Predicting the 2016 Oscars

The Revenant

Best Picture

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies

Brooklyn

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

Aren: This awards season has been more up-in-the-air than any in recent memory, especially when it comes to Best Picture. Spotlight took the SAG award. The Big Short took the PGA award. The Revenant took the DGA, the BAFTA, and the Golden Globe. Even though the field has somewhat coalesced around The Revenant (a fact that saddens me deeply), there’s still a chance Spotlight or The Big Short will squeak out a win. If we lived in a world where Best Picture actually went to the best film of the lot, Mad Max: Fury Road would win handily. Sadly, don’t expect it to win the top prize this Sunday.

Will Win: The Revenant

Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Anders: I should say, I’ve only seen five of these films so far (Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, Spotlight). I feel like the momentum has coalesced around giving a second Best Picture Oscar to AGI, in part because The Revenant was the last of these films to be released (December 25) and early front-runners (like Spotlight) tend to fade over a long campaign. I’d be more than happy to have an essential and serious-minded film like Spotlight win, but I still think Mad Max: Fury Road is the best film of the year: a near miracle of a film, but a mix of genres that don’t get these kinds of awards.

Will Win: The Revenant

Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

 

Best Actor

Bryan Cranston for Trumbo

Matt Damon for The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant

Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl

Aren: A sad lot of nominees. No Géza Röhrig. No Michael B. Jordan. No Tom Hanks. No Jacob Tremblay. The only actor who deserves to be here is Matt Damon, who scored a career high with The Martian. Leonardo DiCaprio will end up winning for his least impressive performance in recent years (it’s a good performance, but it’s been lauded sheerly because it’s an extreme one, all grunting and physical exertion.) The Academy loves when performers are “due” and when they punish themselves for art. DiCaprio, roundly ignored for past performances where he should’ve won, does both in The Revenant. The award is his.

Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant

Should Win: Matt Damon for The Martian

Anders: There are a lot of actors here I like, but it says something about how essential I perceive these roles that I’ve only managed to see The Martian with Damon thus far, who carries the film and does so while remaining easy-going and funny. I figure Leo will get it, since he ate the bison liver. Hopefully having got his gold, he can go back to being one of our last true movie stars.

Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant

Should Win: Matt Damon for The Martian

 

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett for Carol

Brie Larson for Room

Jennifer Lawrence for Joy

Charlotte Rampling for 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn

Aren: Unlike the Best Actor field, Best Actress is a great crop of performances. Brie Larson is very good in Room and she’ll win for it, which isn’t something I’m going to complain about. But if I had to pick, Saoirse Ronan would be walking away with Best Actress. Her performance in Brooklyn is quietly astounding, going through so many modulations and emotions. She also centres the film. Without Ronan’s performance, Brooklyn would not work.

Will Win: Brie Larson for Room

Should Win: Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn

Anders: I agree. This was a great year for performances from women. You could add to this list such excellent performances as Juliette Binoche in Clouds of Sils Maria and Greta Gerwig in Mistress America. I agree that Brie Larson is going to get it for Room. That film has a lot of love and will get something. Though I’d give it to Cate Blanchett for her devastating and deeply mannered performance in Carol. The best of the year for sure.

Will Win: Brie Larson for Room

Should Win: Cate Blanchett for Carol

 

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale for The Big Short

Tom Hardy for The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo for Spotlight

Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone for Creed

Aren: The only person who doesn’t belong here is Mark Ruffalo, who is guilty of the only moment of overacting in Spotlight, a film of remarkable restraint. I wish Michael Keaton or Liev Schreiber had replaced him from that film’s roster. As for the rest, they’re some strong performances. However, Stallone will rightly win it. His performance in Creed is a startling reminder that beneath all the muscle is an actor of touching vulnerability.

Will Win: Sylvester Stallone for Creed

Should Win: Sylvester Stallone for Creed

Anders: Yes, Keaton was the stand out in Spotlight for me, since Ruffalo overdoes the tics to cover up his natural charm in the role, while Keaton’s ‘Robby’ has a more nuanced emotional journey. That said, I’m sure Stallone will win it, both for nostalgia and all the hype around it. But Mark Rylance is quite possibly, and quietly, the best part of Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies. He’s excellent.

Will Win: Sylvester Stallone for Creed

Should Win: Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies

 

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh for The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara for Carol

Rachel McAdams for Spotlight

Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl

Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs

Aren: Again, a good group of nominees. Kate Winslet might have been the best part of Steve Jobs, even if her character is sadly underwritten. Rachel McAdams is a quiet bedrock of professionalism and empathy in Spotlight. I’m glad she’s nominated. But Jennifer Jason Leigh should probably take it for her vile performance in The Hateful Eight. The entire cast of characters in that film are worthy of contempt, but Leigh somehow manages to top them all in repugnancy, allowing her face to be devastated in the process.

