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Prediction - 2016 Oscars


To best my rather pitiful 2015 tally I need guess just over half of the 88th Academy Awards’ winners correctly. The recent Critic’s Choice Awards mirrored some of my expectations, particularly in respect of the seeing Mad Max: Fury Road is this year’s The Matrix in terms of picking up a string of awards in the technical categories (The Matrix took four, only beaten by American Beauty with five) and probably ending up the biggest winner in terms of numbers.

This year has been instantly red-flagged as evidence of the lack of diversity in Academy nominations. Whether any of the suggested African-American nominees deserved a spot (Straight Outta Compton, Creed, The Hateful Eight, Concussion and Beasts of No Nation have all been cited as unjust exclusions, although the latter is pointedly both the most worthy and most likely to have been ignored due to it’s Netflix credentials) is debatable, but the same might be said annually for any number of different dubious nods. Spike Lee sized things up when he pointed the finger at the studios and networks, deciding what gets made and what doesn’t, rather than awards ceremonies in particular. The header quote comes from last year’s ceremony, Neil Patrick Harris’ quip in response to applause for David Oyelowo, who was conspicuously absent from the Best Actor nominations.

As usual, things can change dramatically in terms of the most favoured during the last month before the awards. It’s almost as if fatigue with the frontrunners sets in – all that hype – and a dark horse is needed to shake things up.  Looking at Variety’s predictions, I see mine are mostly the same in the major categories, so it would be an apt awards for something to go awry. Whatever happens, it will be a surprise at this point if Fury Road doesn’t garner at least half a dozen statuettes.

Best Picture

Winner: Spotlight
I’d like to win: Mad Max: Fury Road

The “not a hope” nominations this year are Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn and Room, although for the latter two just the nod is enough. The outsider that could (feasibly) gain a late surge is The Martian, but I don’t think it will. That leaves four. While Mad Max: Fury Road has been making gains (notably the London Critics’ Circle), I’m not sure the Academy will be as daring as to go in that direction. If it wasn’t for Birdman last year, I might be betting on The Revenant, but, besides being another Alejandro González Iñárritu entry and a certain vocal faction declaiming it (including myself, to a point), I think it has a quality that is just a bit too awards-worthy. The Big Short and Spotlight are both being lauded for their takes on big headline stories of recent history, one a comedy, the other deadly serious. I think Spotlight has the edge at this point.

Best Director

Winner: George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
I’d like to win: George Miller

I’d be very surprised if Adam McKay or Lenny Abrahamson (despite the latter’s undoubted chops) went home with a statue. Iñárritu again? He isn’t Tom Hanks, so I’m not sure he musters that kind of boundless love. And Spotlight seems exactly the kind of movie to win Best Picture but not take Best Director. So I’m going with George Miller, which in itself would be recognition enough for Fury Road’s genius.

Best Actor

Winner: Leonard DiCaprio (The Revenant)
I’d like to win: Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)

Redmayne certainly isn’t Tom Hanks, and a vocal faction aren’t saying terribly nice things about his transgender performance anyway. Matt Damon did well just to get in there, and I don’t think Bryan Cranston has the big screen love yet. That leaves Michael Fassbender and Leonardo DiCaprio, and Leo’s been missed so many times it’s becoming a Pacino/Scorsese thing, so I suspect he will grab it, even though he should really have won for The Wolf of Wall Street a few years back.

Best Actress

Winner: Brie Larson (Room)
I’d like to win: Brie Larson

Cate Blanchett and Jennifer Lawrence are over-exposed for awards, and Joy in particular hasn’t elicited a lot of it. Saoirse Ronan has plenty of time to nab her Best Actress, and Charlotte Rampling might foreseeably have gained favour (for, unbelievably, her first nomination) if not for her pronouncements and backtracking on the Oscar whitewashing furore. Essentially, though, Brie Larson rightly has all the love going her way this year.

Best Supporting Actor

Winner: Sylvester Stallone (Creed)
I’d like to win: Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)

Christian Bale and Tom Hardy are just filling out the numbers here, while Mark Ruffalo, as part of an ensemble (Spotlight), seems like a stretch. Rylance is fantastic, of course, but Stallone’s already got it sat on the mantelpiece, really. It’s a formality, whether he deserves it or not.

