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The Guilds Speak: Writers, Cinematographers, Editors, and Art Directors

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Sicario Blunt Macer

Not an easy film to like, but the guilds are giving it the thumbs-up.

The guilds continue to speak, and as we inch towards the Oscar nomination announcement on the 14th, slowly but surely the overall pattern of the year becomes clear. The frontrunners, challengers, dark horses, and solid nominees make themselves known.

We’ve got four guilds to go over today: the Writers’ Guild, the American Society of Cinematographers, the American Cinema Editors, and the Art Directors’ Guild. And from their choices and the results of the awards race to date, I’ve compiled some educated guesses as to what we’re likely to see come next Thursday.

Writer’s Guild of America:

Original Screenplay:

  • Bridge of Spies
  • Sicario
  • Spotlight
  • Straight Outta Compton
  • Trainwreck

Still haven’t seen Trainwreck. Probably should.

Now, what do we make of this? Let’s just go film by film.

Bridge of Spies – I may have erred in counting this one out. Between this and the PGA yesterday, this should be considered very much in the race. Which is fine with me, since it’s a fine script and an excellent film. Of these five films, it’s the second most likely to get into this category at the Oscars.

Sicario – I still don’t quite get the love for this film, but here we are. I put this third most likely of these films to get on at the Oscars in this category, and given that it too managed to get the PGA nod, I think it’s a decent bet (if not a sure thing) for Best Picture.

Spotlight – The overwhelming favorite in this category and the favorite for Best Picture. If this doesn’t win I’ll be shocked. Not being nominated would be well-nigh unprecedented.

Straight Outta Compton – If the PGA nomination had me leaning towards regarding this as a contender, this all but verifies it. I won’t say it can’t miss Best Picture, but at this rate it seems more likely than not. Now, getting nominated for the script is another matter. It’s not that great of a script–it’s a pretty standard biopic script, all things considered. There are three scripts which missed out here which could force it out of the Oscar race. But it being at all is pretty significant.

Trainwreck – This, more than any of the other films on this list, benefited from the ineligibility of certain other scripts. I’m glad for Amy Schumer and won’t dismiss the script itself sight unseen…but I’d be genuinely shocked if the Academy actually nominated this. It’s the fifth most likely to get on their list, and a distant fifth at that.

The three scripts waiting in the wings which I mentioned earlier, by the way, are Ex Machina, The Hateful Eight, and Inside Out. Assuming that Ex Machina isn’t too safe of a bet outside of Supporting Actress, assuming that Tarantino is always a safe bet for a nomination, and assuming that they’ll nominate Pixar as they have numerous times before, I think the Oscar category will look a bit like this:

  • Bridge of Spies
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Inside Out
  • Sicario
  • Spotlight

Adapted Screenplay:

  • The Big Short
  • Carol
  • The Martian
  • Steve Jobs
  • Trumbo

Much, much better.

The Big Short – I think we can consider this a lock for a nomination. And thank God for that–I saw this again just the other night, and it really is one of the best films (and scripts) of the year.

Carol – This, too, has to be considered pretty safe for a nom. Maybe it gets left off in favor of Brooklyn (which I’m guessing was ineligible), but I don’t see it happening. It’s a damn good script, too–it’s actually my current #1 in Adapted since The Big Short is in the Factually-Based category.

The Martian – Some of the buzz for this film seems to have faded, and I would be a bit less shocked than most if this actually missed the final lineup…but I’d still be surprised. It’s probably a reasonable bet for a nom, but I think its chances of winning have fallen off pretty badly.

Steve Jobs – It’s a fascinating script. Not, in my opinion, an entirely successful one, but I give Sorkin major credit for trying something new. I’m torn as to its Oscar chances; the film is pretty much dead in terms of Best Picture, but it seems a strong bet for Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, and Score…so maybe it could slide into the final lineup? I don’t know.

Trumbo – Like Trainwreck, I have to assume this got a boost from other, better scripts being ineligible. It’s a decent script and a good film, but not quite awards-caliber. The Academy won’t bother with it. There are at least two scripts which will get in before it.

Brooklyn and Room missed out. Ironically, the latter is the stronger bet to get the Oscar nomination, despite being, in my opinion at least, the weaker script. But it has several wins and broad support (including a Globe nomination), and assuming that Brooklyn just misses out (which isn’t a sure thing but seems fairly possible at this point), the Oscar category will probably be:

  • The Big Short
  • Carol
  • The Martian
  • Room
  • Steve Jobs

Mad Max sandstorm

American Society of Cinematographers:

  • Bridge of Spies
  • Carol
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Revenant
  • Sicario

Let’s just go over these super-quick.

Bridge of Spies – More guild support. They like this one. This might make Picture yet. I don’t think it’ll make this category though, but I’ll get into that later. Nice work, though. Much better than Lincoln.

Carol – It’s just a gorgeously shot film. It will almost certainly get the nomination, and will wholly deserve it.

