The 88th Academy Awards will take place on Feb. 28, 46 days from today, and nominations will be announced tomorrow morning.
Last Sunday, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association hosted the drunker, less prestigious version of the Academy Awards, a nationally broadcast party for celebrities designed to make people forget that the hosts are just 90 largely unimpressive foreign journalists. The Golden Globes are a trial run for the Oscars, where winners can test their speeches and drum up momentum for an Oscar campaign. (For an example, see Leonardo DiCaprio, whose win was met with a standing ovation from the audience, even though he won a Globe two years ago. In his acceptance speech, he said he wanted to share his award with “all the indigenous communities around the world,” adding, “It is time that we recognize your history and protect your indigenous lands from corporate interests and people that are out there to exploit them. It’s time we heard your voice and protected this planet for future generations.” Good thing he is not “exploiting them” as awards speech fodder, because that would be wrong.)
I don’t want to go into the show itself, hosted by an unimaginative and insulting Ricky Gervais, so I will instead focus on the most important film awards presented:
Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone in Creed
The Revenant and Inarritu picked up two of the biggest awards of the night, which many consider an apology of sorts for no Best Picture or Best Director love for Birdman (also by Inarritu) at last year’s ceremony. Four Oscar frontrunners (Spotlight, The Big Short, Carol and Mad Max) left the award show empty-handed, leading many to consider The Revenant the new Oscar Best Picture favorite.
- PGA (producers): This year’s nominees were The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Ex Machina, Mad Max, The Martian, The Revenant, Sicario, Spotlight and Straight Outta Compton, with notable misses by Carol and Room. Since the PGA began giving out awards in 1990, every eventual Best Picture has come from this list. This was where Star Wars fans’ hopes began to fade for an Oscar bid; Skyfall earned a nomination here a few years back, and the PGA is more disposed to award bigger films than even the Oscars. This article and this article highlight how PGA has translated to Oscar over the past few years.
- DGA (directors): This year’s nominees were Ridley Scott for The Martian, Alejandro G. Inarritu for The Revenant, Tom McCarthy for Spotlight, George Miller for Mad Max and Adam McKay for The Big Short. DGA nominees nearly always have their films nominated for Best Picture, with the exception of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in 2011, but they do not always repeat in the Best Director category.
- WGA (writers): This year’s nominees were Bridge of Spies, Sicario, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton and Trainwreck for original screenplay and The Big Short, Carol, The Martian, Steve Jobs and Trumbo for adapted. As this LA Times article says, “Congratulations … but don’t get too comfortable.” Many top contenders are not eligible for the WGA for various reasons, including The Hateful Eight, Inside Out, Ex Machina, Room and Brooklyn. Expect to see some of these show up in the screenplay categories tomorrow.
- BAFTA (Brits): The British Academy gave Bridge of Spies and Carol nine nominations each, giving both films about 1950s America a somewhat surprising and much-needed boost ahead of the Oscars. Best Picture nominees were The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Carol, The Revenant and Spotlight; Best Director nominees were Adam McKay for The Big Short, Steven Spielberg for Bridge of Spies, Todd Haynes for Carol, Ridley Scott for The Martian and Alejandro Iñárritu for The Revenant. (Notice no love for Mad Max; a full list of nominees is here.) Since BAFTA changed its voting in 2012, according to Sasha Stone, 100% of Best Picture and Best Director films have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
- Other guilds: Beyond the above nominations, cinematographers (ASC), art directors (ADG), costume designers (CDG), visual effects artists (VES) and sound people (CAS) unveiled their own nominations. Thirteen films received nods from at least three guilds, with Mad Max, The Martian and The Revenant the most frequently awarded.
- Other awards and final campaigning: This last week has been chaotic, as films tried desperately to get publicity and support before Oscar nomination ballots were sealed. There has been a late surge of support for The Big Short, Star Wars and Creed that awards campaigners want to exploit; everyone has been very busy. AFI, LAFCA and NBR, which released their winners about a month ago, had their official awards ceremony this week, where Oscar hopefuls were able to receive awards and media attention and talk about how other people also deserved awards. (My favorites were two anecdotes about Spotlight. At LAFCA, Aaron Sorkin said, “Your movie is magnificent. Your screenplay is perfect. You sons of bitches.” Conversely, at AFI, the film was described as “measured.”) In terms of new awards, the USC Scripter recognizes excellent adapted screenplays; previous winners include The Imitation Game, 12 Years a Slave, Argo, The Descendents and The Social Network, which all won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. This year’s nominees were The Big Short, Brooklyn, the End of the Tour, The Martian and Room.
