Oscars 2016 preview - your handy guide

Time Out Dubai has an Oscars 2016 preview - your handy guide to a celebration of film (most of which have been in cinemas in Dubai) on February 28

Who is going to win at the Oscars 2016? And, more importantly, how many famous faces will actually be there to see them do it?

It is fair to say the show isn’t having the best of times, with accusations of racism being levelled at its voting Academy in the wake of their nominations last month. Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith have both announced they will be boycotting the ceremony, and many more may follow.

As George Clooney put it to film industry magazine Variety: “If you think back to ten years ago, the Academy was doing a better job… I think we have a lot of points we need to come to terms with. I find it amazing that we’re an industry that in the 1930s, most of our leads were women. And now a woman over 40 has a very difficult time being a lead in a movie. I also think African Americans have a real fair point that the industry isn’t representing them well enough. I think that’s absolutely true.”

What has led to the question being asked – again, after last year’s lack of nominations for Martin Luther King drama Selma’s director Ava DuVernay and lead David Oyelowo – are the omission of The Hateful Eight’s Samuel L. Jackson, Concussion’s Will Smith, Creed’s Michael B. Jordan and Beasts of No Nation’s Idris Elba. That and the fact that Straight Outta Compton, the NWA biopic that probably should have landed a Best Picture nod, only received one nomination, for the writers of its screenplay. All four of whom are white.

Whether these ‘omissions’ are actual omissions on the part of the Academy at all – or whether it is in fact more a sad and worrying reflection on the lack of non-white people making and starring in movies in the first place – the Academy has been quick to react, their president Cheryl Boone Isaacs (a black woman) putting out a statement saying, “I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion.

"This is a difficult but important conversation and it’s time for big changes… The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the make-up of our membership.”

One can imagine that this year’s Oscar host, Chris Rock, a man who has delighted in skewering racism throughout his career as a stand-up and actor, will have plenty to say about it on the night itself, which is one not without its other controversies, either.

As legendary screenwriter William Goldman once observed about Hollywood, “Nobody knows anything.”

Which is why predicting the results of the Oscars is a fool’s game. Which is why we’re doing it. Because we are fools.

Here goes…

Best Actor
The nominees:

Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)
Matt Damon (The Martian)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)

Who will win?
This is surely Leonardo DiCaprio’s year. First nominated over two decades ago – for 1993’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape – he was robbed last year for his barnstorming turn in The Wolf of Wall Street. But if that picture confused the left-wing Academy (who actually booed it in screenings, claiming it was celebrating the rampant capitalist madness it was actually condemning) then The Revenant should pose no such problem. If DiCaprio can’t convert his sixth nomination into a win then he should probably consider a career move. Bryan Cranston’s Trumbo has been too little seen, Michael Fassbender’s Steve Jobs iSank at the box office and Eddie Redmayne’s The Danish Girl has polarised critics. DiCaprio’s only real competition here is Matt Damon, whose The Martian was a commercial and critical smash, but Matt Damon didn’t eat a real raw buffalo liver or go to sleep in the cut open belly of a horse – just two of the brutalities DiCaprio suffered for his art in The Revenant – did he?

Best Actress
The nominees:

Cate Blanchett (Carol)
Brie Larson (Room)
Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)
Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)
Saorise Ronan (Brooklyn)

Who will win?
Undoubtedly the most competitive of this year’s main eight categories, Best Actress could comfortably be won by anyone on this list. This is girl-on-fire Jennifer Lawrence’s fourth nomination, which is even more incredible given her breakout movie, Winter’s Bone, only came out in 2010. She won for David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook in 2013, and was nominated again for her work with him in American Hustle a year later. Joy marks her third collaboration with O. Russell but it might be too slight (it’s about a woman who invented a mop) to compete with a field that includes the brilliant Charlotte Rampling in marital drama 45 Years and awards darling Cate Blanchett. The latter has lost a little edge with Todd Haynes’ Carol not receiving a Best Picture nor a Best Director nomination, and the fact that her co-star Rooney Mara is in the Best Supporting category may split the vote. Throw in the fact that Brie Larson just won the Golden Globe for Room, and we expect it’ll be her who will win.

Best Supporting Actor
The nominees:

Christian Bale (The Big Short)
Tom Hardy (The Revenant)
Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)
Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

Who will win?
Mark Rylance seemed to have this sewn up for Bridge of Spies until Sylvester Stallone swung in with his late, ahem, sucker punch in Rocky rebirth Creed. That movie should certainly have been nominated for more awards, including a Best Picture nomination and one for leading man Michael B. Jordan (and that it hasn’t is one of the key question marks when it comes to this year’s lack of diversity), but Stallone should at least secure it a trophy here. Aside from Rylance, Stallone could face a late charge from Tom Hardy, but with DiCaprio almost certain to win Best Actor it’s unlikely the Academy will double-up. And who wouldn’t want Stallone, nearly four decades after his pair of nominations for Rocky (Acting and Writing) in 1977, to triumph here?