Mad Max: Fury Road – Do I need to say anything here? This might actually win the Oscar. In any case, it would be a major, major upset if it didn’t get on.

The Revenant – Chivo’s on a roll. I don’t know if he’ll make it three wins in a row, given that the film itself is not universally beloved, but I’d say he’s the second-most likely to win (since I can’t see Carol beating both this and Max).

Sicario – Roger Deakins is a legend and deserves an Oscar. But he should’ve won for Skyfall or Prisoners, and his two subsequent nominations have been for, in my opinion, lesser work. There are some good shots in Sicario, but on the whole I wasn’t terribly impressed. I think it’ll probably get the nomination, given the continuing support for the film, but if it won I’d be torn as all hell.

Looking towards the Oscars, let’s see what else could get on. They often go for foreign films here, and The Assassin was gorgeously shot, so consider that a threat. And Robert Richardson did a pretty damn good job with The Hateful Eight, and in 70mm no less. He also has several nominations under his belt for it–more, in fact, than The Assassin‘s Mark Lee Ping Bin.

So, assuming The Assassin as a wild card (probably at the expense of Sicario), I think Bridge will get nudged off and our category will be:

  • Carol
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Revenant
  • Sicario
Big Short poster

One of the best editing jobs of the year. Will it get its due?

American Cinema Editors (“Eddie”):

Feature Film (Dramatic):

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Sicario
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

A nice little “fuck you” to the Globes, putting The Martian in Dramatic.

Mad Max: Fury Road – Come now. This should win the Oscar by a mile. At the very least, it’s getting on. It’s some of the best editing in ages.

The Martian – It’s a good editing job. It’s well assembled, moves briskly despite the length, and has some really nice montages (that “Starman” montage is brilliant). Will the Academy go for it? Probably. Not definitely.

The Revenant – This one, I think, is up in the air. I’ve heard some say the narrative doesn’t entirely hold together, especially in the second half, and I’m not sure if the writing or the editing will be blamed for that. Maybe once I actually see the damn thing I can resolve that question. But if this missed out on the Oscar I wouldn’t be totally surprised.

Sicario – This is in. It’s the kind of film which gets into this category. I’m not totally sure it deserves to, but I’m willing to admit I should see this again at some point. Of these five, I’d say it’s the second most likely to get the nomination.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – To be fair, they did a solid job with it. Not necessarily one that requires a nomination, but it wouldn’t be a disgrace either. That said, I think it’s the least likely of these five to get on.

You have to wonder why Spotlight didn’t make it on. I’m guessing because it’s not really that memorably edited, and that it’ll get the Oscar nomination anyway because it’s the frontrunner for Best Picture, but it’s an interesting little hiccup nonetheless.

Feature Film (Comedy):

  • Ant-Man
  • The Big Short
  • Joy
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  • Trainwreck

Oh, Lord.

Ant-Man – Can you tell this was a bad year for comedy?

The Big Short – If the Academy doesn’t nominate this, they’re fucking crazy. This film was so beautifully assembled, juggling multiple storylines, stock footage, celebrity cameos, freeze frames, montages, and the like in a manner reminiscent more of latter-day Godard than present-day Hollywood. If Mad Max weren’t so beautifully put together, I would give this my award, hands down. It’s that well put together.

Joy – Haven’t seen this yet. But it’s David O. Russell, so I’m sure it’s a masterwork of coherency.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Weird to see this in the race given its almost total absence hitherto. Granted, it’s not a great film (outside of Olivia Cooke’s performance, which is magnificent), and I can’t say the editing is anything to get excited about, but here it is. It’s not winning, and the Academy won’t nominate it.

Trainwreck – It’s apparently less bloated than most Judd Apatow-directed films, so I guess that’s something.

Seriously, though, was Tangerine not eligible? Now that was a solid little editing job.

Feature Film (Animated):

  • Anomalisa
  • The Good Dinosaur
  • Inside Out

Animated films don’t get nominated at the Oscars. I won’t include this category in my Awards Breakdown page. But it’s nice that they acknowledged Anomalisa.

Okay, let’s get down to brass tacks. The following films, by my count, all have a good shot at getting on here: Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton, and Steve Jobs. Looking at these lists, I can say that The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Sicario are pretty safe bets. I won’t count The Revenant out completely, but since its Best Picture chances have dwindled I won’t assume it gets on. And since the same could be said of Steve Jobs…here’s what I think we’ll see:

  • The Big Short
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Sicario
  • Spotlight
  • Straight Outta Compton

Compton over The Revenant is just a hunch. It could go either way, but my instinct says to go with the film which inspires genuine passion. (I’d just like to add that it’s too bad Bridge of Spies missed out here. That was a damn well cut film.)

Jurassic World Jake Johnson

Apparently there are awards-caliber sets in the background there.

