Archive for February, 2016

88th Annual Academy Award Predictions

Oscar-2016-Nominations

 

It’s been a road of some indeterminate length, and I’ve given my views on some of the categories. But at long(ish) last, here are my picks for the 88th Annual Academy Awards. As before, these are both what I believe will win, and what I would vote for were I a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (which is not the same as “should win” – I’m not that arrogant).

Disclaimer: I may change some of these after I see Brooklyn. Also, I am changing my Supporting Actress prediction, so don’t bother pointing it out.

Picture

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies

Brooklyn

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

Predicted winner – The Revenant

My preference – Room

revenant-film-poster

Director

Lenny Abrahamson – Room

Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant

Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

Adam McKay – The Big Short

George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

Predicted winner – Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant

My preference – Lenny Abrahamson – Room

Actor 

Bryan Cranston – Trumbo

Matt Damon – The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant

Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

Predicted winner – Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant

My preference – Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs

 

steve-jobs-poster

Actress 

Cate Blanchett – Carol

Brie Larson – Room

Jennifer Lawrence – Joy

Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn

Predicted winner – Brie Larson – Room

My preference – Brie Larson – Room

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Supporting Actor

Christian Bale – The Big Short

Tom Hardy – The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight

Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone – Creed

Predicted winner – Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies

My preference – Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight

BRIDGE-OF-SPIES-QUAD-UK

Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara – Carol

Rachel McAdams – Spotlight

Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl 

Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

Predicted winner – Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl 

My preference – Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

danish-girl-poster

Adapted Screenplay

The Big Short

Brooklyn

Carol

The Martian

Room 

Predicted winner – The Big Short

My preference – Room

TheBigShortCSHeader

Original Screenplay

Bridge of Spies

Ex Machina

Inside Out

Spotlight

Straight Outta Compton

Predicted winner – Spotlight

My preference – Spotlight

spotlight-one-sheet

Cinematography

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Sicario

Predicted winner – The Revenant

My preference – Sicario

Sicario-Poster-8

Costume Design

Carol

Cinderella

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Predicted winner – Mad Max: Fury Road

My preference – Cinderella

cinderella-poster-2

Editing 

The Big Short

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Spotlight

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Predicted winner – Mad Max: Fury Road

My preference – Spotlight

 

Make-Up and Hair

Mad Max: Fury Road

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

The Revenant

Predicted winner – The Revenant

My preference – The Revenant

 

Score

Bridge of Spies

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Predicted winner – The Hateful Eight

My preference – Carol

carol-poster-752x440

Original Song

Earned It, The Weeknd – Fifty Shades of Grey

Manta Ray, J Ralph & Antony – Racing Extinction

Simple Song #3, Sumi Jo – Youth

Til It Happens To You, Lady Gaga – The Hunting Ground

Writing’s On the Wall, Sam Smith – Spectre

Predicted winner – Til It Happens To You, Lady Gaga – The Hunting Ground

My preference – Writing’s On the Wall, Sam Smith – Spectre

Spectre-poster-Daniel-Craig-Lea-Seydoux

Production Design

Bridge of Spies

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Predicted winner – The Revenant

My preference – The Revenant

 

Sound Editing

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Predicted winner – Mad Max: Fury Road

My preference – Sicario

 

Sound Mixing

Bridge of Spies

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Predicted winner – The Revenant

My preference – Mad Max: Fury Road

 

Visual Effects

Ex Machina

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Predicted winner – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

My preference – Ex Machina

TFA

Animated Film

Anomalisa

Boy and the World

Inside Out

Shaun the Sheep Movie

When Marnie Was There

Predicted winner – Inside Out

My preference – Inside Out

Inside Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreign Language Film

Embrace of the Serpent – Colombia

Mustang – France

Son of Saul – Hungary

Theeb – Jordan

A War – Denmark

Predicted winner – Theeb (complete guess and as I have not seen any, I have no preference.)

 

Documentary Feature

Amy

Cartel Land

The Look of Silence

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Predicted winner – The Look of Silence (complete guess and as I have not seen any, I have no preference.)

 

Animated and Live Action Shorts – I have no knowledge of these so no predictions or preferences.

