Friday, February 26, 2016

My official predictions for the 88th annual Academy Awards.

This weekend, all eyes will be turned towards the 88th annual Academy Awards ceremony, but maybe not for all of the usual reasons. This year's Oscar race has been one of the most controversial, but rather than it being for the Oscars shunning populist entertainment, for the second year in a row, this year's acting categories have featured a strictly white slate of nominees, continuing last year's #OscarsSoWhite outcry. It's the kind of event that has led the Academy to make drastic changes within it's branches, even if it's only a symptom of much larger problems within the diversity-lacking Hollywood system, but that's a discussion for another time. It certainly doesn't help that the Academy's decision to feature performances from three of the five Original Song nominees means transgender nominee Antony won't be able to perform her song "Manta Ray", but at least these boneheaded decisions should give host Chris Rock some excellent comedic material.

As for the likely winners... that's a conundrum all its own, with frontrunners in several categories having shifted back and forth for months. However, this late in the game, it's still much easier to call many of these categories than it has in some recent years, and while anticipation on the big night likely won't be a big surprise, the build up has been a truly wild ride.

So like in previous years, I'm going to list out all of my predictions for the winners of all 24 categories. As always, some of these aren't in 100% confidence, but they're as good as I'll get. Let's begin.

Best Live Action Short: Stutterer
Best Documentary Short: Body Team 12
Best Animated Short: World of Tomorrow
As always, throwing a dart at the nominees and seeing what sticks might suffice just as well, but at least the nominees this year have some rationality to go by. Stutterer has a very touching subject matter that could appeal to voters in the Academy. Ditto for Body Team 12, whose own timely relevance and comparatively brisk running time could help it out, but I wouldn't be surprised at a win for Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah. Best Animated Short could go the way of Pixar's Sanjay's Super Team (which had the benefit of playing before The Good Dinosaur in theaters), but I'm placing my bets on World of Tomorrow from Rejected director Don Herztfeldt. That's right. The short you've watched on YouTube with a cloud exclaiming "My anus is bleeding", that's the same guy. Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but I really would love to see him win, if only so he could work "I'm the Queen of France" into his acceptance speech. 

Best Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
For three decades, there's been precedent for this category to align itself with a Best Picture nominee, and any of the three (The Revenant, Mad Max, and The Martain) would have a chance in any other year, but there's been an ongoing trend recently of... breaking trends, and this year is no exception. The seventh Star Wars films has dominated all the major Visual Effects races, and this will be it's big win of the night, deservedly so.

Best Sound Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road
Both Mad Max and The Revenant are competing against each other in ten categories, and are even directly butting heads in two-horse races. The sound categories are among them, and you might as well flip a coin to pick between them. For Sound Editing, I'm going with Mad Max, as its multitudes of engine roars, explosions, landscape atmospherics,  and the intensity of its action sequences feel like a surefire win for this category. But what about the other? 

Best Sound Mixing: The Revenant
Another year, another category where I'm probably shooting myself in the foot. It's highly uncommon for films nominated in both sound categories to split victories (and predicting that scenario last year backfired for me), so what I'm doing is essentially splitting my own predictions between the two frontrunners in this category to cover all bases, although a split is certainly not impossible. Or maybe they'll go with Star wars instead. Who knows? 

Best Original Song: "'Til it Happens To You" - The Hunting Ground
It's hard to know which of the films nominated in this category are the most widely seen given that every film is nominated for this category, and this category alone, so it becomes a simple case of deduction. Racing Extinction is out with viewers likely not going out of their way to see it. Youth is likely out for its waning exposure. Fifty Shades of Grey is unlikely by pure virtue of being Fifty Shades of Grey. This leaves the race between The Hunting Ground's thematic anthem, and Bond film Spectre's opening credits song. Even as a die hard Bond fan, seeing Spectre win for Sam Smith's utterly lackluster "Writing's on the Wall' would infuriate me, but I feel like Lady Gaga's powerful thematic anthem will sway voters to its favor. 

Best Original Score: The Hateful Eight
With a career spanning over six decades, it's hard to believe that Ennio Morricone's only Oscar win came from a non-competitive honorary award. This year, the legendary maestro will at long last claim his rightful trophy. I wish it would go to John Williams' unfairly maligned The Force Awakens, but it's hard not to root for Morricone. Besides, I'll always have the IFMCA's to make more inspired decisions. 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Mad Max: Fury Road
Another of the categories where Mad Max and The Revenant are in fierce competition, and either would make excellent winners. The Revenant's gruesome prosthetics and Leonardo DiCaprio's beaten transformation will have much support tossed its way, but I feel Mad Max's impressive and instantly iconic designs will take the crown. Oh, and there's another nominee here with a really long title... 

Best Costume Design: The Danish Girl
Usually this is quite an easy one, but it feels like a close two horse race, but not with The Revenant, whose costumes are perhaps a little too subtle to win. Sandy Powell has two nominees, but seeing as how Cinderella only has this one nomination, and the general Academy feels a bit cold towards Carol, I doubt she wins this year. Mad Max is quite an atypical winner for this category, but with it claiming several prominent awards, it's a serious spoiler for the win. However, I think the much more eye-catching wardrobe of The Danish Girl (which recently took the CDG) will be the victor here. 

