Wednesday, January 13, 2016

2015 Oscar Nominations: What I think

It's that time again. Tomorrow morning at around 8:37 a.m. ET (aka hella early on the West Coast), the nominations for the 88th annual Academy Awards will be announced. There are guaranteed to be at least a few surprises—some pleasant, some not so much.

I've been a student and a fan of the Oscars for more than 30 years (egads), and as many of you know, we make every effort to see every film and performance nominated for the major awards (if we haven't already). No matter how much I listen to the chatter about who and what critics think will get nominations, there's never complete certainty. So for a number of years now, I've been making my predictions as to which films and performances will receive nominations. Sometimes I'm dead-on (or close), and sometimes I'm left scratching my head, but that's what makes it interesting.

This year is particularly fluid because there isn't really one movie that everyone has gotten behind, and there are even some questions as to whether certain performances should be considered in the lead or supporting categories. So I'm going to take a stab at this the best I can. Then check back tomorrow to see how I did!

Best Picture
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Straight Outta Compton

Analysis: One of the quirks of the Oscars in recent years is that there is no fixed number of Best Picture nominees, beyond a minimum of five and a maximum of 10. Some years there have been nine, a few there have been ten, last year there were eight, so who knows? I predicted nine, although I feel like Brooklyn, Bridge of Spies, Carol and Straight Outta Compton are iffier than the others. Obviously, Straight Outta Compton isn't quite what you'd expect to get nominated for an Oscar, but it has been tremendously well-received, was nominated for best cast by the SAG Awards, and would be an antidote to those who have (rightfully) claimed that the Oscars don't often honor films about/made by/starring minorities. Other outside possibilities are Room, Inside Out, Beasts of No Nation, and, of course, the juggernaut, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (If I had my way, Creed would get nominated.)

Best Actor
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Analysis: I feel fairly confident about this group of five nominees, but of course, there are slight possibilities that Johnny Depp, once a leading contender for a nomination could still get one for his work in Black Mass (for which he received a SAG Award nod), Will Smith for his Golden Globe-nominated turn in Concussion, and, if the Academy voters have issues determining between lead and supporting performances, they could give a nod to either Christian Bale or Steve Carell for The Big Short. (If I had my way, Michael B. Jordan would get a nod for Creed, but then again, he should have been nominated two years ago for Fruitvale Station, but don't get me started.)

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Analysis: Larson, Blanchett, and Ronan are locks in this category. Vikander should be, but despite being the female lead in her film (she even had more screen time than Eddie Redmayne), some think she could end up in the Best Supporting Actress category. I think perennial Academy favorite and 2012 winner Jennifer Lawrence is the weakest link here, but ultimately if Vikander gets demoted, I think Charlotte Rampling may get her first nomination for 45 Years, or Maggie Smith could sneak in for The Lady in the Van. (I'd love to see Lily Tomlin get nominated for Grandma, but, alas, I think not.)

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Analysis: This is the toughest category to predict. In addition to these five men, there are at least six more who could sneak in—Steve Carell for The Big Short, Ethan Tremblay for Room, Idris Elba for his Golden Globe- and SAG-nominated turn in Beasts of No Nation, Michael Shannon (also nominated for both) for 99 Homes, Paul Dano for Love and Mercy, and Michael Keaton for Spotlight. I'm picking Hardy as an outside possibility because I think The Revenant will get a ton of nominations tomorrow, and much like Jonah Hill did two years ago for The Wolf of Wall Street, Hardy could ride the momentum. I will be most perturbed tomorrow morning if Stallone is left off the list. (My ideal five would be Bale, Dano, Ruffalo, Stallone, and Tremblay.)

Best Supporting Actress
Joan Allen, Room
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Analysis: If Vikander doesn't get bumped down to supporting for The Danish Girl, I predict she'll get two nominations. (And I think she was even better in Ex Machina.) I'm secure about Winslet, and reasonably so about Mara, although she should be a lead actress nominee, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. I'm picking a surprise in this category with Joan Allen, much as Laura Dern's nod for Wild last year, although Helen Mirren could snag another nomination for her hateful, hat-wearing Hedda Hopper in Trumbo. If either Spotlight, Brooklyn, or Mad Max: Fury Road have a great day tomorrow, I wouldn't be surprised to see Rachel McAdams, Julie Walters, and/or Charlize Theron in this category.

Best Director
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Adam McKay, The Big Short
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Ridley Scott, The Martian

Analysis: Best Director is always a tough category to predict, since directors nominate themselves, and quite often the nominated directors don't always match up with the Best Picture nominees (although more so since the number of Best Picture nominees has expanded beyond five). I think McCarthy and/or McKay could be vulnerable here, and could get passed up for Steven Spielberg (Bridge of Spies) and/or Todd Haynes (Carol), or a nominee I can't think of.

Fingers crossed!!

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