The Peoples Critic

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2016 Oscar Predictions


The Oscars should prove to be a little more interesting than usual this year, given the #OscarsSoWhite campaign that has picked up steam after this year’s second consecutive batch of all white nominees.  Add the irony of Chris Rock being named host, and you have a real opportunity for a dynamic broadcast.  There is no doubt that the acting categories’ ethnically singular nature is disturbing, and a real discussion about how the Academy works along with how the industry as a whole produces its films is underway.  Still the nominees are not at fault and are still deserving of their nominations.  Therefore, on with The People’s Critic’s 2016 Oscar Predictions!

Part I: Shorts and Sound

This first group will focus on the five categories that are usually the toughest to call as they are either short films not easily viewed by most people or they are those two lovely sound categories that many have trouble differentiating between.


1. Best Short Film (Live Action) – Nominated films are:

Ave Maria
Day One
Everything will be Okay

Last year’s short film nominees could be considered mostly sweet except for the one that won starring an A-list cast about the crisis hotline operator (Sally Hawkins) trying to dissuade a father (Jim Broadbent) from committing suicide after the death of his daughter.  While no film this year boasts a cast of known actors, one does take the prize of darkest subject matter. Therefore, this year’s winner has to be Shok, which tells the true story of Serbian war criminals who killed civilians during the Kosovo war.  I hope someday a ray of sunshine will spring from this category, but so far, not likely.

Prediction: Shok 

2. Best Short Film (Animated) – Nominated films are:

Bear Story
Sanjay’s Super Team
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow

Disney has won this award twice in the past three years.  In 2013, Disney produced the slam dunk winner in Paperman.  In 2014, Disney’s entry was more nostalgic than impressive causing it to lose to Mr. Hublot. Although they returned to form again with last year’s brilliant short, Feast.  Story – while important – holds less weight than style here, so if anyone can take the crown away from this year’s Disney entry, Sanjay’s Super Team, it’s filmmaker, Don Hertzfeldt.  Inside Out is sure to win the Animated Feature prize, so I predict an upset for Disney in favor of Herzfledt’s style in World of Tomorrow.

Prediction: World of Tomorrow

3. Best Documentary (Short) – Nominated films are:

Body Team 12
Chau, Beyond the Lines
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Last Day of Freedom

So get this, the 2014 winner in this category was, The Lady in Number Six: Music Saved My Life. 2015’s winner was called Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1.  This year we have two films with colons in their titles: Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.  Could this be the key to winning?  Possibly.  Body Team 12 explores the Ebola outbreak from the perspective of the team tasked with collecting the dead. This is a strong film, but I’m going to err in favor of the devastating and brutal, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.  It puts a new and horrifying face on the already frightening and unspeakable occurrences of honor killings in Pakistan and feels poised to take this award.

Prediction: A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

4. Best Sound Editing – Nominated films are:

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

5. Best Sound Mixing – Nominated films are:

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

I always like to deal with these two together, since most people are unaware of their differences and due to that nasty little tie between Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall in the Sound Editing category in 2013.  Sound editing is the art of recording sound effects, background music, as well as sound creation. Sound mixing is taking all of the sounds recorded and needed for a film, along with the dialogue, and putting it all together, adjusting the levels, etc. As usual, it is fitting that the nominees of these two categories are nearly identical.  Traditionally, I go along with the theory that more times than not, the film that wins one will win both. Gravity won both in 2014 for its dazzling complexity of layered sound and effects. However, last year a film about sound, Whiplash, dashed my theory by taking Sound Mixing away from American Sniper. There are no films about music nominated this year though, which makes me feel safe to return to my usual thoughts on this subject.  Therefore, I have a clear favorite, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  My only worry is that for some reason, Mad Max: Fury Road is nominated for 10 Oscars!  Clearly, there’s some love there and these technical categories may be the place where that love is shown.  I’ve been reminded many times to remain objective about these predictions…

Prediction: Mad Max: Fury Road for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing

2015Songs.jpgPart II – Songs, Styles, and Sets!

This set of predictions rounds up the lower tier categories and begins the accent to the major ones. These predictions will focus on the six categories that make up the atmosphere of a film: Original Song, Original Score, Costume Design, Production Design, Makeup, and Visual Effects.

