The 2015 Oscars

Academy_Award_trophyJust as a bit of a diversion from my obsession with the small screen, I thought I’d share some words on my other obsession with the big screen. I’ve done an OK job getting through the Oscar nominees, I think there were 42 films and I saw 21 of them, covering 80 out of the 106 nominations. The only big multi-nomination ones that I missed were Steve Jobs, Sicario and The Danish Girl. I couldn’t be bothered to look at the shorts this year. Their availability is extremely limited so I hadn’t seen any of them and decided to trim them out of my predictions.

I don’t feel that it’s a particularly strong year to be honest, there are a lot of examples of very solidly put together films, but few that really transcend into the realm of outstanding. I’m going to be pretty harsh in my assessments here, even films and performances I enjoyed I don’t necessarily think are worth of the award. It’s not that I think they were bad, but this is looking for the best of the best. Links all go to my other website where I’ve got a database of film reviews.

Added post-Oscars
I didn’t do so good this year. I got half of them wrong (or half of them right depending on your point of view on these things). I under-estimated Mad Max’s ability to complete monopolise the technical categories, I got both supporting actor and actress wrong and was rather happy to get Best Picture wrong.

The_Revenant_2015_film_posterBest Picture

  • The Big Short – I thought it had a rocky start and finish, but I was pretty engrossed for the middle bit. I think it failed to really make the most of its motifs, plus sexist as anything.
  • Bridge of Spies – extremely solid work but I don’t think it was outstanding.
  • Brooklyn – I enjoyed it and it did what it set out to do, but I don’t think it was hugely ambitious
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – I’m so surprised to see this film on the list that I don’t really know what to think of it (I only saw it after the nomination). Comparing it to the others is like comparing apples and chocolate oranges. It was certainly impressive, but personally I got a bit bored by the chase sequences and the ‘worthy’ stuff wasn’t quite given enough room.
  • The Martian – the only film on this list I’d like to see again. It’s immensely entertaining but also has more than enough depth to it to justify the nomination.
  • The Revenant – I was bored rigid. The opening act was incredible, but then it just became a tremendously tedious trudge through increasingly unlikely ways not to die.
  • Room – this is a film where the synopsis and the experience are a mile apart. A literally stunning film that left me overwhelmed and the more I think about it the more I admire it.
  • Spotlight – a story that is incredible, but a film that is not. And that’s a good thing, the story needs no embellishment or directorial magic, it just needs to work the process. But does that make it an outstanding film?

What’s missing – I’m really sad that Inside Out wasn’t nominated here. I don’t think that I’d have opted for it as the winner, but I certainly think it was one of the year’s most creative, moving and successful films. The more I thought about Carol the more impressive it got, but I didn’t really get it while I was watching which may be a bit of a failing. I also loved Joy and Slow West is a film that I’d consider outstanding but hasn’t appeared anywhere in the nominations.
What should win – Room is far and away my film of the year. Every time I think of it I’m more impressed.
What will win – I suspect Revenant will win. I think the other contenders would be considered Spotlight and Big Short, but I’m not sure either of them are quite going to see off the love affair everyone seems to have with The Revenant.

Spotlight_(film)_posterBest Director

What should win – . It’s tough to see how the best film and best director (and best writing) don’t align. Lenny Abrahamson’s direction somehow managed to make the room seem like a prison to Ma and the whole world to Jack. Gorgeous without being too artsy and I think he’s got a lot to do with extracting the impressive performance of the young Jacob Tremblay
What will win – Inarritu. I’ll be less disappointed about this then I will be if it wins best film. Revenant was certainly well directed with the number of elements (natural and cgi) being controlled or adapted to being quite a feat.

The_Martian_film_posterBest Actor

  • Bryan Cranston for Trumbo – I didn’t see this one, but there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of buzz
  • Matt Damon for The Martian – A little bit “Damon playing Damon”, but he did manage to get the mostly unspoken emotional impact conveyed while keeping things entertaining.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant – how much acting is it if you’re actually experiencing the hardship? I thought his performance was a boring collection of grunts and looking cold.
  • Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs – I didn’t see this
  • Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl – I missed this one too

Who’s missing – Abraham Attah for Beasts of No Nation, I know in most awards Idris Elba is described as the lead, but really it’s the young actor who carries this film in an incredibly quiet and closed off performance. Jacob Tremblay for Room as well. It’s a strong year for young actors although it’s tricky to know how much of their performance is about the director.
Who will win – unless something very odd happens I think everyone agrees this will go to Leonardo DiCaprio. I haven’t seen enough of the performances to really judge who I think should win, but I don’t think it’s a very strong year.