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Oscar Views – Part Six

Oscar-2016-Nominations

A few weeks ago, I felt confident that the Academy members would make a sentimental choice and award the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor to Sylvester Stallone for Creed. Sly has done it all in Hollywood – acting, writing, directing, producing. Despite the passing of his superstar era, he remains an iconic figure and a great survivor. Furthermore, his nomination for Creed is for playing Rocky Balboa, the same character as his last acting nomination forty years ago, and the sheer novelty of that is remarkable. Actors sometimes receive awards that seem to be lifetime achievements, and Stallone has indeed had many achievements. His Golden Globe win earlier this year made him a strong contender, at least ahead of fellow nominees Tom Hardy and Mark Ruffalo and previous winner Christian Bale. But subsequent wins at the Screen Actors’ Guild and BAFTA now put Mark Rylance ahead, and I predict that this predominantly stage-based actor will pick up a further film acting award this weekend. Rylance’s quiet performance is a key part of Bridge of Spies’ sardonic wit, and he delivers a great supporting role to Tom Hanks’ likably earnest lawyer. The other performers are all strong – Bale and Ruffalo are fine members of the ensemble casts of, respectively, The Big Short and Spotlight, and Hardy is a brilliant antagonist in The Revenant. I would be happy to see any of them win – Ruffalo, now on his third nomination, has been a strong, dependable actor for some time; Bale, also on his third nomination, moves smoothly between leading action roles and quirky Oscar bait; this is Hardy’s first nomination, and there are likely more in his future. But Rylance and Stallone have the advantage of age, and a reduced likelihood of further nominations. Therefore, the Best Supporting Actor Oscar seems like a two horse race. Come the night, I think everything Rylance did in Bridge of Spies will turn out to have helped.

Oscar Views – Part Five

Oscar-2016-Nominations

Nearly twenty years ago, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio sailed into our hearts (of love or hate, depending on your perspective) in Titanic, and now both are headed for Oscar glory. After picking up the Golden Globe and BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress, Winslet looks set to win her second Oscar for Steve Jobs, adding a Best Supporting Actress statuette to go alongside her Best Actress award for The Reader from 2008. Meanwhile, DiCaprio’s performance in The Revenant has already earned him a Golden Globe, a Critics’ Choice Award, a Screen Actors’ Guild award and a BAFTA for Best Actor, and for him to win those and not the Oscar would be astonishing, considering the overlap of voters. The cliché says that no one knows anything in Hollywood, but it isn’t hard to know things about Hollywood. I love both performances and have a fondness for the actors because of their ascension to stardom when I first getting into movies back in the late 90s. Were I a member of the Academy, though, would I vote for them?

In the case of Winslet, yes, because her performance as Joanna Hoffman in Steve Jobs is a key part of the emotionality of that film. While Michael Fassbender as Steve himself is the dazzling intellect of the film, Joanna is the heart, and her connection to Steve is what allows the viewer to connect with him. Winslet delivers the perfect combination of affection and exasperation, ensuring that the viewer maintains an understanding of Steve as equal parts compelling and infuriating. Of the other two nominees for Supporting Actress I have seen, Rooney Mara has a wonderfully subtle yet sad sweetness about her in Carol, making her arc soulful and heartbreaking. Rachel McAdams in Spotlight is a solid and sympathetic presence, but I feel she has more to offer and, frankly, everyone in Spotlight delivers the goods. I have not seen The Hateful Eight or The Danish Girl, but due to her SAG award, Alicia Vikander is the only likely rival to Winslet. Both are playing historical figures and both have to speak in accents different to their own (which the Academy members love). Vikander, of course, is not even speaking her naive tongue, which perhaps makes her performance more impressive. That said, Winslet’s accent at least is more showy and, according to interviews, unique, and that is likely to give her the edge.

Speaking of Steve Jobs, were I a member of AMPAS, Michael Fassbender would be my pick for Best Actor. Much as I was impressed by DiCaprio and certainly believed in his portrayal of Hugo Glass, he was easy to sympathise with because of his situations. Steve Jobs is a much harder sell because the character is pretty unlikeable – arrogant, self-aggrandizing, contemptuous of others and driven by an unwavering belief in his own superiority. Yet he was utterly captivating and never less than compelling. Much of this can be put down to Aaron Sorkin’s razor sharp script and Danny Boyle’s rehearsal schedule and assembly of the film, but Fassbender delivers a tour-de-force performance that impresses me more than DiCaprio’s survivalism or Matt Damon’s good humour/stubbornness in The Martian. I cannot comment on Bryan Cranston (Trumbo) or Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), but of the Best Actor nominees I have seen, Fassbender would be my pick. But expect DiCaprio to add to his collection this Sunday.

