Instead, we get “Straight Outta Compton,” which fortunately didn’t crack Best Picture but gets nominated for a screenplay I didn’t find terribly compelling. It’s nice to see “Ex Machina,” which also scored in Best Visual Effects, here, as well as “Inside Out,” which only showed up in Best Animated Feature aside from here. “Bridge of Spies” I can take or leave, and hooray for “Spotlight,” which didn’t end up experiencing any backlash today, even scoring two unguaranteed acting bids (even if they’re not the right ones).

My current bet to win: I don’t see how anything aside from Spotlight wins here even though the Coen brothers wrote “Bridge of Spies.”

Oscar Nominees: Best Actress in a Supporting Role


My predictions: 4/5, picking Stewart over McAdams
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Rooney Mara (Carol), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

So much for Kristen Stewart being nominated. It’s a shame to see McAdams earn her first Oscar nomination for a film that I loved but didn’t find her to be particularly excellent in, but I guess it’s something. Mara and Vikander, despite all the category unknowns, made the cut here as most had initially expected. Winslet survived too even though her film barely showed up anywhere. The same goes even more for Leigh, whose film managed Best Original Score and Best Cinematography nominations but nothing else. Helen Mirren, who had all the precursors, fell out as I had expected, which happened already in Best Actress in 2012. She already has an Oscar though, and it’s nice to see new names joining Winslet and one-time nominee Mara.

My current bet to win: This is actually a pretty serious three-way competition between Leigh, Mara, and Winslet. I think the edge goes to Mara but none of them have the strength of their films to fall back on given the paltry nominations for them today.

Oscar Nominees: Best Actor in a Supporting Role


My predictions: 2/5, picking only Rylance and Stallone
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: Christian Bale (The Big Short), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

To me, this is the most disappointing category (it was also the one announced first, which made it even worse). “Room” managed a Best Director bid in addition to Best Picture, yet the fantastic Jacob Tremblay couldn’t show up here, even if he should have been a lead. Michael Shannon, who was so excellent in “99 Homes,” got cut despite landing all the precursors. Even Idris Elba, who got a lot of the same run-up nominations, didn’t make the cut, showing that streaming films aren’t necessarily considered. Instead, we get Bale, who didn’t deserve a nomination for a good performance that wasn’t even the standout of his film. Ditto Ruffalo, who made it in despite missing many precursors but probably should have been replaced by costar Michael Keaton. Tom Hardy was typically good in “The Revenant,” but his nomination here represents over-hype for that late-breaking movie more than anything. Rylance has been a lock since the beginning, and Stallone is charging ahead after his Golden Globe win but still ended up being the only representative for his well-regarded film. This may have been my worst category, though it does match up with the Globe and SAG list only 2/5, so it’s not exactly expected even though some may have predicted it.

My current bet to win: It feels like Stallone since I don’t know who would knock him out.

Oscar Nominees: Best Actress in a Leading Role


My predictions: 5/5
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: Cate Blanchett (Carol), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Brie Larson (Room), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

Surprisingly, this year didn’t offer any surprises to prognosticators paying attention in the top categories. Blanchett, Larson, and Ronan were locked from the beginning, Mara and Vikander stayed in supporting, and Lawrence rode through her SAG snub and her film being shut out in all other categories to get nominated her for what I believe to be an excellent performance. And then there’s Rampling, who earns her first nomination and serves as the sole representative of her film, a fitting tribute to a strong career and a very good performance. No one else really missed out here, since all the other options were never very serious contenders.

My current bet to win: I’m not sure if anything can stop Larson.

Oscar Nominees: Best Actor in a Leading Role


My predictions: 5/5
My ballot: Come back in February!
The nominees: Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)

This list looks completely as expected. There wasn’t enough traction for Johnny Depp or Will Smith to join the race, and all five of these men ended up doing very well. The interesting note is that, while “The Revenant” did extraordinarily well, the other films here did not. “The Martian” picked up a bunch of notable nominations but missed out on Best Director. The most shocking snub I didn’t even notice was “Steve Jobs” for Best Adapted Screenplay, which is unforgivable. Redmayne’s film didn’t crack the top categories but had a healthy technical showing, and Cranston is the lone representative of his film. Aside from Depp, there’s no legitimate Oscar contender who I think should have been here, so I’m pretty happy with this list.

