Likely Winners and Regretful Absences at the 2016 Oscars - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Likely Winners and Regretful Absences at the 2016 Oscars

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Returning from 2014 and 2015, we'll be taking a look at the major categories for Oscar nominations.  Sadly, one of the regretful absences this year is Kyle, who is busy conquering a PhD.  As the week continues, Andrew and Ryan will examine what scene from the Best Picture nominees helped clench its nomination.

Best Picture

Best Andrew 2016What will happen at the awards – Birdman was a surprise win last year which, in hindsight, seems a natural fit for the Academy.  You have a white guy struggling creatively to make his art come alive which is catnip for Oscar voters.  I’m tempted to give The Revenant the edge but even with a good streak of dark humor running through it seems a might bit serious for the Academy without dealing with a  weighty topic.  The rest of the nominees are varying degrees of fun and good execution without the baggage of social importance.  Of the films nominated my heart gravitates toward Room, but my head and gut have to go with Mad Max: Fury Road.  It’s easily the most crowd pleasing of the bunch, has a vocal contingent of critical and popular support, and has just a touch of social importance without getting dragged down by it.

What should have happened – This is where the #Oscarssowhite criticism applies strongest.  The Martian has no business being on this list when Straight Out of Compton was just as crowd pleasing while various degrees electrifying in its best moments.  The same applies to Bridge of Spies and Creed as they’re both “respectable” films.  But where Spielberg takes a decent story and does it well, Ryan Coogler approached what could have been a cash in franchise film and makes Adonis’ story painfully relevant to our moment in history.Best Ryan 2016What will happen at the awards - Last year the best picture Oscar was up between two movies, this year I wouldn't be surprised if four different films would win it.  You have The Big Short and Spotlight which are ABOUT IMPORTANT THINGS, The Revenant is an epic film voters often go for, and Mad Max: Fury Road might be the best directed and edited action movie of all time.  I was thinking when watching it that it reminded me of Sorcerer by William Freidkin and that is never bad company to be in.  In the end, I think that Spotlight and The Big Short cancel each other out, voters still can't vote for a film like Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Revenant takes it in a very split year.

What should have happened – Frankly, I think all the Oscar movies are about equal with each other that they are all well made but I didn't fall head over heels with any of them.  The movie that I thought was the most original film that effected me the most was Inside Out.  If I had to pick a top five for Oscars this year it would be The Revenant, Brooklyn, Creed, Mad Max: Fury Road and Inside Out with Inside Out winning the prize.

Best Director

Director 2016Newer Andrew cutout commentaryWhat will happen at the awards –The most subtle and effective work was done by Lenny Abrahamson but his direction of Room was so subtle that the performances are sort of driving reception of the behind-the-camera craftsmanship down a notch.  Adam McKay put a lot of flash into The Big Short but to diminishing returns and Tom McCarthy is great at getting career best performances out of his performers but has never been a super director.  My guess, it’s gonna be another slugfest between George Miller and Alejandro G. Iñárritu here.  Of the two I gotta tip my hat to George Miller again.  Mad Max: Fury Road doesn’t have an ounce of fat on it, which is part editing and part Miller’s careful rhythm with full-speed action and effective character breakdowns.  Plus it has the Academy happy ending story of a film long stuck in developmental hell while Miller took odd jobs to get more financing and blasting out to bewitch audiences and critics alike.

What should have happened – I liked Spotlight, but it’s not McCarthy’s best film nor is it great on the direction front.  A slightly diluted version of the same criticism could be leveled at Adam McKay.  Once again, Straight Out of Compton’s director F. Gary Gray and Creed’s Ryan Coogler should have been in those two spots.  Gray did a spectacular job hitting the high and low cultural conversations around NWA while highlighting the danger and allure of NWA in some of the best concert scenes captured on film.  Coogler, for my money, has been snubbed twice for Fruitvale Station and now Creed.  He updated the battling myth of Rocky by focusing on the streets from a separate angle, letting his camera drift over the nighttime wanderings of Adonis and allowed minor detours to cheery restaurant scenes.  I’m getting goosebumps just thinking of the way Coogler incorporates so many elements of black American history into that last fight scene and Adonis’ ferocious cry to fight for his past.

Moving past the normal chromosome pair I would love to have seen The Midnight Swim catch fire and become the indie darling of awards season.  Sarah Adina Smith's direction turned what could have been an aimless found-footage horror film into a visual lyrical essay about the mysteries of birth and death.  The way the supernatural gnaws at the edges of The Midnight Swim shows how often we expect the unknown to be frightening when, really, it's part of the same existence we all share.  Smith likely didn't stand a chance at any widespread award appeal since The Midnight Swim is found-footage, but that won't stop me from recognizing her work in the top-tier direction of 2015.

