This feature originally ran in January.
For yet another year, we kicked off all those thoughts about the grander lack of purpose innate in year-end award shows and still got up early this morning to excitedly rage over who was and wasn’t nominated for this year’s Academy Awards. And like always, the Oscars were true to form: some surprises, some snubs, and a handful of movies you may have to half-allusively pretend you’re familiar with if you don’t live in or near a major American city by the time the Oscars roll around on February 28th.
But never fear. We’ve taken the liberty of being the only website on the Internet this morning in which you can read expert predictions for this year’s awards. And like always, we’re just a little too excited about the prospects of what might be a certain man of the wilderness’ long-overdue first Academy Award and the oncoming pomp and circumstance of it all. So let’s jump right into it. Let’s talk the nominees, the likely winners, and the omissions where we can fit them in.
As for you, talk to us about all the movies you loved and thought should be nominated this year. Everyone’s yelling at everyone else on Twitter right now, so this should be fun.
Best Animated Feature Film
What should win: Inside Out
What will win: Inside Out
Good on the Oscars for sidestepping their historical tendency in the Animated Feature category to pad the nominees outside of the likely winner with a parade of popular but eminently forgettable offerings. (Seriously, look up some of the Dreamworks nominees in past years in particular.) Instead, this year offers everything from a Ghibli piece to the latest from Aardman to a Charlie Kaufman movie.
Inside Out is winning this award and deservedly so; it’s one of Pixar’s finest films in an illustrious canon of same and an eloquent story about the terrors of being a kid and watching your world get smaller, internally and externally. But Anomalisa only showing up here seems perfect for a movie about narcissistic alienation in a world where everything and everybody looks the same. So the movie with the deeply intimate sex scene hangs out with the family films. So it goes.
Best Foreign Language Film
What should win: Son of Saul
What will win: Son of Saul
Despite the fact that most of this year’s Foreign Language nominees haven’t been seen in most of the US and are only starting to find their way into theaters, the Oscars hit on a lot of interesting material with this year’s crop. But it’s going to come as something of a substantial shock if anything wins that isn’t László Nemes’ debut feature.
Son of Saul, the story of a man attempting to give a deceased young boy in Auschwitz a proper burial against all odds and the tyrannical oppression of his surrounding world, is as resonant and memorable a war story as we’ve seen in years. And yet, it’s uncomfortably intimate, shot largely in claustrophobic close-ups. It allows no comfortable distance from the past; instead, it asks audiences to live within such a horrifying place.
And it’s as close to a lock as you’ll find in this year’s categories.
Best Documentary Feature
What should win: The Look of Silence
What will win: The Look of Silence
There was a moment where “Film Twitter” was going H.A.M. in the hopes that The Look of Silence could make the leap to Best Picture. Not to be cynical, but that’ll never happen. It’s too strange a proposition for AMPAS. Still, it’s nice to see Joshua Oppenheimer’s barn-burning, confrontational doc about Indonesian genocide get the Documatary nod, and given our A-grade, along with its 92 Metacritic rating and its countless recognitions leading up to the Oscars … the award should be a lock for Amy.
Kidding! We think Oscar will get this one right. Hopefully. Maybe? The thing is, how could they not award Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing?! That’s one for the ages, right there! *nervous collar tug* On a side note: As a subscriber of The Hollywood Reporter (not-so-humblebrag), it’s nice to see those months and months of full-page ads from Netflix for the Nina Simone and Ukraine docs really paid off, guys!
On a more personal note: My number one film of the year, Iris, couldn’t get in here?!
Who should win: Emmanuel Lubezki,The Revenant
Who will win: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant
This was difficult. All of these movies look great. They’re lensed great. Whether it’s 1950s New York or a post-apocalyptic nightmare, the dark sunsets of the American/Mexican border, or the 19th-century frontier, these nominees are defined by their style. If Tarantino had opted to shoot more of The Hateful Eight outdoors, I’d like to think cinematographer Robert Richardson gorgeous use of 70mm would have placed him at the top of the stack of nominees, like that stack of dead men Samuel L. Jackson sits upon. Bad analogy? Sure.