My current bet to win: Give it to DiCaprio - nothing is stopping him.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Final Oscar Predictions


At this point last year, I said that I wasn’t so invested in this race, but I don’t feel that way this year. You have to get to a truly technical category or the documentary race to find something that I haven’t seen, and I feel like a few of the films I really liked - “Spotlight” and “Room” especially - have very good shots at racking up numerous nominations. I’m thrilled that Michael Shannon is in the race for “99 Homes,” and I’m still hoping that Kristen Stewart makes the cut for “Clouds of Sils Maria.”

Now to the potential surprises. Last year, I said that Michael Keaton would be snubbed, which was completely wrong, and the only big omission for “Birdman” was in editing. I’m truly concerned about Eddie Redmayne if there isn’t space in Best Actor, and I’m well aware that Best Supporting Actor might head in a very different direction, leaving off Shannon and Tremblay, both of who really deserve nominations. I’m worried about Tom McCarthy being snubbed for Best Director, but I still put him as a lock in my predictions. It’s more likely that “Carol” will get slighted in a number of races, and “The Hateful Eight” could also surge now that it’s been seen, as could “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” It’s hard to know how films like “Brooklyn” and “Sicario” will perform, and it’s even possible that “Mad Max: Fury Road” won’t have a strong showing. But I think “The Big Short,” “The Revenant,” and “The Martian” are the three that will undoubtedly do well across the board. I’m hoping for a few superb surprises, but I know that they will surely come with a few lamentable ones too.

For the first time since 2011, I will not be on the West Coast when the nominations are announced. That means you can expect analysis every half hour beginning right after the nominees are unveiled. Click on category headings for full predictions in each race. Chime in below with your thoughts and predictions, and check back tomorrow for plenty of reactions!

No guts, no glory predictions:
Walton Goggins for Best Supporting Actor for “The Hateful Eight” (if only!)
“Steve Jobs” for Best Picture
Juliette Binoche for Best Actress for “Clouds of Sils Maria”

Best Picture
The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

Best Director
Adam McKay (The Big Short)
George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Ridley Scott (The Martian)
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant)
Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)
Matt Damon (The Martian)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett (Carol)
Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)
Brie Larson (Room)
Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)
Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation)
Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
Michael Shannon (99 Homes)
Sylvester Stallone (Creed)
Jacob Tremblay (Room)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Rooney Mara (Carol)
Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria)
Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)
Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

Best Original Screenplay
Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
The Hateful Eight
Inside Out
Spotlight

Best Adapted Screenplay
Anomalisa
The Big Short
Brooklyn
Room
Steve Jobs

Best Cinematography
Bridge of Spies
Carol
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario

Best Art Direction
Brooklyn
Carol
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Best Costume Design
Brooklyn
Carol
The Danish Girl
The Hateful Eight
Trumbo

Best Film Editing
The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Sicario

Best Original Score
Bridge of Spies
Carol
The Danish Girl
The Hateful Eight
Spotlight

Best Original Song
“Hey Baby Doll” (Danny Collins)
“See You Again” (Furious 7)
“’Til It Happens To You” (The Hunting Ground)
“Writings on the Wall” (Spectre)
“Simple Song #3” (Youth)

Best Sound
Inside Out
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Sound Editing
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Black Mass
Mad Max: Fury Road
The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Best Visual Effects
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Ex Machina
Jurassic World
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Walk

Best Animated Feature
Anomalisa
The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out
Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet
Shaun the Sheep Movie

Best Documentary Short Film
Body Team 12
50 Feet from Syria
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Minerita
The Testimony

Best Animated Short Film
Bear Story
If I Was God
Love in the Time of March Madness
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow

Best Live Action Short Film
Ave Maria
Bad Hunter
Contrapelo
Day One
Stutterer

Best Documentary
Amy
Best of Enemies
Going Clear
He Named Me Malala
The Look of Silence

Best Foreign Language Film
The Fencer
Labyrinth of Lies
Mustang
Son of Saul
Viva

Oscar Predictions: Best Picture

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 14th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving this category for last.


