Awards Season is the antithesis of what makes cinema a unique, moving experience, which makes it only more frustrating when one gets pulled into its torrid embrace year after year. Awards Season is where movies become marketing tools, perfectly tailored pieces of emotional uplift and downswing tailored to tug at the heart strings and get the votes necessary to take home a prize. It’s not about the film as such, but the image the film is packaged with, which is then appraised by a narrow pool of test subjects without much room for differentiation. It can often be predicted by considering a variety of statistics (an example: if something other than The Big Short wins Best Picture this year, it’ll be the first time since 2007 it hasn’t won at the Producers Guild first), a strange prospect when considering art.
Despite the fact I love Awards Season – the statistics, the predicting, the general excitement of the whole affair that seems to be continually stretching over a larger portion of the calendar year – a few times this season I had to question exactly why on earth do I pay attention to it? An deep personal attachment is always quickly forged with a certain film (no prizes for guessing what that was this year), which usually ends in utter frustration and anger when the inevitable happens – the many voting bodies don’t see the same genius in it as I do.
The 2015/16 Oscar season had plenty to bemoan. Yet again, there were no awards movies about people of colour being made. Carol was notably pipped at the post for its seemingly assured Best Picture and Director nominations, its spurning of men and hopeful ending too alien for the Academy to consider (and that’s only the end product of its continued snubbing). In a year of many fantastic stories about women, The Revenant was gradually clawing (ha) its way to the top, the only film about masculine brouhaha. Of course, this was all happening while beautiful, understated films like Room, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Big Short (which, despite appearances, was a propulsive, angry, and extremely well crafted film about exactly all the ways that male brouhaha ruined society) and Spotlight were entering the race. 2015 was the year old the old and the new – the industry at large becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the entrenched racism, sexism, and homophobia; yet being unable to eradicate them from the ceremony that represents the industry.
But despite the low lights – the well-trodden, conventional Oscar bait (looking at you, Trumbo) and disappointing experiences otherwise – Awards Season 2015 has emerged as one of the most interesting and exciting for quite some time, because this is the first year in a long, long time that Best Picture hasn’t been long ago decided by now, let alone divided between three films (Spotlight, The Big Short, The Revenant). It’s been possibly more frustrating than ever before, but the excitement, the magic when the person I want to win wins, keeps me coming back. Yes, it’s sappy and counterintuitive. but…yeah I’ve got nothing. See you all in May when this all starts up again. I’m hoping for a #TeamCarol reunion.
Best Picture: Spotlight. It could go to any of the three previously mentioned films, but I’m going with McCarthy’s film. Unlike The Revenant, it’s not divisive, and unlike The Big Short, it’s efficient and easy to understand. If it wins, it’ll be one of the best winners in years.
Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant. This will be only the third time a director wins two years in a row. Update at 12:42 PM: changed to George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road.
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. This has been the most unpredictable category all season – if there’s an upset anywhere tomorrow, it’s here. Kate Winslet could pull a surprise win for Steve Jobs (and I’d welcome it, honestly). It’s not going to happen, but deep down I’m still crossing my fingers for Rooney Mara…
Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short
Best Animated Feature: Inside Out
Best Foreign Language Feature: Mustang. This could go one of two ways – either on the long-haul favourite Son of Saul or the underdog crowd favourite Mustang. Mustang is the less safe choice of the two, it doesn’t have the precursor or distributor support behind it, but this category is commonly where there’s some dissent from season-long favourites. The film’s momentum was hitting at the perfect time, plus there was an unusual public groundswell of support towards it (which is rare, no voters usually talk about Foreign Language contenders publicly). I’ll probably end up being wrong, but hey, where’s the fun otherwise?
Best Documentary: Amy
Best Documentary Short: Body Team 12
Best Live Action Short: Ave Maria
Best Animated Short: World of Tomorrow
Best Original Score: The Hateful Eight
Best Original Song: Til It Happens to You from The Hunting Ground
Best Sound Editing: The Revenant. Most Oscar voters admit that they have no idea of the difference between the two sound categories, so here’s a couple of tips in how to (most of the time) predict them correctly. 1. Is the film – a. set outside, or b. a musical? 2. Is it nominated in both categories? There’s your predictions.
Best Sound Mixing: The Revenant
Best Production Design: Mad Max: Fury Road. All Academy voters vote on these categories, so here you’re looking for what has the most – the most lavish sets, the showiest camerawork, the biggest transformations, the most editing.
Best Cinematography: The Revenant
Best Makeup: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Costume Design: Cinderella. Fury Road has been winning every precursor all season, but precursors from industry professionals and the Oscars rarely line up because it’s not just professionals voting on the award. Fury Road could pull an upset, but when it comes to the Academy, they have an affinity for two things – big dresses, and Sandy Powell. Not that I’m complaining, of course. I’ll just pretend it’s for Powell’s also-nominated work in Carol as well…
Best Editing: The Big Short
Best Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Bonus! No Guts, No Glory picks (aka. my wildest predictions I can think of)
Room wins Best Picture
Rooney Mara wins Best Supporting Actress
Mustang wins Best Foreign Language Film
Ed Lachman wins Best Cinematography