Even when The Revenant is briefly indoors it’s outdoors. Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s partner-in-crime Emmanuel Lubezki won an Oscar for his cinematography in last year’s Birdman and he will take it home again. Fires in the distance, miles and miles of land touched only by natural light, shadows, sunrise, sunset, and yes, making a stack of bodies look beautiful (stacks of bodies is a theme in this category). The Revenant is hell for the character of Hugh Glass, but one man’s hell is another man’s Oscar. –Justin Gerber
Who should win: Hank Corwin, The Big Short
Who will win: Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road
Isn’t it a nice feeling to be in an Oscar year where, for the contentions so many will run into the ground in the coming weeks, most of the movies nominated are actually good to great? Take the Editing nominees, for instance. From the clean assembly of Spotlight to The Revenant’s dreamlike segues between imagination and brutal reality, there’s a lot to like on this year’s slate.
Of likely winners, though — The Revenant could still run away with this year’s awards at large — we like Fury Road’s odds. It’s hard to argue that a single nominee was more dependent on its editing than a film that’s essentially a two-hour riot of complicated, fast-shifting imagery, though maybe it’s more just the hope of a world where Fury Road can win Best Picture. But we also like The Big Short for its jazzy, warp-speed visual shifts for equal parts comic effect and rage-fueled gravity.
Best Original Screenplay
Who should win: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, and Ronnie Del Carmen, Inside Out
Who will win: Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Don’t get me wrong: Spotlight is a remarkable film. Josh Singer and director Tom McCarthy’s co-written script — clear-eyed, unsentimental, and staggeringly empathetic — wisely steers its gaze away from the pain of the victims, an approach that’s basically anti-Oscar bait. There’s no self-flagellation here, no keening, nothing that demands your pity. It simply demands your attention, and so the torrent of feeling the film provokes feels all the more earned. It’s a terrific accomplishment and worthy of any award it receives.
But Inside Out, guys! Just as the writers of the Globe have responsibilities, so does everyone who creates something for children. Granted, Inside Out transcends age brackets, but what a gift this movie is to kids. It’s funny, and mercilessly tugs on your heartstrings (as every Pixar film does), but beyond that, it has so much to say about emotion, about sadness, about the value of difficult things and the importance of grief, and … well, about life. It’s a great movie and a great teacher. That’s a hell of a thing.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Who should win: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, The Big Short
Who will win: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, The Big Short
There were some hugely successful screenplays in the adapted field this year. Except, well, Drew Goddard’s script for The Martian… Did there need to be so many smug jabs at disco? ABBA saved Mark Watney’s life! Erm, that is to say, for one thing, Nick Hornby mastered the art of telling a lovingly, sincerely passé romance through the innocent eyes of an émigré in Brooklyn. Similarly, Phyllis Nagy nailed the soft, modern tone and vintage cadence of Carol, and it’s a loving screenplay. Plus, Room has a mastery of point-of-view, and Donoghue adapted her own novel in a way that only an author entrenched in their own work could achieve.
But for our money, nothing was more creative, inventive, offbeat, and hysterical than Charles Randolph and Adam McKay’s script for The Big Short. Not only does it come up with ferocious ways to enlighten and inform people about the mortgage crisis, but it has breathtaking exchanges like the following. Sorry for the copy/paste from the script, but this is so worth sharing:
Zero! There is a zero percent chance your subprime losses stop at 5%!
His phone rings.
Excuse me, I have to take this!
He gets up and leaves while answering his phone.
Hey honey…You’re just calling to say hi? Well that’s so sweet. How are the kids?
Mark walks past Vennett, patting him on the shoulder. JARED flips him off and then looks to camera.
The fucker really did this.
