The Oscars: Our Take On The Choices

Nick Nunziata

Now that the nominations have been announced it’s time to pore over the big winners, the ones who got away, and the sleepers and favorites in all the major categories. Brian shared the nominations earlier and now that we’ve had some time to let them sink in we have our take on what they mean and what to expect from the major categories when the awards are announced on February 28th.

Best Picture


Nick Nunziata: There’s a nice balance of art and commerce here and I’m pleased that there are more than five nominations. This is definitely a case of Mad Max: Fury Road being a case of “the nomination is the award” but the fact it received so many nominations does give it a little hope. The Revenant was the most awarded film with twelve nominations but as beautiful as it is, it’s a little too threadbare to really make sense. Gravity would be a good analogy, a film that won a lot of nominations but lost to the better and more traditional 12 Years a Slave. There’s a good chance that the safe pick of The Martian could win out but it really is a category built on trending. Ridley Scott didn’t get a nomination for directing and that dims the hopes for his film. Spotlight would be my personal choice but The Revenant could end up being a juggernaut if voters buy into the momentum.

Drew Dietsch: I refuse to acknowledge The Revenant as a serious contender, even if it actually is. Spotlight was a favorite going into the Golden Globes and seems way more of an Oscar-y pick. Now that it’s an underdog contender, I’m gonna throw my (insubstantial) weight behind it. But, come on. If Mad Max: Fury Road is in any of these categories, it’s a pretty safe bet that I’m going to root for it. It won’t win, but it should.

Probable: The Revenant

Pleasant Surprise: Mad Max: Fury Road


Best Director


Nick Nunziata: This is Mad Max: Fury Road‘s best chance. To paraphrase The Martian, George Miller directed the crap out of that movie. Then again, The Revenant is an astonishing feat. Adam McKay had a world class group of actors working for him, so they may take some of his thunder. I think the Academy is going to reward George Miller for many decades of diverse and challenging work here.

Drew Dietsch: Mad Max: Fury Road got some crazy applause for its nominations, and Miller really does feel like the best candidate in this spot. The Academy loves giving older directors this award (even if its not for their best movie *cough*The Departed*cough*) as something of a Lifetime Achievement piece, and no one deserves it more than Miller. If Iñárritu wins in this category, I will crash my Toyota RAV4 into his house and ride through the Gates of Valhalla shiny and chrome.

Probable: George Miller

Pleasant Surprise: George Miller


Best Actor

The Revenant

Nick Nunziata: I’m going to assume Eddie Redmayne won recently enough with a tremendously difficult performance for The Theory of Everything to make him unlikely. Bryan Cranston being the lone bright point in a disappointing movie won’t be enough. Leonardo DiCaprio gave everything he had in The Revenant and it’ll be really difficult to see anyone else having a snowball’s chance.

Drew Dietsch: I’m picking Damon simply because I haven’t seen the other films (other than The Revenant) and as passive as I was on The Martian, Damon is at least enjoyable and moving to watch. Leo is just doing his progressively intense actor thing, but the narrative around him winning this year is stronger than ever. The Academy will probably give it to him just so we can dispose of him running for at least a few years. Big snub not seeing Michael B. Jordan in here.

Probable: Leonardo DiCaprio

Pleasant Surprise: Matt Damon


Best Actress


Nick Nunziata: Brie Larson, Cate Blanchett, and Jennifer Lawrence all have a host of reasons to win this one. Saoirse Ronan may have actually earned it the most with her work and the fact she’s been an astonishing talent since day one, but I think a lot of voters feel she has a lot of chances in the queue. Brie is going to win it and the world’s a better place with that young lady getting her deserved crack at the next level of acceptance.

Drew Dietsch: Haven’t seen any of these flicks (shame) so I’m going with a safe bet of Jennifer Lawrence. Brie Larson could be a real contender though and probably deserves it a little more. But, what do I know? I ain’t seen these. Really wish Vikander could have scored a nom as Ava in Ex Machina instead of her supporting role in The Danish Girl.