Will Win: Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl

Should Win: Jennifer Jason Leigh for The Hateful Eight

Anders: I hear that Vikander is really a co-lead in The Danish Girl, and that often gets rewarded. She’s also excellent in Ex Machina. Rooney Mara is also a co-lead, and I found Mara’s performance was incredibly subtle and affecting. McAdams is fine, but doesn’t stand out in the film. And Jennifer Jason Leigh gets the Quentin Tarantino award for career revival; she’s great, but the role is fairly one-note. I’d give it to Mara, even if we quibble over supporting/lead performance.

Will Win: Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl

Should Win: Rooney Mara for Carol

 

Best Director

Lenny Abrahamson for Room

Alejandro G. Iñárritu for The Revenant

Tom McCarthy for Spotlight

Adam McKay for The Big Short

George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road

Aren: The Academy believes that “most directing” equals “best directing.” By that standard, Alejandro G. Iñárritu will likely win for the second year in a row. George Miller deserves the prize, however, by not only making the best film of the lot, but also by blowing away expectations with a decades-later sequel that was a nightmare to shoot. Also, however admirable a job Adam McKay does with The Big Short, the fact that the director of Anchorman has garnered a Best Director nomination before Christopher Nolan has makes me so sad about movies today.

Will Win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu for The Revenant

Should Win: George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road

Anders: I also think Alejandro G. Iñárritu will will get his second Best Director award for The Revenant. The press for the film has been all about how hard the shoot was. But I think Miller’s achievement is just as difficult, as the 70 year old showed the kids how to make the greatest action film of the decade and infused it with emotion and a mythic heart.

Will Win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu for The Revenant

Should Win: George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road

 

Best Original Screenplay

Bridge of Spies by Matt Charman and Joel & Ethan Coen

Ex Machina by Alex Garland

Inside Out by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley

Spotlight by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy

Straight Outta Compton by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff

Aren: Some very good scripts here, but all of Spotlight’s strengths start on the page, where Singer and McCarthy resist the hoariest temptations of true story cinema and instead create something of subdued power. It’ll win and it ought to.

Will Win: Spotlight by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy

Should Win: Spotlight by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy

Anders: Yup, Spotlight is masterfully written: restrained and focused in equal measure, leading to a rousing climax that never overplays its hand or overstays its welcome. I could see Inside Out getting a win here, since a lot of people will praise its imaginative fancies. But, I’m going to agree with Aren.

Will Win: Spotlight by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy

Should Win: Spotlight by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Big Short by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay

Brooklyn by Nick Hornby

Carol by Phyllis Nagy

The Martian by Drew Goddard

Room by Emma Donoghue

Aren: Another good list of scripts. The Big Short will win as Randolph and McKay were able to transform a dense nonfiction book on Wall Street malfeasance into a funny crowd pleaser. But The Martian is a great example of adapting a story to fit the movie screen while retaining the essence of what made it so appealing in the first place.

Will Win: The Big Short by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay

Should Win: The Martian by Drew Goddard

Anders: Yes, some good scripts here. I actually think The Martian has a shot in this category, as it was a popular book and the film managed to please its many fans. But I think that Room takes that phenomenon even further, and is adapted by the novelist of the original. I thought Nick Hornby did fine work on Brooklyn. But I’d give it to the adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt, Carol, which does so much with so few words. Sure, that film’s also an acting and directing tour-de-force, but the script gives it a solid structure.

Will Win: Room  by Emma Donoghue

Should Win: Carol by Phyllis Nagy

 

Best Cinematography

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Sicario

Aren: Emmanuel Lubezki will win for the third year in a row for his lovely cinematography in The Revenant. If he wins again next year, they should just rename the award after him so he can never win it again, giving everyone else a fair shot. This will also be another year where Lubezki robs Roger Deakins of a worthy victory for his overwhelming work in Sicario. Those aerial images of mountains in the Mexican-American border region or the silhouettes of the commandos ready to enter the mule tunnel are terrifying works of art.

Will Win: The Revenant

Should Win: Sicario

Anders: Mad Max: Fury Road looks great, but yes, Chivo will win the award a third time in a row here. My choice though would be Carol, which combines lush colors, abstract images, and impeccable framing and camera movements, evoking a 1950s America straight out of an Edward Hopper painting. It’s the year’s most beautiful film.