6. Best Original Song – Nominated songs are:

“Earned It” from 50 Shades of Grey
“Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction
“Simple Song #3” from Youth
“Til it Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground
“Writing’s on the Wall” from Spectre

Two years ago, this category was drenched in scandal as one film’s song composer was a former governor of the Academy music branch who contacted 1/3 of the voters asking them to “consider” his song.  That song was revoked paving the way for a small unlikely song about Letting it Go or something to just barely squeak by! Honestly, it feels like no one has quite let “Let it Go” go, but that song was actually two years ago! Last year, Selma received its pity-win for “Glory” for snubbing David Oyelowo and Ava DuVernay.  This year’s songs are all pretty blah.  It is kind of interesting to think that Lady Gaga could find herself an Oscar winner for songwriting and a Golden Globe winner for acting in the same year.  I can get behind that.

Prediction: “Til it Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground 

7. Best Original Score – Nominated Films are:

Bridge of Spies
The Hateful Eight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Last year, the film with the most substantial use of music was The Grand Budapest Hotel.  This year, it will likey be a battle of the winning-est losers in music.  John Williams may have 5 Oscars, but he has been nominated 50 times!  Last years favorite, Jóhann Jóhannsson ended up losing to Grand Budapest, but he is back again for his score of Sicario.  Who will lose again?  The answer: Both!  Ennio Morricone has been stealing the show doing what he does best, scoring Westerns.  Tarantino, a director who cares more about the music in his films than most, tapped the 87-year-old Morricone to produce the first original score that has ever appeared in a Tarantino film.  Consider this one a lock!

Prediction: The Hateful Eight

8. Best Costume Design – Nominated films are:

The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

This category favors the period piece, and well the case can be made that all of these films are period pieces, in a way. Therefore, the key to this category ultimately is not to get too caught up in the film itself but rather focus on the creativity, authenticity, and accuracy of the costuming.   If this category is like ther other 23, then it will be a challenge for Sandy Powell to win since her nominations for Cinderella and Carol may cancel each other out.  This paves the way for The Danish Girl to swoop in and score!    

Prediction: The Danish Girl 

9. Best Production Design – Nominated films are:

Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

The Oscar for Production Design goes to the art director who best accomplishes the appropriate mood for an audience’s experience through visuals, movement, and other varieties of art direction. Four of the nominated films above are also nominated for Best Picture, but rarely do winners for Production Design and Best Picture intersect (you’ve still got a chance, Danish Girl!). Nominations, however, do, and the stand-out film for this category is Mad Max: Fury Road. Love it or loath it, Mad Max is a spectacle of visual pizzazz and nearly all of it is done without special effects or CGI.  If this film loses, it would be a crime against the work that goes into creating authentic sets and realistic effects.

Prediction: Mad Max: Fury Road

10. Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Nominated Films are:

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

For three years in a row now, regardless of the quality of nominated films, only three films managed nominations for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. This category continues to circle the drain with three moderately weak choices for the “makeup” category. Last year, this went to a deserving fresh looking film in The Grand Budapest Hotel, but typically this award goes to wildly imaginative, over-the-top makeups and hair. This year, that will be the case…

Prediction: Mad Max: Fury Road

11. Best Visual Effects – Nominated Films are:

Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Ok, now we get down to films that the average filmgoer can evaluate. The Visual Effects Oscar goes to a film that demonstrates greatness in the world of special effects. Mad Max will enjoy its Production Design Oscar and bow out of this one, leaving at least one technical award on the table.  It’s no coincidence that four of these five films made over $100 million domestically this year (one, just about to cross the $1 billion mark). Three of my top ten films of 2015 are here, so clearly visual effects truly influence my appreciation of cinematic greatness.   This is where a certain galaxy far, far away will get its due.

Prediction: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

cinemaPart III: Oscar Predictions: Part III – Don’t Shoot
Me, I’m the Cinematographer!

Part three of The People’s Critic’s Oscar predictions begins the major film awards.  These predictions will be for seven very different categories: Documentary Feature, Animated Film, Foreign Language Film, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, and everybody’s favorite – Cinematography (Soon to be renamed, the “Emmanuel Lubezki Award” – Cinematography dorks will get that one).