Last year’s nominees: American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

This year’s locks: Spotlight, The Revenant, The Martian, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Big Short

Very likely: Room, Brooklyn, Carol

Possible: Bridge of Spies, The Hateful Eight, Ex Machina, Sicario, Straight Outta Compton, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Unlikely: Many others

The rundown: I wasn’t happy with the Academy’s decision to expand this field to ten nominees, but I’m much more upset about the inconsistency of getting somewhere between five and ten nominees each year. It’s hard to know whether we’ll have eight nominees like last year, or nine like the year before that, or ten like the first year it changed. I’m confident in calling five films locks: Spotlight, The Revenant, The Martian, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Big Short. That’s not to suggest that they won’t be left off in other races, but I think they’re safe here. PGA nominee Brooklyn is a good bet, though, unlike the five above, it hasn’t reliably appeared in five-wide fields from other guilds and groups. Room was omitted from the PGA list but I think it will be strong enough, and may even end up being nominated for its director. Carol was also snubbed by PGA and is looking less and less likely by the day, but I think with this many nominees, it will do fine getting in. I actually think that’s where the list will end, stopped at eight again this year. If there were two more, I’d bet on Bridge of Spies and The Hateful Eight. PGA nominees Ex Machina, Sicario, and Straight Outta Compton all strike me as too weak to infiltrate this top race even if they do show up elsewhere. And I don’t think Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be able to show up here. This is the big one - I’m sure we’ll have some giant shock or crazy inclusion.

One possible crazy scenario: It’s been touted as a contender, and it still well may be: animated film Inside Out.

Forecasted winner: I still say it goes to Spotlight.

Oscar Predictions: Best Director

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 14th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

This year’s locks: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), Ridley Scott (The Martian)

Very likely: George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Possible: Adam McKay (The Big Short), Todd Haynes (Carol), Lenny Abrahamson (Room), Steven Spielberg (Bridge of Spies), Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight)

Unlikely: Danny Boyle (Steve Jobs), Cary Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation)

The rundown: We’ve had some crazy surprises in this category, like Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow being snubbed in 2012 and then Bennett Miller coming out of nowhere last year when his film wasn’t even one of the eight choices for Best Picture. I think this year could be a lot more boring, since we actually have six true contenders vying for five slots. I’m so worried about Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) not making the cut after his BAFTA snub, but I’m hoping that Oscar voters have just been saving up all their acclaim for this film while other guilds have been shutting it down left and right. It seems unlikely that last year’s winner Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant) would be snubbed this year, especially after his recent Golden Globe win. Ridley Scott (The Martian) also seems secure, and George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road) looks pretty likely to earn his fourth Oscar nomination but his first bid in this category. The surprise DGA snub today was Todd Haynes (Carol), who has never been nominated for a directing Oscar but seemed like a sure thing until his film started being shut out by a number of guilds. The one likely to take his place is Adam McKay (The Big Short), who snagged BAFTA and DGA nominations for a film that is building its buzz. Steven Spielberg (Bridge of Spies) was a BAFTA and Critics Choice nominee, and he could certainly show up, but I don’t see that happening. Lenny Abrahamson (Room) could surprise if his film is held in high regard and does well. Beyond that, I don’t think we’re likely to see other names. Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight) is a possibility, Danny Boyle (Steve Jobs) is very unlikely, and Cary Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation) needed to land big nominations before now to really be in the game. I’m predicting the exact DGA lineup, something that hasn’t matched up since 2007.

One possible crazy scenario: The force is with J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), who crashes this race to earn his first-ever directing nomination.

Forecasted winner: I’m leaning towards Miller. Only two directors have ever won back-to-back trophies, and the last time was in 1950, so that doesn’t bode well for Inarritu.

Oscar Predictions: Best Actor in a Leading Role

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 14th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Steve Carell, Bradley Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Keaton, Eddie Redmayne