Ryan Commentary StampWhat will happen at the awards - Do Oscar voters wish they could change their vote from last year? Last year we had a back and forth between Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Richard Linklater through all the awards.  In the end, Iñárritu won the Oscar for his clever and deft direction of Birdman. This year, Iñárritu is back with a showy (and a bit ponderous) direction of The Revenant and he is again the front-runner.  Does the Academy like him enough and do they want to bestow upon him the honor of being the first director to win back to back Best Director Oscars?  This would be the first time this happened in over a half of a century and the movie wasn't as universally loved for this to be a slam dunk.  In the end, I think it is going to happen for all the reasons Andrew stated.  McKay is new to Oscar films and his background of filming John C Reilly rubbing his balls on a drum-set might hurt him at this point.  McCarthy is an actors director, Abrahamson's film was tricky as hell to do but what people remember are the performances and Miller again has the problem of directing an "action film." Much like best picture I see Iñárritu winning because he is the safest of the bunch.

What should have happened – To be honest, Iñárritu deserves it.  The film was directed wonderfully, made you feel cold and beat up by the end and was TOUGH to do.  If the movie was about 20 minutes shorter and left some of the wind blowing through trees shots on the cutting room floor I would probably be 100% in love with it.  I teach a class and we were talking about making the audience feel emotion and I showed them Fruitvale Station because it is a wonderful recent example of the director making the audience feel his/her anger, sadness, shock etc through their making of the movie.  Ryan Coogler did the same thing with Creed and took a franchise on its last breath to new places.  He also directed my favorite scene of the year in the one-take boxing match. Ultimately for me, the winner would be George Miller.  The movie was directed by a man in his 70s and outshone many of his contemporaries that are 40 years younger than him.  Mad Max: Fury Road never stops moving but never once is the viewer confused or overwhelmed.  I have not seen many movies made with such precision on such an epic scale.  It also had a man playing a guitar that spewed fire, that is a sure bet for me giving the creator of it some award.

Best Actor

Actor 2016Newer Andrew cutout commentaryWhat will happen at the awards – All five nominees will disappear moments before the Best Actor award is announced.  After the winner has been read a grotesque visage of man will appear onstage.  It’s hard to tell where the skin ends from one man to the next but we can see flecks of Cranston, Damon, Fassbender, and Redmayne.  Then the voice of Leonardo DiCaprio emerges from what used to be Fassbender’s nose, explaining how his fellow nominees made the necessary sacrifice, and DiCaprio will honor them by making each part of his life from this point on.

What should have happened – Assuming David Cronenberg doesn’t put my idea for the aforementioned scenario in DiCaprio’s ear, DiCaprio should cede his award to Michael B. Jordan.  He won’t, and if I’m being totally honest DiCaprio’s performance is tremendous, but considering how Jordan was snubbed for Fruitvale Station and now for Creed this it would send a great message.  Idealism aside, there’s no reason Jordan shouldn’t be nominated.  Eddie Redmayne has been an insufferable Gary Oldman wannabe and won his Oscar in the same year he starred in Jupiter Ascending.  Sure, Jordan was in Fantastic Four, but the difference between Jordan in Fantastic Four and Redmayne in Jupiter Ascending is Jordan was actually good in Fantastic Four.  Jordan brought a sort of Gregory Peck / Sidney Poitier brand of Old Hollywood dignity and class to Adonis.  He also channeled Carl Weathers’ pride but, important to note, not Weathers’ ego.  The result was an endlessly compelling performance which eschewed the opportunity to “go big” by staying low-key in both his anger and happiness.

Ryan Commentary StampWhat will happen at the awards - It's going to be Leo.

What should have happened – Is Leo winning his "career Oscar" this year?  Is he winning because he has a strong resume and no Oscar? If it is, lets just look at his last 16 years since 2000.  The Wolf of Wall Street, Django Unchained, The Departed, Gangs of New York, Inception, Shutter IslandCatch Me If You Can and The Aviator. That is a murders row of films that only he could have made as popular and probably the only person he could have gotten the budget for half of them.  If he was going to get a career Oscar, much like his frequent collaborator Scorsese, he damn well earned it.  Calling his work in The Revenant a lifetime achievement award is greatly undercutting what he did in the film.  He was not pampered at all in the film and did not have to go method to show his suffering because the dude was miserable making that film.  He looked like he was freezing because he was and it made me cold just watching it.