Best Original Song
Who should win: David Lang’s “Simple Song #3”, Youth
Who will win: Diane Warren and Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens To You”, The Hunting Ground
Let’s talk about snubs for a minute. No, not Carol, or whatever actors you might have favored. No, we now speak of a truly egregious omission on the Oscars’ part, a favorite in the Original Song category who didn’t even get the nom. We’re talking, of course, about “See You Again”, Furious 7’s ultra-popular ballad.
Seriously, though, everybody had “See You Again” taking it. As it stands, it’ll likely be Lady Gaga’s wrenching ballad about sexual assault, “Til It Happens To You”, that takes the day, and deservedly so. The song will probably also make for the night’s best performance. However, David Lang’s “Simple Song #3” has more thematic importance to its respective film than anything else nominated by a mile, and it’s a lovely piece of music about joy and nostalgia that perfectly captures Youth’s tone and theme.
Also, please don’t pick “Earned It”. It’s basically vanilla comfort fiction as a pop song.
Best Original Score
Who should win: Ennio Morricone,The Hateful Eight
Who will win: Ennio Morricone,The Hateful Eight
Fun fact: Thomas Newman has never won an Oscar. Neither has Carter Burwell, Jóhann Jóhannsson, or John Williams (kidding! John Williams is actually made of Oscars!). And neither, incredibly, has Ennio Morricone – that is, unless you count his honorary award, which he received nine years ago.
But in case you thought he was ready to be put out to pasture, The Hateful Eight is here to set you straight. Sure, it’s partially patched together from unused work, but there’s not a thing about it that feels recycled. Morricone’s score builds the tension in Tarantino’s locked-room story every bit as much as Jennifer Jason Leigh’s watchful eyes and then explodes as violently as the — well, as the things that explode. It’s shockingly, defiantly present and every bit as big and mean as the movie it helps to define.
It should win. It will win. It’s great.
Best Visual Effects
What should win: Ex Machina
What will win: The Revenant
Okay, for starters, Star Wars and The Martian are re-hashed effects films, done up in 1080. Star Wars: The Force Awakens gave a slick naturalistic panache to X-Wings and evil spaceships and motion-capture performances, but Abrams wasn’t innovating anything like past entries. It’s a very unfair and high bar, absolutely. Meanwhile, one could swear The Martian recycled VFX from Prometheus, what with the atmospheric debris, enhanced landscapes, and slick headset imagery. So, whatever. Next!
Ah, Mad Max: Fury Road. Sneaky creature. There were dozens of think pieces and video essays on the film’s practical effects, but what made it so cunning was the clean implementation of digital enhancements. That movie flowed. But, how about that seamlessly digital bear attack in The Revenant, eh? Pretty slick, scary as hell too, and don’t act like you weren’t seeing it just for that. That’s the perfect marriage of effects and invention and hype right there.
The Revenant could probably snag the Oscar, and no one would mind. That said … was there anything more creatively simple and efficiently digital than the robotics effects of Alex Garland’s haunting and darkly comic Ex Machina? Ex Machina gets the creativity and effectiveness praise, and were we with AMPAS, Ava’s fascinatingly robotic interior.
What should win: Mad Max: Fury Road
What will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
How the Academy only wound up with three movies in this category is astounding, but whatever, we’ll take their word for it and ignore other films like Creed, Macbeth, or Carol. Still, you can’t complain too much about their economical choices, especially since the real competition boils down to Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant.
Look, Tom Hardy’s partially scalped mane and Lenny’s wounded body are jarring, to say the very least, but nothing compares to Immortan Joe’s hideous body, his ludicrous War Boys, or the countless other freaks roaming the wasteland around the Citadel. Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega, and Damian Martin are all probably practicing their turns at the mic.
Good for them.
