Oscar Predictions: Who Will, Could, And Should Win?

After a wild ride of an awards season that started out with so much hope and promise, only to end with major disappointment, Oscar night is just about here. Yes, Leonardo DiCaprio is assured his elusive first trophy, and unfortunately it’s come down to The Revenant and Mad Max with some heat from Spotlight.

Yes, the races have solidified pretty quickly; there’s a general consensus of who’s winning. But that doesn’t mean were in for a total snooze fest, right? (I can hold out some hope).

So, let’s get on with putting a cap on this season already by looking at the major races. Who will, could and should win? And who got snubbed?

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Best Performances of The Year: 2015

This year’s awards season started off with so much promise and a wealth of contenders. You had inspired choices like Kristen Stewart in Clouds of Sils Maria cleaning up with the critics, Idris Elba on the cusp of his first Oscar nomination for Beasts of No Nation and Michael B. Jordan having a true breakout moment in Creed. You had films like Chi-RaqThe End of the TourTangerine and Love & Mercy all of which were brilliant, but ultimately passed over in favor of mindless Oscar bait. In the end, the Academy’s narrow scope once again limited the possibilities of what was possible to a mindless lineup that required no imagination. In doing so, they saw the revival of #OscarsSoWhite for the second consecutive year.

But what if the Academy thought outside their narrow bubble? What if they used their imaginations and rewarded actually great performances, instead of the ones with the biggest campaigns behind them? I imagine we would see Mya Taylor’s brilliantly rendered Alex from Tangerine, instead of Jennifer Jason-Leigh’s half-baked “feminist” take on a battered woman in The Hateful Eight. Or maybe Benicio Del Toro’s menacing Alejandro from Sicario over Christian Bale’s hammy, phoned in performance in The Big Short.

2015 gave us so many amazing films with fully realized performances, that still live on despite the Academy’s ignorance.

Here’s my acting ballot. Who really deserved a nomination this year. 

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“The Revenant” Wins Big At The BAFTAS

I don’t know how we got here, but it would seem like The Revenant has got the best chance at winning Best Picture at the Oscars.

The film showed a surprising strength after leading the nomination count with The Academy last month, but there was still a strong consensus around Spotlight and The Big Short. And while those two films each have a big award from an important guild (SAG and the PGA respectively), The Revenant’s unexpected win with the DGA and the BAFTAs makes the heat around it seem that much stronger.

Leonardo Dicaprio’s star power is not be underestimated; He’s been cleaning up this awards season due to a lack of competition and the “it’s time” narrative. But there seems to be an extreme enthusiasm for the film outside of Leo’s work, and director Iñárritu’s win for Birdman last year doesn’t seem to be slowing the momentum down whatsoever.

It’s clearly between The Big Short, Spotlight and The Revenant for the win; a photo finish. Each have their appeal, but if you had to ask me which film stood the best chance at winning right now, I’d say The Revenant. It has the actors, the directors, and the various crafts behind it. And while there’s a case to be made for Mad Max: Fury Road, I’m not sure there’s been enough enthusiasm from the guilds (in terms of wins) to justify that theory.

There’s always room for surprises however; I think it’s been too crazy of a year to have The Revenant take home the gold. When I say it’s going to win, that’s what the stats would suggest. My heart tells me Mad Max: Fury Road is going to win due to a 3-way split. There’s no sure way to say with how spread out the awards have been. This will be one of those years where it won’t be revealed until Oscar night.

Take a look below at the full list of winners from the BAFTAs below.

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Academy Award Nominations: Another Year Of #OscarsSoWhite

I expected a few upsets with this morning’s Academy Award nominations. But more than anything, I’m just disappointed. This was such a groundbreaking year for film. You had Mad Max: Fury RoadCarolSicarioTangerine… the list goes on. And while Mad Max: Fury Road was one of the nomination leaders, there was less to be excited about over in a lot of the other categories.

For starters, let’s talk about the most glaring offense. After The Academy had controversially nominated all white actors in the leading and supporting categories last year, they followed the same trend this year; There’s not a person of color to be found among your 20 acting nominees. And while many will say that contenders such as Michael B. Jordan from Creed and Mya Taylor from Tangerine were long shots, I say that’s not an excuse. There were more than a dozen surprises this morning from the various categories that included many names we didn’t expect to hear this morning. Lenny Abrahamson scored a Best Director nomination over Ridley Scott, who had more support from the various precursors and guilds. Mark Ruffalo, despite not receiving an individual Screen Actors Guild nomination, or really any important precursor awards, landed a nomination in Best Supporting Actor over one of the presumed frontrunners, Idris Elba from the fantastic Beasts of No Nation. Oscar Isaac, one of this year’s breakout stars, was fantastic in Ex Machina, Benicio del Toro delivered one of the best performances of the year in Sicario and Straight Outta Compton found no love in either the acting or Best Picture categories, despite having support from the guilds.

