Oscars Season: Our Picks and Predictions

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Ahead of tonight’s Academy Awards, GeekDad film writers Tony Nunes and Rob Huddleston make their picks and predictions for this year’s key Oscar races.

Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay

Tony’s Picks – Best Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short; Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight

Both of these picks are solid frontrunners in their respective races, and deservingly so. I wasn’t a huge fan of The Big Short, but Charles Randolph and Adam McKay’s adaptation of Michael Lewis’ book cleverly simplifies the complexities of the 2008 mortgage crisis by using celebrities like Anthony Bourdain to bring things to a layman’s level. These are my predictions, but I’d love to see Drew Goddard take the win for his adaptation of Andy Weir’s The Martian. Goddard is a wildly original writer, and I’d be lying if the geek in me didn’t want to see the writer of Netflix’s Daredevil win an Oscar. For Best Original Screenplay, I predict and hope that Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy take home the prize for Spotlight. The manner in which both writers used The Boston Globe “Spotlight” team’s investigative reporting on sex-abuse in the clergy to string together a compelling, shockingly unfurled narrative was a master class in screenwriting.

Rob’s Picks – Best Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short; Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight

For Adapted Screenplay, you have four of the Best Picture nominees. The outsider there is Carol, but it is the only movie nominated in either writing category to have two acting nominations and be written by a woman. On the other hand, Brooklyn is the only movie in the bunch written by a known name (Nick Hornby), but I don’t think either will matter. While The Big Short’s unconventional narrative style didn’t sit well with me, I suspect it’ll be enough to bag first-time nominees Charles Randolph and Adam McKay their first statues. (It also won the award for the Writer’s Guild, so there’s that.) Both Room and The Martian are more deserving in my eyes, though. The more interesting race is for Original Screenplay. There are only two Best Picture nominees in the group, but it also includes a relatively rare nomination for an animated film. In this year of criticism over the lack of diversity in the nominations, Straight Outta Compton, a movie many would argue should have been including in many other categories, might pull off a surprise win, but my money is that this will be one of many awards won by Spotlight on Sunday. My should-win pick here is obvious for anyone who saw my Top Ten list for the year: Ex Machina.

Animated Feature Film

Tony’s Pick – Anomalisa

This year’s Animated Feature category is one of the best in recent memory. I may be way off here, but I’m predicting that the adult-oriented Anomalisa will win. Charlie Kaufman is one of the most creative filmmakers working today, and the use of animation in the film is not only essential to it’s story, but miraculously effective in creating the most human film of 2015. I loved Inside Out as well, another beautifully human film for 2015, and one of Pixar’s best. That statement alone makes this a tough film to bet against, especially considering that it’s also nominated in the Original Screenplay category. This was a very tough pick, but I want Anomalisa to win, and believe Academy voters may as well.

Rob’s Pick – Inside Out

Along with Best Actor and Best Actress, this is probably the easiest award of the night to call, with Inside Out an all-but-certain lock to add yet another trophy to Pixar’s case. While Shaun of the Sheep moved a lot of people and Anomalisa made quite a few top-ten lists last year, the category has traditionally gone to the more conventional film in the list, and this year will be no different. Inside Out is also, in my opinion, the most deserving of the award this year.

Best Supporting Actress

Tony’s Pick – Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Vikander had two great roles in 2016, as Gerda in The Danish Girl and Ava in Ex Machina. That alone gives her the edge in my opinion. Jennifer Jason Leigh also had a pair of great–if not too quirky for the Oscars–roles in The Hateful Eight, for which she is nominated, and Anomalisa. I’m good with either of those two taking home the Oscar.

Rob’s Pick – Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Lots of big names in this category, including the eighth nomination for Kate Winslet and second for Rooney Mara, along with first-time nominations for Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rachel McAdams. While there’s a chance that McAdams could ride a Spotlight wave, I think the odds-on favorite here has to be Alicia Vikander for her stunning turn in The Danish Girl. She’s already won for this role in the Critic’s Choice and Chicago Film Critics Association awards, and the all-important (and highly predictive) Screen Actors Guild, and I’m quite confident in thinking she’ll add a well-deserved Oscar to that list.

Best Supporting Actor

Tony’s Pick – Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Of the nominees in this category, I want Stallone to win above anyone else. After his Golden Globes win and much-deserved standing ovation, I think he’s got this in the bag. I also thought Mark Rylance was brilliantly understated in Bridge of Spies. I will add, however, that the #OscarsSoWhite controversy cannot be ignored. That said, it’s shocking to me that the true best supporting performance of 2015 wasn’t even nominated. Idris Elba was chilling as the Commandant in Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation. His nuanced performance was one of 2015’s best, by any actor in any medium. How Christian Bale was nominated for his minuscule part in The Big Short over Elba’s in Beasts, I will never understand. I’m also shocked at the lack of a nomination for Jacob Tremblay, the young actor who provided one of the most dynamic, emotional roller-coaster performances of the year in Room.

Rob’s Pick – Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Of the major categories, this is the one that is probably hardest to predict, but most likely Sylvester Stallone will finally get an Oscar for playing Rocky Balboa. A lot of the predictors here aren’t available: SAG award winner Idris Elba isn’t nominated, and this is Creed’s only nomination. The other four nominees are also films up for Best Picture: Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight, Christian Bale in The Big Short, Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies, and Tom Hardy in The Revenant. If any of those movies ends up having a big night–most likely Spotlight or The Revenant–then that could translate into a win for Ruffalo or Hardy. Despite that, I’m still betting on Stallone, but I won’t be disappointed if Ruffalo or Hardy win, as I thought both were excellent performances (in fact, Hardy was pretty much the only thing I liked about The Revenant.)