12.  Best Documentary Feature – Nominated films are:

Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Many documentaries are made yearly since they are easy to produce and cheap to make.  The key is content, pacing, accuracy, and perspective.  Unfortunately, I was not able to see most of these films yet, so I’m going on instinct here.  Last year’s winner CitizenFour, made this pick super easy, but this year it’s a tough call.  Occassionally, box office can be an indication here.  If a documentary film catches on with the public and makes a splash, it can sometimes catapult to an Oscar win.  This happened with 2012’s Searching for Sugarman, and I see it happening again this year for the Amy Winehouse doc, Amy.

Prediction: Amy

13.  Best Animated Feature Film – Nominated Films are:

Boy and the World
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie was There

Wow did this category grow up! The winner for this category is the surest bet of the year, but let’s take a second to take a look at this list!  A Charlie Kaufman drama, a beautiful Japanese coming of age story, a basically wordless story of about a boy searching for his father, the most emotionally evolved Pixar movie ever…and a British, clay sheep movie.  The Best Animated Feature Film Oscar enters its 15th year as a category in the modern Academy Awards, and clearly it wants to grow up a little.  The score is Disney 9, Dreamworks 3…Rango and Japan 2. Disney gets its 10th win, but this category just got very interesting.

Prediction: Inside Out

14.  Best Foreign Language Film – Nominated films are:

Embrace of the Serpent (Columbia)
Mustang (France)
Son of Saul (Hungary)
Theeb (Jordan)
A War (Denmark)

Well you heard it at the Golden Globes; the story this year is Son of Saul.  The Holocaust drama is only Hungary’s 9th film ever nominated for this award and its first since 1988.  It is also the first Hungarian film to win a Golden Globe.  I don’t see a situation where that momentum doesn’t take it to the Oscar.

Prediction: Son of Saul

15.  Best Original Screenplay – Nominated films are:

Bridge of Spies– Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Ex Machina– Alex Garland
Inside Out – Screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; Original story by Pete Docter, Ronnie del CarmenFutterman
Spotlight – Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy
Straight Outta Compton–  Screenplay by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff; Story by S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff

As a writer (or to put it more modestly, one who appreciates writing), the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay has a special significance.   Last year, writer/director of Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Alejandro González Iñárritu, was on a first Oscar quest and got it…and then got 2 more!  This year, only one film is really in the “spotlight” for best original screenplay. Iñárritu will get some Oscar love this year, but it is hard to win for Best Original Screenplay when you have virtually no intelligible dialogue in your film.  On the other hand, it is not hard to win one when you have a film about smart-talking journalists who (through writing) uncover horrific truth that results in a major upheaval for the Catholic Church and redefines the power of the press.

Prediction: Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy for Spotlight

16.  Best Adapted Screenplay – Nominated films:

The Big Short – Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
Brooklyn – Nick Hornby
Carol – Phyllis Nagy
The Martian – Drew Goddard
– Emma Donoghue

These films are the rare few who challenge and at times overcome that old adage that the book is better than the movie.  Last year’s winner, Graham Moore for The Imitation Game, resulted in the night’s most memorable acceptance speech as well.  The work of Michael Lewis, author of The Blind Side, Moneyball, and The Big Short, has been on the cusp of one of these Oscar things for some time now.  Who would have thought that the writer/director of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy would be the first to pull it off! There is no doubt that The Big Short had the tallest uphill climb in terms of adapting its source material in any kind of coherent way.  But Adam McKay persevered, came out the other side, and is a real threat to pull an Iñárritu and win the Directing and Picture prizes as well!

Prediction: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay for The Big Short

17. Best Film Editing – Nominated films are:

The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This is an impressive award to win and the Academy does not treat that lightly. The winner for Best Film Editing has often been the film that wins Best Picture, and it is no surprise that four of the films nominated here are also nominated for Best Picture. Before moving on, let’s take a moment to appreciate that fifth film.  Star Wars getting an editing nomination is an excellent achievement.  It is no small leap to assume that if secrecy was not a top priority and screeners were distributed earlier to Academy members, this film would have been nominated for some other major awards including Best Picture. Anyway, this is a four-horse race The editing of a film is nearly as important as the direction since it affects the story, the pace, and the tone. Often, great editing goes unnoticed by the viewer because of how seamless the story has been woven together. The major consideration here is Hank Corwin’s shaping of the complexities of the housing market crash in The Big Short versus Stephen Mirrione’s careful and delicate shaping of a single character’s journey in The Revenant. If The Big Short wins this one, it becomes very hard to deny that it may be on its way to a Best Picture win, which I don’t think many considering.