Art Directors Guild:

Period Film:

  • Bridge of Spies
  • Crimson Peak
  • The Danish Girl
  • The Revenant
  • Trumbo

Bridge of Spies – This has popped up in a lot of these categories. I’m not sure I’d put it on (it’s good production design, just there are better choices this year), but I’m starting to think it’ll get the nod. It has two other 50s period pieces to contend with, however, which I’ll get into later.

Crimson Peak – Based purely on the production design, this was the best work of the year. Not a great film (not even a particularly good one), but holy shit, what sets. I really hope the Academy notices this.

The Danish Girl – It’s got some very nice production design. For a modestly budgeted film, they did a good job. I think the costumes are more memorable, honestly, and given the rather muted reception I’m not sure just how heavily the Academy will go for it, but don’t count it.

The Revenant – Isn’t this mostly exteriors? I guess that doesn’t count it out entirely–Life of Pi got a nomination, after all, though that was mostly greenscreen–but I think this’ll get overlooked in favor of flashier design.

Trumbo – This film’s a resilient little fucker, isn’t it? The sets are fine. Maybe a little too obviously sets (a problem with lower-budget period pieces), but whatever. The Academy probably won’t go for it.

Fantasy Film:

  • Cinderella
  • Jurassic World
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Tomorrowland

Cinderella – Honestly, I thought the costumes were much more memorable than the sets, and being an early-year release, I think this will be hard-pressed to get any nominations, but one never knows.

Jurassic World – No. This is here to fill out the list (and because Crimson Peak wasn’t a Fantasy by their standards). The only set I especially remember is the ruin of the original park, and even that was nothing special.

Mad Max: Fury Road – The Citadel is pretty awesome production design. If you count the cars, they’re pretty damn amazing as well. If not, it’s still some of the more memorable design of the year, and you have to consider it a solid contender to win.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – There’s some very good design work here. I wouldn’t mind a nomination at all. I don’t know if it’s terribly likely, but the Academy might want to give this some technical love since it’s almost certainly not getting on in Picture.

Tomorrowland – Oh yeah, this film. A very, very problematic film in a lot of ways. Some cool design…but the film doesn’t make the best use of it. (In case you didn’t know, it takes about 80% of the film to actually get to Tomorrowland, which doesn’t leave much time to develop it as a location.) Won’t get nominated, but that’s all right.

Contemporary Film:

  • Ex Machina
  • Joy
  • The Martian
  • Sicario
  • Spectre

What a weird fucking list.

Ex Machina – Some really nice sets here. For a while, I thought this was predominantly existing locations, but they did create some settings for this, and they’re properly minimal and sterile, befitting the mood and themes of the film. I can’t quite see the Academy going for this (though, they did go for Her, which is kind of in a similar vein), but I’m glad that it’s here.

Joy – Uh, sure. Maybe I’ll understand once I see it.

The Martian – The Hab, the Ares, the NASA facilities back on Earth…there are some good sets here. This could sneak on. It wouldn’t be a total shock if it didn’t make the cut, but if they embrace it as much as we thought they would a month or so ago, it very much could.

Sicario – I don’t see it. Maybe the mansion towards the end? Maybe the tunnel? Or the house at the beginning, with the corpses in the walls? I don’t know.

Spectre – Not as good as Skyfall, but there’s some decent stuff here. Blofeld’s desert facility and the ruins of MI6 especially. Probably not a serious threat to get on, but worth mentioning.

Okay, now to try and work out a likely category of 5 from these 15 (and some films which didn’t make it on).

Let’s say Bridge of Spies, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Martian are the most likely to get on. I can’t quite see Brooklyn and Carol both getting on, and splitting the difference, I actually think Carol is the likelier nominee. So that’s four.

For the fifth…why not Crimson Peak? I can’t imagine anyone watching that film and not giving it at least a nomination. I could be wrong–tech categories are trickier to predict–but I’m going to go ahead and say this will be our category:

  • Bridge of Spies
  • Carol
  • Crimson Peak
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian

To wrap up, let’s go over the categories I’ve predicted today and yesterday:

Picture:

  • The Big Short
  • Brooklyn
  • Carol
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Room
  • Spotlight
  • Straight Outta Compton

Original Screenplay:

  • Bridge of Spies
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Inside Out
  • Sicario
  • Spotlight

Adapted Screenplay:

  • The Big Short
  • Carol
  • The Martian
  • Room
  • Steve Jobs

Cinematography:

  • Carol
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Revenant
  • Sicario

Editing:

  • The Big Short
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Sicario
  • Spotlight
  • Straight Outta Compton

Production Design:

  • Bridge of Spies
  • Carol
  • Crimson Peak
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian

I’m less sure about my Picture predictions. I’m thinking Sicario might be in after all. Or it could have the most nominations without a Picture nomination. It feels like the kind of film that would happen to.

More and more convinced Straight Outta Compton is in. Less convinced about Room, on the fence about Brooklyn, and not even completely sold in regards to Carol. This remains one of the most unpredictable years to date, for which I am profoundly grateful.

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