2016 Oscar Predictions Ballot

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Info-graphic courtesy of Stephanie Miller, Head of Student Relations at Study Soup, LLC.
Awards season is finally heading towards its climactic finale, with the 88th annual Academy Awards! Nearly all of the important cinematic achievement awards have been given out for the films released in 2015. As the Academy’s final voters submit their ballots, the race still seems relatively wide open. If you examine the data from the PGA, WGA, BAFTA, and other key awards, this year’s winners may be some of the toughest to predict.  And since making the most accurate predictions is often based on collecting and analyzing data, here’s an interesting tidbit for you to ponder before you delve into making your final selections.  A writer and self-proclaimed movie buff recently contacted me regarding some research she’s been doing.  She posed an interesting question regarding whether there is any intersection or correlation between winning an Oscar and where one spent his or her post-secondary education (see info-graphic above).  We often expect great minds for business or science to come from certain schools, but not so much in the realm of entertainment.  The results are rather fascinating in that a trend may actually be emerging; one that that incidentally makes Leo’s win this year even more of a sure thing.  Thus, it may behoove you to read Stephanie Miller’s full article, “Where Students Dream in Gold: The Top Ten Schools with Oscar Winners” as well as preview The People’s Critic’s Official Oscar Predictions before you make your own predictions (which you can do on the ballot below)!

The awards air live on ABC Sunday, February 28th at 8:00 PM ET.  Now that you’re fully informed, show what you know by predicting who you think the big winners will be!  Enter your predictions on all 24 categories, and then see how your results compare to how everyone else voted on the big night.  Good luck and enjoy!

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Hail, Caesar!

HailDirectors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen

Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlet Johansson, and a boatload of others you will recognize including The Highlander!

I want to start this off by simply saying, Josh Brolin is today’s Humphrey Bogart.  The man knows how to rock a fedora and deliver a knuckle sandwich to any nosebleed who doesn’t know how to treat a dame (more on this in my Gangster Squad review).  It’s hard to believe that while Joel and Ethan Coen have managed to tackle westerns, crime, folk music, The Odyssey, even bowling, they have yet to take aim at the very business that has made them so successful for over 30 years, cinema!  Hail, Caesar! rectifies this glaring omission in their filmography and as impeccably as one would expect.

Hail, Caesar! has a plot, but that’s not why it’s good.  Basically, the film follows studio executive, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) as he attempts to keep his talent in line by covering up scandals and fixing production mishaps.  The film’s title is a reference to Mannix’s big-budget prestige picture for the studio starring mega-star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) that tells the “story of the Christ.”  When Whitlock suddenly goes missing, Mannix searches the studio lot for clues to his whereabouts.

Like I said, the key to this film is not the plot.  Like most classic cinema, the plot is a device to direct the entertainment.  The Coens revel in the glory days of cinema as Whitlock’s disappearance leads Mannix to wander from studio set to studio set and consequently from beautifully staged genre scene to beautifully staged genre scene.  Hail, Caesar! gives the Coens license to film Gene Kelly- style musical numbers, Gary Cooper-style western scenes, Esther Williams-style synchronized swimming spectacles, and high society dramatic capers all within the context of one goofy plotline.

Furthermore, the screen is filled with trademark quirky characters, some of which look to be lost from a Wes Anderson movie (I’m talking to you Ralph Fiennes!).  Still, an important consideration is that my admiration for this film has little, almost nothing, to do with the characters or the actors.  The closest thing to a classic and fully developed character comes in the form of Alden Ehrenreich’s role as a Gene Autry-type western actor named Hobie Doyle who is forced into a role that is way out of his comfort zone. His battle with the phrase, “Would that it were so simple” is very enjoyable.  Otherwise, the reason to see this film is for its harkening back to the classic days of cinema through the lens of the Coen brothers.  The all-star cast may get people in the seats, but this film will disappoint if you are expecting to spend much time with some of your favorite movie stars.  In fact, recognizable faces are strung together in such a way that once one actor goes off screen another comes in; it’s like a wack-a-mole of Hollywood stars.  Put simply, this is a movie for people who have a fondness for the art and presentation of the movies themselves.  If your ears perk up when a character is introduced as “Carlotta Valdez,” then this is a movie for you.

