It’s that time of year again and here at The Last Round we’ve been chomping at the bit to get our predictions in for the 2016 Oscars.
Given the nature of the publication, we thought we’d provide a someway alternative analysis of this year’s awards ceremony – one which tries to balance the dewy-eyed, idealistic view of cinema we hold here with a more biting, cynical shot of reality (as far as you can use the word when talking about Hollywood…). How can that be done, we hear you ask? Basically, we’ll provide a kind of ‘most-deserved/best case’ scenario category (‘IW’ = Ideal Winner) as part of our choices next to what we think will actually happen (‘PW’ = Probable Winner), along with some brief snippets of commentary where necessary.
The run-up to the Academy Awards’ big annual event is usually a heated and controversial affair, and this year has been no different. Between #OscarsSoWhite, the same old problems with the gender pay gap in the industry, eligibility issues, speculation about whether 2016 will finally be Leonardo Di Caprio’s year (surely it has to be?), Chris Rock’s appointment as presenter, there’s been little space to breathe. Luckily, though, we’re on hand and we’ve tried our best to boil down all that noise and speculation into, well…our own condensed noise and speculation. We’ve also left out some of the more marginal categories (sorry, shorts, screenplays and foreign-language films) in an effort to slim down quite an extensive list of awards.
So grab some popcorn, kick back, relax, disagree with us…all that stuff.
Best Picture – ‘The Revenant’ (IW)/’The Big Short’ (PW)
Frankly, when placed alongside the main contenders from the last few Oscars shortlists (Birdman, Boyhood, Dallas Buyer’s Club, 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, The Wolf of Wall Street etc), the quality of the frontrunners for this year’s big prize is comparatively low. For us, The Revenant probably just edges it on the basis of its cinematography, its performances and for the film as a total, multi-sensory experience. However, despite The Revenant’s win at the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes, many pundits are leaning towards The Big Short (just about) as the picture to take home the night’s biggest award.
Best Actor – Leonardo DiCaprio (IW & PW)
It has to be, finally, Leo’s year. It seems practically written in the stars at this point that on Sunday night DiCaprio is going to be called up to collect the award that has most famously eluded him throughout his twenty-five-year-long career. Michael Fassbender and Matt Damon both put in commendable performances for their respective lead roles in 2015/16 – but DiCaprio’s turn as avenging frontiersman, Hugh Glass, does just enough for us to stand out as this year’s superior performance, bulkwarked as it is by other strong performances as part of an overall stronger movie. Like a number of other commentators, we don’t feel it was Di Caprio’s best outing, it’s garnered praise for some of the wrong reasons, and there is undeniably a charitable, sort of ‘Lifetime Achievement award’ element about the whole thing. Nevertheless, it is probably the best lead performance from this year’s nominees and it’s about time the Academy put Leo out of his misery once and for all, so we can all just get on with our lives.
Best Actress – Cate Blanchett (IW)/Brie Larson (PW)
All signs seem to be pointing toward Brie Larson for the Best Actress prize this year. Her performance in the adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s Room was undeniably impressive, in a movie whose acting was probably its strongest feature. On the merit of the performance alone, Cate Blanchett’s appearance as the title character in Carol was as good as any in this year’s pool for us – though, it’s doubtful she would win the award twice in the space of three years after a playing a very similar, scintillating lead in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine (2014).
Best Supporting Actor – Christian Bale, ‘The Big Short’; or Tom Hardy, ‘The Revenant’ (IW)/Sylvester Stallone, ‘Creed’ (PW)
Sylveser Stallone seems to have emerged as the unlikely favourite for the Best Supporting Actor prize. For us, it’s difficult to pick between Christian Bale’s supporting performance as Michael Burry – the oddball banker who bets against a rotting pre-2008 system of Sub-Prime Mortgages and CDOs – in The Big Short and Tom Hardy’s antagonist role in The Revenant.
Best Supporting Actress – Rachel McAdams, ‘Spotlight’; or Kate Winslet, ‘Steve Jobs’ (IW)/Alicia Vikander, ‘The Danish Girl’ (PW)
Alicia Vikander is poised to collect the award for Best Supporting Actress based not just on the performance for which she’s been nominated, but for her year in general (many people felt she deserved an Oscar nomination for Ex Machina as well). Whether or not it’s fair to award her the prize on this basis is debatable, but if it’s not to be her there’d be no great wrong committed in handing the award to either Rachel McAdams or Kate Winslet for their nominated roles.