Prediction: The Big Short

18.   Best Cinematography – Nominated Films are:

The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

I know we were all hoping to hear Dick Pope nominated for his work on the film Legend this year.  Not because it was a particularly great movie, but in the hopes that Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs’s may repeat that unfortunate mispronunciation of his name again during the live nominations.  If you need to refresh your memory of that moment, watch it immediately. Ok, now that you’ve had a laugh, let’s talk about cinematography. Cinematographers are the directors of photography who oversee decisions on camera and lighting concerns.  To excel at this requires the talent of an artist and the technical knowledge of a director.  This year’s group makes for a tough category.  Deakins’s latest film, Sicario marks his 13th nomination without a win.  He has been nominated now, three years in a row and his work on Prisoners, Unbroken,  and now Sicario earned those films their non-sound related nominations.  This should certainly be a consideration in choosing a winner since repetitive nominations in this category are not easy to get, but well earned when they happen.  Unfortunately for Deakins, the very man who beat him in 2014 and 2015 for his astounding achievements with Gravity and Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) respectively, is back again.  Emmanuel Lubezki’s is poised to make history with an unprecedented three-time, back-to-back victory in this category.  The Revenant is as beautiful, raw, and outstanding as cinematography gets, this time working in the constraints of natural light and natural beauty. The man is unmatched when it comes to camerawork!  

Prediction: The Revenant  


Part IV – The Big Ones


The final installment of The People’s Critic’s Oscar prediction series lists my picks for the six major film awards: Directing, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Actress, Actor, and Picture.  These are the categories decided by the largest blocks of voters and, thus reveal the academy’s consensus feelings on the great films of the year. Unlike most years, it feels that nearly all of these awards are up for grabs.  Aside from Leo, none of the “Big 6” feel like a sure thing.  While that may make the studios nervous, it certainly makes for a more exciting show.

19. Best Director – Nominated directors are:

Adam McKay – The Big Short
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro González Iñárritu – The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson – Room
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

Nowadays, very few directors earn more than one Best Directing Oscar.  Of this year’s nominees, only Iñárritu has been nominated in this category previously (and it was last year). The award is closely associated with the Best Picture winner as well, however these awards are becoming more independent of one another. Two years ago, a visionary Mexican director, Alphonso Cuarón, won the directing Oscar for Gravity, while a more standard American drama, 12 Years a Slave, took Best Picture. Last year a visionary Mexian director, Alejandro González Iñárritu won them both.  I am very conflicted here.  With my prediction for Best Editing going to The Big Short, the easy choice is to extend that through Directing, but my gut says otherwise.  My favorite film of the year was my favorite for a reason, so I have to give it to Alejandro González Iñárritu!

Prediction: Alejandro González Iñárritu 

20. Best Supporting Actress – Nominees are:

Jennifer Jason Leigh –The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara –Carol
Rachel McAdams –Spotlight
Alicia Vikander –The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet –Steve Jobs

Acting categories need the least amount of explanation.  The supporting role awards are traditionally a bit more exciting.  These Oscars have gone to some surprising upsets over the years and is more likely to go to an edgier or younger performer than the awards for Best Actor/Actress.   On the ladies’ side, there is no clear winner.  These are all terrific performances, and if not for her Golden Globe win, I’d say the only one without a chance would have been Winslet.  At the end of the day though, this was a major break-out year for Vikander, gaining major acclain for her roles in both The Danish Girl and Ex Machnina.  She may have the edge.

