Monday, February 29, 2016

Oscar Reactions

So, the Oscars were last night – and more than anything, I’m relieved they are over. I was more checked out than normal this season – but still, I find the endless talk of just a handful of films – most of which I quite like – to be tiring, and finally we can move on, and start talking about new films. I didn’t do particularly well in my Oscars Predictions. For only the second time ever, I missed Best Picture – I had The Revenant, but was delighted to see Spotlight take it. I also missed Rylance for Supporting Actor – I thought Stallone would take it. I knew Mad Max: Fury Road would do well in the tech awards – didn’t know it would that well – I missed both Costume Design and Sound Mixing. I also missed Song – assuming that they would, like me, hate that damn Sam Smith song. And I was delighted to have missed Visual Effects – because Ex Machina’s victory there is well deserved, and I love that a small movie beat the big guys.

My thoughts on the victories are mixed. Spotlight is a worthy Best Picture winner. In terms of the decade so far (2010-2015), it’s a notch behind 12 Years a Slave, and a notch above The King’s Speech, The Artist, Argo and Birdman – meaning essentially, that I think it’s a respectable winner, but not one that made me jump into the air with happiness (like I did when The Departed, No Country for Old Men or The Hurt Locker won – that last one because it meant Avatar did not win – and I like Avatar). I happened to watch Spotlight for a second time on Saturday night – my wife hadn’t seen it – and I actually think I like it a little more the second time through – it still wouldn’t make my top 10 list for 2015, but I think it would raise it a slot or two, so it would be closer. Compare that to something like Birdman, where I liked it far less the second time through (but still think is a fine film), and I’m happy that Spotlight won. For the acting awards, I am fine with Brie Larson and Mark Rylance – Larson because she is a terrific young actress, and her performance in Room (which I watched again Friday night – my wife, again, hadn’t seen it) would easily be the best in many years – and the fact that it was only third best (of the nominees) this year is because of the strength of the category, not because of her performance. Rylance was my choice of the nominees – I thought he was brilliant – although I do feel slightly bad for Stallone, who I cannot see ever winning if he didn’t win here. DiCaprio and Vikander’s wins I am more mixed on. If Vikander had won for her excellent performance in Ex Machina, than I’d be thriller. However, despite the fact that I think she is the best thing about The Danish Girl – it isn’t a good movie, and her performance is clearly a leading one, not supporting. She is an immensely talented actress – I just wish she would have won for something else – or someone like Rooney Mara (also a lead – in Carol) or Jennifer Jason Leigh had won this time around.

As for DiCaprio, it’s hard to get too mad about it. Afterall, DiCaprio is one of the best actors currently working, and he should have an Oscar already – I would have voted for him in The Departed (when they didn’t nominate him – instead going for his inferior performance in Blood Diamond that year) or The Wolf of Wall Street – where he was clearly the best of the nominees. This was also a ridiculously weak year in this category – and the Academy still nominated poorly, so it’s not like he beat someone clearly superior this year. Still, what bugs me is that DiCaprio now joins a depressingly long list of tremendous actors winning for work that is nowhere near their best. DiCaprio is fine in The Revenant – he’s probably as good as he could be given the role – but it’s not a particularly good role, and he doesn’t do much. In terms of DiCaprio’s career, I think he’s been better in This Boy’s Life, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Titanic, Catch Me if You Can, The Aviator, The Departed, Revolutionary Road, Shutter Island, Inception, J. Edgar and Django Unchained. That’s 11 films. For me than DiCaprio is now an actor like James Stewart (The Philadelphia Story), Henry Fonda (On Golden Pond), Lee Marvin (Cat Ballou), Geraldine Page (The Trip to Bountiful), John Wayne (True Grit), Paul Newman (The Color of Money), Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman), Russell Crowe (Gladiator), Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), Kate Winslet (The Reader), Julianne Moore (Still Alice) of actors who certainly deserve an Oscar, but won for performances that are nowhere near their best (and those, by the way, are just the lead actor/actress winners).

Let’s get the other depressing wins out of the way as well. I hated Sam Smith winning for that awful Bond song – The Writing’s on the Wall. Yes, this was a ridiculously weak category this year (it often is), and they nominated poorly – but still, that song is awful. Its looks even worse given just how powerful that Lady Gaga performance was right before Smith won. Easily the worst win of the night. I wasn’t fond of Alejandro G. Innaritu’s second win in a row for Best Director for The Revenant. It’s an impressive technical achievement, sure. But the movie is a long, grim slog that I don’t see all of import that Innaritu, and others, think it has. The Academy clearly loved the film – I wouldn’t be shocked to find out (not that we ever will) that the film actually had more #1 votes than anything else in the Best Picture lineup – but the preferential ballot gave it Spotlight, because The Revenant was too divisive (if so, yah for the Preferential ballot!). Still, George Miller’s achievement in Mad Max is even more impressive from a technical level, and it’s also the best film nominated. Miller will now, probably, never win a Best Director Oscar – it’s hard to see him topping that. It’s hard to feel too bad – Miller does after all have an Oscar at home (for animated film – for Happy Feet). Still, Miller winning would have been the coolest win of the night. I don’t have as much of a problem with Emmanuel Lubezki winning his third straight Oscar for cinematography for The Revenant – it’s the one element of the film I have nothing but praise for, and Lubezki is one of the great DP’s currently working. Having said that, so is Ed Lachman – and his work on Carol was great, and he’s never won. John Seale’s work on Mad Max: Fury Road is also brilliant. And I will always feel bad whenever Roger Deakins loses – even if Sicario isn’t his best work (which is saying something, since it’s brilliant) – but he’s one of the best in the world, and he just keeps losing. It was expected, but I still feel it’s ridiculous that Amy beat The Look of Silence for Best Documentary. I really liked Amy – no complaints there – but what Joshua Oppenheimer has achieved with The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence is the best achievement in documentary filmmaking in years – and the fact he lost for both of them is sad. I was even sadder that the brilliant Don Hertzfeldt didn’t win Best Animated Short for the amazing World of Tomorrow. I didn’t see all the nominees – including the winner, Bear Story, so I’m not about to start badmouthing a film I have not see – and the winners seemed genuinely nice, and their win meant a lot to them. Still, a win for Hertzfeldt would have helped the career of one of the best filmmakers working in the world today – and who does it all independently.

Now, on to the good winners. I was happy to see the parade of Mad Max: Fury Road people winning – all of which was deserved on merit alone, and it was wonderful to see so many women on the team winning – women are grossly underrepresented in the “below the line” categories – Jenny Beaven’s jacket was also the best thing I saw last night. It was wonderful to see Ex Machina win Visual Effects – that’s a film that cost $15 million to make, and it beat out film that cost 10 times or more – and it was richly deserved (so would have Mad Max win, but it won enough). Son of Saul becomes one of the best Foreign Language film winners ever, so that’s great – even if I did love Mustang perhaps even more. It was nice to see my #1 film of the year – Inside Out – win, even if it was just animated film, and we all knew it would win. The best win of the night was clearly to Ennio Morricone for his score for The Hateful Eight – he is one of the best composers in cinema history, and at 87 he becomes the oldest winner in a competitive category ever. And the greatest thing about it is that he deserved the award – his Hateful Eight score is among his best, which is saying something.