Deadpool

Take the frank, profane humour of Judd Apatow and mix with the explosive and gory violence of Matthew Vaughn. Add the superhero trappings of costumes, digital effects, and tragic origin story. Mix with knowing humour and regular breaks of the fourth wall. Simmer for 108 minutes and you’ll have something approaching Deadpool, Tim Miller’s rendering of Ryan Reynolds’ labour of love to bring one of the least conventional costumed adventurers to the big screen. Deadpool pulls off the remarkable feat of both following the superhero formula while also sending it up, in a way that is satirical but never mean-spirited. The profane humour and explicit violence are sometimes shocking but far from gratuitous as they perfectly express the film’s conceit of de-sanitising superheroes. In Deadpool, people are hurt and killed in gruesome manner, a vast amount of property is destroyed, and a powerful individual with an axe to grind acts in complete flagrance of the law. Furthermore, Wade Wilson/Deadpool’s (Reynolds) motivations are rather less noble than your average X-Man, and the film contrasts him with two actual X-Men, Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead [no, really!] (Brianna Hildebrand). The contrast between Colossus’ goody-goofy rhetoric and Deadpool’s glibness perfectly encapsulates the film’s send-up of its genre, while Miller’s directorial style is fluid and paces the action, humour and satire just right. Deadpool is gleefully distinct from a conventional superhero film, and its development of the genre demonstrates there is plenty of stretch left in the spandex.

Oscar Views – Part Four

Oscar-2016-Nominations

Confession time: I have only managed to see one of the films nominated in the category Best Actress. That film is Carol, which I liked very much, and in which Cate Blanchett was her usual wonderful self. It is debatable whether she and Rooney Mara are both in lead roles, or indeed if Mara’s role is more central than Blanchett’s, but Blanchett is the one up for Best Actress. I would be perfectly happy for her to win, but she won’t. Since winning the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, Brie Larson in Room has stood out from the pack. Larson subsequently picked up the Screen Actors’ Guild award and the BAFTA for Best Actress. Given the overlap of members between these institutions, I confidently predict that Larson will win the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Of the other nominees, Blanchett won two years ago for Blue Jasmine but if she were going to win this year there would have been indications. Jennifer Lawrence may be an Oscar darling and I was genuinely surprised when she won for Silver Linings Playbook, but this does not appear to be her year. Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years is a left field choice, and Saiorse Ronan’s time will come, just not this year for Brooklyn.

What is striking, however, is that Best Actress is the only award I expect Room to pick up, despite its nominations for Picture, Directing and Adapted Screenplay. This is an annoying trend in Best Actress winning films – the only thing honoured about the film is its leading lady. Recent winners including Lawrence and Blanchett as well as Julianne Moore and Sandra Bullock were either in films that had no nominations beside Best Actress, or were in films that had multiple nominations but won nothing else. Indeed, the last time a film won Best Picture AND Best Actress was 2004, when Million Dollar Baby was the big winner and Hilary Swank took home her second Oscar. Interestingly, her first win in 1999 was for Boys Don’t Cry, a film that won no other Academy Awards and had no other major nominations. This is a depressing reminder of the paucity of films with major roles for women. Granted, Room is up for other awards, and much had been made of Mad Max: Fury Road’s feminist credentials, and Brooklyn is also a female-centred story. But the other nominees are all focused on male characters and traditionally male endeavours – finance, law/espionage, (space) exploration, survival, journalism. Meanwhile, the “women’s” films consist of a story of motherhood and a period romance, while Mad Max is an equal opportunities survival story. A Best Actress nomination for Charlize Theron would have been nice, but no such luck. The Best Actress nominees are largely in traditional female roles – mother (twice!), lover, wife, girl-becoming-woman. Lawrence as the entrepreneur in Joy is the more unconventional role, and applause to her for building a career in these distinctive roles. Congratulations to Brie Larson, but I wish the competition was more varied.