Room_PosterBest Actress

  • Cate Blanchett for Carol – a solid performance, but sometimes it felt a bit “acting via costuming”
  • Brie Larson for Room – heartbreaking, she does that impressive thing where the character she’s playing is in turn pretending to be different characters.
  • Jennifer Lawrence for Joy – always good at making emotional connections with the audience and I thought this was a much more mature and subtle performance than some of her previous nominations.
  • Charlotte Rampling for 45 Years – I didn’t see this one
  • Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn – I remember a lot of “big eye acting”

Who’s missing – Rooney Mara should be in this category possibly even more than Cate Blanchett, she was the central character for my money. Carey Mulligan was impressive in Suffragette somehow adding depth to a rather stodgy writing. I didn’t see it, but I’m a little surprised Maggie Smith didn’t get a nomination for Lady in a Van.
Who should win and who will win – Brie Larson. She was phenomenal and I think both the role and the performance were in a slightly different league to the others with the possible exception of Jennifer Lawrence.

Creed_posterBest Supporting Actor

  • Christian Bale for The Big Short – a bit caricature? I would have preferred to see Steve Carrell here
  • Tom Hardy for The Revenant – I couldn’t understand a word he said, and with the exception of the “God is a Squirrel” speech I didn’t think he was anything special.
  • Mark Ruffalo for Spotlight – a good performance, but the film wasn’t really about the performances it was about the plot and the process so I don’t think there was really an Oscar’s worth of material
  • Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies – an interesting performance, but almost a cameo
  • Sylvester Stallone for Creed – haven’t seen it.

Who’s missing – Idris Elba should be in here for Beasts of No Nation, I don’t think he should win as I thought his performance a little caricature, but he should be nominated. Could I sneak James Spader in for Avengers: Age of Ultron? I thought he did some really interesting work with Ultron.
Who should win – I’m rather unbothered by this. I like Mark Ruffalo as an actor a lot, but not sure this performance was really Oscar material. Rylance was great, but was it too small a part?
Who will win – I think Stallone will win, whether for this particular part or for his career.

Carol_film_posterBest Supporting Actress

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh for The Hateful Eight – Not exactly a subtle or nuanced role, but I did enjoy her
  • Rooney Mara for Carol – a very nuanced performance, saying a lot with very few words
  • Rachel McAdams for Spotlight, as above for Ruffalo really.
  • Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl – I didn’t see it.
  • Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs – I didn’t see it.

Who’s missing – Alicia Vikander could easily be here a second timefor Ex Machina. Anne Marie Duff was a standout of Suffragette.
Who should win – Rooney Mara from the ones I’ve seen
Who will win – Kate Winslet I suspect

Inside_Out_(2015_film)_posterBest Original Screenplay

  • Bridge of Spies – solid, but quite by the numbers.
  • Ex Machina -a proper sci-fi film, with elegant writing leaving not a bit of bagginess or anything unnecessary
  • Inside Out – such a clever idea and a totally complete universe, it’s got the humour, the emotions, the actions and most importantly it has the soul.
  • Spotlight – This comes across as a very functional film it’s all about the process of the investigation. In some ways that makes it simple, but it’s an achievement to bring all that together to make it so fascinating. Mind you, if it’s based on true events and people, is it really “original”?
  • Straight Outta Compton – Haven’t seen it

What should win – Inside Out was I think the most original and most complex, it felt like this was a film where the writing more than anything else – direction, acting, design was absolutely crucial.
What will win – I think Spotlight may win this, as I don’t think it’s going to win anything else and I think voters will want for it to win something.

brooklynBest Adapted Screenplay

  • The Big Short – I don’t think it did a good job sticking with or fully using its motifs or providing a consistent tone. Also sexist as anything.
  • Brooklyn – Very by the numbers, nothing remarkable
  • Carol – Extremely subtle writing, eloquently quiet.
  • The Martian – Balance of great entertainment with real tension and fear. But I’m not sure it necessarily did anything more than translate the book
  • Room – there’s a lot packed in, but the film never feels over-full, and there’s a lot more going on than just the words people say.

What should win – for me adapted screenplay is about doing more than just transposing, it should still be an ‘original’ film. Although given I haven’t read any of the source material, it’s a little hard to judge. I think Room is probably the one that most achieves success in a way that I don’t think a book could, and the fact that the original author also adapted it helps a lot.
What will win – I think probably The Big Short will win it, partly because it likely won’t win anything else and partly because Hollywood, America, and apparently the world in general think it was a lot better than I did.

Anomalisa_posterBest Animated Feature Film

  • Anomalisa – not even out yet in the UK
  • Boy and the World – not seen.
  • Inside Out – This was actually my film of the year that I actually saw in 2015 and I was really disappointed it didn’t get a nomination for Best Film
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie – lots of fun and a great achievement by Aardman
  • When Marnie Was There – not seen

What’s Missing – Minions? Nah, even I as the biggest Minions fan couldn’t really put it here.
What Should Win – I so desperately want to say Inside Out should win, but from what I’ve seen of the clips of Anomalisa I think that might be something equally incredible. I can’t really judge this one until I’ve seen that.
What Will Win – I think Anomalisa might win, if for no other reason than as a bit of a change to make the animated film not a kids film (although Inside Out works even better for adults I think ). It’s a tough category this year.