As for the ceremony itself, I though Chris Rock’s monologue was brilliant – he addressed #Oscarsowhite wonderfully, without getting personal in naming names. It was a blistering and hilarious monologue. He didn’t fare as well for the rest of the night – but he kept things moving along, which is what he’s supposed to do. I would gladly see him host again. The presenters were a mixed bag, as they always are – some of them doing wonderfully (Louie C.K.), some of them very awkward (Sacha Baron Cohen) and mostly, forgettable. The speeches didn’t do much for me either – the Mad Max crew were fine, I liked Pete Docter’s speech for Inside Out, and I loved the fact that Brie Larson gave thanks to Telluride and TIFF – which gave Room a big boost early in the season (thanking festivals is something more winners should do). Yes, everything still ran on way too long, but I think the ceremony was mostly good.
So, that’s about it. The Oscars are in the books for another year – and we all get a few months reprieve from talking about them.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Classic Movie Review: Dead Ringers (1988)

Dead Ringers (1988)
Directed by: David Cronenberg.
Written by: David Cronenberg and Norman Snider based on the book by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland.
Starring: Jeremy Irons (Beverly Mantle / Elliot Mantle), Geneviève Bujold (Claire Niveau), Heidi von Palleske (Cary), Barbara Gordon (Danuta), Shirley Douglas (Laura), Stephen Lack (Anders Wolleck), Nick Nichols (Leo), Lynne Cormack (Arlene), Damir Andrei (Birchall), Miriam Newhouse (Mrs. Bookman).

There is an icy cold precision to David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers which makes it so very disturbing. The plot – about twin gynecologists, who are both geniuses, who pass women back and forth without their knowledge, and eventually succumb to a spiral of despair, drug use and violence – very easily could have been turned into an exploitation film – the kind of cheesy film you come across on cable late at night enjoy, then forget. You won’t necessarily enjoy Dead Ringers – but you won’t forget it either. Like Cronenberg’s best movies, it burrows under your skin and stays there.

Beverly and Elliot Mantle (both played, brilliantly, by Jeremy Irons) are Toronto born twins who more intimately involved with each other’s lives then they should be. They run a successful practice – helping rich women get pregnant – and are minor celebrities in the medical field. Beverly is smart, shy, awkward and excels at research. Elliot is outgoing, charming – and excels at getting the brothers the money, they need to continue to do their research. The brothers have always “shared” women – without telling the women of course – and don’t have a problem with it. Elliot believes that Beverly is so shy and awkward that he’d still be a virgin if it weren’t for him. It is an arrival of a woman – Claire Niveau (Genevieve Bujold) – a famous actress – who will ultimately start the brothers’ downward spiral. As always, Elliot “gets” her first – and then passes her off to Beverly. Beverly then does something stupid – and falls in love with her. She falls for him as well – which causes both twins different problems. She brings her drug addiction into her relationship – and Beverly is soon caught up in it as well. Never having had a real girlfriend before, he is also vulnerable to petty, almost teenage boy level jealousy. Elliot is jealous as well – but in a different way. Beverly and Elliot have always been the most important person in each other’s lives, but Claire changes that.

Dead Ringers is remarkable on several levels. From a technical standpoint, the film is probably the best example of having one actor play two characters in cinema history. Cronenberg doesn’t invent new tricks to cover up the way he does things – he just does in more complex way. He doesn’t try to hide the seam separating the two characters in a shadow, but instead Cronenberg moves his camera – the splice changing positions. I’ve seen the film a number of times now, and I never notice a seam. The film works on other technical levels as well – Howard Shore’s score is one of his best, Cronenberg’s use of color, in particular the blood red surgical gowns the twins use, is striking. The gynecological tools invented by Beverly late in the film are perhaps the most disturbing things Cronenberg has ever put in a movie, which ranks them among the most disturbing in any movie, ever. If Cronenberg’s technical specs in the movie are impeccable – and he directs with the cold precision of a surgeon, the movie itself benefits from that ton. The film doesn’t shy away from the gory details of the movie – but presents it with a clinical view that makes it all the more troubling.

The best thing in the movie may well be Jeremy Irons performances as the twins. He wasn’t the first, nor the last, to play dual roles in a movie – but he may well be the best. Beverly and Elliot look identical – and yet there is not a moment in the film, not even a silent one, when you do not know which one you’re looking at. It’s all in subtle ways Irons moves, speaks and carries himself. He delivers not one, but two, great performances of a man coming apart at the seams – but for different reasons – and it he makes their every move clear. It’s one of the great screen performances in history.

You could nitpick a few things in Dead Ringers if you were so inclined. The fact that Bujold’s character disappears from the movie for the second half (to show up near the end) is a loss – she sets everything in motion, than leaves, which makes her more of a dramatic convenience than a character. Elliot’s descent into madness and drug addiction happens perhaps a little too fast – one scene his “girlfriend” is trying to stop him from taking drugs, the next he’s a spaced out junkie.

But those things don’t bother me much in Dead Ringers – the movie can only do so much, and it does need to get to its shattering climax. That climax is creepy, tragic, haunting and pathetic all at once – (I want ice cream!) and it’s also inevitable. Beverly and Elliot deserve each other.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Movie Review: The Club

The Club
Directed by: Pablo Larraín.
Written by: Guillermo Calderón & Pablo Larraín & Daniel Villalobos.
Starring: Roberto Farías (Sandokan), Antonia Zegers (Hermana Mónica), Alfredo Castro (Padre Vidal), Alejandro Goic (Padre Ortega), Alejandro Sieveking (Padre Ramírez), Jaime Vadell (Padre Silva), Marcelo Alonso (Padre García), Francisco Reyes (Padre Alfonso), José Soza (Padre Lazcano).

In Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight, there are several scenes dealing with a non-descript house in the neighborhood of one of the reporters, who is horrified to discover that the Catholic Church is using it to shelter a group of priests who have been accused of pedophilia. The inside of the house – and its residents – is never seen in Spotlight, and it remains an ominous presence – in part because of just how normal the house is. Pablo Larrain’s The Club takes place inside a house like the one in Spotlight – in a small, seaside town in Chile, where four Priests and a nun are locked away from the outside world. The Nun, Monica (Antonia Zegers), runs the house – cooks the meals, sets the rules, etc. – and the four Priests spend their days not doing very much of anything other than training a greyhound to race in the local weekly races – which they watch from atop a hill with a set of binoculars. A fifth priest comes to live at the house, and the rules are explained to him – basically, that he can only go into town early in the morning, or well into the evenings, and can only go by himself. This house doesn’t want any attention – but that is precisely what this new priest brings. He’s barely there when the house receives a visitor – a man named Sandokan (Roberto Farias) who stands outside the house screaming – he recognizes as one who had sexually abused him as a child and is making a lot of noise outside the house. The new priest is given a gun to scare away Sandokan – but instead uses it to commit suicide.