Best Supporting Actress

Winner: Rooney Mara (Carol)
I’d like to win: Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)

Possibly the most open of the big categories, but Kate Winslet and Rachel McAdams aren’t in serious contention. If the Oscars were looking for career awards, Leigh might get it, but in the same year Sly is getting his career award (also, Tarantino's a wee-bit out of favour this year)? Between Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander, a lot of the money is on Vikander, but I’m tipping the former.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner: Adam McKay and Charles Randolph (The Big Short)
I’d like to win: Emma Donoghue (Room)

With Room, I’m expecting Best Actress to be one and done, Brooklyn and The Martian may well go away empty handed, and Carol is respected but… The Big Short tackles recent history in accessible and redolent way, and may well be rewarded for that (even if it isn’t the actual best adapted screenplay).

Best Original Screenplay

Winner: Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer (Spotlight)
I’d like to win: Spotlight

Spotlight seems like the only likely winner here, even if it doesn’t get Best Picture (or maybe especially if it doesn’t), conjuring memories of the greatness of All the President’s Men (which Stallone robbed of Best Picture). Ex Machina, much loved but way overrated, got nominated and that’s sufficient, Inside Out will take Best Animated Feature, and that’s sufficient, Straight Outta Compton winning would be adding insult to injury (the white screenwriters taking the plaudits) and Bridge of Spies is decent but no one’s calling the work on it Oscar-worthy.

Best Animated Feature

Winner: Inside Out
I’d like to win: Anomalisa

Some makers of animated movies are virtually guaranteed a Best Animated Feature nomination; Aardman (Shaun the Sheep), Studio Ghibli (When Marnie Was There), Pixar (provided it isn’t The Good Dinosaur). That leaves other crowd pleasers or more experimental/acclaimed fare to fill in the gaps. This year there’s Brazilian feature Boy and the World and acclaimed Anamolisa, from Charlie Kaufman. In any other year, Kaufman would probably bag it, but Inside Out is just too damn popular.

Best Documentary Feature

Winner: Amy
I’d like to win: pass

I wasn’t such a fan of Amy, but it seems to have the throng behind it (see Inside Out above for the animation side of that). I suspect The Look of Silence, revered as it is, will be seen as too close to Joshua Oppenheimer’s previous The Act of Killing (it’s a sort-of sequel, so that’s sort-of understandable). Cartel Land, the grounded side of Sicario’s fantasy land exploration of the fight against Mexican drug cartels, might have an outside chance. What Happened, Miss Simone? furnishes another singer documentary, but unlikely to edge Amy, while Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom might be seen as the latest Oscar nom fulfilling the ceremony’s duty to put the boot in against Putin (see Leviathan last year).

Best Foreign Language Film

Winner: Son of Saul
I’d like to win: pass

The Medicine Man-esque Embrace of the Serpent (from Colombia) represents the eco-nom, Mustang (France) explores the effect of a conservative environment on five Turkish sisters (the religious repression nom), Theeb (Jordan) a “Bedouin western”, has won a raft of awards already (the Bedouin western nom), Danish A War takes a non-Hollywood approach to the Afghanistan conflict (the anti-war nom). But Son of Saul (Hungary) is the clear frontrunner, critically lauded, doused with awards, and – the Academy’s favourite – it’s a holocaust drama.

Best Cinematography

Winner: Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant)
I’d like to win: John Seale (Mad Max: Fury Road)

If previous recognition meant the ungarlanded were due, this would be between Ed Lachman (previously nominated for Far from Heaven) and Roger Deakins (previously nominated 12 times!) The latter’s work on Sicario is easily the best thing about it, but I don’t think he’s going to be lucky 13. John Seale won for The English Patient, and good as Fury Road is, it’s very evidently a post-graded beast in parts. Richardson has three previous wins, while Lubeski won the last two years; that might seem to count him out, but I think he takes it again, because voters would probably get behind the whole hat trick thing and there’s the lustre of “all shot in natural light”.

Best Costume Design

Winner: Sandy Powell (Cinderella)
I’d like to win: Jenny Beavan (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Fury Road is the most creative work (Beaven previously won for Room with a View); against that is period (Carol, The Danish Girl, The Revenant) and high gloss period fantasy chic; Cinderella looks most expensive, so could be rewarded in those terms. The Academy likes its shiny baubles. Powell has three previous Oscars, and is competing against herself with Carol, but I don’t expect that to count against her.