This year’s locks: Leonardo DiCaprio

Very likely: Michael Fassbender, Eddie Redmayne, Matt Damon, Bryan Cranston

Possible: Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Tom Hanks

Unlikely: Michael B. Jordan, Abraham Attah, Michael Caine

The rundown: I’m not feeling too good about two nominees that most are considering sure things, and here’s why. Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) and Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl) have both been nominated once in the past two years. They both starred in films from Oscar-winning directors (Danny Boyle made “Slumdog Millionaire” and Tom Hooper made “The King’s Speech”) that should have landed much bigger. I personally loved “Steve Jobs” and didn’t go nuts for the still-good “The Danish Girl.” Actors don’t necessarily need their films behind them, but these two have been traveling on the awards circuit without much support that would only bolster their chances and keep them from being left off the list. Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) is sitting pretty for his first Oscar win after taking home the Golden Globe (his third) and benefiting from the fact that his movie opened latest and loudest. Though he got snubbed by SAG, Matt Damon (The Martian) has been nominated everywhere else and just won the Golden Globe, so I think he’s in. I’m surprised that Bryan Cranston (Trumbo) made it this far, getting nominated pretty much everywhere, and so it seems like he’s in, unless he ends up like Jake Gyllenhaal who got snubbed despite numerous precursor placements last year. Those five represent the BAFTA list, and BAFTA and Oscar have only matched up exactly twice in the past fifteen years. Johnny Depp (Black Mass) needed to have a stronger showing to still be in the game, though the popular actor might still make the cut, and Will Smith (Concussion) could benefit from positive buzz from his recent release. Michael Caine (Youth) could be a spoiler, but his film hasn’t shown up enough places, and Tom Hardy (Legend) probably won’t be nominated for the least talked-about of his three big films this year. The list of other contenders who will garner some votes are: Geza Rohrig (Son of Saul), Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies), Steve Carell (The Big Short), Christian Bale (The Big Short), though I can’t imagine he’ll end up here instead of supporting, and Ian McKellen (Mr. Holmes). Watch out for two younger underdogs: Michael B. Jordan (Creed) and Abraham Attah (Beasts of No Nation). I’m not sure we’re primed for a surprise here, but you never know.

One possible crazy scenario: Some critics put him here instead of supporting, but I know it would be startling if onetime sure thing and a nominee last year, Michael Keaton (Spotlight), ended up taking a spot here for a performance that could legitimately be argued as lead.

Forecasted winner: It’s finally time for DiCaprio to take home an Oscar.

Oscar Predictions: Best Actress in a Leading Role

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 14th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Marion Cotillard, Felicity Jones, Julianne Moore, Rosamund Pike, Reese Witherspoon

This year’s locks: Brie Larson, Cate Blanchett

Very likely: Saoirse Ronan

Possible: Charlotte Rampling, Jennifer Lawrence, Maggie Smith, Alicia Vikander, Rooney Mara, Charlize Theron

Unlikely: Sarah Silverman, Helen Mirren, Emily Blunt, Lily Tomlin

The rundown: Last year, there were five seeming sure things, and Jennifer Aniston ended up getting snubbed in favor of Marion Cotillard, who had little to no American precursor support. That title this year goes to Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), who is far from a sure thing but seems primed to show up despite not being too present in the awards race up until now. Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road) is also a threat, and her film seems ready to stampede over all else. The bigger question here is whether Rooney Mara (Carol) and Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) will show up, as you’ve read in the supporting actress predictions. I think that, because there are two of them, neither will get promoted, but I don’t know that for sure at all. Brie Larson (Room), who just won the Golden Globe, is a guarantee, as is Mara’s costar and the 2013 winner in this category, Cate Blanchett (Carol). She’s been almost everywhere, and there’s no reason to suspect that Saiorse Ronan (Brooklyn) won’t go the distance. Jennifer Lawrence (Joy) gets a boost from her Golden Globe win because people clearly like her, and I wish that her film was getting more positive attention since it’s really good. Maggie Smith (The Lady in the Van) is always a threat, and it would not be shocking if she grabbed the last spot. And then there’s the very interesting case of two completely random SAG nominees - Sarah Silverman (I Smile Back) and Helen Mirren (Woman in Gold) - who have shown up almost nowhere since, not even on more than one critics’ list. Are they still in the game? Doubtful. Emily Blunt (Sicario) needed to surge much earlier if she was going to upset, but it’s still a very small possibility. And though she was great, I fear that Lily Tomlin (Grandma) doesn’t have nearly enough buzz to crack this list.

One possible crazy scenario: She was in everyone’s predictions a few months ago and has been nowhere since, but maybe, just maybe, Carey Mulligan (Suffragette) rallies to a jaw-dropping nomination?

Forecasted winner: It will be Larson.