Best Production Design: Mad Max: Fury Road
This year, I like to think of this one as the consolation prize category. Several films nominated here could likely be celebrating their only win of the night, and in a case like that I imagine last year's winner Adam Stockhausen could add another trophy to his shelf for Bridge of Spies, but after much deliberation, I've changed my initial prediction of that for the atypical, but no less gargantuan and sweeping Mad Max: Fury Road as part of a potential sweep. I really hope I don't regret this.

Best Film Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road
Both ACE Eddie winners Mad Max and The Big Short are in heated competition for this category, and I foresee the spectacle of Mad Max claiming this easily. 

Best Cinematography: The Revenant
There's just no stopping Chivo. Go win your third Oscar! 

Best Documentary Feature: Amy
The biggest challenge for Asif Kapadia's follow up to Senna was just to get nominated, and now that it is, I think it's in the best position to win, especially having claimed several guild awards. It's chief competition comes from The Look of Silence from Joshua Oppenheimer, who many believe deserved to win for The Act of Killing (an opinion I cannot share), but I don't think even that could best it. 

Best Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul
About as much a lock for this category as A Separation and Amour in their respective years, although the fact that it needed to be saved by the branch's executive committee (a necessary evil to combat the questionable tastes of the biased preliminary voters) is a bit worrisome. Still, it's now up to the Academy in general, so a victory here is sealed. 

Best Animated Feature: Inside Out
It's the only nominee with a second nomination, it's the most beloved and most widely seen, and it's a return to form for Pixar, who will be adding their eighth trophy to their mantle. I look forward to seeing the year's best film get its due. 

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short
As one of the biggest potential spoilers to win Best Picture, and having claimed all the major precursors, Adam McKay's scathing satire against Wall Street will surely enjoy it's one big victory of the night. Still, I can't help but be a bit irritated by it, as the film in general is far from the Aaron Sorkin/Wolf of Wall Street type movie it tries so hard to be. All I can do is hope that Room or Brooklyn pull off an unlikely upset. 

Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight
On the other hand, it's hard for me to get irritated by Tom McCarthy's eventual win for Spotlight, even if I'd rather it go to Inside Out or Ex Machina. Quite the turnaround after The Cobbler, I must say... 

Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl
Supporting Actress features two of the most egregious placements of the year, with leading performances from Rooney Mara in Carol and Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl having been downsized to this category by the duplicitous Harvey Weinstein, in order to generate more leading buzz for their respective co-stars. That's a pretty unforgivable stab in the back considering Vikander probably has more time onscreen, and has more focus in the movie, than the actual title character. Not to disparage Vikander's eventual win, as she absolutely deserves it... but it should be for Ex Machina. In fact, when Vikander does claim her eventual (rightful) award, I'll be pretending it's for that film instead. 

Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone - Creed
A sentimental and beloved staple in the world of cinema, Stallone's impressive, layered, gut-punch of a performance in Rocky spin-off Creed has made him the frontrunner since his Golden Globe victory. Sure, there's always the possibility that Christian Bale or Mark Rylance could garner enough support, but if they had a shot at winning, they would have already done so at the SAG awards (which went to the snubbed Idris Elba). The Italian Stallion's flying high now. 

Best Lead Actress: Brie Larson - Room
Best Lead Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant
Do I even need to say anything more? 

Best Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - The Revenant
Having won the DGA, the BAFTA, and the Golden Globe, and with his only loss coming at the hands of fellow nominee George Miller at the Critic's Choice Awards, there's no stopping Inarritu from earning his second consecutive win. 

Best Motion Picture of the Year: The Revenant
While this eventual outcome will be a pretty easy one to call, it's context will forever be one of the most utterly baffling and wild ride to victory. For much of the year, the perceived frontrunner was Tom McCarthy's Spotlight, having claimed victories from just about every critic's awards in existence. But as we all know, it's not always good to be the early frontrunner, so it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that when it came time for the televised categories, the love wasn't nearly as unanimous, although its victories at the SAG and Critic's Choice certainly shouldn't be discarded either.

Instead, allegiances shifted elsewhere. Starting at the Golden Globes, pundits foresaw that The Revenant would go on to be the eventual frontrunner. And then Mad Max: Fury Road started to pick up steam. And then after that came the PGA's, the most telling precursor for the eventual Best Picture winner, where Adam McKay's The Big Short received their Best Picture honors. Everyone predicted it to be the new favorite to win... until we realized "No, it's actually not" when Spotlight secured its status back. *AND THEN* The Revenant took it back after Inarritu's DGA and BAFTA victories.

What... Happened? That's the burning question that has baffled everyone all season, and in recent years that have seen a deviation from former trends, this one has been no less perplexing. If anything, this shift in allegiance shows how divided passion between films has become, flying in the face of the typical "one unanimous victor" we've seen in years prior... at least, until right now, when we have exactly that. Reception for each are certainly strong enough that any of them winning wouldn't shock me, but with how much adoration has been tossed the way of The Revenant, and with the obviously painstaking lengths the filmmakers went to bring it to the screen, I don't see anyone taking away Inarritu's second consecutive victory.

And, that's all I have to say. We'll see if my predictions pan out once the actual ceremony rolls around, so until then, enjoy the show, everyone!

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