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And the Oscar goes to ... (maybe)

February 25, 2016

The Academy Awards will be distributed Sunday and I’ll be tweeting @ibjarts and @louharry with in-the-moment commentary.

I won’t be alone.

Everyone, it seems, has opinions on what deserves/doesn’t deserve to win, whether the prizes should go to more popular fare, and how the demographics of the voters impact the selection of nominees. I’ll be chiming in on all of that during the broadcast.

While the main reason I’ll be watching will be to see how host Chris Rock addresses the #Oscarssowhite controversy (In case you have been out of touch for a few months, this is the second year in a row that no actors of color were nominated), I’m also interested in who and what takes home the trophies.

Not that it matters much. I doubt anyone really believes that the Oscar-winning “The Greatest Show on Earth” is a better movie than “High Noon" or that “Dances with Wolves” was better directed than “Goodfellas.”

Plus, let us remember that “The Big Lebowski” wasn’t even nominated.

For now, though, here are some preliminary thoughts


What I want to see win is “Spotlight”—smart, subtly written and acted, and important. Those adjectives also apply to the more boisterous “The Big Short.” (OK, maybe not the subtle part). While there’s a push for “Mad Max: Fury Road,” I don’t think the adrenaline rush of a popcorn flick might have had a better shot if it was either an original or a further stretch from “The Road Warrior.”

As for “The Revenant,” this is, in theory, an award for excellence, not for endurance.

Also in the mix but without a chance: “Bridge of Spies,” “Brooklyn,” “The Martian,” and “Room.”


It feels like a lock for Brie Larson in “Room.” Cate Blanchett’s has won before. Jennifer Lawrence seems to be here just because she’s in a movie. Saoirse Ronan is terrific in “Brooklyn” but it’s not a showy part. And Charlotte Rampling, who I think gave the strongest performance in this category, blew her chances when she commented on the #Oscarssowhite situation.


Sorry to say it’s Leonardo DiCaprio. As much as Oscars claim to be about excellence in an individual film, it has a long history of rewarding actors for the wrong films after extensive careers without a win. Good luck finding anyone who thinks Al Pacino’s best work is in “Scent of a Woman.”

Expect unsurprised reaction shots in the audience from Bryan Cranston, Matt Damon, Michael Fassbender, and Eddie Redmayne. My choice: The not-nominated Abraham Attah for “Beasts of No Nation.”


The Oscars also have a bad habit of putting people in the wrong category—which can turn an also-ran into a winner. Case in point, Alicia Vikander, who is clearly the lead actress in “The Danish Girl.” While she may not have won that category, she should take this one, unless she’s knocked out by the feral Jennifer Jason Leigh in “The Hateful Eight.”

Also in the mix: Rooney Mara, Rachel McAdams, and Kate Winslet.


Confession time: I didn’t see “Bridge of Spies” or “Creed.” But I do know that the focus isn’t on Tom Hardy in “The Revenant” and that Christian Bale and Mark Ruffalo are parts of strong ensembles in “The Big Short” and “Spotlight.” Oscars can go sentimental—see John Wayne’s award for “True Grit”—so expect this one to go to Sylvester Stallone.


I love/hate the fact that “Inside Out” and “Anomalisa” are competing against each other.  Both are unique creations. Both are among the best films of the year (and should have been recognized as such in the main category). But I can’t imagine the Academy taking the adult, disconcerting “Anomalisa” over Pixar’s latest.

Filling out the category: “Boy & the World,” “Shaun the Sheep Movie,” and “When Marnie Was There.”


Strong contenders, particularly from “Carol,” “The Revenant” and “Mad Max: Fury Road.” If I had a three-sided coin to flip, I think it would land on “Mad Max: Fury Road”—which also should pick up other technical prizes including COSTUME DESIGN, MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING, PRODUCTION DESIGN, SOUND EDITING, SOUND MIXING, and VISUAL EFFECTS.


Does Alejandro G. Inarritu get his second in a row for “The Revenant”? Should Tom McCarthy’s unobtrusive work in “Spotlight” get celebrated? Or George Miller’s audacious comeback work in “Mad Max: Fury Road”? What about Adam McKay’s skillful ability to turn an uncinematic topic into “The Big Short”? Or Lenny Abrahamson’s creation of a world in a “Room”? Frankly, I’ll take any of the latter four.


Charles Randolph and Adam McKay are likely to be rewarded for the aforementioned reasons for “The Big Short” for adapted screenplay, while “Spotlight” should take original screenplay for Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy. There is, of course, a chance that Academy voter guilt will lead to a win here for “Straight Outta Compton,” which would just add to the awkward racial politics of the evening.


Ennio Morricone for “The Hateful Eight” is the probable winner, although I don’t think it’s nearly his best. Give a listen to “The Mission” if you get a chance.

You are on your own for the other categories.

Enjoy. Looking forward to tweeting with you on Sunday.

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