Wednesday, January 13, 2016

My Predictions for This Year's Top 6 Oscar Category Nominations

This is it, everyone Tomorrow is the day when we finally discover who all of this year's Oscar nominees are. What has made 2015 a very interesting season is that while we've had a front runner (Spotlight), we haven't had as clear of a road map for every other category. With that said, this could either become yet another conventional year, mirroring last year's "Oscars So White" backlash; or we can be seeing a random year where Mad Max: Fury Road and other blockbusters manage to compete for Oscar gold. The following is my predictions for the six big categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. It's a difficult year to predict, and I am likely to be wrong in some ways (as I usually am). However, join in the fun and share the picks that you feel are deserving of nominations, and return to The Oscar Buzz tomorrow morning for in depth reporting and commentary on every high and every low.

*Note: All categories presented alphabetically by film.

Christian Bale in The Big Short
Best Picture

-The Big Short
-Bridge of Spies
-The Hateful Eight
-Inside Out
-The Martian
-The Revenant

NOTES: Since the category changed to a sliding scale of 5-10 nominees, it's been difficult to properly gauge the final number. While the average has been 9, last year's 7 definitely creates an interesting dilemma for this year's nominees. Still, I consider 9 to be the safe bet, which is why I chose it again. Among the sure bets, it seems like Spotlight and The Big Short are locked deals. With The Martian not only being a box office success, but an awards season contender, its chances of showing up big are rather likely. Among the outliers, I definitely think that Inside Out is a film so good that it could compete in this category, and likely will join Pixar films Up and Toy Story 3 in being one of very few animated films to ever be nominated in this category. While The Hateful Eight has gotten mixed reviews, it may be hard to overlook solely because of Quentin Tarantino's passion for film culture and considering that Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained received nominations, he is likely to return solely for making a high concept western. 

Among the films missing is crowd favorite Mad Max: Fury Road, which I contend is not going to make the cut because it is too much of a blockbuster film for The Academy to handle (read my reasons here).

Behind the scenes of The Revenant
Best Director

-The Big Short (Adam McKay)
-Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg)
-Carol (Todd Haynes)
-The Revenant (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
-Spotlight (Thomas McCarthy)

NOTES: In a year full of difficult calls, the Best Picture field is not without its potential upsets. Among the films that I hope to see pull a few surprises is The Big Short, which has already done some impressive appearances during this awards season. I also think that The Revenant is a lock for many reasons; most notably of which is that it's returning winner Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu with a film that is arguably bigger and more ambitious than last year's (superior) Birdman. The rest are tough calls, though it would seem impossible to not have Spotlight on this list. Despite doing great work, Bridge of Spies may be the odd man out, especially since Steven Spielberg's Cold War film hasn't been as noticeable this awards season as it should have been.

Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs
Best Actor

-Concussion (Will Smith)
-The Danish Girl (Eddie Redmayne)
-The Martian (Matt Damon)
-The Revenant (Leonardo DiCaprio)
-Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender)

NOTES: With exception to Concussion, this has been the general agreement for most of awards season. The real question is if The Academy will recognize Steve Jobs or give in to the taboo of its failed box office and not give it any credit (which keeps me from predicting it in Best Picture). My only real gripe is going to be with The Revenant, which I contest is Leonardo DiCaprio's worst role of the past two decades and is not worthy of the hype it has been receiving (stay tuned for a think piece on that). However, Best Actor is the only field that looks pretty much set compared to the others to come.

Cate Blanchett in Carol
Best Actress

-Brooklyn (Saoirse Ronan)
-Carol (Cate Blanchett)
-The Danish Girl (Alicia Vikander)
-Joy (Jennifer Lawrence)
-Room (Brie Larson)

NOTES: What a lovely bunch of nominees this has turned out to be. Among the contenders, this is a head to head race between Brooklyn and Room, who are clearly the only two names guaranteed to appear tomorrow. However, there's an interesting/frustrating issue with category fraud coming up with Carol. Based on other predictors, Cate Blanchett seems primed for the lead nomination - despite being a supporting character. It's annoying, but I am confident that she will get the nomination as well. Among the long shots is Joy and Jennifer Lawrence, who started the season on a high note, but who has been losing steam along the way. She won the Golden Globe, but Joy's mixed buzz and arguably David O. Russell's least favorable reviews since I Heart Huckabees makes this too much of a wild card to be a safe bet (though I still think it is Lawrence's best role and the film is better than its reputation).

Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies
Best Supporting Actor

-The Big Short (Christian Bale)
-Bridge of Spies (Mark Rylance)
-Creed (Sylvester Stallone)
-Spotlight (Michael Keaton)
-Spotlight (Mark Ruffalo)

NOTES: Among every category on this list, I will confess to having no idea what to make of this bunch. There hasn't been a clear definition of this category since day one, and it's going to be a miracle if The Academy makes something out of it. However, the general consensus seems to be that The Big Short and Bridge of Spies are locks. Creed has been picking up strange amounts of traction in recent months, and Sylvester Stallone's surprise Golden Globe win would suggest that he is going to get nominated, especially since it's a character in Best Picture winner Rocky from a few decades back. My bold guess is that this is where Spotlight begins to shine, with acting nominees cleaning up in the supporting categories. Among the names, I think that Mark Ruffalo gives the more showy performance and is a likely lock, but I wouldn't take out Michael Keaton just yet, as he's coming off of Birdman and could use this nomination as a sort of redemption for losing last year.

Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight
Best Supporting Actress

-Carol (Rooney Mara)
-Ex Machina (Alicia Vikander)
-The Hateful Eight (Jennifer Jason Leigh)
-Spotlight (Rachel McAdams)
-Steve Jobs (Kate Winslet)

NOTES: Among this group of nominees, I am definitely confident that The Hateful Eight and Carol are guaranteed locks. Depending on how The Academy views Steve Jobs, Kate Winslet may also be a shoe-in, though not likely to win. I also maintain a theory that Spotlight will rack up a lot of nominations in acting categories, and it's easy to see Rachel McAdams sneaking in that way. The fifth spot is a little difficult to call, but I'll go with Ex Machina. While many have suggested that Charlize Theron was the genre performance of the year to beat, Vikander's other film has been racking up a lot this past awards season, which makes this seem a lot more plausible than usual. 

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