Oscar Predictions: Best Actor in a Supporting Role

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 14th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Robert Duvall, Ethan Hawke, Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo, J.K. Simmons

This year’s locks: Mark Rylance

Very likely: Idris Elba, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Shannon

Possible: Jacob Tremblay, Christian Bale, Paul Dano, Tom Hardy, Mark Ruffalo

Unlikely: Michael Keaton, Benicio Del Toro, Harrison Ford

The rundown: This race has not gone down how I expected it to this year. Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) being the only sure thing is strange, but his film even appears like it might do well in other non-technical categories. The other two actors who have shown up in most lineups are Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation), who has building to a nomination for a while now and should get in even if his film doesn’t, and Michael Shannon (99 Homes). I couldn’t be more thrilled that Shannon has done so well. He was a surprise nominee with no precursors in 2008 in this category for “Revolutionary Road,” and then nothing ended up happening with his lead role in “Take Shelter” a few years back. I loved his film and he was so good in it, and I really hope he goes the distance. Likeliest to join the bunch, despite a SAG snub, is recent Golden Globe winner Sylvester Stallone (Creed), last nominated in 1976 for acting in and writing “Rocky.” He’s a sentimental choice and a pretty respectable one, and I think Oscar voters will appreciate him. I’m hoping that they’ll round off the list with adorable SAG nominee Jacob Tremblay (Room), who got referenced by costar Brie Larson in her Golden Globe speech and was all nervous smiles. At age 9, Tremblay has only a few other actors his age or younger who have been nominated in the past, but one of them - Justin Henry - was in this category. His toughest competition was honored by SAG and BAFTA, and in the lead comedy actor race at the Globes, and that’s Christian Bale (The Big Short), who won this award in 2010 and got nominated in 2013 without too much precursor support for “American Hustle.” Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominee Paul Dano (Love and Mercy) would have an easier time getting nominated if his film was attracting any attention. Tom Hardy (The Revenant) might be able to seize the moment of his film doing extremely well and manage his first ever bid, something that’s been a long time coming just like Elba. After being predicted as the frontrunners in this race for months, Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight) and Michael Keaton (Spotlight) have mysteriously found themselves left off most lists, and unless the film rebounds in a big way, which is not looking good, they won’t be nominated. The same goes for Benicio Del Toro (Sicario), who scored a BAFTA nomination but hasn’t shown up too many other places. His film seems to be building steam, but I’m not sure he’ll be part of it. And then there’s a sentimental choice many think might surprise - Harrison Ford (Star Wars: The Force Awakens). The two statistics that I believe will discount him are that only one actor - Oscar winner Alec Guinness - has ever been nominated for a Star Wars film, and the one nomination Ford has received was for the more serious “Witness” rather than Indiana Jones or even “Air Force One.” I don’t see it happening. I do think we will see a surprise here; I just hope it’s not at the expense of a deserving actor.

One possible crazy scenario: It would be a great surprise if Harvey Keitel (Youth), who was nominated for an Oscar back in 1991 for “Bugsy,” earned another nod for his heartfelt and entertaining turn that, in my mind, was the standout of his film.

Forecasted winner: If he gets nominated, it will probably be Stallone.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Oscar Predictions: Best Actress in a Supporting Role

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 14th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Patricia Arquette, Laura Dern, Keira Knightley, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep

This year’s locks: Kate Winslet

Very likely: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alicia Vikander, Rooney Mara

Possible: Kristen Stewart, Alicia Vikander, Helen Mirren, Jane Fonda, Rachel McAdams