Best Supporting Actress
The nominees:

Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Rooney Mara (Carol)
Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)
Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)
Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

Who will win?
Alicia Vikander has had a stunning year, and that might just edge it for her here. She was the best (okay, only) good thing in Guy Ritchie’s spy caper The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and simply extraordinary as the A.I. robot in Ex Machina. But in The Danish Girl, as the wife of Eddie Redmayne’s Einar Wegener, she is both subtle and heartbreaking. Her closest rivals are Jennifer Jason Leigh, who worked magic with her underwritten role in The Hateful Eight, Kate Winslet (who has plenty of awards-form) and Rooney Mara. If the latter is beaten by Vikander, she will have cause to complain, having been promoted by the film company as a supporting actress – perhaps with the thinking that her co-star Blanchett would be a stronger contender for Best Actress – when in fact she is Carol’s arguable lead. This one will be close, but Vikander should do it.

Best Director
The nominees:

Adam McKay (The Big Short)
George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Alejandro G. Inarritu (The Revenant)
Lenny Abrahamson (Room)
Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)

Who will win?
The biggest curveball of this ceremony could and should come in the form of Mad Max: Fury Road’s George Miller, and who would have thought that two years ago? Back then his return to the Mad Max franchise looked doomed to disaster, the sets having been washed away in floods on location in Namibia and its box office prospects written off due to it being a third sequel starring a new leading man (Tom Hardy). The finished product simply defied all expectations – a commercial and critical juggernaut that dominated early summer. Had Ridley Scott been nominated here for The Martian (and that he wasn’t is ridiculous) you’d expect Scott to take the prize, but Lenny Abrahamson seems too early in his career, Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight has lost some heat of late, Adam McKay is the man who made Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and Inarritu won it last year for Birdman. Unbelievably, for a ceremony that rarely respects action movies, this seems like Miller’s to lose.

Best Screenplay (Adapted)
The nominees:

The Big Short, screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
Brooklyn, screenplay by Nick Horby
Carol, screenplay by Phyllis Nagy
The Martian, screenplay by Drew Goddard
Room, screenplay by Emma Donoghue

Who will win?
Much as we’d love genre hero Drew Goddard – the writer behind the likes of World War Z, The Cabin in the Woods, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Cloverfield and more – to transcend his ‘nerd’ credentials and smash it here for his brilliant work on The Martian, it’s hard to see anyone besting The Big Short’s Charles Randolph and Adam McKay. The work of all the writers here is of such a quality that they could all win it in any other year, but The Big Short poses the kind of triple-threat the Academy are unlikely to resist: its take on the global financial crash makes it Based On Real Issues, its ability to translate the complexities of the crash for audiences not familiar with housing market futures is whip-smart and its breaking of the fourth wall – with its characters talking direct to camera – is showboating of the finest order. They should have it in the bag, especially with Aaron Sorkin surprisingly not nominated for his similarly techy Steve Jobs adaptation.

Best Screeenplay (Original)
Bridge of Spies, written by Matt Charman, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
Ex Machina, written by Alex Garland
Inside Out, written by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley
Spotlight, written by Josh Singer
and Tom McCarthy
Straight Outta Compton, written by Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge and Alan WenkusThe nominees:

Who will win?
No Tarantino? One of the biggest shocks of the nominations was the lack of QT on this Original Screenplay list, snubbed for his intricate mix of rat-a-tat dialogue and slow-build suspense in his second Western, The Hateful Eight. With him out of the way the frontrunners here seem to be Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer for their brilliantly taut take on a real-life cover-up of systematic abuse, and its uncovering by journalists. Straight Outta Compton and Bridge of Spies seem at this stage to be out of the conversation, but don’t be surprised to see either Inside Out or Ex Machina come out on top. The former is arguably Pixar’s greatest ever movie, the latter is a superb sci-fi chamber piece by Alex Garland. Both ask big questions about the human soul, and the Academy at least likes to think it has one of those.

Best Picture
The nominees:

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

Who will win?
The most open Best Picture race in recent memory, this rag-tag bunch of eight features no outright frontrunner. Instead it’s a mix of real-life, chamber and period pieces, with an action extravaganza and two modern-day outrages. George Miller may be likely to win Best Director for Mad Max: Fury Road but its chances of Best Picture are slim. Steven Spielberg scored great reviews for World War II thriller Bridge of Spies, Ridley Scott’s sci-fi The Martian wowed artistically and commercially, Room, Lenny Abrahamson’s devastating tale of incarceration, was an indie darling and Brooklyn is both an elegant, old-fashioned coming-of-age tale and deft examination of the immigrant experience. None are likely to come close, though, to what feel like the top three of The Revenant, The Big Short and Spotlight. The latter seems to have the momentum at the time of writing and certainly for The Revenant to win would mean the same director (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) winning for the second time in a row (he'd be the third person to do so). Don’t doubt The Big Short, though. Directed by Adam McKay, who before this year was only associated with goofy comedies, it is a brilliant exploration of the global financial crisis. McKay’s arc, from goofball to “serious artist”, may be too much for the Academy to ignore. They do love to reward a “journey”, after all. (Hello, Ben Affleck).

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