What made him so great it this wasn't just because he was beaten up and tortured, if that is all it takes than Bruce Campbell would have won for the last two Evil Dead films.  No, it was more, it was that he is the only person in at least 2/3s of the film and for most of that he doesn't talk more than a few grunts and pained yelps.  Even with no dialogue, it is easy to see what he is thinking because he tells you with his facial expressions and his eyes.  It is easy to remember that he gets mauled by a bear and that he jumps into a river and that he eats a bison stomach but look deeper in the film and you can see what truly makes it a performance that deserves all the awards and accolades it has received.

Supporting Actor

Supporting Actor 2016Newer Andrew cutout commentaryWhat will happen at the awards - I hope Christian Bale hasn't become one of those Academy fixtures, but since they like legacies it seems the loose semi-autistic work he put forth in The Big Short was enough to earn a nod.  Mark Ruffalo's nomination is even weirder, because Spotlight was top-to-bottom excellently acted but the strength of the performances came more from the ensemble than any individual pieces.  Mark Rylance was fun to watch in Bridge of Spies because he played such a humble Soviet spy it was hard not to be sympathetic, but it was a mostly amusing character with little heft.  With Hardy and Stallone my heart and gut are split yet again.  Stallone's performance in Creed was, without a doubt, the best of the year.  He made Rocky touching again through little gestures he made with Jordan when trying to spell, cautiously entering a gym for the first time in weeks, or relying on Jordan for just a bit of support when he had trouble getting around.  But Stallone isn't the hot draw he used to be, and Hardy has quickly garnered a reputation as an actors actor.  It doesn't hurt that his performance in The Revenant is perfectly attuned to be the opposite of DiCaprio's with all the pragmatic scheming and rambling excuses dripping out with more than a touch of malice.  I've got to go with Hardy here, and I'll let my tears be happy if Stallone pulls out the upset.

What should have happened - I'd shift the nomination from Ruffalo to Liev Schrieber.  They're both great character actors but Schrieber made his role in Spotlight more mysterious than Rylance's work as an actual spy (though Rylance is so charming I'd leave him in).  The way Schrieber plays his curiosity close to his chest while firmly, but quietly, directing the Spotlight team in investigating the church abuse made me curious about it.  Then there are the little breakthroughs, like the barely contained note of anger he lets out in a huff of air when he's provided Catholic texts as a means of dissuading both his investigation and taking a shot at his Jewish faith.  It's a painful, but dedicated, performance with almost as much heart as Stallone's with less screen-time to work with.

Ryan Commentary StampWhat will happen at the awards - This is a pretty stacked group of actors in this category. Bale, Hardy, Stallone, Ruffalo and newcomer (to me) Rylance.  With how the Academy goes I know that they like to spread the love to many different films as much as they can and The Revenant, The Big Short, Spotlight will win other places so that leaves Mark Rylance to give Bridge of Spies its best chance to get an award.  I would not be surprised if he wins for this alone and that doesn't include the fact that he is pretty spectacular in the film. The one thing that I think trumps him is nostalgia and Sly Stallone coming back one last time to his most beloved role as Rocky.  He was the heart of the film and his performance made many men in the audience cry many manly tears.  Let the man finally win the award for one of the best characters in the last 50 years.

What should have happened - Loved Tom Hardy in The Revenant and made me agree with a lot of what he did in the film, which is always a good sign that the bad guy is well represented. In most other years I would be rooting for that hunk of man meat but it is Stallone's year.  I loved his performance, loved the movie and want to see him win an Oscar for the role.  The last thing I would wish I could do is the "good year" award for supporting man of the year Domhnall Gleeson.  He was a great support in Ex Machina, Brooklyn, The Force Awakens, and The Revenant in ONE year.  That is a damn impressive run in one year and should get some sore of trophy for it.

Best Actress

Actress 2016Newer Andrew cutout commentaryWhat will happen at the awards - This seems to be Cate Blanchett's year to lose.  Her work in Carol follows-up her multi-award winning work in Blue Jasmine and has hit nearly universal acclaim.  Saoirse Ronan and Charlotte Rampling's nominations are well deserved but don't have the steamroller of momentum going into the Academy Awards Blanchett has.  Jennifer Lawrence, who I've been a huge fan of, shouldn't have been nominated as she's been better in lesser films.  So while I think Blanchett is going to win I have to open my heart once more for Brie Larson.  She's a spectacular performer who already turned in a complex performance in Short Term 12 and managed to top that in Room.  The various layers of self-delusion, obvious fiction for her son, and gradual breakdown in light of the truth of her situation was a one of a kind display of pure empathy for an impossible scenario.