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Embrace of the Serpent, Mustang, Son of Saul, Theeb, A War – slightly ashamed to say I haven’t seen any of them

What will win – I think Theeb is the one I’ve heard most talk about, so I’ll randomly guess that one.

amy_webBest Documentary Feature

  • Amy – fascinating and hugely insightful and in depth
  • Cartel Land – really interesting, but some bits of it didn’t really go anywhere and it could have been better edited I think
  • The Look of Silence – Haven’t seen it
  • What Happened, Miss Simone? – interesting look at someone I knew nothing about, huge range of archive footage
  • Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom – very well put together and brave film making, but entirely one sided though which undermined it somewhat

What should win and what will win – I think Amy will be a well-deserved winner. It told a more complete story than most of the others, and packed a far greater emotional punch, plus the Hollywood elite will connect with it more. Although Cartel Land might have more ‘local’ appeal.

The_Hateful_EightBest Original Score

  • Thomas Newman for Bridge of Spies – I have no memory good or bad of the music
  • Carter Burwell for Carol – ditto
  • Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight – the music was notable and perfectly fitting the film.
  • Johann Johannsson for Sicario – haven’t seen it
  • John Williams for Star Wars: The Force Awakens – a wonderful score that evolves from his previous work and aids the nostalgia while adding so much more.

What should win and will win – Ennio Morricone’s score was beautiful and wonderful, and really showcased in the film. I (of course) wouldn’t be devastated if Williams won mind you.

Best Original Song

  • Earned It from Fifty Shades of Grey – catchy song that seems to match the tone of the film pretty well
  • Manta Ray from Racing Extinction – I only lasted about 30seconds, it didn’t work for me, too plinky plunky.
  • Simple Song #3 from Youth – I lasted about a minute. Really not my thing, I couldn’t hear the beauty in it.
  • Till It Happens to You from The Hunting Ground – a powerful song in both subject and delivery
  • Writing’s on the Wall from Spectre – remember how good Adele’s Skyfall was? This isn’t that.

What will win – I suspect the fact that Till It Happens to you is by Lady Gaga will help it along, and it’s not an unworthy song.

Sound Editing

What will win – god knows. Shall we give Star Wars something?

Sound Mixing

I still don’t know the difference between mixing and editing. Lets go for Star Wars again, I doubt it will win both, but at least I might get one of them right.

Production Design

  • Bridge of Spies – realistic but unremarkable?
  • The Danish Girl – From clips etc, same as above?
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – bonkers, just incredibly creative and detailed
  • The Martian – I didn’t really think that much about the design of it, is that a good thing?
  • The Revenant – it was beautiful looking I guess.

What will win – Mad Max. The level of detail and imagination and originality I think are just incredible.

Cinematography

  • Carol – lingering and thoughtful in words and visuals
  • The Hateful Eight – it looked amazing, and lord knows there was plenty of time to appreciate that
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – bonkers and yet made perfect sense visually
  • The Revenant – I heard that they basically only ever filmed during the ‘golden hours’, that’s the kind of thing that gives the film a stunning look
  • Sicario – didn’t see it

What should win – The Hateful Eight was beautifully shot, the outside segments were epic, the interiors were always so busy and active.
What will win – Sicario’s Roger Deakins is a legendary cinematographer and I suspect his thirteenth nomination may be the win, more for the other 12 nominations than this one necessarily.

Makeup and Hair Styling

What’s missing – With only 3 nominations that rather implies that nothing else was even worthy of consideration. What about Star Wars and the prosthetics work in that. Or Cinderella with some spectacular hair styling.
What will win – I want to say Mad Max, but I don’t think it can win all of the awards so I’m going to opt for The Revenant just to be different.

Costume

  • Carol – elegant, but isn’t it basically just stuff of the period?
  • Cinderella – Beautiful costumes, linking to the animated film while being fully real.
  • The Danish Girl – not seen
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – in partnership with the production design the costumes were incredible, although I’m not sure that any of them were really practical
  • The Revenant – um… layers of dead animals?

What will win – Mad Max. It showed a level of creativity that I don’t think the others quite got to show.

Visual Effects

  • Ex Machina – the effects are really subtle, it’s not big action cgi sequences, but the continuing ‘effect’ that allows the robot characters to fully exist realistically
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – seamlessly blending together all the real stunts and production design
  • The Martian – yup. Pretty stunning.
  • The Revenant – the bear was one of the most interesting things in the whole film. Other sequences that must have been effect assisted blended just as well
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens – the whole film is basically effects and is stunning.

What will win – I think Mad Max again, it’s basically going to clean up in the technicals.

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