Saturday, February 20, 2016


Original caricature by Jeff York of "The Year in Movies 2015" (copyright 2016)
This year’s Academy Awards may be remembered best for two facts - one great, and one not so great. The positive fact is that this is the hardest race in decades to predict what film will take Best Picture. This year remains a battle for the top prize amongst three frontrunners - SPOTLIGHT, THE BIG SHORT and THE REVENANT. Any one of them could be called come the night of the 88th Oscars on Sunday, February 28th. That will render the Oscars exciting in a way they rarely are. Usually by now, we know most of the winners (we still do in the other categories) but this year, the top award defies certainty.

Yet, despite that and the slate's incredible group of nominations, the 2016 Oscars will likely go down in history for its dubious distinction of its membership not voting one actor or actress of color into the elite five of each of the four acting categories. Suddenly, a great year gets all but been dismissed by this egregious fact and a stinging, glib hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. 

The fact is that the Academy is too white and too conservative and too many members don't watch enough movies or screeners. Still, there are so may wonderful facts to laud amongst this year’s nominees. Here are some of them:  

Original caricature by Jeff York of Charlize Theron in MAD MAX FURY ROAD (copyright 2016)
Three of the eight nominees for Best Picture have female protagonists. ROOM, MAD MAX FURY ROAD and BROOKLYN all have women in the leads. And the Oscars saw fit to nominate a sci-fi movie (THE MARTIAN) and a dark comedy (THE BIG SHORT) for its top prize too. That's unusual. And wonderful.

The two films with the most nominations this year – THE REVENANT and MAD MAX FURY ROAD -  both star Tom Hardy. I’d say that actor, nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the former, is having quite a moment, no?

The veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins received his 13th Oscar nomination (SICARIO) which is a record for a living Director of Photography.

Original caricature by Jeff York of Daisy Ridley in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (copyright 2016)
The five nominations that THE FORCE AWAKENS received has enabled STAR WARS to now tie the LORD OF THE RINGS series as the franchise with the most nods ever at 30.

At the tender age of 25, Jennifer Lawrence is now the youngest actor ever – male or female – to earn four Oscar nominations. She's up for Best Actress this year for her serio-comic work in JOY.

Leonardo DiCaprio now joins Marlon Brando, Peter O’Toole, Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino as an actor who has received five nominations by the age of 41. He garnered his fifth this year for THE REVENANT, of course.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu (THE REVENANT) is the first director since David Lean to be nominated for Best Picture and Best Director the year after he won both awards in the previous year's competition. 

Emma Donoghue (ROOM) becomes the first female writer to earn a screenplay Oscar nomination for adapting her own work.

Original caricature by Jeff York of Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in CAROL (copyright 2016)
Carter Burwell, one of cinema’s greatest composers, was finally nominated for an Oscar for his marvelous music for CAROL. He should’ve been nominated many times before, for the likes of FARGO and TRUE GRIT, but finally the Academy has recognized his tremendous talent.

EX MACHINA is the lowest budgeted film ($15M), adjusted for inflation, to have received a Visual Effects nomination. And its AI character effects are not only stunning, they're seamless.

Cate Blanchett (CAROL) and Kate Winslet (STEVE JOBS) join the 'actress club' of those who've received seven nominations. Amongst those who have? The tony company of Meryl Streep, Bette Davis, Greer Garson, Jane Fonda, Geraldine Page, Judi Dench and Katharine Hepburn.

With BRIDGE OF SPIES earning six Oscar nominations, Steven Spielberg directed films have now earned 128 nominations, the most by any director ever. He breaks the previous record of 127 held by director William Wyler.

Original caricature by Jeff York of composer John Williams (copyright 2015)
With his nomination for the score of the new STAR WARS movie, John Williams now has earned 50 Oscar nominations, the most of any living nominee. Only Walt Disney received more in his time with 59.

So, bravo to the Oscars this year for their incredible accomplishments. But let's go back to that #OscarsSoWhite smite and the truth of the matter. As egregious as it is that Idris Elba wasn’t nominated for BEASTS OF NO NATION, or that Michael B. Jordan was overlooked for CREED, along with the Academy snubbing Oscar Isaac for supporting actor in EX MACHINA, and Benicio del Toro for the same award in SICARIO, Elba was  the only actor of color whom most Oscar pundits thought to be a shoo-in. The others were long shots. That's not saying that they've couldn't have been nominated and added more diversity to the lily white listings, but the odds were never in their favor. 