Oscar Views – Part Three

Oscar-2016-Nominations

With the other award ceremonies done and dusted, the likely winners at the Oscars are now clearer than before. Few categories seem less certain than Achievement in Directing. The Revenant director Alejandro G. Iñárritu has now won the Golden Globe, the DGA award and the BAFTA for Directing, and looks set to become the third back-to-back Oscar winning director, joining John Ford and Joseph L. Mankiewicz. This is a remarkable achievement considering Iñárritu is not a prolific filmmaker, having directed only seven features including his debut Amores Perros. Yet each have had a distinctive style and, noticeably, each of his films perform interesting experiments with the cinematic form. Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel are all network narratives that utilise editing to distort and confuse chronology, using the harmonics of image and emotion rather than strict narrative logic to progress the film. Birdman drew great praise for its (trick) single take that consists of most of the film, and despite being acerbically critical of celebrity culture, manages this critique without being mean-spirited or cruel. The Revenant is similarly an impressive formal experiment, with many long takes and a remarkable use of light. Iñárritu has said “We shot at the end of the day every day, at dusk time, which I always say is the time when God speaks.” This lighting and shot composition adds to the ethereal quality of the film, and explains why the various electorates of the award-giving institutions would credit this work. While the work of the other nominated directors is distinctive and effective, The Revenant is the film that stands out as being distinctly “directed.” This might suggest an emphasis on the artifice of the film that could be distancing, and yet the film also has a feeling of organic unity to it, clearly carefully designed yet feeling immediate and vibrant, its themes of survival, revenge, regret and even love exquisitely expressed through image and sound over the course of a fairly simple story (note, The Revenant is not nominated for Screenplay). Of course credit is also due to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who looks set to pick up his third consecutive Oscar after Gravity and Birdman. Much as in those earlier films, Lubezki draws the viewer into these complex visual assemblies, the engulfing landscape of The Revenant as immersive as the 3D work in Gravity and the twisting corridors of Birdman’s theatre. Were I a member of AMPAS, I would pick these fine cinematic poets to receive awards for Directing and Cinematography, as they are fine practitioners and experimentalists of the cinematic medium, continually pushing it in exciting and engaging directions.

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Oscar Views – Part Two

Oscar-2016-Nominations

Previously, I discussed the radical(ish) Best Picture nominees, but did not address the burning question of what will win? The strong contenders can be determined by other awards and nominations. The Revenant and The Martian won Best Picture at the Golden Globes for, respectively, Drama and Musical or Comedy. The Big Short won Outstanding Producer at the Producers’ Guild of America. Spotlight won Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the Screen Actors Guild and The Revenant was awarded Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film by the Directors’ Guild of America. The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Spotlight and The Revenant are up for Best Film at the BAFTA awards as well, and there is significant overlap between the memberships of the academies.

In addition, Best Picture winners tend to win other Oscars as well, especially Directing, Writing and Editing. With that in mind, consider those that are up for all these awards. While Mad Max: Fury Road is a surprise nomination, it is extremely unlikely that a science fiction action sequel will win, despite George Miller’s nomination for Directing. The same goes for The Martian, which is doubly unlikely to win without a Directing nomination. This absence also makes Bridge of Spies and Brooklyn unlikely winners.

The only Best Picture nominees up for Directing, Writing and Editing are The Big Short and Spotlight, which makes them strong contenders, along with The Revenant with its existing awards. These results narrow the likely winners down to Spotlight, The Revenant and The Big Short. All these films display the tendency I mentioned before of being about “America,” and cast something of a critical eye on that peculiar, pervasive myth. The Big Short is the most critical, casting the banking industry and America’s massive social inequality as an absurdist tragicomedy. Spotlight is more ambivalent, portraying the interconnectivity of American society as responsible for terrible events as well as being capable of addressing them. The Revenant is thematically conservative, presenting a bootstrap story of one man surviving against overwhelming odds. I love all three films, and while I think The Revenant is the most likely winner, were I a member of AMPAS, I would probably vote for Spotlight, for its finely balanced and non-judgemental approach to controversial subject matter.