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Predicting the Nominees of the 88th Academy Awards

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Martian poster

For the viewer, “him” is Watney. For the filmmakers, “him” might just mean Oscar.

And now, my final predictions for what will get nominated, lovingly hand-crafted from an old family recipe.

Best Picture:

Based on what we’ve seen of late, these seem like the locks: The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, and Spotlight. Bridge of Spies, Carol, and Room also look very safe. That makes eight.

Let’s assume they go for nine. Who gets that ninth slot? The following seem to me the likeliest contenders: Brooklyn, Inside Out, Sicario, and Straight Outta Compton. Brooklyn I could see just getting Actress and possibly Adapted Screenplay. Inside Out, as I said before, will probably get in if they go for 10, but with nine, might well be relegated to Animated Feature. Sicario has done fairly well with the guilds, but…I’m not entirely feeling it as a nominee. Straight Outta Compton, on the other hand, also has guild support and, I would think, passionate supporters in its favor. After the #OscarsSoWhite controversy last year, a contender by and about people of color stands an excellent chance of getting in. So I think it’s our #9.

There are a few potential surprise nominees: Beasts of No Nation, Creed, Ex Machina, The Hateful Eight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which I dread happening because then everyone who doesn’t know how the Oscars work will predict it to win), and Steve Jobs are the likeliest of the unlikely. But look for the following nine to be our new canon:

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

Best Director:

After the DGAs, and based on the season to date, Iñárritu, McCarthy, Miller, and Ridley Scott would appear to be in. The fifth spot, however, has been hotly contested.

Adam McKay has come on strong as of late, with DGA and BAFTA noms and the general guild embrace of The Big Short. Todd Haynes has won some major awards (including both the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle), but some feel that the love for Carol has begun to fade, despite a strong BAFTA showing. Spielberg seemed set to get his 9th nomination for Bridge of Spies, but missed the DGA, though he got nominated by the BAFTA, Critics Choice, and Satellite Awards.

These three seem to be the strongest contenders for the fifth spot. Lenny Abrahamson (Room), Alex Garland (Ex Machina), and Denis Villeneueve (Sicario) have also been hovering around the edges, but it would be a major surprise if any of them got in.

I don’t think the Academy will take McKay. I think his track record will count against him (however unfairly) and he’ll have to wait for his next awards-caliber film to get in. So that leaves Haynes and Spielberg. It could really go either way, honestly, but when in doubt, bet on Spielberg. If I’m wrong I’ll just be happy for Haynes.

  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant
  • Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
  • George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Ridley Scott, The Martian
  • Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies

Best Actor:

Okay–Leo is on. Damon is on. Fassbender, I’m pretty sure, is on. Those three are the foundation of the category. And Eddie Redmayne is most likely in.

Bryan Cranston has been all over the place in the last few weeks. His film also had solid if not overwhelming guild support. I think he might be the fifth man. Paul Dano won for Lead with several critics groups, but has been pushed Supporting. Despite the SAG nom (and the strength of his work), Johnny Depp seems to be out. Tom Hardy’s had a hell of a year, but he’ll probably get on in Supporting for The Revenant rather than in here for Legend.

Michael B. Jordan has an outside shot, but I’d be surprised if he made it. Ian McKellen, sadly, is a lost cause. Jason Segel never got quite enough traction. Will Smith looked like a possibility, but the film itself fell flat. (I also just remembered Steve Carell, but after the backlash for his Foxcatcher nomination (which I feel was unfair), he’s a long, long shot.)

I’ll say Cranston and assume the Academy matches the BAFTA list 5/5.

  • Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
  • Matt Damon, The Martian
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Best Actress:

Again, we have several nominees we can count on: Cate Blanchett, Brie Larson, and Saoirse Ronan.

Charlotte Rampling was looking solid, but after missing BAFTA I’m not so sure. Jennifer Lawrence may have been hurt by the weak reception to her film, but the performance itself was worthy. Apparently Alicia Vikander is being pushed Supporting for The Danish Girl, which is horseshit.

If Vikander is out of the Lead race (which is not absolutely certain, but seemingly likely), I can’t help but wonder if that frees up a spot for Charlize Theron. I’ve been dubious about predicting her, but given that she got the Critics Choice nomination and is in a film which should be up for Picture and Director…don’t rule her out.

There’s also Emily Blunt (long shot), Maggie Smith (long, long shot), Sarah Silverman (very, very unlikely), Carey Mulligan (her film sank without a trace), Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (never going to happen, as happy as it would make me)…

I really don’t know. If Vikander’s out, I say Theron is in. And then Lawrence. With Rampling as the 6th likeliest. But there’s a lot of uncertainty here, mostly thanks to category fraud. So if I fuck this one up, I’m sorry.