The men who live in the house represent the “old” Catholic Church – the one who would sweep things under the rug and forget about them. After the suicide, they send Padre Garcia (Marcelo Alonso) to the house to question the Priests – and he’s supposed to be the “new” way – more open, less secretive. Rumors swirl through the house that Garcia has closed down several other houses like theirs – and that he’s there to do the same thing this time – get the Priests to confess, and throw them to the wolves. Garcia seems like the most moral of the characters – but gradually, it appears that perhaps the Church hasn’t changed as much as it likes to think.

The Club is at its best during the interview scenes – when Garcia questions the different priests – and surprisingly, the nun – about their secrets and why they ended up locked in this house. The movie, smartly, still doesn’t reveal all of what the Priests did – they remain evasive and stubborn in the face of Garcia’s questions. One, who has been there since the late 1960s, has gone senile and – and there’s no file on him, so no one knows why he’s there. The others evade Garcia’s questions – or will only partially admit things – like Padre Vidal (Alfredo Castro), who will confess to being gay – which he believes is sexuality that brings him closer to God, but not to abusing children. Another, Padre Ortega (Alejandro Goic) – was involving in taking children from the poor and giving (or perhaps) them to the rich – and questions what right Garcia has to question him, when he clearly doesn’t understand. The Nun evades the question of her guilt simply by saying things like “They said I abused her”. All of these men – and one woman – have been trapped in this house for years to think about what they have done, the sins they have committed – and yet they don’t seem like they’ve even scratched the surface of their guilt. Everything is still someone else’s fault. Not even the presence of Sandokan – who will not go away, even if he’s not blowing the whistle on the priests either – helps them. He stalks around – a shadow of the people they themselves victimized, his sad life should show the consequences of their actions – but they cannot see it that way.

Unfortunately, the rest of the movie isn’t as good as those interview scenes – and the film gets weaker as it moves along, and Larrain seems determined to add more and more unnecessary plot to a movie that at its best when it’s plot less- including a convoluted, violent, nightmare climax which is unnecessarily grim and brutal – although wholly unexpected (always worry in a movie like this for the long-term safety of the dog). Larrain seems convinced that he needs to bash the audience over the head with his message, which ultimately ends up not having the impact it should. The entire movie is shot in the drabbest, dirtiest grey color palette imaginable – the better for all the misery to come out – but it becomes monotonous and monochrome pretty early, and stays that way.

The clergy molestation scandal that rocked the Catholic Church remains an interesting story – and there are ways to explore new ground in it, despite all the movies and documentaries that have already been made on the subject. Unfortunately, The Club isn’t one of those movies. It has good moments – and good performances – but it doesn’t really add up to all that much, other than the fact that these men are bad, and even good Priests like Garcia can go too far in trying to protect the Church. More scenes like the interview scenes – where Larrain forces us to share space with the priests, and see a little bit of their thought process – both about the crimes they committed, and how they justify them to themselves – and The Club have been something more than it is – which is basically just another misery tour, without a whole lot to say.

Movie Review: Race

Directed by: Stephen Hopkins.
Written by: Joe Shrapnel & Anna Waterhouse.
Starring: Stephan James (Jesse Owens), Jason Sudeikis (Larry Snyder), Eli Goree (Dave Albritton), Shanice Banton (Ruth Solomon), Carice van Houten (Leni Riefenstahl), Jeremy Irons (Avery Brundage), William Hurt (Jeremiah Mahoney), David Kross (Carl 'Luz' Long), Jonathan Higgins (Dean Cromwell), Tony Curran (Lawson Robertson), Amanda Crew (Peggy), Barnaby Metschurat (Joseph Goebbels), Vlasta Vrana (St-John), Shamier Anderson (Eulace Peacock).

As inspirational sports movies about race goes, Stephen Hopkins’ Race gets the job done. It raises questions about America’s history of racism, while at the same time, wrapping everything up in a way that allows the audience to leave it in the past if it wants to. This is not a movie that tries for contemporary relevance – which is somewhat disappointing, given what is going in America right now. Yet, the movie knows what it is, and who its audience is, and delivers exactly what it promises. Aside from its bizarre take on Leni Riefenstahl (which I’ll get to later), Race is a feel good, inspirational sports movie – and all that implies.

The movie focuses on a few years in the life of Jesse Owens – but seems to compress time so that events happen much quicker than they did in real life. When we meet Owens (Stephan James) he is already a talented track and field athlete, leaving his home in Cleveland, for the University of Ohio, where he will be coached by Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis) – a one-time star athlete at the same school, whose career is on the line, since he cannot seem to win. Owens is his ticket to success – and he knows it. The two develop a quick bond together – Snyder helps the already phenomenally gifted Owens get better – and Owens wins for Snyder. For the outset of the movie, everyone has their eyes on the 1936 Olympics in Berlin – Owens seems like shoo-in to win multiple medals.

In the few scenes where the film is not concentrating on Owens and Snyder, it’s centered on Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons), a wealthy industrialist, and part of the American Olympic committee. He clashes with Jeremiah Mahoney (William Hurt), who thinks America should boycott the Olympics, given that they’ll be hosted by Hitler and Nazi Germany – but Avery argues that he doesn’t care about the politics – he just wants America to win. He travels to Germany – and doesn’t particularly likes what he sees – but draws some assurances from Joseph Goebbels (Barnaby Metschurat) that things will be better when the Olympics are actually going on. At home, Owens has his ups and downs – a dalliance outside his committed relationship that has already produced a daughter, throws him off for a little bit – but he recovers. But then, Owens isn’t sure he should go and compete in Berlin. Wouldn’t that mean that he silently endorses what Hitler is doing?

The movie hits on all of these notes, but doesn’t really examine them too closely. Ultimately, the movie almost sides with Brundage, while at the same time making him a villain, in arguing that sports is sports – and you owe to yourself to use your gift. Yes, the film also makes a point of showing how Owens success at the games was a humiliation for Hitler and the Nazis – but any victory seems rather hollow given what we know would happen next.

Then there is the film’s bizarre presentation of Leni Riefenstahl – played, quite well, by the Dutch Carice Van Houten, best known for audiences here from Game of Thrones, but who should be known more for Paul Verhoeven’s masterful Black Book – a morally complex, and ridiculously entertaining WWII thriller. For those who don’t know, Riefenstahl was the amazingly talented German filmmaker, who made Hitler’s propaganda films for him – most famously Triumph of the Will (1935), and then Olympia (1938). The films are both brilliant on a technical level – Olympia especially, which contains some remarkable footage of Owens. Yet, they also undeniably espouse the Nazi viewpoint, and whitewash Hitler and everything he stood for. Riefenstahl was unrepentant for the rest of her life – as seen in the wonderful documentary The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (1994) (which unfortunately I have been unable to track down – I saw it on VHS when I was in high school, and not since) – she offers some rather unconvincing defense of her work, claiming she was never a member of the Nazi party, there is no mention of Anti-Semitism in her films, and she didn’t know what Hitler’s plans are – she was just a young artist, working in a vacuum. This doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny – but Race pretty much takes her at her word. If there is a hero in Race aside from Owens, its Riefenstahl – who stands up for her art, and even, at one point, defies Goebbels, in order to get footage of Owens winning once again. I understand a little whitewashing is to be expected in a film – but Race really goes too far with Riefenstahl.