Below, I’m going to list what I think are the most likely nominees for the six biggest awards: picture, director and the four acting categories. After each, I will list which of the following awards the film/individual has been nominated for: PGA, DGA, SAG (ensemble for Best Picture, individual nomination for acting), WGA, ACE Eddie, BAFTA and/or Golden Globe. For non-locks, I’ll give some commentary about why they may earn the nomination. Occasionally, I’ll also list “For your consideration’ nominees, or individuals or films that I think should be more in the awards conversation.
1. Spotlight (PGA, DGA, SAG, WGA, BAFTA, GG)
2. The Big Short (PGA, DGA, SAG, WGA, ACE, BAFTA, GG)
3. The Revenant (PGA, DGA, ACE, BAFTA, GG)
4. The Martian (PGA, DGA, WGA, ACE, GG)
5. Bridge of Spies (PGA, WGA, BAFTA) — It has a ton of industry support, it’s by Spielberg and it’s the perfect old white guy movie.
6. Mad Max (PGA, DGA, ACE, GG) — Mad Max will probably earn the most Oscar nominations tomorrow morning, but some Oscar bloggers are still skeptical it can go all the way. Scott Feinberg has left it off his forecast because he has a hunch that it will fail to deliver. It is worth remembering, though, that Best Pictures are built branch by branch, and Mad Max seems to have its branches in line.
7. Carol (WGA, BAFTA, GG) — No PGA or DGA hurts, but it still looks like the film has strong support and goodwill for its director.
Don’t be surprised if:
8. Brooklyn (PGA) — There are passionate fans of Brooklyn, in the “they don’t make movies like this any more” faction.
9. Straight Outta Compton (PGA, SAG, WGA) — New, thrilling and with two of the most important guild nominations, Straight Outta Compton is an exciting possibility that may get burned.
10. Sicario (PGA, WGA, ACE) — Sicario is a technically superb movie with great performances as well. But can it top voters’ lists?
11. Trumbo (SAG, WGA) — Don’t discount the SAG ensemble nod. But also I still sort of can’t imagine it getting in.
12. Room (GG) — Room will need passionate and heretofore undemonstrated support to make the final cut.
For your consideration:
– Steve Jobs (WGA)
– Star Wars (ACE)
1. Ridley Scott for The Martian (DGA, BAFTA, GG)
2. Alejandro G. Inarritu for The Revenant (DGA, BAFTA, GG)
3. Tom McCarthy for Spotlight (DGA, GG) — Spotlight is a shoe-in for picture, but its director has not gotten anywhere near that amount of support. While picture and director are usually tied together, McCarthy has missed the critical prizes and BAFTA nominations that many of his peers have secured.
4. George Miller for Mad Max (DGA, GG) — Visionary old director with a popular movie.
5. Adam McKay for The Big Short (DGA, BAFTA) — McKay may be able to ride the Big Short wave, though the more established duo of Spielberg and Haynes may kick him out.
6. Steven Spielberg for Bridge of Spies (BAFTA) — Never discount Steven Spielberg.
7. Todd Haynes for Carol (BAFTA,GG) — Two of his previous films, Far From Heaven and I’m Not There, have earned critical support but failed to earn him a Best Director nomination. Is this year going to be a repeat or his redemption?
1. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant (SAG, BAFTA, GG)
2. Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl (SAG, BAFTA, GG)
3. Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs (SAG, BAFTA, GG) — Everyone knows that this is a great performance, but Fassbender’s movie tanked at the box office and he has been glad-handing a bit less than his peers have been.
4. Bryan Cranston in Trumbo (SAG, BAFTA, GG) — Cranston has everything he needs, but I sort of still can’t believe it will earn him a nomination.
5. Matt Damon in The Martian (BAFTA, GG) — Popular star who is clearly the lead of a popular movie.
7. Michael Keaton in Spotlight (N/A) — I think Keaton is a possibility if there is a surprising Spotlight wave, but I would not place bets on it. He also has a supporting role in the film.