  • Cate Blanchett, Carol
  • Brie Larson, Room
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
  • Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
  • Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Supporting Actor:

I don’t know if there’s any more open category this year than Supporting Actor. I count at least 12 possible nominees. Here they are: Christian Bale, Paul Dano, Benicio Del Toro, Idris Elba, Tom Hardy, Oscar Isaac, Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Mark Rylance, Michael Shannon, Sylvester Stallone, and Jacob Tremblay. And let’s throw in Jason Mitchell as Eazy E to make it a baker’s dozen.

To whittle that list down: Rylance is very, very likely. Stallone has a lot going for him. Elba has hit several vital precursors. So has Shannon. I think those four are all fairly safe.

Of the remaining 9: Bale has SAG and BAFTA noms, was nominated at the Globes as a Lead, and is in a film which could be a surprise winner. So consider him a contender. Dano has met with widespread acclaim, got the Critics’ Choice, Globes, and Satellites to nominate him, and has also won several awards in Lead. He’s a contender. Del Toro has BAFTA and could get in if Sicario goes big. He’s a contender. Hardy has had one hell of a year and The Revenant is shaping up to be a major, major player. He could come along with it. He’s a contender.

Oscar Isaac should be a contender, and the film itself is right on the verge of sneaking into some major races, but I think he’ll just miss out. Keaton and Ruffalo are in what has been the front-runner for some time. I think they’ll cancel each other out, but don’t be surprised if one or the other (more likely Ruffalo–somehow) gets in. Mitchell only happens if they go for that film in the biggest possible way. Tremblay pulled off an amazing performance, especially given his youth, and his co-star is probably winning Best Actress. Thus, he too is a contender.

Going by the SAG and other precursors, I’ll take Bale as the fifth man. But there’s a lot of wiggle room in this category. Too much for my comfort.

  • Christian Bale, The Big Short
  • Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
  • Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
  • Michael Shannon, 99 Homes
  • Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Supporting Actress:

Jennifer Jason Leigh, I should think, is safely in. Kate Winslet is more in than I had previously expected. If they’re putting Vikander here (which, again, is bullshit because both of her performances are, in my estimation, Lead), then she’ll get on for The Danish Girl. Much as I want her to get on for Ex Machina instead. So let’s say those three are locked in. They aren’t, necessarily, but fuck it.

Looking at precursors…Helen Mirren for Trumbo isn’t out of the question, but it seems gratuitous. Jane Fonda for Youth would be laughable. Julie Walters for Brooklyn would be fine by me, but she doesn’t have much traction.

Rooney Mara in Carol is probably happening. She’s Lead, but again…fuck it. Rachel McAdams for Spotlight could happen (she got SAG, Critics Choice, and Satellite), though I’m not entirely sold.

I still think there’s an outside chance for Kristen Stewart in Clouds of Sils Maria. She’d be a worthy choice. Elizabeth Banks for Love & Mercy isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility, but it’ll be hard enough for Dano to get on.

Let’s just take McAdams for now and hope for the best.

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
  • Rooney Mara, Carol
  • Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
  • Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
  • Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Straight Outta Compton poster

Who’d have thought it? Yet here we may be.

Best Original Screenplay:

You have to take the WGA’s nominations with a grain of salt, since many scripts are ineligible, including all of Tarantino’s works. So balancing those out with what’s been nominated at other awards groups to date, we know Spotlight is in, and probably winning, while Bridge of Spies and The Hateful Eight seem like safe bets. But that leaves two spaces open.

Personally, I think Inside Out is getting on. Pixar scripts often get nominated, at least when they’re up to snuff–and this most definitely is.

That last spot, though, is a contentious one, and while I predicted Sicario to fill it when I wrote up the WGA nominees, I’m not so sure now. Straight Outta Compton also got a WGA nod, and I think it’s more likely to get on in Best Picture. And Ex Machina (which got a surprise PGA nod) has also been racking up nominations for its writing. So that makes this a tough category to call.

Assuming the other four films are safe bets, I’ll take the chance and say that Compton is the fifth film. It could easily be Sicario and possibly Ex Machina, but it’s not like this is an exact science.

