Oscars 2016: Preview

Hollywood’s gilded centrepiece is upon us again, and Tinseltown is tingling with anticipation. This time, though, the focus is rightly (finally) on what is missing; namely ANY nominees of colour in the acting, directing, writing, editing – well, most of the categories. With several high-profile figures including Will Smith & Jada Pinkett-Smith, Spike Lee & Best Song nominee Anohi neglecting to attend the event to highlight the lack of diversity, we can only hope this is the last time the Oscars is so white, so conservative & so self-congratulatory – it simply must change to stay relevant. From critiquing the quality

As for who is up for the awards, there are many familiar faces. For the purposes of this piece, I’ve picked a will win, a should win & a missing in action, for the most-deserving not nominated. Each of the big six categories are covered, and all to be taken with an industrial-sized pinch of salt; but at the same time if you don’t bet on these, you’re probably one of the losers in The Big Short.

Best Film

The fluctuating number of nominees here means the quality can be variable; however there’s only one real stinker here (The Big Short is neither big nor short & should be the latter), & most are perfectly enjoyable even if rarely innovative.

Will win: The Revenant – a campaign that has ranged from the omnipresent to the ridiculous has peaked at just the right time, & the Academy loves films that wear their difficulty on their sodden, blood-stained sleeve like The Revenant.

Should win: Brooklyn – I’ve flip-flopped on this often (The Revenant & Spotlight would both be worthy winners), but attention to detail & eye for human behaviour that brings Brooklyn to life makes it the best of the bunch. Would be a boon for Sundance too.

Missing In Action: Carol – Oscar oversights are almost as famous as the awards, & not nominating Todd Haynes’ sublime romance is one of the worst this year.

Best Director

The lack of diversity is as noticeable here as anywhere; five slightly grizzled white men presenting accomplished films, but by no means the five best-directed of the year. More’s the pity. Other than white man-ness, the unifying theme of these five would be perseverance.

Will win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant – It seems the Academy is all about Alejandro, & it will be no surprise to hear them call his name again this year for what we’ve repeatedly been told was a shoot that was more brutal than bracing.

Should win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant – Of the five nominees I think they’ll get this one right. I’m in a minority in preferring Iñárritu’s work here to last year’s Birdman; his unquestioned technical expertise is better matched to this story, & there are several moments (Leo retreating into a rushing river; Leo leaping off a cliff; Leo’s tussle with the bear) that had my jaw dropping.

Missing In Action: Marielle Heller, The Diary Of A Teenage Girl – What a shame that the buzz in the room when this premiered at Sundance has not translated to the acclaim this film deserves. It is in no way Heller’s fault; in a strong year for first-time directors, her film exudes style, confidence and a deep understanding of the story.

Best Actress

If you can get past the observation that the nominees look like the same woman at different stages of her life, there are a few wonderful performances in this category – a stronger year than for the men by far, although as much for those omitted as those here. What links them? A majestic level of facial expressivity.

Will win: Brie Larson, Room – What was a three, then a two horse race has been narrowed two one with Larson’s wins at most ceremonies since the Globes. Her best moment is also the film’s peak, when you realise just what she has gone through to keep her child alive and sane. If you enjoyed her here, you must check out Short Term 12 where she is even better.

Should win: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn – While Larson is excellent, there is balance of the angelic and the humane to Ronan’s performance that wins out for me. In a simple story, she turns Eilish’s sickness of home and love into emotions both wholly relatable and profound.

Missing In Action: Bel Powley, The Diary Of A Teenage Girl – Powley represents so much of what is great about Heller’s film – fearless, refreshing and unlike most of the other contenders, very funny. Surely a future award winner.

Best Actor

This one is more predictable than gold statues, glamorous dresses and soul-staringly dull questions. With all the focus on Leo there has been less talk of the others, which is probably for the best – you could make a better five from far lesser-known talents. Ah well.

Will win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant – It is a sign of how behind the times Oscar can be that he gives awards long after they are merited, but following top performances in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? The Aviator and Inception (I’m not joking), Leo will finally get his man for this committed role as wounded frontiersman Hugh Glass.

Should win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant – Just, over Fassbender doing for Steve Jobs what Eisenberg did for Zuckerberg. But Leo deserves it – he slept inside an animal, don’t you know? (Not like that. Apparently).

Missing In Action: Jason Segel, The End Of The Tour – Who saw this coming? Well, Freaks & Geeks fans did. Known for his dude-bro comedic stylings, Segel showed depths that have been long hidden in his sensitive portrayal of a brilliant but flawed writer.

Best Supporting Actress

Another strong category, although again with some shocking misses. The supporting/lead debate rages on; when the blog overlords set up their own awards show, there will be no actor/actress, no lead/supporting. Just general applause and chatter.

Will win: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl – The good: Vikander is comfortably the best part of Tom Hooper’s biopic of transgender pioneer Lili Erbe. The bad: that’s not saying too much. The ugly: how dare you – don’t you know all Hollywood actors are beautiful?!

Should win: Rooney Mara, Carol – Yes, the film is called Carol, & yes, she is the subject of Therese’s & our gaze, but make no mistake: this is a two-hander. There are far too many tender moments to do any the disservice of noting here, but Mara is involved in almost all of them, overflowing with emotion yet keeping it walled in at once.

Missing In Action: Mya Taylor, Tangerine – There is more energy in Taylor’s dirty dance across downtown L.A. than in the rest of the acting nominees combined. One imagines few Academy members have seen Taylor’s mix of wicked humour, vulnerability and truth; they’re missing out, bitch.

Best Supporting Actor

Perhaps the strongest acting category in the past two years, there is no such claim this time although all five nominees are very good in their respective films. Again they’re all Caucasians & it’s hardly the greatest age range, but they do all attempt some interesting accents.

Will win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed – This one is so they can all stretch their legs at this point in the ceremony with a standing ovation. Subtitles for Sly’s speech please. His performance is more nuanced than in previous Rocky films, for which I suspect top-notch director Ryan Coogler is partly to thank.

Should win: Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight – The back runner in the Supporting Actor pack, it is Ruffalo’s chasing the story like a journalist puppy & then his anguish once they catch it, that make Spotlight more than whispers and frowns.

Missing In Action: Idris Elba, Beasts Of No Nation – Although I was tempted (in many ways) by Joe Mangianello’s pure joy gas station scene in Magic Mike XXL, Idris is the main omission here. What were they thinking?! A great supporting performance can become the talking point of a film; in years to come, BONN will be remembered for him above all else.

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