Will Win: The Revenant

Should Win: Carol

 

Best Costume Design

Carol

Cinderella

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Aren: The central dress in Cinderella has thousands of Swarovski crystals imbedded in its fabric and likely cost millions of dollars. It’s as astounding as any special effect in any film from 2015. Films like Mad Max: Fury Road might have had more inventive costuming, but Cinderella should win on pure aesthetic appeal.

Will Win: Cinderella

Should Win: Cinderella

Anders: This is Sandy Powell’s award to win. She’ll probably get it for that remarkable dress in Cinderella, but the costumes she puts the characters in in Carol are an essential part of the roles that the characters play.

Will Win: Cinderella

Should Win: Carol

 

Best Sound Mixing

Bridge of Spies

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Aren: Star Wars: The Force Awakens blends the multitude of sounds in it so well. As does Bridge of Spies. But Sound Mixing is all about the balance of every sound in the final film and the one thing that springs to mind most about sound from last year is the Doof Warrior atop his vehicle, his guitar blazing. The way that sound appears diegetically in the film is a work of art. It’ll win for that and ought to.

Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Anders: You’re right. Mad Max: Fury Road is blazingly loud, but the various elements never disappear. Nor does Junkie XL’s score get overwhelmed by the engines and crashes. It should and will win.

Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

 

Best Sound Editing

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Aren: No one is going to argue with Mad Max: Fury Road winning this category too. Each individual car and character has such unique sounds. But Star Wars: The Force Awakens edges it out in terms of inventiveness. The beeps and boops of BB-8, for instance, are instantly memorable and create a character out of nothing. They’re also not repetitive. BB-8 doesn’t just sound like R2-D2.

Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Should Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Anders: I think this is the one category that belongs to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I agree that Mad Max: Fury Road would be a worthy winner, but the sounds of Star Wars: The Force Awakens draw on an iconic sound palette and then build on it.

Will Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Should Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

 

Best Editing

The Big Short

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Spotlight

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Aren: Despite the fact that it’s essentially a two-hour long chase scene, everything in Mad Max: Fury Road is comprehensible. Every action beat. Every line of dialogue. Every character motivation. If the editing were any less exact, the film wouldn’t be the perfect rush that it is.

Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Anders: This belongs to Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s pitch perfect, cutting from shot to shot so clearly and dynamically, like a car shifting from one gear to the next.

Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

 

Best Visual Effects

Ex Machina

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Aren: Props to Ex Machina for making it into the category on a budget that’s a fraction of the other films’. Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant have pretty excellent visual effects—the dust storm and the grizzly attack are great. But Star Wars: The Force Awakens is seamless. It’s almost impossible to pick out the visual effects from the special effects. That’s why it should win.

Will Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Should Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Anders: This is a hard category to pick. I feel like the emphasis on in-camera effects work in the marketing of both Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens diminishes the excellent work you mention: the seamless blending of the special effects with digital visual wizardry. I think Star Wars will get it, and I’m happy for it to, simply because it is more fantastical, but Mad Max is a remarkable piece of work as well.

Will Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

 

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

Mad Max: Fury Road

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

The Revenant

Aren: The Revenant makes Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy very ugly, which is no easy feat. Also, it showcases scars and wounds at every turn. It’s showy makeup work and the Academy will take the opportunity to give it another Oscar where it can. That being said, the amount of dust and grime and chrome on the characters of Mad Max: Fury Road makes it the more deserving winner.

Will Win: The Revenant

Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Anders: A showdown between Tom Hardy films. If The Revenant is going to be the big winner, chalk this one up for it. But I’d give it to Mad Max: Fury Road, which created some of the most memorable and grotesque characters in a long time.

Will Win: The Revenant

Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

 

Best Original Song

“Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey

“Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction

“Simple Song #3” from Youth

“Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground

“Writings on the Wall” from Spectre

Aren: I like “Writings on the Wall” more than most anyone I know (excepting Adam Slusar, perhaps) and it’s Spectre’s only nomination so I’d like to see it win. That being said, because of the subject matter, “Til It Happens to You” will probably take it.

Will Win: “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground

Should Win: “Writings on the Wall” from Spectre

Anders: After listening to all the songs, should the voters be awarding the best song or best use in a film? The only one I’ve seen is Spectre, which I like okay. I think Antony’s song “Manta Ray” is delicate, but gorgeous. I’ve long enjoyed her album, I Am a Bird Now, as Antony and the Johnsons. Or is this an award to get stars on stage? I agree that “Til It Happens to You” will win, because they want to give it to Lady Gaga.

Will Win: “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground

Should Win: “Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction

 

Best Original Score

Bridge of Spies

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Aren: Two elderly masters produced two of the best scores of the year. Since Disasterpeace wasn’t nominated for It Follows, I’ll be happy if either of the frontrunners win. Ennio Morricone will probably win for his haunting The Hateful Eight score, but I’d like to see John Williams take the top prize for his newest Star Wars theme. “Rey’s Theme” is beautiful and unlike anything in the series before.