  • Bridge of Spies
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Inside Out
  • Spotlight
  • Straight Outta Compton

Best Adapted Screenplay:

The Big Short is on. No doubt about that. Steve Jobs, I think, is on–the Globe win doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but let’s give it the benefit of the doubt. If The Martian is a major player, I have to imagine the script is coming along for the ride. That leaves three scripts (realistically) duking it out for two spots: Brooklyn, Carol, and Room.

Carol had the WGA nom. Carol, I suspect, has the better shot at Best Picture. I think it gets on instead of Brooklyn (though if that got on instead I would not be shocked). Room has been heavily nominated for its script, and has the added allure of being written by the author of the source material. Granted, that didn’t get Gone Girl into the Oscar race, but that film was conspiratorially fucked over.

I think the following five make up the likeliest roster. Brooklyn could still get on, though. I just don’t know who they’d bump for it (and I don’t think they’d bump Carol). There’s also The Revenant, but that really isn’t a writers’ film. (Anomalisa would be awesome to see, but that’s almost certainly not happening.)

I guess I should add that The End of the Tour was nominated for the USC Scripter award (a fairly notable precursor), but the thought of that film getting nominated saps my strength.

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

Best Cinematography:

The ASC went with Bridge of Spies, Carol, Mad Max, The Revenant, and Sicario. I think The Hateful Eight gets on over Bridge, but that’s just a hunch. It’s between these six (because The Assassin isn’t eligible, I guess), so I’ll put my faith in the 70mm film until proven wrong.

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

Best Editing:

Mad Max and The Big Short need to be here. I can’t imagine anyone would argue against that.

I think Straight Outta Compton gets on, at least if they go for it in the first place. Spotlight, still being the front-runner, will almost certainly get in. That leaves the last spot, which will most likely go to one of three films: Bridge of SpiesThe Martian, or Sicario.

I had said Sicario previously, and it does have a strong chance, but given that I think the Academy will be more bullish on The Martian, I’m changing my prediction. Sicario over Compton is still a definite possibility. And The Revenant is also right there, but…the editing wasn’t really the main attraction there.

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

Best Production Design:

Bridge of Spies seems to be well-liked here. Mad Max definitely is. Both should be considered in.

Carol and Brooklyn are again duking it out for this award. The Art Directors Guild nominated neither, which doesn’t help. BAFTA gave Carol the edge, and so will I.

Crimson Peak‘s failure aside, it has guild support here and seems like an easy nomination. The fifth spot seems fairly open.

The Martian could take it, even though the sets are fairly subtle. Joy would actually be a reasonable nominee–the sets for the QVC sequences are very good indeed. But that probably won’t happen. Star Wars got a BAFTA nod, but that…doesn’t feel terribly likely to me.

You know, I kind of hate to do it, but I feel like The Danish Girl actually might get on. It’s the kind of film which does. A touch more likely than The Martian.

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

Best Costume Design:

I talked about these just yesterday. Basically, the following seem like the safest bets. It’s a tough category to predict, though, because there are so few precursors for it.

  • Carol
  • Cinderella
  • Crimson Peak
  • The Danish Girl
  • Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Makeup & Hairstyling:

This one’s a bit easier, since there’s a shortlist and they only nominate three films here.

Mad Max and The Revenant are on. Black Mass seems like the obvious third choice (though Mr. Holmes would be extremely deserving), but they usually have at least one left-field pick on this list. So I’ll play the odds and say:

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
  • The Revenant

Best Score:

This one is always tricky. Scores are sometimes deemed ineligible for the strangest reasons. This year, The Revenant was so deemed, taking a major contender out of the running.

John Williams, I suspect, will get his 50th nomination this year. He deserves it. And the fact that the film is now the highest-grossing film in American history (unadjusted, of course) doesn’t hurt. Ennio Morricone, likewise, is a legend with one of the more noteworthy scores of the year to his name. I think he’s on.

That’s two. For the other three…I can’t imagine Mad Max being a major player and not getting on. Carol has proven popular. Inside Out would continue the tradition of recognizing Pixar scores. The Danish Girl and Sicario are possibilities…actually, let’s say The Danish Girl over…Inside Out. And Steve Jobs isn’t out of the question. If, somehow, It Follows got nominated, it would make my day.

Oh, there’s also Spotlight. Which was a boring score. If it gets on…well, I’ll get into that towards the end.

  • Carol
  • The Danish Girl
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Song:

Let’s be honest: this was one of the worst years for original songs ever. My current #1 isn’t even that great.

“Writing’s On the Wall” has to be considered on. Beyond that…I’m consulting the eligible list.

Why’d they have to leave off the song from Love & Mercy?

If Fifty Shades of Grey gets on, I’m vomiting. And that Furious 7 song was not only boring, but too poppy for the Academy.