Unlikely: Elizabeth Banks, Joan Allen, Julia Walters

The rundown: This is a very tricky category because it’s hard to know where two of the top performances this year will end up being classified. The Golden Globes put Rooney Mara (Carol) and Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) in lead, SAG and the Critics Choice Awards put them in supporting, and BAFTA split them up. The bigger reason that Vikander’s placement matters is that, if she ends up being classified as lead, that will make room for Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina). She just can’t get nominated for both, and might be left off because of a vote split for her two performances. It’s intriguing because, at this point, the only lock is Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs), who cemented her status with a surprise Golden Globe win. Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight) seems likely despite being left off the list by SAG, which probably didn’t see the film. I don’t think that SAG nominee Rachel McAdams (Spotlight) will make the cut since enthusiasm for her film seems to be inexplicably flagging. A surge for Golden Globe nominee Jane Fonda (Youth) wouldn’t be too surprising, but the film hasn’t been landing as strongly as many thought. And then there’s Helen Mirren (Trumbo), who has shown up pretty much everywhere for her scene-stealing performance in a movie filled with showy actors. Mirren was recognized by most awards bodies in 2012 for “Hitchcock” before being snubbed on Oscar nominations day, and I think the same will happen this year. Being left off the BAFTA list when American costar Bryan Cranston made the cut doesn’t help. There’s also Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria), who won the French Oscar, the Cesar, for her performance, yet hasn’t really shown up except for critics’ trophies. She’ll need some help, but I believe that she’ll make it. There’s still a chance Elizabeth Banks (Love and Mercy) will show up, and Joan Allen (Room) would be a nominee similar to Laura Dern last year, whose costar got all the praise and then slid in under the radar. There is plenty of potential here, and I’m hopeful that we’ll get a good solid list.

One possible crazy scenario: I didn’t like this performance, but Emmy winner Cynthia Nixon (James White) might earn her first Oscar bid for the Sundance indie.

Forecasted winner: It’s too early to tell. If my list is actually nominated, I think Mara might win.

Oscar Predictions: Best Adapted Screenplay

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 14th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

This year’s locks: Room, The Big Short, Steve Jobs

Very likely: Brooklyn

Possible: Anomalisa, The Martian, Carol, Trumbo, 45 Years, The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road

Unlikely: The End of the Tour, The Danish Girl

The rundown: The WGA list in this category seems much likelier to repeat at the Oscars than the original field, though I can’t imagine that Room, which was ineligible at the WGA, will be left off. Count on The Big Short and Steve Jobs (the surprise Globe winner) for sure, The Martian and Carol are strong possibilities but could be left off in this race, and we’ll have to see if all the love for Trumbo extends to Oscar voters. Knocking another of those films out will probably be WGA-ineligible but USC Scripter-nominated Brooklyn, and USC Scripter nominee The End of the Tour might show up too. Anomalisa is a threat because it comes from Charlie Kaufman, and watch out also for 45 Years, which feels like it would fit nicely into this race given voters’ historical choices.

One possible crazy scenario: It’s actually not that crazy, but we still don’t know if Beasts of No Nation will be a big Oscar movie or not, and a nomination here would be a show of strength.

Forecasted winner: I think this goes to Room.

Oscar Predictions: Best Original Screenplay

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 14th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nightcrawler

This year’s locks: Spotlight, Inside Out, The Hateful Eight

Very likely: Bridge of Spies

Possible: Ex Machina, Son of Saul, Youth, Straight Outta Compton, Trainwreck, Joy, Sicario

Unlikely: So many others

The rundown: The WGA list is never the best barometer for this category since a handful of the top Oscar contenders are ruled ineligible. This year, The Hateful Eight and Inside Out are the strongest ones that couldn’t have made the cut but probably will with Oscar voters, and Youth is another possibility that wasn’t eligible. From the actual WGA nominees, I’m betting only on Spotlight and Bridge of Spies to make the cut. I don’t see Oscar voters embracing Trainwreck and I just don’t think that Straight Outta Compton will cut it here even if it makes the Best Picture race. I wouldn’t put too much stock in Sicario either, for writing specifically, and instead I’d watch out for Ex Machina. Watch out also for Best Foreign Film certainty Son of Saul to make a possible bid. I wish that Joy was a stronger contender here: it totally deserves to be recognized.

One possible crazy scenario: The wonderful script of Grandman earns a welcome mention.

Forecasted winner: I see it going to Spotlight unless Quentin Tarantino can muster enough support for his film.