Best Actor

Tony’s Pick – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Will Leo take home the Oscar? Yes. Does he deserve it? Yes. Does he deserve it for The Revenant? Meh. Leo’s triumph will be a clear example of an Oscar legacy win. He’ll be given the award more as a “what a great career you’ve had” kind of gesture. Leo is an undoubtedly amazing actor, and he’s great in The Revenant, though I had trouble actually connecting with his character on any emotional level. You know what character I did connect with in 2015? Mark Watney. Yes, Matt Damon’s portrayal of marooned astronaut Mak Watney in The Martian is my pick for the best performance of 2015. Now, to go back to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Did Academy voters simply miss Beasts of No Nation all together? Young actor Abraham Attah provided one of the year’s most powerful and heartbreaking character performances as a child soldier in West Africa. No nomination.

Rob’s Pick – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

I don’t think that Leonardo DiCaprio deserves an Oscar for his long career, and I’d certainly argue that there were far better performances this year than his in The Revenant, but I don’t think that’s going to matter. He’s about as solid a lock as can be. I’d say that Matt Damon has been in a lot better movies over his career (including The Martian) without winning, so I think if you’re going to make the case that someone needs an award it should be him. Eddie Redmayne was excellent in The Danish Girl, and in another year might get serious consideration, but after Sunday the Leo fan club can finally shut up about his Oscar. However, wherever you live you’ll be able to hear me screaming in joy if Damon somehow manages to pull out a surprise win.

Best Actress

Tony’s Pick – Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Brooklyn was a real surprise for me. Simple, romantic films like this tend to be ones I stay away from. They usually don’t register with me. Saoirse Ronan’s performance in Brooklyn, however, enraptured me. Brie Larson was brilliant in Room, and deserving of any honor that comes her way, but my gut and personal preference tells me to go with Saoirse.

Rob’s Pick – Brie Larson, Room

As solid a lock on the win as Leo has, I’d say the even more sure-thing is Brie Larson for Room. And here, it’s about a truly stellar performance rather than career recognition. She’s simply stunning as the emotional center of a gut-wrenching film, and her win is not only all-but guaranteed (she’s already won in six other contests, including the SAG) but so very much deserved. The only one who might have a shot is Saoirse Ronan (and I do hope that Eddie Redmayne is practicing the pronunciation of her name) for Brooklyn.

Best Director

Tony’s Pick – George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

I know what you’re thinking: “surely you can’t actually think Miller will beat Iñárritu.” I’m on the fence about this one. Fury Road is my favorite film of 2015, and Miller’s expert use of visuals and practical effects is a tremendous feat and celebration of the very medium of film itself. That’s why I’m picking him, and hoping I’m right. Iñárritu is a master of framing, and The Revenant is most deserving of the Cinematography award. For me, however, the direction and vision of Fury Road is much more compelling.

Rob’s Pick – Alejandro Iñárritu, The Revenant

It’s extremely rare for the Academy to split the Best Director and Best Picture awards, and I suspect that this year will be no different. It’s thus a three-way race between The Big Short’s Adam McKay, Spotlight’s Tom McCarthy, and The Revenant’s Alejandro Iñárritu. We’ll likely know the winner about half-way through the show if any of them starts to have a big night, but at this point it seems that all of the momentum is going Iñárritu’s way. His recent win at the Director’s Guild pretty much seals it, which will make him the first person to win back-to-back directing Oscars in 66 years.

Best Picture

Tony’s Pick – Spotlight

Everyone seems to be picking The Revenant to win, but I think Spotlight will edge it out. Spotlight is an important, timely movie–just the kind Academy voters rally behind. The Revenant may become one of those heralded films predicted to sweep only to come away with a couple of awards (Best Actor and Cinematography, I predict). Now, as far as what film I want to win, it’s a close tie between Mad Max: Fury Road, my favorite film of 2015, and The Martian, a movie I think will live on as the most classic of all the films in the running. I have a theory about the Best Picture contest being a fallacy, where the true best is often overlooked. The true best films are the ones that live on from generation to generation. It’s an intense and well-crafted film, but I just don’t see The Revenant measuring up to that standard.

Rob’s Pick – The Revenant

Even though the Academy expanded the Best Picture category a few years ago, this is still almost always at most a four or five-way race. You can automatically discount any movie that doesn’t also have a Best Director nominee (sorry, Bridge of Spies, The Martian, and Brooklyn). Then, take out movies that don’t have any acting nominees. (Yes, I know that GeekDad readers are really, really pulling for Mad Max here, but only 11 movies have won Best Picture without at least one acting nomination, and almost all of them dominated the nomination counts.) The other cross-nomination predictor is Film Editing, which usually (but not always) goes to the Best Picture, and so this year that takes Room off the list. That leaves us with a three-way race between The Big Short, Spotlight, and The Revenant. All have already won some big awards, but three of the biggest–the Golden Globe for Best Drama, the Director’s Guild, and the BAFTAs–all went to The Revenant. Combine that with the movie’s likely wins in Directing and Best Actor, and you end up with a pretty solid bet. Of the nominees, it was my second-least favorite (I still can’t figure out how Bridge of Spies even got nominated), so my emotional pick here would be for Room, but honestly I won’t be shocked (or disappointed) if Spotlight pulls it out.

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