Overall though, I rather liked Race. What can I say – I’m a sucker for the inspiration sports movie, and Race is that. The music swells, Owens runs, and it’s a thing of beauty. Stephan James acquits himself nicely as Owens – making the icon human, and Sudeikis (unsurprisingly) is adept at drama in the of Snyder. The film probably too long – it’s run over two hours – but I wasn’t bored by it (although, your mileage may vary, depending on your thoughts on the genre). Race doesn’t reinvent anything hear – and I find its depiction of Riefenstahl laughable – but it delivers pretty much exactly what you expect it will.

Movie Review: Lamb

Directed by: Ross Partridge   
Written by: Ross Partridge based on the novel by Bonnie Nadzam.
Starring: Ross Partridge (David Lamb), Oona Laurence (Tommie), Jess Weixler (Linny), Tom Bower (Foster), Scoot McNairy (Jesse), Lindsay Pulsipher (Linda), Jennifer Lafleur (Melissa), Joel Murray (Wilson), Ron Burkhardt (Walter Lamb).

Lamb is the type of film that has been designed to make the viewer uncomfortable pretty much for beginning to end. It is about a relationship between a middle aged man, David Lamb (played by Ross Partridge, who also directed and wrote the screenplay) and an 11 year old girl, Tommie (Oona Laurence). These two should not know each other – should nothing to do with each other – but they find each other, and then take things farther than they should. In the early scenes, where Lamb talks about his views on life, and Tommie laps it up, we think we’re seeing a story about a pedophile, slowing grooming his latest victim. But Lamb never crosses that line with Tommie – he doesn’t even really come close to that line. He does a lot of stupid, illegal things with Tommie, but sex doesn’t seem to be a part of the equation for him with her. Why, then, does he become so obsessed with Tommie – and why does Tommie love him back.

The film is based on a novel by Bonnie Nadzam – which, unsurprisingly, is better than the movie, basically because Nadzam is willing to go to places that Partridge is not. The events of the book and the movie are basically the same – it’s a very faithful adaptation – but I Partridge softens it for the screen. Lamb comes a lot closer to crossing some lines in the book than he does in the movie – or it at least feels like he does – and it’s all in what Nadzam and Partridge separately decide to emphasize. What the book and the movie do share however is an unwillingness to get inside either Lamb or Tommie’s head – meaning their separate motives for what they do remain a mystery in both.

The story is about Lamb, a middle aged man dealing with the death of his father, a recent divorce and his relationship with a much young woman at his office – Linnie (Jess Wexler). He meets Tommie when he is dared by her friends to come over and ask him for a cigarette. He decides to teach them a lesson – and after informing Tommie what he’s going to do, he grabs her, puts her in his car and takes off. All he does – this time – is drive her home, and lecture her. She’s back the next day however, and the two strike up an unlikely friendship – he drives her to and from school, and offers his take on life – which no one other than an 11 year old would think of as anything other than silly and juvenile. Finally, the decide to run off together – just for a week, they say, to his place off in the mountains. He tells Tommie not to tell anyone, because they might think what he’s doing is kidnapping, which, after all, it is.

The story is about these two lost souls finding each other – however briefly. Lamb probably sees a little of himself in Tommie – he was raised by a distant father, and Tommi’s mother and stepfather seem more interested in the TV then they are in her. She’s happy that an adult is paying attention to her – and treats her like an equal. After the incident in the parking lot, she has pretty much lost her friends – and with a not great home life, what else does she have?

If there’s a reason to see Lamb – and it’s debatable if there is – it is the two central performances, which are fascinating to watch. Partridge is a character actor , who looks a little like Dermot Mulroney, and he makes Lamb a mixture of affable and pathetic – you can see why people like him at first, and yet pull away eventually. His charm is all on the surface, with not a lot to back it up. The talented Oona Laurence – very good in last year’s Southpaw, as Jake Gyllenhaal’s daughter – is also playing a character pull of contradictions – at times, she seems wise beyond her years – one of those movie children who is basically an adult, and yet she is naïve enough to go along with Lamb, and actually believe much of what he says. I don’t think the inherent contradictions in the characters is a flaw of the movie – but a feature of it. These are characters who you cannot quite pin down, and they stay in your mind a while after the movie ends.

The movie around those performances isn’t particularly good however – and shares some of the same problems I had with the book – namely, what they hell are the makers of the film really trying to say with this movie. They deliberately try to setup a Lolita-like story, but then do not go in that direction. Are they trying to implicate us in the audience of something – trying to make us feel ashamed that our perverted minds went there? Perhaps – but they set us to believe that, so it’s unfair to then call us stupid for believing them. I think ultimately the book works better than the movie, because Nadzam has less sentimentality in her novel than Partridge does in his film. She also seems more willing to embrace the ambiguity of their relationship then he does (although, to be fair, that could be because its easier to write than it is too shoot some of the ambiguous moments in novel – dealing with how Lamb touches Tommie). Ultimately though, I think Partridge’s film doesn’t quite work because he really only gives you one possible interpretation of the material – and Nadzam does the opposite, making her characters ultimately unknowable. Partridge never figures out how to do that, and the film doesn’t quite get to the level that it should. It’s good enough that I want to see what Partridge does next – but it’s also good enough to make you wish it was better.

Oscar Predictions 2015

So, it's been another long Oscar year, but the end is in sight. Here's who's going to win (maybe), ranked from least likely to most likely.

Best motion picture of the year
8. Brooklyn
For It: Everyone seems to love Brooklyn, which was popular with critics, and audiences (for a indie), and is a film that you never really hear a bad word about. It’s a beautiful, old fashioned film – the kind the Academy likes quite a bit.
Against It: No director nominated, and despite period work, not “below the the line nominations” either. You need to be able to win a few awards as support for a Best Picture win – and with three total nominations, Brooklyn doesn’t much have a chance to do that.

7. Bridge of Spies
For It: It’s Spielberg – who they always like. It’s a Cold War Spy Thriller, but a classy one, with contemporary resonance as well. It’s got one of the most beloved stars in the world as well, and just screams Oscar in many ways.
Against It: The enthusiasm for the movie is certainly been muted. They love Spielberg, but didn’t nominate him this year – they love Hanks as well, and didn’t nominate him either. That pretty much spells doom for the chances for this film actually winning.

6. The Martian
For It: The highest grossing film nominated – a much loved audience, friendly hit, with a respected director, one of the biggest stars in the world, and a film that even its detractors seem to at the very least enjoy. Who really hates The Martian?
Against It: But who really loves it either? Sometimes being really well liked by everyone is enough – but with no Ridley Scott nominated for director, that probably means this isn’t winning this year. Argo did it, but the outpouring of support for Scott being “snubbed” as it was for Affleck.