They clearly vote for what they like, and what they like is becoming increasingly evident with each year. Jennifer Lawrence for JOY, REALLY? As someone who is a die hard film buff, and has grown up watching the Oscars, this is something that matters to me. In hindsight, The Academy Awards are not the most important thing in the world. But as our world, and our film industry, grows to be more diverse, so should the awards. We hear all the time that they’re constantly adding new members and trying to diversify their membership, but where is that reflected in the awards? Though I was not so high on the film itself, I’m glad Alejandro G. Iñárritu, last year’s winner, found his way into Best Director, but that was about the only major nomination landed by a person of color this year.

Some more glaring omissions to discuss: Carol, easily one of the best films of the year, was omitted from Best Picture. Rooney Mara from Carol and Alicia Vikander from The Danish Girl were both nominated in Supporting Actress, despite the high profile backlash (and just common sense) that both are the leads of their films. Vikander’s nomination comes especially as a shock, because she had a perfectly great supporting performance from Ex Machina they could have rewarded, one that was picking up steam in recent weeks.

All I’m saying, is that The Academy is very clearly out of touch and has turned into a dog and pony show. This is far from news, excuse me trying to make sense of this mess.

The full list of nominations are below. The winners of the Academy Awards will be announced February 28th.

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“Ex-Machina” and “Straight Outta Compton” Among PGA Nominees

It really has been the strangest awards season in recent memory. Where it’s been almost too predictable in the past, this year it’s been the exact opposite. None of the precursor awards have given any real sort of consensus as to who the frontrunners are.

We’ve heard from the critics, the Globes and now comes the guilds. Following the announcement from the Screen Actors Guild, the Producer’s Guild has announced their list of nominees. In the past few years, winning a nomination here has almost always correlated to a Best Picture nomination. You’d have to go back to 2006 where the winner of the PGA did not win Best Picture.

Some surprises here: Straight Outta ComptonEx-Machina and Sicario. The former received a SAG ensemble nomination, now coupled with this makes it a pretty formidable contender. It was also one of the most profitable films of the year, raking in $160 million at the box office this summer. I’m really starting to think a Best Picture nomination is very likely, especially with a lot of the higher profile contenders (The Danish Girl) underperforming.

Seeing Sicario, my favorite film of the year, here after being ignored all year was the highlight of this awards season, for me. Though I think the film is too under the radar (sadly) for Oscar contention, this does boast its chances. Hopefully voters caught up with it on a screener; It really does blow away half of the films that are probably going to be nominated.

The biggest surprise to me, however, is Ex-Machina. Star Alicia Vikander has been winning more notices for her work in the film than in The Danish Girl, but the film has also found love for its screenplay and several other elements through various critics awards and voting bodies. If some of the other guilds throw their support behind the film (like the writers, for example) I think it’s a dark horse contender.

Also worth noting, Carol and Room are both absent from this line up. Not sure how Carol missed here (Room is a Canadian production and a real small film, which might have something to do with it). It would be embarrassing, on the Academy’s part, if it missed somehow.

See the full list of nominees below. The winner of the PGA will be announced on January 23.

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The 10 Best Movies Of 2015

There was a lot to see this year at the movies, and looking back at everything I’ve seen, it’s a fool’s errand to try and list 10 of the best films. Even some of the ones I wasn’t crazy about had some absolutely amazing aspects that left me stunned. From Charlize Theron completely owning every bit of the amazingly crazy Mad Max: Fury Road, to Saoirse Ronan’s growing into a leading lady before our very eyes in Brooklyn, and of course the immaculately constructed “Carol” (Is there anything Cate Blanchett can’t do?). The Martian came close to dismantling the record Gravity set just 2 years ago, while Johnny Depp found his way back to critical acclaim, and the Rocky franchise found new life in director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan. Oh, yeah, maybe you heard about that little indie movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens that broke a dozen box office records.

So what films made the cut? And which films came close? Let’s take a look.

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