Best Animated Film – ‘Inside Out’ (IW & PW)
Had Anomalisa been showing in UK cinemas prior to this year’s Oscars, it probably would have been our Animated Film pick. Charlie Kaufman’s new claymation feature-length is being met with all-round critical acclaim, and looks to add another distinction to an already-illustrious career for Kaufman, as well as looking to set a precedent for Kickstarter-funded filmmaking in general. But that’s not to take anything away from Inside Out, which – like so much of Pixar’s output – is a triumph of a film. Their most conceptually-driven movie to date, Inside Out straddles subject matter as sophisticated as memory, personal loss and acceptance, along with the trials of growing up, and sacrifices very little in entertainment factor for it. Apart from a dodgy animated short at the beginning (an uncharacteristic blip in their usually excellent short selections), it’s another winner.
Best Cinematography – Roger Deakins, ‘Sicario’ (IW)/Emmanuel Lubezki, ‘The Revenant’ (PW)
We’re now going to indulge in some charitable, far-off fantasies of our own with this choice. Undoubtedly one of the greatest injustices in the history of the Oscars, thirteen-times-nominated Roger Deakins is yet to get his hands on an award. If he doesn’t win, though (and he won’t), we’re happy to concede second place to the equally brilliant Emmanuel Lubezki for his virtuosic camerawork in the shooting of The Revenant.
Best Costume Design – Sandy Powell, ‘Cindarella’ (IW & PW)
With 3 Academy Awards and 12 nominations behind her, the smart money says Sandy Powell. We’re listening to the smart money.
Best Director – Jose González Iñárritu, ‘The Revenant’ (IW & PW)
Jose González Iñárritu looks the likely bet to grab a consecutive Oscar for Best Director, after being awarded the big prize last year for Birdman. He’ll have to fend off a challenge from George Miller for back-to-back success in the category – a feat that’s only been claimed by John Ford and Jospeh L. Mankiewicz, all the way back in the ‘40s and ‘50s.
Best Documentary – ‘The Look of Silence’ (IW)/’Amy’ (PW)
This category is one of the more interesting ones from the year that was in film. Asif Kapadia’s ghoulish docu-exposé of Amy Winehouse’s troubled later years appears to be the favourite to scoop the award. We feel, however, that The Look of Silence – Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to 2012’s The Act of Killing – should be the winner here. Like its predecessor (which was nominated but didn’t win), The Look of Silence is a stark and horrifying account of Indonesia’s guerilla death squads who have policed and purged the country brutally since the 1965 military coup which paved the way for the current regime. A considerably more intelligent and daring bit of filmmaking, there’s little doubt in our eyes that it deserves to come good where The Act of Killing didn’t, ahead of the poignant but, ultimately, lurid and voyeuristic Amy.
Best Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects, Best Production Design – ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (IW & PW)
Mad Max is predicted to sweep all the technical categories. And we can’t really argue with that, to be honest. It might face some stiff competition from The Revenant in certain departments (the Sound categories, in particular), but the engineer work that went into George Miller’s cinematic spectacle shows through at almost every juncture of the movie.
Best Original Score – Ryuichi Sakamoto, ‘The Revenant’ (IW)/Ennio Moricone, ‘The Hateful Eight’ (PW)
The eligibility issues referred to in this article’s preamble were, as ever, to do with the Oscars’ (quite strict and oft-contested) criteria for what makes an ‘original score’. And again, it was an Iñárritu film at the centre of the controversy. The astonishing music supplied by Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto for The Revenant would be a sure-fire winner for this year’s Best Score prize, were it were up to us. In place of Sakamoto’s offering, however, Ennio Moricone will be a dead cert for the award, after six fruitless nominations. Moricone himself is by now something of a legendary figure in cinema (and deservedly so), and many are astonished that he does not yet have his name on a golden statue. His score for Tarantino’s polarising The Hateful Eight is brilliant work. But at this point it’s hard to ignore this ‘Lifetime Achievement’ tag we mentioned earlier, which appears to be making its presence felt in a number of this year’s categories.
Best Original Song – Simple Song #3 (Sumi Jo), ‘Youth’/‘Til it Happens to You (Diane Warren), ‘The Hunting Ground’
Lady Gaga’s gung-ho pop ballad is the favourite to take this category. But, ever the contrarians here at The Last Round, we’d like to opt for the altogether more dignified Simple Song #3, by Sumi Jo (taken from Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth).
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