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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.
“My name is Mad. My world is fire,” growls Max Rockatansky’s (Tom Hardy) opening voiceover of George Miller’s return to the Mad Max franchise after thirty years. For the next two hours, the viewer encounters this fire in all its blistering, barraging, petrol-fuelled mayhem, resulting in one of the most relentless action movies of recent years. There is a dazzling beauty to Miller’s action choreography, the camera both sweeping around the pimped-up vehicles that tear through the post-apocalyptic landscape and yanking the viewer into the heart of the deafening chases and brutal encounters between flesh, metal, rock and flame. Hardy brings a world-weary indomitableness to the role of Max, leaving the dramatic thrust of the narrative to Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa. Furiosa’s arc has been the source of some controversy over the apparent feminist invasion of a “man’s film”. Frankly, more active roles for women are always something to be applauded and Furiosa makes an excellent protagonist as well as a fine foil to Max. Her altruism and his nihilism are contrasting but complementary beliefs in a fragmented and pitiless world. This balance of the genders is further reason to admire Mad Max: Fury Road, as it means the film largely avoids the sexism so depressingly familiar in action cinema. It is unlikely to herald a new dawn, but for its running time the film is a gripping and refreshing contribution to the genre.