5. Room
For It: The film got off to a hot start – great reviews in Telluride, audience award in TIFF – and then seemingly kind of fizzled for a while. But those reports were wrong, as Room not only got in for Picture, it also got a director nomination. They clearly liked it.
Against It: But with only four nominations, it’s going to be tough to actually get the kind of supporting wins to take the Best Picture prize. It will likely to have to settle for Best Actress.

4. Mad Max: Fury Road
For It: With 10 nominations, the film is quite clearly loved by the Academy, as the went in whole hog for the type of film they usually ignore. George Miller is very well respected, and the film is probably the critics favorite of the year – it won pretty much every (American) film critics survey it could.
Against It: Still, action movies don’t win the Best Picture Oscar. No film since 1932’s Grand Hotel has won the Best Picture Oscar with no actors and no screenplay nominated – which Mad Max: Fury Road has to face. It doesn’t really have the Oscar feel to it, does it?

3. Spotlight
For It: It has been the de facto frontrunner since it debuted at Telluride, and has quietly chugged along all season. Everyone likes the film, it hasn’t faced too much of a backlash, and it seems like an important film, with a great ensemble. Have you heard anything really negative about this film all season?
Against It: Is it enough? From the beginning, people questioned if the film was perhaps too quiet, too reserved to actually win the Best Picture Oscar – and others compare it to TV (unfair, but a reality). All season people waited for something to take it over – and perhaps The Big Short has finally done that.

2. The Big Short
For It: The film broke late in the season, after seemingly being an afterthought for most of it. But once it came out, it came out strong, and has buzzed along all season, with little backlash. It continues to show up everywhere it needs to – and winning the PGA, which is the only other Industry award with a preferential ballot (and since both it and the Academy moved to that, they have always matched – small sample size, but still). While the film is extremely entertaining, it is also very timely.
Against It: Is it a little too entertaining? A little too bro-y? A little too comic? Are they really giving the Best Picture Oscar to the director of Anchorman?

1. The Revenant
For It: With 12 it is the nominations leader, which often shows the kind of broad support that can propel it to victory. It’s also got one of the biggest stars in the world – on the way to winning the Best Actor Oscar – and they clearly loved Alejandro G. Innaritu – after all, he won Picture/Director/Screenplay last year for Birdman.
Against It: Do they love him enough to give him back-to-back Best Picture Oscars (something no director has ever done before). Does the lack of a screenplay nomination mean something? Do they admire the craft of the film more than the film itself. Out of all of the films nominated, it probably has the most vocal detractors (that didn’t hurt Birdman, but still).

Who Will Win: The Revemamt. A legitimate three way race – The Big Short won the Producer’s Guild, which is the only other award to use the weight ballot the Academy does for Best Picture, so it’s a good bet. SAG went with Spotlight – and since actors make up the largest branch, it’s not out of it either. Mind you, the Director’s Guild has a long history of predicting this, and they went with The Revenant – as did BAFTA and the Golden Globes, meaning that the wins keep piling up for The Revenant, and so it’s probably the safest bet. Still, no one really knows, and it could go any number of ways.
Who Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. Out of the nominees, there really was no better film, no greater technical achievement, and no more entertaining film. Out of the nominees, I think there’s little question, that Mad Max: Fury Road will last the longest.
Least of the Nominees: The Reverant. A long, slow slog to nowhere. Yes, it is brilliantly made, but it’s service of a whole lot of nothing.

Best Director
5. Lenny Abrahamson, Room
For Him: An up and coming director, who they clearly quite liked, since he wasn’t on many people’s predictions heading into nomination day – and he got in, over bigger names like Ridley Scott.
Against Him: The nomination for him is a huge award in itself – and will help his career. That will have to be enough for him.

4. Adam McKay, The Big Short
For Him: The Big Short has been gathering momentum all season long, and if it really is going to be the best picture winner, he has a legitimate shot at winning. There’s more flash here than say in Spotlight.
Against Him: Again, this is Adam McKay, who has always been a fine filmmaker, but I cannot help but think the Academy may require him to make another film or two like this, and not Anchorman, before giving him a Best Director Oscar. Screenplay? Sure, but not director.

3. Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
For Him: Despite what they said about Affleck in the Argo year, actors turned directors actually do have a good track record here – even if McCarthy was never really a movie star. He is well respected, quietly building a solid resume as a filmmaker (forget The Cobbler), and has crafted a classically structured film everyone loves. If this wins Best Picture, he could easily win director.
Against Him: There are bigger, flashier films this year – and since expanding the Best Picture nominee pool, they’ve split Picture and Director often – quite often going with a bigger film for Director, and quieter one for Picture. His is the quieter one.

2. George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
For Him: He is a veteran (far more than any of the other nominees), and well respected. He also pushed himself further than ever before, and crafted one hell of an action movie. He is the critics choice, winning more than anyone else. It also more show-offy than any of the films, and in a year that looks like it could be a split, he’s in a good position.
Against Him: Action movies, no matter how great, never really win this prize. The debate all year wasn’t whether Miller would win, it was whether he could be nominated. Will the Academy go with Miller, and this type of film here, when they’ve never really done before?

1. Alejandro G. Iñárritu , The Revenant
For Him: They clearly love him, as he won last year, and while no one has directed two Best Picture winners back-to-back – a few have won back-to-back directing Oscars. They clearly admire the film a great deal, so it’s not out of the realm of possibilities.
Against Him: This is a more divisive film than even Birdman was – and there’s lot of options this year. He won three last year, does he need another so soon?

Who Will Win: Alejandro G. Innaritu, The Revenant. When the nominations came out, I didn’t think it was possible for him to win – but he keeps piling on the wins, and its hard to make a case for someone else winning. Still not convinced Miller cannot pull off an upset – but it would clearly be an upset at this point.
Who Should Win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road. It really isn’t close out of these nominees – one crafted a film for the ages, and the rest didn’t. Miller gets my vote easily.
Least of the Nominees: Alejandro G. Innaritu, The Reverant. Innaritu is constantly calling attention himself and his artistry instead of the movie itself, and frankly, his film is the worst of the nominees.

Best Actor
5. Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
For Him: People still think it’s “brave” for straight actors to play gay or transgender characters – and that is often enough to get him some votes.
Against Him: He won last year, and in order to win back to back, you need to be either a beloved actor, or have an undeniable performance – he has neither. This was supposed to be one of the big Oscar films of the year – and it wasn’t.

4. Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
For Him: He is building a solid resume, and this is his second nomination. There will be those who are ready to give him the prize already because he’s due – and also because it’s a show-offy performance, central to every scene, with a ton of dialogue, that he handles with ease.
Against Him: Like The Danish Girl, Steve Jobs was supposed to be one of the big Oscar films of the year, and it didn’t turn out that way. Audiences rejected the film. I think they want to give Fassbender an Oscar – they’ll just have to wait for another year to do so.

3. Matt Damon, The Martian
For Him: They didn’t nominate a more entertaining performance than Damon’s here. It’s a big, movie star performance, where he basically had to act with himself for most of the running time. The really like the film, that isn’t likely to win anything else major, so they may go here.
Against Him: They like movie stars to “disappear” into roles – and Damon doesn’t. Movie stars win Oscars all the time, but not for their big, movie star performances. It just isn’t his year.

2. Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
For Him: A well respected actor, in a performance they obviously quite liked, since despite the fact that the movie fizzled, they still found a spot for him in the final five. They love old school Hollywood films – and this is it. If there is an upset coming here, it will be Cranston.
Against Him: There isn’t an upset coming. He is well-respected, but for TV work – the nomination is his initiation into the movie actors club – and he’ll have to wait until at least his next nomination until he wins.

1.Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
For Him: He is overdue for a win, and has been the frontrunner all year – well before anyone even saw the film. This is a very weak category, and no one really ever challenged DiCaprio’s supposed overdue victory. They like the film quite a bit, and it’s likely not to win another major award, so it’s his.
Against Him: Name a another performance that is this quiet that has won a Lead Actor Oscar? I cannot. He doesn’t actually do all that much. DiCaprio is long overdue for a win, but for this?

Who Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant. It’s not really close this year. This is a lock.
Who Should Win: Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs. I really want to abstain here – not only was this a weak year in general for this category, they nominated poorly as well. Fassbender is the best of the lot, but there should be better choices available.
Least of the Nominees: Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl. Redmayne does try hard here to be sure – but the film doesn’t understand this character, and does nothing with her. Redmayne is a talented actor, but to me, I’m still really waiting for a movie to use him better.

Best Actress
5. Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
For Her: She’s Jennifer Lawrence, and who doesn’t love Jennifer Lawrence? This is her fourth nomination – and at the age of 25, she is the youngest ever to get that many. The way her career is going, she’ll win a second Oscar sooner or later.
Against Her: But it will be later than this year. Joy was supposed to be a major Oscar player – and this ended up as its only nomination. No one much likes the film, and although many admire Lawrence for making the film work as much as it does, that’s not the same thing as it being a great performance.

4. Cate Blanchett, Carol
For Her: She is one of the Academy’s favorite actresses right now – picking up her 7th nomination for Carol. Those are numbers where a third Oscar doesn’t seem so bad. Add in the fact that Carol is a critics favorite, and she’ll draw some vote.
Against Her: Not many though. Her second win was only a couple of years ago, so there’s no need to rush to give her a third Oscar. Remember, it took Meryl nearly 30 years between Oscars 2 and 3. There are other performances they simply like more.

3. Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
For Her: A well regarded veteran actress, who has been acting since the 1960s – in acclaimed films no less – and yet has never been nominated for an Oscar until now – there will be some who see a vote for her as a deserved, de facto lifetime achievement award. This is arguably the critics favorite of the year
Against Her: It is the film’s only nomination – and she’s going up against two more highly visable and talked about performances. Her comments against diversity – even after she clarified – won’t win her many votes.

2. Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
For Her: A brilliant young actress, already on nomination #2 and only in her early 20s. Her work in Brooklyn is subtle, heartbreaking and warmly human – and it’s a film they clearly like, as it snuck into the Best Picture Race. If there is an upset coming, I think it’s coming from her, and not Rampling.
Against Her: She really needed that one win to put her more in play against the actress who has been the frontrunner since September – and she never got it. She’s so young, it’s hard not to argue that she’ll have another chance.

1. Brie Larson, Room
For Her: She has been the frontrunner since the film did the Telluride-Toronto two step in September, and despite the fact that the film didn’t do well at the box office, it held steady all awards season – even getting into the Best Picture lineup as a surprise. Larson has been around for a while, doing great work, and she outdoes herself here. Yes, she’s a newcomer – but that doesn’t hurt that much here.
Against Her: Not a lot really. She’s as big a lock as Leo.

Who Will Win: Brie Larson, Room. I sort of expected that Ronan or Rampling was going to make a race out of this, but that never really happened. Larson wins easily.
Who Should Win: Saorise Ronan, Brooklyn. Really, anyone except Lawrence would be a worthy winner. If we’re strictly on merit, than it’s a tossup between Ronan and Rampling, and since Ronan didn’t utter something as silly as “racist to whites”, she’ll get by vote.
Least of the Nominees: Jennifer Lawrence, Joy. This was such as amazing year in this category, they could have found easily a dozen worthier nominees than Lawrence. I really do like Lawrence – but she cannot save Joy from itself.


Best Supporting Actor
5. Christian Bale, The Big Short
For Him: The Big Short has become one of the surprise frontrunners in the Oscar race – and Best Picture winners (which it may be) often win an acting award – and he’s the film’s lone shot.
Against Him: I’m still kind of mystified as how Bale ended up being considered Best in Show in a film full of great performances – it’s fine work, but deliberately one note. Plus, unlike everyone else in this category, he already has an Oscar at home, which probably rules him out.

4. Tom Hardy, The Revenant
For Him: Hardy has been doing solid work for a while, so it was just a matter of time before he finally got an Oscar nomination. Because of his already impressive resume, he could just jump to overdue, and win. Plus, they really like the film – and he arguably has more dialogue than DiCaprio, and is more impressive.
Against Him: He was kind of a surprise nominee – after spending much of the year as a sight unseen frontrunner, once it was seen, he didn’t show up nearly as often as people thought he would. The nomination will be award enough – and will make him “overdue” next time he gets nominated.

3. Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
For Him: After going quite a long time getting no Academy love, he has turned into an Academy favorite in the past few years – this is his third nomination afterall. He fought off tough internal competition to score the nomination, and it’s practically a lead role, which never really hurts in these categories. Plus, they obviously love the film, and if it’s going to win the Best Picture Oscar – and it might – a win for him wouldn’t be out of the question.
Against Him: He really needed a win somewhere along the way to really put pressure on the two frontrunners, and he never got it. He is quickly entering the phase where he’s overdue, and a win becomes inevitable – but he’s not quite there yet.

2.Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
For Him: For much of the season, he was probably the frontrunner – with the Spotlight guys fighting it out to see if anyone could get ahead, and no one else really making a case. Even those who don’t much like Bridge of Spies – or think it’s dull – seem to loved Rylance in it. He is precisely the type of well-respected, British character actor who they love to give a prize to here. If they’re worried about The Expendables 4 being advertised as starring Oscar winner Sylvestor Stallone, he’s their man.
Against Him: He lost momentum down the home stretch, as Stallone started winning everything in site in terms of the major awards. The lack of passion for the film may just end up sucking votes to other contenders. As well respected as he is, he isn’t beloved by the Academy.

1. Sylvester Stallone, Creed
For Him: He has been in the industry for 40 years now – and that type of longevity automatically gets you respect, even if he often hasn’t been making “Oscar” type movies. His work in Creed took his most legendary, larger than life character and made him human again. You cannot help but think that this role will resonate with the older Academy.
Against Him: They didn’t love the film, which is why his was the only nomination. They already got criticized for only nominating the white guy from the movie, will the controversy make it harder from him to win? He isn’t exactly beloved by everyone.