I make this distinction about Hail Caesar! because I feel it can disappoint if audiences go in with the wrong mindset, but it will dazzle and entertain if they go in with another.  While the film celebrates the importance of plot and actors, you almost have to put all of that aside to fully enjoy this movie.  In fact, the preposterous climactic scene involving the acts of a group of Communists is so absurd, the Coens are basically begging you to reexamine the point of this film.  Hail, Caesar! is a blast though, and likely not a coincidence that it is released amidst wider releases of all of the 2015 Oscar contenders.  The film revels in the eminence of motion pictures and can be seen as perhaps a thoroughly satisfying appetizer worth seeing before this year’s Academy Awards. B+

Hail, Caesar! is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 1 hour and 46 minutes. 

The Finest Hours

DFinestirector: Craig Gillespie

Screenwriter: Scott Silver

Cast: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Eric Bana, and Holliday Grainger

Disney has a way of producing some of the most formulaic live-action films that you just can’t avoid liking.  Films like McFarland, USA, Tomorrowland, Cinderella, and now The Finest Hours are primary examples of the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The Finest Hours tells the story of a courageous Coast Guard team who risk their lives to save the crew of a wrecked oil tanker off the coast of Cape Cod during a historic blizzard in 1952.  Chris Pine plays Bernie Webber, a shy but dependable coastguardsman looking for redemption after a failed rescue some years earlier, which resulted in the death of his friend and fellow coastguardsman.  After an oil tanker is torn apart by hurricane force winds, Webber is ordered by his commander (Eric Bana) to organize a crew and navigate out to the last known location of the tanker.  With weather conditions preventing any large vessels from heading out to sea, Webber and his crew, which includes Richard Livesey (Ben Foster), Ervin Maske (John Magaro), and Andy Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner), head out in a small 12-man rescue boat to brave the seas and attempt the rescue.

What makes this film rise above the standard adventure/rescue fare is that while the plot I have revealed sounds relatively entertaining, I have not even gotten to the story involving the split oil tanker.  Director Craig Gillespie and writer Scott Silver’s decision to feature a balanced story between the rescue and the tanker crew was the film’s highlight.  Lead by engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), the film’s most exciting and powerful scenes revolve around the tanker crew’s battle to stay afloat whilst waiting for rescue.  Affleck steals the film with a performance far better than a film like this would have you expect.

The Finest Hours does drag one anchor in its wake and that’s the romantic plot between Webber and his fiancé, Miriam (Holliday Grainger).  This film is based on true events and Bernie and Miriam’s story are part of those events, but their relationship feels very cool and isolated.  What could have been played out as a strong love story where passion for life plays as a thread throughout the entire film, is surprisingly snuffed out in the scenes between Pine and Grainger.  Furthermore, Eric Bana’s portrayal as Commander Cluff is very uneven and at the end I was left confused as to what to think of him.

Still, The Finest Hours is a perfectly enjoyable slice of historic adventure.  These types of films rarely reach for the stars, but they are just good enough to be worthy of an audience. The story at this film’s core is one that was destined to find its way to the silver screen, and in most instances, it is executed very well.  While Pine is serviceable as the film’s hero, it is Affleck who is the standout and practically makes this film worth seeing all on his own.  B

The Finest Hours is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 1 hour and 57 minutes.

2016 Oscar Predictions

Interior of a Movie Theater

The 88th Annual Academy Awards will air on ABC Sunday, February 28th at 8:30 EST, and The People’s Critic has assembled his list of 2016 Oscar Predictions for all 24 categories!

Visit my Awards Spotlight Page for links to Oscar Predictions past and present as well as a link to the highly anticipated 2016 Oscar Dinner Menu.

So pour yourself a Revenan-tini, and check out my predictions for the 2016 Oscar winners!

Awards Spotlight
2016 Oscar Predictions
2016 Oscar Dinner Menu