Best Costume Design
What should win: Mad Max: Fury Road
What will win: Cinderella
Bow down. In an interview with costume design critic Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, designer Jenny Beavan described the concept as “a fine line between everything and nothing,” and it’s hard to imagine a better way to sum up her practical-surrealist, post-apocalyptic dust chic. When the ultimate goal is survival, you build what you must, but when there’s nothing else left, we still preen.
That’s not to say that Cinderella isn’t worthy. Three-time winner Sandy Powell (The Aviator) helps tell an all too-familiar story in a way that’s both insightful and — gasp — fun. Combining elements of Disney’s animated film, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, and the elegant, villainous drag of the Joan Crawford era, Powell created something that was both intelligent and confectionary. It’s not the best of the year, but it’ll be a solid winner when it wins, which it will.
Best Production Design
What should win: Mad Max: Fury Road
What will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
It’s easier to produce a design of a past period or match pictures from NASA’s archives than it is to create a world that hasn’t happened yet. Ah, the future. Full of unrecognizable fast-movin’ vehicles, vast landscapes of doom, and, of course, guitarists spitting fire out of their instruments while strapped to the front of a tanker.
This is the world of Mad Max from the mind of George Miller and brought to life by production designer Colin Gibson. Our multiplexes, TVs, laptops, and smart phones are filled with action movies, but not one gives you the impression that you could reach out and touch it as much as Mad Max: Fury Road. The sands, the sweat, the fire, and the precious water call out to us. This is a lived-in world. It takes a village to create a movie, but it takes a brilliant production designer to create the village.
Best Sound Editing/Mixing
What should win: Mad Max: Fury Road (both)
What will win: Mad Max: Fury Road (both)
I’m going to keep this simple: there are cars running and rolling fast through a desert for most of Mad Max: Fury Road’s runtime. There is a constant hum of engines just underneath the brief bits of dialogue here and there. These crazy tanks, cars, and combinations-of-both crush gravel, spiff through the desert, and avoid/cause explosions — sometimes, all at the same time.
That is why Mad Max’s sound editors, Mark Mangini and David White, as well as its sound mixers, Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff, and Ben Osmo, will take home Oscars next month. The movie has over 1400 shots, and as much as Miller’s eye is responsible for Mad Max’s unexpected success, the fluid combination of sound and vision proved to be essential in taking us from point A-to-point insanity.
Who should win: Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Who will win: Brie Larson, Room
Here’s the deal: Brie Larson is an incredibly talented performer. She’s proven herself more than capable in comedic supporting roles (21 Jump Street, Trainwreck), but her bread and butter is in the world of the dramatic. Look no further than 2013’s Short Term 12, which features another Oscar-worthy performance by the actress. Her role as a mother trapped inside a room for years on end with her son is emotionally exhausting, heartbreaking, and she will win the award.
But she shouldn’t. The honor should be bestowed upon Charlotte Rampling and her performance in 45 Years. Rampling has to be sympathetic, selfish, loving and cold, culminating in a dance that left us wanting to be a wallflower forever. Imagine being trapped inside a room for the length of a 45-year marriage but not knowing it. Imagine finding out nothing was ever as it seemed. Rampling takes these scenarios and delivers.
Who should win: Leonardo DiCaprio
Who will win: Leonardo DiCaprio
Right now, the ever-obnoxious “Film Twitter” is obsessed with patting themselves on the back for collectively rolling their little, precious eyes at The Revenant. However, most critics, if not all, would agree that this is the year Leonardo DiCaprio finally wins his Best Actor Oscar. Some argue it’s out of respect, but that’s total bullshit. At 41 years old, DiCaprio not only delivered his most impressive performance to date, but one of the most astonishing and physical feats to ever hit the silver screen. Over the past decade, he’s proven an accurate match for De Niro, thanks to his pal Marty, but now he’s knocking on Day Lewis’ door.