Prediction: Alicia Vikander

21. Best Supporting Actor – Nominees are:

Christian Bale– The Big Short
Tom Hardy – The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone – Creed

Last year there was a real race in this category except for one head scratcher with Mark Ruffalo being nominated for Foxcatcher.  This year, Ruffalo is here again for a role far more deserving, except there’s another head scratcher, the favorite is Sylvester Stallone for Creed.  If there is one major snub when it came to performances by minorities, it was Michael B. Jordan in Creed, and to have the favorite in this category be Stallone is pretty nuts.  And with Idras Elba’s win at the SAG awards, this only helps Stallone’s odds since he was not nominated there, and Edba was not nominated here.  Still, I suppose in a year where the Best Supporting Actor category is a real “fight,” it is fitting to have Rocky come out as the champ.

Prediction: Sylvester Stallone

22. Best Actress – Nominees are:

Cate Blanchett –Carol
Brie Larson – Room
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn

This has been the category of clear winners in the past.  Cate Blanchett was the clear winner in 2014 for Blue Jasmine, Julianne Moore was the clear favorite in 2015 for Still Alice.  This year is harder to call, especially with 2014’s winner back again for a strong performance in Carol. If it were up to me, this award would go directly to Saoirse Ronan, but it’s not up to me and once again, I have to maintain my objectivity.  Therefore, the Brie Larson express seems to be chugging along rather nicely, and I expect its final destination is Oscar.

Prediction: Brie Larson 

23.  Best Actor – Nominees are:

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

Man am I bad at calling this one.  I picked Chiwetel Ejiofor in 2014 and it went to Matthew McConaughey.  Last year I go with Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne swoops in and takes it.  This year, everybody is saying DiCaprio, and fortunately, so am I!  As much as Redmayne would love to pull of a Tom Hanks and win Best Actor back to back for the first time since 1994, I don’t think you’re allowed to when you also gave this performance in the same year.  So Leo, congrats.  This should probably be your second or third Oscar, but this performance in The Revenant is certainly a worthy one to be your first.

Prediction: Leonardo DiCaprio

24.  Best Picture – Nominated Films are:

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Eight films were deemed worthy of Best Picture honors this year.  I still am not crazy about the decision to increase and vary the number of nominees for Best Picture, but it seems to be here to stay, and with all of this controversy about the lack of diversity being recognized, I think we can expect to see some other categories increasing their number of nominees as well.  My main criticism about the Best Picture nomination increase was that it never really accomplished what it was designed to do.  However, this year’s nominees may represent a step in the right direction.  Unlike last year, this year box office and best picture had something in common. This expansion in number of nominated films was supposedly to allow for some popular films to make the list, and if you examine the box office for the eight films nominated, you will find four of them in the top 50 for domestic gross!  As you may recall from my Top Ten Films of 2015 article, I believe this is due to the heightened number of films that were released wide in 2015.  More “Oscar” movies were released earlier and to more theaters in 2015 than in previous years, and look at the results!  Movies people saw are nominated!  Amazing!  So now what?  Who wins when there’s no Oscar darling?  Who wins when the movies finally start to represent the broader public’s appeal?  That’s a tough one.  Normally you look to Best Editing or Best Director to get an idea.  If that is the case, then we’re looking at The Big Short or The Revenant.  However, Spotlight is a film much like Argo from 2012, that is hard to award in many categories because it is a true ensemble project where no one piece stands out, but the final product is outstanding.  All three of these films are deserving, but I keep coming back to Spotlight when I think about what film really delivers in the areas that Academy voters most value.  Therefore, I reluctantly select a film to win Best Picture that loses both Best Director and Best Editing, something that hasn’t happened since 2001 when Gladiator beat out Traffic.

Prediction: Spotlight 

Academy_Award_trophyThe Final Cut

According to my predictions…

  • This will be a year where no one steals the show.
  • The biggest winner will be: Mad Max: Fury Road winning 4 of its 10 nominations
  • The biggest losers will be: Bridge of Spies, Carol, and The Martian, all coming up empty regardless of earning at least six nominations apiece.  
  • The biggest upset will be: Spotlight winning best picture despite losing Best Editing and Best Director (This hasn’t happened since 2001).
  • The surest bet will be: Leonardo DiCaprio for Best Actor.

It’s an exciting time for movies, so enjoy Oscar season, and of course, make it even better with The People’s Critic’s official 2016 Oscar Menu!

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