The fact is that there are too many outstanding actors and actresses every year that fail to make the cut of five in each of the acting categories, no matter what their ethnicity. Last year, the Academy failed to nominate such superlative lead actor performances as Ralph Fiennes for THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, Jake Gyllenhaal for NIGHTCRAWLER, David Oyelowo for SELMA, Ben Affleck for GONE GIRL, Ellar Coltrane for BOYHOOD and Miles Teller for WHIPLASH. Indeed, it's sad that Will Smith's terrific performance in CONCUSSION was passed over, but at least he’s in good company in the world of Oscar's omissions.

#OscarsCategoriesTooSmall, anyone?

And now, without any further ado, here are my best guesses for what will take home Oscar gold a week from today:

BEST PICTURE – THE REVENANT. After the DGA and BAFTA, it may have a slight edge.

BEST DIRECTOR – Alejandro Inarritu. It'll be two in a row. Wow.

BEST ACTOR- Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s finally his year.

BEST ACTRESS – Brie Larson. Tough competition, but she’ll prevail.

Original caricature by Jeff York of Sylvester Stallone in CREED (copyright 2015)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Sylvester Stallone. Deserving, actually. And who can resist the fact that he's been nominated for playing Rocky again, 39 years after he was up for Best Actor in '77? Ah, no one.

Original caricature by Jeff York of Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander in THE DANISH GIRL (copyright 2016)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Alicia Vikander. Her role in THE DANISH GIRL is a lead and that always helps. What helps even more? A lot of folks think she should be nominated here for her other great performance this year - EX MACHINA. Me too.



BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – THE REVENANT. It will be Emmanuel Lubeski’s 3rd in a row. Incredible!

BEST EDITING – MAD MAX FURY ROAD. How it was cut was so crucial to its success, and so obvious to even the most untrained eye.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – THE HATEFUL EIGHT. Not Ennio Morricone’s best score, but he’s never won in competition, and it will likely be too hard for the Academy to resist correcting such a slight. I'd have given it to  him for THE MISSION, THE UNTOUCHABLES, and THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – “Till It Happens to You” from THE HUNTING GROUND. This is Diane Warren’s 8th nomination without a win, so she'll finally take the prize, with a little help from co-writer Lady Gaga.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – MAD MAX FURY ROAD. Get ready to hear it announced as the winner for a ton of its technical prowess.



BEST COSTUME DESIGN – CAROL. I’d give it to Max myself, but the Oscars usually go with the prettiest costumes. Could be CINDERELLA too, if not the one I've predicted. Both are from the brilliant and ubiquitous Sandy Powell.

BEST SOUND EDITING – MAD MAX FURY ROAD. Almost all of that sound was created. 

BEST SOUND MIXING – THE REVENANT. It's tough recording sound outside, let alone in the wilderness. The Academy will likely notice and award accordingly.

BEST DOCUMENTARY – AMY. It’s a wonderful tribute to Amy Winehouse's talent and tragedy. And it has been winning everywhere else too.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – SON OF SAUL. Any movie that has a Holocaust theme usually has an edge. It also helps that this film is terrific.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – INSIDE OUT. The only sad thing is that it probably should’ve been up for Best Film too, but the Academy tends to keep animation out of such top categories.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT – WORLD OF TOMORROW. This was the funniest choice among the five. And even the edgiest in its way, so if it wins, the Academy will be very bold.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT – A GIRL IN THE RIVER. This category is always hard to predict, but this film about a murder investigation may very well have the advantage as its story is so utterly compelling. 

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – SHOK. For my money, the winner here should be STUTTERER, but more often than not, the  Oscar goes for the heavier selections in this category. We shall see...

Those are my predictions. What do you think will win? Share your predix in the commentary section below. I'd love to hear what you think will prevail. And no matter, it should be a nail-biting broadcast in at least one way. I can't wait to hear what Chris Rock says about the diversity issues as well. #OscarHostSoSpotOn!


1 comment:

  1. So finally, Leo got what he deserved. He should have been awarded previously. Thanks for summarizing Oscar for us..