Of course, nothing’s a sure thing. He’s been snubbed so many times by the Academy, having to sit there in his seat, smiling as some asshole walks up and steals his award. I can’t even begin to imagine the number of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches he’s thrown against the wall in February or March over the years. Given this year’s competition — an HBO special, a Golden Globe comedy/musical, a Steve Jobs reboot, and Eddie Redmayne — I’d actually be willing to toss down some good money in Vegas. But I hate Vegas. I think gambling is a nasty disease, and I’d rather just smile in the comfort of my own home.
And continue not using my Twitter account.
Best Supporting Actress
Who should win: Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
Who will win: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
This is a great year for supporting performances from women, so it’s a pity that two of these are actually leads — and one of them’s going to win. Alicia Vikander isn’t merely a driving force in The Danish Girl, she’s arguably the protagonist. We experience Lili’s transformation through her eyes, and while Redmayne’s performance is the most Oscar-baiting, hers packs the punch. It’s a great performance, and she’s had a hell of a year, so she’ll win.
The best supporting performance of the year (male or female) belongs to Vikander, all right — they just picked the wrong damn movie. All the nominees are deserving (McAdams, in particular), but Vikander’s turn in Ex Machina is a tour de force. She makes Ava simultaneously painfully human and terrifyingly other, equal parts vulnerable and shatterproof. It’s an astonishing performance, and when she wins, I’ll be pretending she’s secretly a robot.
Best Supporting Actor
Who should win: Sylvester Stallone
Who will win: Mark Rylance
Sorry, Oscar. You’re not going to do this to me again. I’m not going to sit here and get excited that a veteran actor might win an award. You fucked me over with Bill Murray, you kicked my jaw with Mickey Rourke, and you really, really, really made me want to blow my brains out when you awarded Birdman for everything else but Michael Keaton. Who the fuck do you think you are?
Having said that, Mark Rylance is a great choice, and his performance in Bridge of Spies is about the only reason anyone’s talking about that nice little movie from Steven Spielberg. He’s like Bob Newhart, if only Bobby could paint and talk Russian. I enjoyed watching Rylance, and while Sly would be great … the silver lining is that he does have an Oscar from the 1976 original.
Then again, if he does win…
Who should win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Who will win: Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
Stupid Iñárritu, that Scumbag Steve of directors, why…
Okay, that’s harsh. Last year’s winner for directing Birdman had a vision. A vision consisting of taking Leonardo DiCaprio and putting him through absolute hell and frigid climates for the ultimate thriller of man against nature against man. Frankly, Iñárritu’s rapturous take on the life and times of Hugh Glass was sensationally focused and a lot less divisive than Birdman’s one-take or nothing humor. The guy’s a provocateur, a gifted dreamer and schemer behind the camera. And if the Globe win is any indicator, he’s prepping a punchy speech right now.
That said, if you want real vision, like, total guts and enthusiasm and blunt-force filmmaking, look no further than “mad” genius (and CoS’s Filmmaker of the Year) George Miller. Fury Road’s been hiding in the back with dark-horse power, but the film just keeps showing up on critics’ lists and awards shows. Miller’s thunderous action masterpiece has the people’s and critic’s vote, and it took Miller years to realize his blisteringly beautiful vision. Plus, hey, it’s probably the best fourth film ever made in a franchise. Not an easy task. Fury Road’s better than Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol. That’s for damn sure.
What should win: Mad Max: Fury Road
What will win: The Revenant
First, obligatory: Just go back to 10 nominations. None of this in-between! It is pointless!
Second, more rationally: Now that Carol has been omitted, Best Picture gets interesting. The Revenant has picked up considerable momentum since its wide release, although as these things tend to go, the backlash is mounting to accompany it as we speak. There’s also the larger question of whether Alejandro G. Iñárritu can walk away with Best Picture in back-to-back years. But The Revenant was very hard to film and is quite good and was very hard to film and hey, did you hear how hard it was to film?
But this is a strong crop of nominees overall. Any regular reader of our site knows where our hearts lie, though. Dying a glorious death all shiny and chrome on the Fury Road, to be specific. Because let’s be honest: how cool would that be?