Who Will Win: Sylvestor Stallone, Creed. It is a tight race – I wouldn’t be shocked to see Rylance win, and a Ruffalo upset isn’t out of the question. Still, I think Stallone holds off all comers, and wins it.
Who Should Win: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies Nothing against Stallone – who will be a worthy winner – but Rylance is an absolute delight in Bridge of Spies – a sympathetic, hilarious performance that makes the whole movie.
Least of the Nominees: Christian Bale, The Big Short. Really? I could think of a few actors in the same movie I would have nominated over Bale.

Best Supporting Actress
5. Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
For Her: They obviously loved the movie – she was able to squeeze into this category, despite the fact that she missed many of the precursors. Supporting Actor may be too tough for Ruffalo to win, so perhaps they’ll reward the ensemble cast here.
Against Her: Her individual reviews weren’t stellar – fine, but not outstanding. She mainly got in because they loved the movie, not the performance, which isn’t the recipe to actually win this prize.

4. Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
For Her: She is an Oscar favorite – in play for the first time in 7 years, after finally winning her first Oscar for The Reader in 2008. She is at nomination #7, so a second win hardly seems out of the ordinary. She handles a lot of rapid fire dialogue, and does it with an accent.
Against Her: The film is hardly beloved – and neither is her performance, at least not enough to warrant a second win in a category where no one else has one yet.

3. Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
For Her: She has been in the industry for 30 years, often doing stellar week, and amazingly she has never even been nominated before. She is the lone woman in a sea of men in the film – and the only one to receive a nomination. The last two Tarantino films won an acting Oscar after all.
Against Her: The Hateful Eight isn’t as loved as Inglorious Basterds or Django Unchained were – and I wonder how many Oscar members turned this off part way through. Charges of misogyny against the film doesn’t help.

2. Rooney Mara, Carol
For Her: She is a previous nominee (for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and is basically a lead (which doesn’t hurt), and she already won one of the most prestigious prizes she can for the role – Best Actress at Cannes. It is a brilliant performance, and even if they didn’t nominate the film for Best Picture, it did pick up 6 noms, so it’s well respected.
Against Her: The performance is very quiet, very still and very subtle. That can get you nominated, but doesn’t often get you the win.

1. Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
For Her: She is this year’s Hollywood It Girl – showing up in half a dozen films, and getting good reviews for all of them. Even if you didn’t love her here, you may have loved her in Ex Machina (as I did), or something else. The love to award the young breakthrough star in this category, and this is a lead role. She cries beautifully.
Against Her: I don’t think they actually like the film all that much, given the nomination total, and all the advance buzz around it. Than again, there’s only one performance from a Best Picture nominee here – and that has no chance of winning.

Who Will Win: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl. This is where the smart money is, although Mara or even Leigh wouldn’t stun me at this point.
Who Should Win: Rooney Mara, Carol. I’m torn here, because Mara’s is the best performance of the nominees. It is also a lead performance, without doubt. If I cared more about category fraud, I’d go for Leigh. Since, I don’t, really, I’ll stick with Mara.
Least of the Nominees: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl. I would be delighted if Vikander had been nominated for Ex Machina. As she wasn’t, and was nominated for this instead, I’m torn. She’s fine in the movie – actually far and away the best thing in it. But the movie isn’t very good, and it hurts her as well.

Adapted screenplay
5. Carol - Phyllis Nagy
4. Brooklyn -  Nick Hornby
3. The Martian - Drew Goddard
2. Room - Emma Donoghue
1.The Big Short - Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
Who Will Win: The Big Short. Fighting off three other Best Picture nominees shouldn’t be hard for The Big Short – this is almost a sure thing.
Who Should Win: Carol. It is wonderful, subtle work – actually improving on the source material quite a bit.
Least of the Nominees: The Martian. I mean, the screenplay is quite good –it’s a strong field – but out of these five, it’s easily the least of them.

Original screenplay
5. Straight Outta Compton - Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff and S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus
4. Bridge of Spies -  Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
3. Ex Machina - Alex Garland
2. Inside Out -  Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Ronnie del Carmen
1.Spotlight - Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy
Who Will Win: Spotlight. Like The Big Short in adapted, this one is all but assured. It may or may not win Picture, but this one is assured.
Who Should Win: Inside Out. Stunning, brilliant, funny screenplay – the best of the year in any category.
Least of the Nominees: Straight Outta Compton. The screenplay is fine – but I find it quite odd that this was the only category where the film was nominated. The screenplay is very typical of the genre – solid work to be sure, but Oscar worthy?

Best Animated Film
5. When Marnie Was There
4. Shaun the Sheep Movie
3. Boy and the World
2. Anomalisa
1. Inside Out
Who Will Win: Inside Out. Pixar wins this even when they don’t make masterpieces. Inside Out is a masterpiece. This isn’t close.
Who Should Win: Insie Out. In almost any other year, Anomalisa would be an easy choice. But not this year – Inside Out was the year’s best film.
Least of the Nominees: When Marnie Was There. To be fair, I haven’t seen Boy and the World yet, but of the four I have seen, When Marnie Was There is the weakest – and I still quite liked it.

Best Documentary
5. What Happened, Miss Simone?
4. Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom
3. Cartel Land
2. The Look of Silence
1. Amy
Who Will Win: Amy. Amy is shockingly won pretty much everything it could this season, and that probably isn’t going to stop at the Oscars. They’ve gone with showbiz films more and more often in the past few years – so unless What Happened, Miss Simone splits the vote, allowing something else to sneak in – or the Academy feels the need to make-up for the fact that they didn’t give Joshua Oppenheimer the Oscar for The Act of Killing, and give it to the sequel, The Look of Silence, Amy wins this one as well.
Who Should Win: The Look of Silence. One of the greatest documetaries of recent years – stunning, heartbreaking and utterly brilliant. Not even close to me – and I really like Amy and Cartel Land.
Least of the Nominees: What Happened, Miss Simone?. I still haven’t gotten around to Winter on Fire – but I wasn’t overly impressed with What Happened, Miss Simone? – especially in a year with some many great showbiz docs this year.

Best Foreign Language Film
5. Embrace of the Serpent  - Colombia
4. Theeb - Jordan
3. A War -  Denmark
2. Mustang - France
1. Son of Saul - Hungary
Who Will Win: Son of Saul. It really is hard to tell, when you’ve only seen two of the nominees – but Son of Saul has dominated this category this year, so you have to assume it will win, right? On the other hand, this category often throws you some curveballs, so who knows.
Who Should Win: Mustang. I loved Son of Saul – but when I caught up with Mustang (late), I think I loved it even more. It’s close though.
Least of the Nominees: I’ve loved both of the nominees I have seen, so I’ll abstain here.

Best Cinematography
5. The Hateful Eight - Robert Richardson
4. Carol - Ed Lachman
3. Sicario - Roger Deakins
2. Mad Max: Fury Road - John Seale
1. The Revenant - Emmanuel Lubezki
Who Will Win: The Revenant. Emmanuel Lubezki will almost certainly win his third straight Oscar, and even if I don’t think any of his Oscar work reaches the height of his work on Children of Men, The New World or The Tree of Life, he certainly is one of the very best in his field – and the cinematography is the one area of The Revenant I don’t have a problem with.
Who Should Win: Carol. Lachman is a genius – every bit as good as Lubezki – and he’s never won. The work on Carol isn’t as showy as The Revenant – but it’s the years best.
Least of the Nominees: Sicario. It pains me to say this – because Roger Deakins is a cinematography God, and he’s raked up 14 nominations without a win, and his work on Sicario is legitimately great. But of the five nominees – which may be the strongest bunch of nominees of the year – he’s would rank fifth for me.