I’ll take the song from The Hunting Ground. Documentaries often do well here. And people liked the song from Shaun the Sheep Movie. So why not? Also, given how bad the year is…I’m just gonna predict the song from Youth.

To round it off, because I don’t know or care…I’ll say the song from Anomalisa

  • “Feels Like Summer”, Shaun the Sheep Movie
  • “None of Them are You”, Anomalisa
  • “Simple Song No. 3”, Youth
  • “‘Til It Happens to You”, The Hunting Ground
  • “Writing’s On the Wall”, Spectre

Best Sound Mixing:

Based on the few precursors available, I feel like Mad Max and Star Wars are in for sure. The Martian and The Revenant also feel like safe picks. But after initially thinking Bridge of Spies would be the #5, I’ve decided that Straight Outta Compton is more likely, however narrowly.

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Straight Outta Compton
The Walk the walk

The critics raved. The public shrugged. And the Academy…?

Best Visual Effects:

The Revenant might sneak on. Ex Machina is a solid possibility, given what it did on a low budget. (I assumed San Andreas had an outside shot, but then I was reminded that it didn’t make the shortlist.) But for now I think they’ll take the following five:

  • Ant-Man
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • The Walk

Best Sound Editing: 

This category usually matches up pretty well with Sound Mixing. After nudging out Bridge of Spies in favor of Straight Outta Compton there, I’ll put it back in here.

Note that Sicario is a threat in both sound categories. And, personally, I’d really like to see Everest get some attention.

  • Bridge of Spies
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Animated Film:

There have basically only been five contenders this season, and I expect those five to make up the Oscar category. A potential upset from When Marnie Was There or Minions aside, I should get this one bang-on:

  • Anomalisa
  • The Good Dinosaur
  • Inside Out
  • The Peanuts Movie
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie

Best Foreign Language Film:

Son of Saul is on. To predict a surprise omission would be perverse.

Just glancing at the shortlist, I think this is what the Academy will nominate. They left off Goodnight Mommy, Arabian Nights, Aferim!, The Assassin, The Club, The Second Mother, and, of course, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence. So A. it’s a crapshoot and B. it’s hard for me to care.

  • The Brand New Testament
  • Embrace of the Serpent
  • Mustang
  • Son of Saul
  • A War

Best Documentary Feature:

This is an infamously unpredictable branch. So I’m just going to guess here.

I assume Amy is on. If not, I’ll assume they left it off just to fuck with prognosticators (which, admittedly, I would do in their position). I assume Going Clear is off. For reasons.

Here goes:

  • Amy
  • Best of Enemies
  • Cartel Land
  • The Look of Silence
  • Where to Invade Next

I’ll stop there. I won’t bother with the shorts.

Let’s tally up real quick:

  • Mad Max: Fury Road: 12 nominations
  • Carol, The Martian: 8 nominations
  • The Revenant: 7 nominations
  • Bridge of Spies: 6 nominations
  • The Danish GirlSpotlight: 5 nominations
  • The Big ShortThe Hateful EightStar Wars: The Force Awakens, Straight Outta Compton: 4 nominations
  • RoomSteve Jobs: 3 nominations
  • AnomalisaCrimson PeakInside OutShaun the Sheep Movie: 2 nominations

That’s it for films with 2 or more noms. It’s late as fuck and I’m not tallying up the single nominees.

Mad Max fire guitar

Can he accept any award this film wins?

And now, for a few things to watch out for (and what they could portend):

  • If The Revenant makes it in for Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, and/or Visual Effects, it might be our new front-runner. (Editing is really fairly likely.)
  • If Mad Max gets an acting nomination, consider it a definite threat.
    • If it misses Best Director, put on sackcloth and ashes.
  • If Spotlight gets multiple acting nominations, consider its front-runner status safe.
    • If it gets no acting nominations, question its front-runner status.
    • If it gets left out of Editing, it is likely not winning anything beyond Original Screenplay.
  • If The Big Short gets a directing nomination and/or multiple acting nominations, watch out for it.
  • If The Martian misses Screenplay, its chances are slim to none.
  • If Star Wars: The Force Awakens gets into Best Picture, do not assume it’s winning. Please.
  • If Carol misses out on Adapted Screenplay, it will probably go home empty-handed.
    • If it gets a directing nomination, keep an eye on it.
  • If Straight Outta Compton gets a Director or acting nomination, keep an eye on it.

I feel like there’s more, but I’m tired as hell.

Bring on Thursday morning!

 

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