Probable: Brie Larson

Pleasant Surprise: Saoirse Ronan


Best Supporting Actor


Nick Nunziata: Tom Hardy was equal to Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant and no actor had a better and more loaded year, but there’s no way he wins this. Mark Rylance was the best thing about Bridge of Spies by a wide margin but his role is too subdued to really contend. It’s Stallone’s year and it’ll be nice to see him win. Though he’s been reduced to a caricature in the eyes of many who don’t pay attention, the guy has absolutely put in many great performances over the years amidst his lunkheaded action efforts.

Drew Dietsch: Stallone is poised to get this one as a bookend to his entire career. Thankfully, he more than earns it with his performance in Creed. His standing ovation at the Golden Globes was a good indicator that he could clench this. He also needs a chance to thank Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan before the show cuts to commercial.

Probable: Sylvester Stallone

Pleasant Surprise: Sylvester Stallone


Best Supporting Actress


Nick Nunziata: The Hateful Eight really dropped in my estimation on the second viewing, and that includes Jennifer Jason Leigh’s fun but one-dimensional performance. Vikander is really terrific as is Winslet, but the best performance in this crew of very solid performances is Rooney Mara’s. Especially considering the material and the fact she was paired with a legend in Cate Blanchett.

Drew Dietsch: Winslet’s win at the Globes might help her here, but man am I rooting for Jennifer Jason Leigh. She gets to play the kind of villain we never see from female actors/characters and she rocks it. Every time she smiles in this movie, it sends a shiver down my spine in the best of ways. Seeing as how The Hateful Eight got quite a snub this year, it’d be really nice for her to pick this one up.

Probable: Kate Winslet

Pleasant Surprise: Rooney Mara


Best Adapted Screenplay


Nick Nunziata: The Big Short is a crackerjack script. It takes very dense and potentially mind-numbing information and crafts a terrific and fun tale from it. It’s not unlike Moneyball (from the same literary author, actually), which made niche material very accessible. This is definitely a category that could have been much different and no less exciting with other choices.

Drew Dietsch: The Martian looks to have this one in the bag. It’s the feel good movie of the year and has made fans of the book very happy. I’d prefer if this went to The Big Short if just to commend McKay and Randolph for tackling such a complex story in an approachable way, and maybe the older Academy voters will feel that way as well. Still, I think this goes to Drew Goddard.

Probable: The Big Short

Pleasant Surprise: The Big Short


Best Original Screenplay


Nick Nunziata: Inside Out is a nice inclusion. Bridge of Spies was the Coen Bros operating at about 60% capacity so it really doesn’t warrant a win. Ex Machina may have a shot here, which is a nice change-up. Alex Garland has only done great work over his career and seeing him onstage accepting the gold statue would be a conduit into his already phenomenal resume. Spotlight is an amazing movie and subtle in all the ways that made All the President’s Men a seminal film, and it’ll probably win. Nothing wrong with that.

Drew Dietsch: Surprised to see both Aaron Sorkin and Quentin Tarantino gets snubbed. I’m honestly shocked that Ex Machina is up for contention, so I’m voting for it because that film needs all the love it can get. Still, I think this may go to Bridge of Spies. It’s hard to deny that Coen magic.

Probable: Spotlight

Pleasant Surprise: Ex Machina


Best Cinematography


Nick Nunziata: This is a no lose category. These are all astonishing movies to look at. John Seale’s work in Mad Max: Fury Road is the one “every frame is a desktop wallpaper” movie but it’s really going to be impossible to derail Lubezki’s use of natural light. It’s a shame Ex Machina wasn’t nominated. It’s a miracle of a movie that will be the one we talk about in twenty years and its look is a huge part of it.

Drew Dietsch: This is the hardest category for me to pick by a country mile. Deakins deserves a win for his entire career, and I thought Sicario was brutally gorgeous, but against Mad Max: Fury Road and The Hateful Eight? Even those two are tough contenders for me. I kind of want to give my love to The Hateful Eight on this one simply due to Tarantino making such a big deal out of how the film was shot. I hope the Academy does give it to Deakins as a Lifetime Achievement substitute, but they’ll probably decimate my optimism and give it to The Revenant.

Probable: Emmanuel Lubezki

Pleasant Surprise: John Seale

We’ll have more coverage leading up to the Oscars in February, and it’ll be interesting to see what begins to gather momentum as the 28th draws near.

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