It’s that time again: The Academy has announced its 2015 list of movies deemed statuette-worthy. So begins a month of frantic speculation dotted sporadically with smaller film events, all ending in a night on the red carpet that effectively wraps up award season. February’s filmscape has produced a number of potentially close competitions along with an #OscarsSoWhite movement(many think this year’s complete absence of minority candidates in acting categories for the second time in a row is rooted in the Academy’s member composition that is 93% caucasian), a fitting outcome, seeing as how the Oscars are a meal usually served with generous sides of controversy. Still, hardcore fans seem undaunted to claw through the excess that is often the award show in order to access the winners. The annual hordes waiting to view the Oscars remain strong (save perhaps a Spike Lee or Jada Pinkett Smith this year), regardless of bad publicity and how closely the results of the Producers Guild Awards(PGA) or Golden Globes bear resemblance–The winners of the PGA go on to win Best Picture 70% of the time, whereas in the last decade, Best Actors, Best Supporting Actors, and Best Actresses have a 90% chance of already holding a Globe for the same role.
Nonetheless, the results are still up for grabs. But first, what are the nominations?
Placed in the spotlight as a critic favorite and relatively small-scale production, Spotlight, distributed by Open Road Films, chronicles the Boston Globe’s 2001 revelation of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests. It was an early prediction of victory, boasting themes that tend to be popular with the Academy. Although Spotlight still has good chances, comedy-drama The Big Short (Read More) is seen as a rapidly rising possibility, after winning the PGA for Outstanding Producer. Another contender deemed a major threat is 20th Century Fox’s survival drama The Revenant(Read More), which was shown lots of love at the Golden Globes, receiving both Best Drama and Best Drama Actor. It’s also dominating the Oscar scene, with a whopping 12 nominations. Mad Max: Fury Road, Australian director George Miller’s 4th installment in his blockbuster post-apocalyptic franchise, makes this year’s nominations an interesting selection, and will be the first full blown action slash fantasy film to win since The Return of the King(2003), if chosen. However, the fact that Fury Road is pure action makes it strikingly unique. The Martian, which tells the story of an astronaut (Matt Damon) awaiting rescue after being left presumably dead on the red planet, won a Golden Globe, albeit for Best Comedy, which means somewhat less to a certain extent in terms of acquiring Oscar wins. Steven Spielberg, producer and director of Bridge of Spies, a box office success, received his 16th Oscar nomination, following Best Director wins such as Saving Private Ryan(1998), and Schindler’s List(1993). With a script (also nominated for Best Original Screenplay) from Matt Charman and the Coen brothers, Bridge of Spies is a historical drama recording the exchange of a Soviet spy with a US pilot during the Cold War. Meanwhile, the emotional triumphs of Room and Brooklyn both received phenomenal reviews for their beautiful productions, and have their spots on the list. Many of the leading choices for this year’s Best Picture have received nominations in numerous categories, and we’re faced with the possibility of closing out with a Revenant, a Spotlight, or perhaps even a Mad Max evening.
Leonardo Dicaprio’s breathtaking work in The Revenant adds to a total of 5 acting nominations in his lifetime, as he takes acting to the extreme, doing everything short of eating raw bison liver in sub-zero temperatures. Oh wait, never mind… Many think that his Golden Globe victory was merely a practice acceptance speech for the Oscars, but Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of one of the world’s first recipients of transgender surgery in The Danish Girl had audiences spellbound, and the case for a Redmayne victory is strong after last year’s win for The Theory of Everything, a skillfully crafted piece of Oscar bait. In Steve Jobs, Michael Fassbender’s lifelike representation of the Apple guru has been labeled as a likely classic, and there are high hopes for the German. Breaking Bad lead Bryan Cranston played blacklisted Hollywood movie writer Dalton Trumbo in Trumbo, which received mixed reviews. But who knows. Hollywood’s love for movies about itself might just prevail. Matt Damon’s humorous performance in The Martian as astronaut Mark Watney was praised for its confidence and charisma, and Damon’s Golden Globe for Best Drama Actor just might be the stepping stone to propel him to the Oscar.
Leading the race in this category are two rising actresses, both starring in films nominated for best picture. Playing Joy, a kidnaped woman returning to the world after living with her young son in a shed for years, Brie Larson’s performance in Room has received lavish praise. Meanwhile, Saoirse Ronan’s brings her talent into Brooklyn, a story about immigration, romance, and homesickness. However, A Golden Globe, a SAG award, and a nomination in virtually every film award places Larson into a stronger position, with this being her first nomination. Adding to the Fray are film veterans Charlotte Rampling, whose character experiences a profound change in her perspective on marriage in 45 Years, and two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett(The Aviator, Best Supporting Actress, and Blue Jasmine, Best Actress), playing a Manhattan housewife who finds herself in a relationship with another woman in Carol. Jennifer Lawrence delivers a strong performance as always, breaking the record for the youngest female to acquire 4 Oscar nominations with her role as a self-made matriarch in Joy.
Best Supporting Actor
Sylvester Stallone basically stars as himself in Creed, playing an aging legend training his destined-to-be successor to the throne, and Rocky fans will be delighted to hear of the Golden Globe already under his belt, although some may still be fuming at the Academy’s failure to nominate Michael B. Jordan, the film’s African American lead, for Best Actor. On the other hand, Tom Hardy’s uncanny portrayal of a rugged frontiersman in The Revenant is yet another highlight in the Brit’s phenomenal acting year, and Christian Bale might just land himself a second Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his convincingly awkward role as a drum slamming fund manager in The Big Short.
Best Supporting Actress
One of the most competitive categories of the night, the field for Best Supporting Actress is brimming with talent, as well as some confusion, since nominees Alicia Vikander, the wife of The Danish Girl’s protagonist, as well as Rooney Mara, the love interest in Carol, both play roles that can be characterized as leads–the two were placed in the Best Actress category at the Golden Globes. Kate Winslet makes an excellent counterpart and marketing executive to Fassbender’s lead role in Steve Jobs, and she just might be the one to carry home the coveted statuette.
Alexandro González Iñárritu is still riding on his Birdman victory from last year, and if things go well this year for The Revenant, it’ll be the first time in Oscar history a director has won both Best Director and Best Picture for two consecutive years. His position is by no means safe. Although Mad Max: Fury Road has ten nominations, it’s the first director nomination for George Miller, and it’s likely that the Academy will honor him for his dedication to his series and his commitment to authenticity–The insane bullet-ridden war machines in Fury Road were the real deal, and had to be built from scraps–all 88 of them. Nevertheless, with an original screenplay Oscar basically already in the bag, Spotlight director Tom McCarthy may end up being the star of the night.
Best Animated Feature
Despite sending nothing to the Best Picture competition this year, the world of animation produced two of the three films that made it to Rotten Tomatoes’ Top 100 list in 2016. Inside Out was labeled an instant children’s classic upon release, and to many, the imaginative tear-jerker’s success marks Pixar’s return to excellency. The Shaun the Sheep Movie and Anomalisa were both well-received stop-motion films that may just see action on the night of the 28th.
This list could go on forever, or whatever you want to call the length of the Oscars’ 24 categories, so we’re mentioning only a few. If you want to see the full nominations, check out http://oscar.go.com/nominees. We’re not going to make any predictions this issue as to who the winners will be, seeing as how doing so at this point in the year would be mere regurgitation of existing critical opinion. But you bet we will next year!