Best Film Editing
5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
4. Spotlight
3. The Revenant
2. The Big Short
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
Who Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. Really, I can make a case for anything by Star Wars winning here. This will be an early bellweather for the rest of the night – if Mad Max or The Revenant win, than The Revenant wins Best Picture. If The Big Short or Spotlight pull it off, they could easily win Best Picture.
Who Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. It truly is amazing work – keeping up the propulsive tempo for two hours, and crafting the best action sequences in recent memory, it is masterful work.
Least of the Nominees: The Revenant. Sorry, but this film needed more editing. I know that’s not precisely what this movie is for, but still, as well constructed as it is, it’s the least of the five.

Best Original Score
5. Sicario - Jóhann Jóhannsson
4. Bridge of Spies - Thomas Newman
3. Carol - Carter Burwell
2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens - John Williams
1. The Hateful Eight - Ennio Morricone
Who Will Win: The Hateful Eight. You could probably make a case here for any of them – Johannsson, doing great work for the second straight year, Newman, the oldtimer who keeps getting nominated and not winning, Burwell who has been doing great work for years, and finally got his first nom, Williams, the most nominated composer in history, for one last ride. Still, I think another oldtimer, Ennio Morricone, a legend in the field, will win his first competitive Oscar (he won a lifetime achievement one a few years ago).
Who Should Win: The Hateful Eight. Truly, it is a remarkable score – even those who hate the movie, love the music.
Least of the Nominees: Bridge of Spies. Spielberg not working with Williams is weird – and although Newman was a solid replacement, it is easily the least memorable of the nominees.

Best Costume Design
5. The Revenant
4. The Danish Girl
3. Carol
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
1. Cinderella
Who Will Win: Cinderella. I think you could make a case for anything but The Revenant winning this one – but history tells us they like pretty dresses more than anything else, and that’s Cinderella. There’s a bonus that they are actually great, and Sandy Powell did amazing work on Carol as well, so it’s hard to argue she doesn’t deserve it.
Who Should Win: Carol. Sandy Powell does deserve the Oscar – for her other nomination this year though.
Least of the Nominees: The Danish Girl. Is it good work? Sure – does it deserve to be here instead of say Brooklyn or The Hateful Eight? No, no it doesn’t.

Makeup & Hair Styling
3. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared
2. The Revenant
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
Who Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. A head to head battle between Mad Max an The Revenant – that could go either way. My guess is that the exaggerated work on Mad Max beats the more realistic work on The Revenant – but it could go either way.
Who Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. Come on, it’s this, right?
Least of the Nominees: ? The work on both the frontrunners is excellent, and I never did see The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, so I’ll abstain.

Original Song
5. Racing Extinction - Manta Ray
4. Fifty Shades of Grey - Earned It
3. Spectre – Writing’s on the Wall
2. Youth – Simple Song # 3
1. The Hunting Ground - Til It Happens To You
Who Will Win: The Hunting Ground – Til It Happens To You. I spent most of Oscar season thinking that Simple Song #3 had this – it’s a great song, and the entire movie leads to it for the best moment in the film. Yet. The Academy didn’t really like the movie did they – and Lady Gaga has been working it. It helps that Til It Happens To You is actually a very good song
Who Should Win: Youth – Simple Song #3. I liked, but didn’t love Youth – but this song is the perfect way to end the film – and is the best of not a very good lot of nominees.
Least of the Nominees: Spectre – Writing’s on the Wall. True, if I had to listen to that Racing Extinction song as often as I had to listen to Writing’s on the Wall, it could overtake it. But this is a bad song – a very bad song. Considering that the Academy spent decades basically ignoring Bond themes, why the hell the went with this, I’ll never know. Skyfall was a great song. This one sucks.

Best Production Design
5. The Danish Girl
4. Bridge of Spies
3. The Martian
2. The Revenant
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
Who Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. I really don’t think the other nominees are flashy enough to win this – which normally I hate (Flashy doesn’t mean great), but here it benefits Mad Max, so I’m good.
Who Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. Was their more creative production design among the nominees? No.
Least of the Nominees: The Danish Girl. Yawn.

Best Sound Editing
5. Sicario
4. The Martian
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
2. The Revenant
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
Who Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. A tight two way race between Mad Max and The Revenant – with a possible Star Wars spoiler. I’ll go with Mad Max but it will be close .
Who Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. I think it wins, by a hair – my own feelings are that it should win easily.
Least of the Nominees: The Martian. Don’t think it’s bad work in any way. Just not sure it’s as good as the rest.

Best Sound Mixing
5. Bridge of Spies
4. The Martian
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
1. The Revenant
Who Will Win: The Revenant. I said above the sound awards are probably a two way race between Mad Max and The Revenant – I went with Mad Max there, so I’ll choose The Revenant here. How’s that for fancy predicting? (If you really want to know why, I think the Mad Max has more obviously created sound effects – which is in the other category, so I gave it the edge there).
Who Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. The sound work is amazing in Mad Max – and although there was a lot of great sound work this year in unexpected places (a foreign film like Son of Saul, a documentary like Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck) – the academy went boring, meaning Mad Max should win in a cakewalk.
Least of the Nominees: Bridge of Spies. It really is fine work – but I’m not quite sure what landed it the Oscar nomination over anything else.

Best Visual Effects
5. Ex Machina
4. The Martian
3. The Revenant
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Who Will Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens – I cannot imagine that the Academy is going to let Star Wars go home empty handed, so it probably takes this one – one of the few tech prizes not to go to Mad Max or The Revenant, although either could win here – often the Academy will go for a Best Picture nominee over a non-nominee in the tech races.
Who Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. I do love that Fury Road employed a lot of practicaly effects – which is great – and their use of CGI (and there is a lot) is also wonderful. I love the lower key, smaller budgeted work on Ex Machina as well, but Mad Max would get my vote.
Least of the Nominees: The Martian. Another category where I don’t dislike any of the nominees – it’s fine work all around, and perhaps would be my lineup as well. The Martian is a step back from The Revenant, but it’s close.

Best motion picture of the year: The Revenant
Best Director: Alejandro G. Innaritu, The Revenant
Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Best Actress: Brie Larson, Room
Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Adapted screenplay: The Big Short - Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
Original screenplay: Spotlight - Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy
Best Animated Film: Inside Out
Best Documentary: Amy
Best Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul - Hungary
Best Cinematography: The Revenant Emmanuel Lubezki
Best Film Editing: The Big Short
Best Original Score: The Hateful Eight - Ennio Morricone
Best Costume Design: Cinderella
Makeup & Hair Styling: Mad Max: Fury Road
Original Song: The Hunting Ground - Til It Happens To You
Best Production Design: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Sound Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Sound Mixing: The Revenant
Best Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Force Awakens