5. Jennifer Lawrence in Joy (GG) — It’s JLaw and she does really well in this role. It will probably be enough.
7. Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years (N/A) — Rampling is on basically every pundit’s list, but I figure that if she can’t get the Brits to support a movie about a British couple’s marriage falling apart then she has little hope with the Academy.
8. Charlize Theron in Mad Max (N/A) — Mad Max may earn the most nominations of the morning, and Theron may ride the movie’s coattails.
5. Benicio Del Toro in Sicario (BAFTA) — Sicario has a lot of support and Benicio Del Toro is a veteran.
7. Sylvester Stallone in Creed (GG) — A major threat if nominated, Stallone may be felled by a late-surging movie.
8. Jacob Tremblay in Room (SAG) — He is adorable and arguably the lead, but the Academy is a fan of nominating kids from Best Picture contenders. His biggest risk is a lack of love for Room.
9. Michael Keaton in Spotlight (N/A) — If Ruffalo falls through, Keaton may be the next bet. But it’s unlikely both get in.
– Walton Goggins in The Hateful Eight (N/A)
7. Rachel McAdams in Spotlight (SAG) — McAdams can ride a Spotlight wave, if it happens.
- Spotlight nominations: Since 2000, the eventual Best Picture winner has earned an average of 9.1 Academy Award nominations, with the fewest coming for The Departed (which earned picture, director, screenplay, editing and supporting actor nominations, winning four). Spotlight, the perceived frontrunner, will not hit even close to that average. There is a realistic scenario in which the film earns only two nominations, for picture and screenplay. Even adding directing, score, two acting nominations and editing will bring the total nomination count to just seven. How close Spotlight gets to that number will indicate whether we should still be taking it seriously as a Best Picture threat.
- Alicia Vikander: Vikander has two of the year’s best performances, in The Danish Girl and Ex Machina. For the former, she has been campaigning as a supporting actress but often accused of category fraud as the role is actually a lead; for the latter, she is a clear supporting actress possibility. There are three possible situations: Vikander can earn two nominations, going lead in The Danish Girl and supporting in Ex Machina (you cannot be nominated twice in the same category); one nomination for either film; or none, if both cancel each other out.
- Oscars so white? Idris Elba is the main person of color with any Oscars potential. Prepare for outrage if he gets snubbed.
- We All Dream in Gold: This year’s Academy Awards unveiled its theme, “We All Dream in Gold,” alongside a promotional video and some beautiful posters. I don’t know whether I should be relieved or annoyed that the people on the posters are far more diverse than the typical Oscar winner, but at least it shows that Oscar knows that there is a problem.
- Make the Oscars better: Scott Feinberg offers five suggestions to improve the ceremony, including cutting the shorts, making sure Oscar voters are still in the movie business and eliminating category fraud.
- But Mason, what did they eat at the Golden Globes? After eating their entrees and a salad of “Asian flavors,” attendees sampled “chocolate caramelito, which is a chocolate mousse on a flourless cake with rum Marnier,” “lemon mousseline with a pistachio center that’s formed into a round, gold ball” and “California almond cake.”
- We are not a crook: Annie Schulhof, the head of the NBR, said that claims of favoritism (to A24 or Clint Eastwood, for example) are definitely not true.
- Hateful Eight the play: Quentin Tarantino originally considered making the film into a theatrical production, after it was suggested by Harvey Weinstein, and still may adapt it in the future. Unfortunately for us all, I do not think he plans to make it a musical.
I have been ranking my favorite films this year, taking into account what I thought was the “best” and also what I found to be the most enjoyable. As nominations are coming out tomorrow, I thought now would be a good time to unveil. (Note: There are still some films I have to see, most notably Creed and Trumbo.) To preface, I thought 1 through 16 were great, 17 through 21 were good, 22 through 30 were fine and 31 through 34 were awful. Happy to discuss and debate.
2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
3. Steve Jobs
4. The Big Short
5. Inside Out
6. Ex Machina
9. The Martian
10. The Hateful Eight
11. Straight Outta Compton
12. Bridge of Spies
13. Kingsmen: The Secret Service
17. The Danish Girl
18. Beasts of No Nation
19. Sleeping With Other People
20. Black Mass
21. The Revenant
22. The Avengers: Age of Ultron
23. Pitch Perfect 2
25. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
28. The End of the Tour
30. Get Hard
31. Mad Max
32. Love & Mercy