Oscar Predictions: Best Foreign Film

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 14th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Wild Tales (Argentina), Tangerines (Estonia), Timbuktu (Mauritania), Ida (Poland), Leviathan (Russia)

This year’s contenders: The Brand New Testament (Belgium), Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia), A War (Denmark), The Fencer (Finland), Mustang (France), Labyrinth of Lies (Germany), Son of Saul (Hungary), Viva (Iceland), Theeb (Jordan)

The rundown: This list was winnowed down from eighty submissions to nine finalists, five of which will ultimately be nominated. A few films many expected to be here didn’t make the cut, and Golden Globe nominee “The Club” from Chile isn’t on it. Of the four Globe nominees, Son of Saul and Mustang will both definitely be nominated. I’ve seen three others - The Fencer, Viva, and Theeb, and I’m not so sure about their chances. I don’t think I would include any of those three on my list. I think that Labyrinth of Lies will probably make the cut, and A War is a good bet too. I don’t know anything about Embrace of the Serpent, and The Brand New Testament, which looks pretty light, was a Golden Globe nominee, so it may make the cut too. I think we’ll have fewer surprises here than usual, though four of these films haven’t yet been released in the United States, so it’s hard to know.

One possible crazy scenario: The lock of all locks, Son of Saul, somehow doesn’t get in. It won’t happen though.

Forecasted winner: “Son of Saul”

Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 14th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Citizenfour, Finding Vivian Maier, Last Days in Vietnam, The Salt of the Earth, Virunga

This year’s contenders: Amy, Best of Enemies, Cartel Land, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, He Named Me Malala, Heart of a Dog, The Hunting Ground, Listen to Me Marlon, The Look of Silence, Meru, 3 ½ Minutes 10 Bullets, We Come as Friends, What Happened Miss Simone?, Where to Invade Next, Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

The rundown: This category has been winnowed down to fifteen finalists already. At this point last year, I had seen four of that crowd, but now I’ve seen just one, so I’ll have to do some catching up after the nominations come out. The one film I have seen is terrific – Best of Enemies. From what I’ve heard and read, Amy and The Look of Silence are the surest things. Going Clear is a good bet, though Alex Gibney has been snubbed in the past. He Named Me Malala is supposed to be great, and I’ve also heard very good things about Listen to Me Marlon. It’s more depressing, to be sure, but 3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets is probably a strong contender, as is The Hunting Ground. It’s not a good idea to count out Michael Moore, but Where to Invade Next is far from a sure thing.

One possible crazy scenario: I’m sad to say that what I predicted happening here, “Life Itself” getting snubbed, came true last year. Since I haven’t seen the film, I’ll say the same about Amy missing out since that just seems unfathomable.

Forecasted winner: I think Amy takes it.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Oscar Predictions: Best Animated Feature

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 14th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Song of the Sea, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

This year’s locks: Inside Out

Very likely: Anomalisa, The Good Dinosaur

Possible: Shaun the Sheep Movie, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, The Peanuts Movie, When Marnie Was There, Minions, Boy and the World

Unlikely: Home, Hotel Transylvania 2, The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie: Sponge Out of Water, Moomins on the Riviera, The Boy and the Beast, The Laws of the Universe – Part 0

The rundown: It’s hard to hold on to anything in this category after sure thing The Lego Movie was snubbed. Still, there’s no way that Inside Out is getting left off, and I don’t really see Anomalisa being cast off either. I wouldn’t bet against The Good Dinosaur, but I think things get trickier after that. The Golden Globe list and the Annie Award nominees for Best Feature included The Peanuts Movie and Shaun the Sheep Movie. The Producers Guild of America swapped out the latter for Minions. The likeliest of the other nine eligible films to show up are Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, When Marnie Was There, and Boy and the World. In 2011, 2013, and 2014, we got too such more eclectic nominees, but in 2012, we got none, with “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” taking the fifth spot. I’m betting that “The Peanuts Movie,” the one Globe contender I haven’t seen, will miss out in favor of one of the other three.

One possible crazy scenario: The peculiar adaptation of a Finnish cartoon that I had the chance to screen, Moomins on the Riviera, earns a nomination.

Forecasted winner: How could it not be Inside Out?

Oscar Predictions: Best Original Song

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 14th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: “Lost Stars” (Begin Again), “Grateful” (Beyond the Lights), “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me), “Everything Is Awesome” (The Lego Movie), “Glory” (Selma)

This year’s Golden Globe nominees: “Love Me Like You Do” (Fifty Shades of Grey), “See You Again” (Furious 7), “One Kind of Love” (Love and Mercy), “Writing’s on the Wall” (Spectre), “Simple Song #3” (Youth)

Other contenders: “Pray 4 My City” (Chi-Raq), “Hey Baby Doll” (Danny Collins), “Dreamsong” (Diary of a Teenage Girl), “’Til it Happens to You” (The Hunting Ground), “I’ll See You in My Dreams” (I’ll See You in My Dreams), “Phenomenal” (Southpaw)

The rundown: There are 74 eligible songs this year. Golden Globe nominee “One Kind of Love” isn’t eligible, so count that one out. I feel like I haven’t listened to my annual playlist of the contenders as faithfully as I usually do, so I’m at a bit of a loss. The films and song titles pictured above are the ones I’ve heard most about, but I don’t have too much confidence in this race, so don’t hedge your bets on this one.