Will Win: The Hateful Eight

Should Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Anders: Like Aren, I’d be happy with either Morricone or Williams getting it. I really loved the Star Wars: The Force Awakens score though. It’s really one of Williams’s best scores in recent years.

Will Win: The Hateful Eight

Should Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

 

Best Short Film, Animated

Bear Story

Prologue

Sanjay’s Super Team

We Can’t Live without Cosmos

World of Tomorrow

Aren: It may prove too idiosyncratic to win, but the momentum belongs with Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow.

Will Win: World of Tomorrow

Anders: Haven’t seen any of these, but if Hetzfeldt is too weird for the Academy, then I see it going to Pixar.

Will Win: Sanjay’s Super Team

 

Best Short Film, Live Action

Ave Maria

Day One

Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)

Shok

Stutterer

Aren: I’m just going by consensus since I haven’t seen any of the films.

Will Win: Ave Maria

Anders: I have no idea. Shok is about kids in a war zone, so that one?

Will Win: Shok

 

Best Documentary Short

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

Aren: Consensus again.

Will Win: Body Team 12

Anders: A guess based on some buzz.

Will Win: A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

 

Best Documentary Feature

Amy

Cartel Land

The Look of Silence

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Aren: There are some very good documentaries here. Cartel Land and Winter on Fire both have stunning footage. Amy will win because it’s both the highest profile film here and legitimately moving. But The Look of Silence is a masterpiece and it can actually change the world. It should win.

Will Win: Amy

Should Win: The Look of Silence

Anders: I haven’t seen any of these, but I need to carve out time to watch The Look of Silence, since The Act of Killing was so essential. I’m looking forward to seeing Amy too.

Will Win: Amy

 

Best Foreign Feature

Embrace of the Serpent

Mustang

Son of Saul

Theeb

A War

Aren: Son of Saul is the best film of 2015. Thus, Son of Saul should win every award it’s nominated for. Sadly, it’s only nominated for this one. Happily, it’ll win it

Will Win: Son of Saul

Should Win: Son of Saul

Anders: While holocaust films do often win, and Son of Saul has had lots of praise since Cannes, it is also fairly divisive. I’ve heard buzz building for Mustang.

Will Win: Mustang

 

Best Animated Feature

Anomalisa

Boy & the World

Inside Out

Shaun the Sheep Movie

When Marnie Was There

Aren: Pixar wins even on off years. With Inside Out, a massive critical and commercial hit that is universally beloved, it’ll win another award to put in the trophy room. It’ll be well-deserved. When Marnie Was There would be a nice outlier winner, but Inside Out is probably the more powerful film.

Will Win: Inside Out

Should Win: Inside Out

Anders: I loved both Inside Out and Marnie, but I just can’t see Inside Out losing here. It was legitimately moving and Pixar’s best since Toy Story 3.

Will Win: Inside Out

Should Win: Inside Out

 

Best Production Design

Bridge of Spies

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Aren: If there’s a The Revenant sweep, it might pick up this category, but for the sheer insanity and texture of its storyworld, Mad Max: Fury Road will probably win this.

Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Anders: Mad Max: Fury Road is the most fully realized world here, but the advanced NASA designs of The Martian were compelling and felt real. Still, I’ll go with Mad Max: Fury Road but wouldn’t be surprised to see the Academy avoid scifi and go with either The Revenant or The Danish Girl.

Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

About Aren

Aren likes big movies and he likes small movies. He'll sing the praises of the latest Hollywood sci-fi epic while simultaneously lambasting people for not getting into Hong Kong cinema. He detests egotism in film and film criticism, but is a sucker for earnest spectacle. While he tends to skew more modern in his viewing choices, he thinks film looks best in black and white, especially when directed by Akira Kurosawa. His favourite genres are science fiction and animation, but he'll watch anything so long as it's interesting. He's a prairie boy, born and raised. When he's not writing about movies, he's making them. You can watch his 2013 sci-fi short QUANTOM here: http://vimeo.com/66512643. His email is arenbergstrom@gmail.com. His favourite movies are 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), BEN-HUR (1959), BLUE VELVET (1986), THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001), MINORITY REPORT (2002), PSYCHO (1960), RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), SEVEN SAMURAI (1954), SPIRITED AWAY (2001), and STAR WARS: EPISODE VI - RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983). His favourite directors are Hayao Miyazaki, Akira Kurosawa, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, James Cameron, David Cronenberg, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Terrence Malick, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, and Johnnie To.