Best Documentary Short

Winner: Last Day of Freedom
I’d like to win: pass

Red Cross workers in Liberia during the Ebola outbreak (Body Team 12), the health effects on an aspiring artist of spraying of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War (Chau, Beyond the Lines), a documentary about a documentarian (Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of Shoah – possibly too indulgent even for the Oscars, if not for the holocaust connection), an 18-year-old girl who survives an honour killing in Pakistan (A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness) and a death penalty piece that takes in themes of mental health and racism. If Son of Saul wins, Spectres of Shoah probably won’t; I suspect A Girl in the River or Last Day of Freedom will take it, and the latter might play into guilt over the whole whitewashing thing.

Best Film Editing

Winner: Margaret Sixel (Mad Max: Fury Road)
I’d like to win: Mad Max: Fury Road

A rash of first time nominees here, barring Stephen Mirrione for The Revenant (he previously won for Traffic). The editing of Fury Road is stupendous, and it would be patently ridiculous not to recognise it.

Best Make-up and Hairstyling

Winner: Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin (Mad Max: Fury Road)
I’d like to win: Mad Max: Fury Road

More first-timers. The Revenant does well in the seamless sense, while The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared does contrastingly really poorly. Fury Road is a cacophony of great make-up, though.

Best Original Score

Winner: Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight)
I’d like to win: Ennio Morricone

I’d be surprised if Thomas Newman or John Williams (a very tepid score from the once vibrant codger) had a chance, but they’ve got this far. Morricone ought to receive his lifetime statuette, one long overdue. Johan Johannsson’s Sicario score is very good (actually, everything about that film is very good, apart from the screenplay) and Carter Burwell rarely comes up short, but Morricone deserves this one for an immense body of work.

Best Original Song

Winner: Til It Happens To You by Lady Gaga and Diane Warren (The Hunting Ground)
I’d like to win: Til It Happens To You

Songs from Fifty Shades of Grey, Racing Extinction (otherwise non-nominated eco doc), Youth, The Hunting Ground and Spectre. The Fifty Shades and Spectre tracks are the height of bland, competing against achingly sincere (Racing), operatic gymnastics (Youth) and Lady Gaga. Well, Gaga’s the easy pick; it’s another slow one (they’re all slow ones), but the most memorable of a fairly mediocre bunch.

Best Production Design

Winner: Colin Gibson and Lisa Thompson (Mad Max: Fury Road)
I’d like to win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Everything here, pretty much, has a chance, but Fury Road is a real triumph of world building. Failing that, The Revenant is a possible, but this might also be where The Martian or Bridge of Spies get recognised, if they do anywhere.

Best Animated Short

Winner: Prologue
I’d like to win: World of Tomorrow

Bear Story is a more stylised Toy Story take, Prologue, a Spartan vs Athenian tale, comes from the great Richard Williams (with wife Imogen Sutton), Sanjay’s Super Team is the inevitable Pixar nomination, We Can’t Live Without Cosmos gives us Cosmonaut dreams of conquest, and World of Tomorrow sounds twee (a girl is given a tour of the future) but it’s pretty out there, man (and thankfully not at all like Tomorrowland). It’ll be pretty obvious if Pixar or the bears take it, so I’m guessing the Williams-recognition factor might hold some sway.

Best Live Action Short

Winner: Ave Maria
I’d like to win: pass

Shok (based on a true story, the friendship of two boys in war-torn Kosovo), Ave Maria (five nuns in the West Bank are challenged by a vow of silence when a family of Israeli settlers’ car breaks down outside their convent), Day One (an Afghan-American female interpreter in Afghanistan), Everything Will Be Okay (a child caught in a divorce struggle), Stutterer (online relationship guy must reveal his verbal affliction when meeting his love). There’s a tendency in this category to go for light-hearted winners. Having said that, this year will probably prove me wrong.

Best Sound Editing

Winner: Mark A Mangini and David Whie (Mad Max: Fury Road)
I’d like to win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Fury Road, although in another year, this would probably be where Star Wars was a shoe-in (it’s like The Matrix and Star Wars in 1999 all over again).

Best Sound Mixing

Winner: Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo (Mad Max: Fury Road)
I’d like to win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Fury Road again, although it’s possible The Revenant could upset its sweep in this or the above category.

Best Visual Effects

Winner: Andrew Jackson, Dan Oliver, Andy Williams and Tom Wood (Mad Max: Fury Road)
I’d like to win: Mad Max: Fury Road


As with Sound, one might otherwise have expected Star Wars, but Fury Road does such a seamless, integrated job with its effects, it needs to be rewarded as a text book on how to do these things right.

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