What should have happened - Horror continues to be one of the least respected genres and I've made no secret in saying Unfriended was one of the best movies of 2015.  That's why I would rather Renee Olstead be up there with Rampling and Ronan instead of Lawrence.  Olstead's performance is much more than the standard "final girl" work in horror.  She also has to operate within different layers of fiction, shifting almost her entire personality to be one person when she's just talking to her boyfriend then doing a lot of nonverbal acting as she struggles to be taken seriously when she writes.  It's excellent work in an equally excellent film and I'd love it if the Academy stops bucking genre work like this in favor of long-time nominees.

Ryan Commentary StampWhat will happen at the awards - Brie Larson wins in a landslide.

What should have happened - I had a emotional reaction to Brooklyn that I will write about later this week and a lot of that has to do with Saoirse Ronan's performance. In a word, it was just lovely.  Not all films that win awards should have to be about BIG THINGS or be 2 hours or misery inflicted on the character.  Some time that film should just be a wonderful time with a performance that makes you love the character and that is what Brooklyn does so great.  I fell in love with Eillis, I wanted her to be happy and I was rooting for her to figure out her life and be happy. Nothing horrible happens, she isn't a famous figure, she didn't do anything groundbreaking and yet I still loved her performance from beginning to end.  If I ruled the world, I would give her an Oscar and a nice big hug.

Supporting Actress

Supporting Actress 2016Newer Andrew cutout commentaryWhat will happen at the awards - With the rest of the cast and crew of The Hateful Eight taking a backseat at the awards it's a bit odd to see Jennifer Jason Leigh singled out for her performance.  But the Academy has long loved to see attractive women suffer for their awards and Leigh does plenty of that in The Hateful Eight.  Rachel McAdams suffers from the same sort of "great but as part of the ensemble" issue that Ruffalo has with Spotlight and, for my money, her nomination would have been better used on 2010's Morning Glory.  Alicia Vikander and Kate Winslet's nominations almost seem like afterthoughts - the latter in particular as I completely forgot Winslet was in Steve Jobs even though I praised her performance in my review.  That, I think, speaks more to the overall quality of Steve Jobs than Winslet's performance.  Overall I have to give the nod to Rooney Mara.  She's another multiple nominee well liked by the creative giants she's worked with and her work in Carol is going into the awards with almost as much momentum as Blanchett.

What should have happened - Kristen Stewart is a brilliant performer and I'm frankly a bit tired of the montages showing her "bad acting" when they're clear displays of how she is able to make subtle adjustments to suggest volumes of emotional change.  I admit to a bit of bias here because my review for Clouds of Sils Maria is some of my favorite writing this year, but Stewart's performance inspired me.  Her work is so excellent in Clouds of Sils Maria that it calls into question just what "supporting" means in the context of someone else's story and if we're devaluing each performance by putting them in the "supporting" category.  Her work forces us to pay attention to the background, to her facial expressions, to the way she carefully arranges the world for Juliette Binoche's character.  Stewart already earned a few awards for her performance but it would be nice to once again see the Academy look past the genre snobbery for her also excellent Twilight work and recognize when she's turned in one of the year's best performances.

Ryan Commentary StampWhat will happen at the awards - Kate Winslet just won a few years ago and she is in a movie that has the stink of a huge bomb on it. Rooney Mara was in a film that has a lot of fans but never got the groundswell behind her. Jennifer Jason Leigh was unrecognizable in Tarantino's The Hateful Eight but that movie is not his strongest and a lot of the movie she is used as a punching bag. Rachel McAdams is the one girl in Spotlight and she is not given the showy performance of some of her co-stars and that will ultimately hurt her here. That leaves Alicia Vikander from The Danish Girl. She is a lead thrown in the supporting category and she is the rising it girl.  A lot of times these two things are what gets an award for someone and I see the same thing happening this year.

What should have happened - If we are putting Vikander in supporting when she is actually lead, let's do the same thing for Charlize Theron and give her the award for the tour de force that was Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road.  Even better, lets change the movie we are giving the Oscar to Vikander for and award her performance in Ex Machina.  She was a revelation in that film and took what the audience thought would be the sexy, helpless girl and turned it on its ear.  I never heard of her before this film and after I couldn't wait to see what she was going to do next.  I think she is going to be in a fight for all the good roles (both Oscar bait and big budget) with Margot Robbie for the next 5-10 years.

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Posted by Andrew

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  1. I’m surprised with your choice of Inside Out…the movie was good, but it didn’t affect me the way Up did years back. I think The Revenant may surprise us all with a win, and I’ll be okay with that. Great post!

  2. It might be the fact that I have a daughter about the age of Riley and I am seeing some of that stuff happen with her that it really got to me. Bing Bong also DESTROYED me.

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