One possible crazy scenario: Any one of the seven eligible songs from “Salt Bridge” makes the cut.

Forecasted winner: I think See You Again takes it for the sentimental factor.

Oscar Predictions: Best Original Score

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 14th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Interstellar, Mr. Turner, The Theory of Everything

This year’s locks: Carol, The Danish Girl, The Hateful Eight

Very likely: None

Possible: Bridge of Spies, Spotlight, Brooklyn, Steve Jobs, Sicario, The Martian, Inside Out, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Unlikely: The other 111 contenders

The rundown: A whopping 122 scores are officially eligible in this category this year. The only one of note that’s missing is Golden Globe nominee “The Revenant.” The other Globe honorees should be top contenders: Carol, The Danish Girl, The Hateful Eight, and Steve Jobs. Other films likely to bump any of them out are Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Inside Out, The Martian, Sicario, and Spotlight. It would be fun for Star Wars: The Force Awakens to be included here, earning John Williams his record-setting forty-fifth nomination and his first since “Return of the Jedi” for a Star Wars film. I’m not sure it will happen, but it’s certainly possible.
One possible crazy scenario: Thomas Newman scores a bid for Spectre, earning James Bond his second-ever mention in this category.
Forecasted winner: I think this goes to The Hateful Eight.

Oscar Predictions: Best Costume Design

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 14th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Inherent Vice, Into the Woods, Maleficent, Mr. Turner

This year’s locks: Carol, The Danish Girl

Very likely: Brooklyn

Possible: Trumbo, The Hateful Eight, Joy, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Cinderella, Beasts of No Nation

Unlikely: Plenty of others, I’m sure!

The rundown: Like the Art Directors Guild, the Costume Designers Guild separates its nominees, announced last Thursday, into three categories: contemporary, period, and fantasy. The last two are more important to take seriously. From the period section, I think Brooklyn, Carol, The Danish Girl, and Trumbo could well represent four out of five of our nominees here. From fantasy, Cinderella could represent contenders that won’t show up in other races, while Mad Max: Fury Road is likely to be honored here along with its many other accolades. From the contemporary field, Joy and Beasts of No Nation would both be cool inclusions. Both The Revenant and The Hateful Eight didn’t make the cut with the CDG and could show up here anyway.

One possible crazy scenario: Star Wars: The Force Awakens becomes the first film in its series since the original took home this award in 1977 to be nominated here.

Forecasted winner: I think that The Danish Girl gets this.

Oscar Predictions: Best Art Direction

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 14th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Interstellar, Into the Woods, Mr. Turner

This year’s locks: Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant

Very likely: Carol, The Danish Girl

Possible: Brooklyn, Bridge of Spies, Trumbo, Sicario, The Martian

Unlikely: Joy, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Room

The rundown: Translating what these nominees will be from the Art Directors Guild list is tough since there are three separate categories there – contemporary, period, and fantasy – and just one here. It’s easy to see that Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant, both of which earned nominations in their respective genres, are frontrunners. A shocking snub from the ADG was Carol, which is likely to break through here, and should be joined by period nominee The Danish Girl. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Period nominees Bridge of Spies and Trumbo could contend, as could contemporary nominees Joy, Sicario, and The Martian. I wouldn’t bet on fantasy nominee Star Wars: The Force Awakens since only the original three “Star Wars” films were honored here (the first won in 1977). The other non-ADG-recognized film, which was probably wasn’t eligible, that might grab the fifth spot: Brooklyn.

One possible crazy scenario: An ADG nominee I wouldn’t think to take seriously – horror film Crimson Peak makes the cut.

Forecasted winner: This feels like a solid place to honor Mad Max: Fury Road.