ReelBob: And the Oscar goes to …
By Bob Bloom
The adage goes that the only certainties in life are death and taxes.
I will add a third category: That you always can expect the unexpected at the Academy Awards.
Be it a tacky production number, jokes that fall flat, people inadvertently making inappropriate comments or presenters who cannot read the teleprompter and flub their lines, the Academy Awards are a three-ring celebrity circus of self-congratulations.
Decades ago, I used to take the Oscars seriously. But as time passed, and films such as “Crash,” “Titanic” and “Shakespeare in Love” walked away with best picture statues, I came to the realization that the ceremony is more like a cinematic senior prom with the most popular people being crowned king and queen instead of the most worthy.
So, keeping all that in mind, I will offer my predictions for who will win Academy Awards, along with my caveats on who actually deserve the golden men.
And, at times, the two will match up.
Picture: “Spotlight.” While many people were impressed with the expanse and technical expertise of “The Revenant,” I think, overall, the movie leaves most people cold — no pun intended.
And while it will take many other awards, I believe “Spotlight” is the type of issues movie that appeals to Academy voters. It’s a solid and soul-searching drama that makes your blood boil and stirs resentment toward an institution that is supposed to protect and nurture people.
Will win/should win: “Spotlight.”
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inárritu. Usually, the best picture winner and best director recipient go hand-in-hand, but many exceptions have been recorded.
And I believe this year will be another one. First, Inárritu was honored by the Directors Guild of America, a major step on the road to Oscar, as well as by the Golden Globes and other groups.
Personally, I found “The Revenant” too showy and self-conscious as if Inárritu was continually calling attention to himself.
My vote would go to George Miller, who instilled more action, adrenaline and life into “Mad Max: Fury Road” than all the other films of 2015 combined.
After nearly 40 years, Miller resurrected his most famous franchise and turned it on its year, making his iconic character a secondary player while shifting the focus to Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, thus transforming the film into a high-octane vehicle about feminist empowerment.
Miller stands about as much chance of fighting off the Inárritu juggernaut as I have of becoming the Republican presidential candidate.
Will win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inárritu.
Should win: George Miller.
Actor: Leonardo Di Caprio. The Academy has a quaint custom of honoring performers who have earned several nominations, but have never one, by presenting them an Oscar — or an honorary Academy Award — late in their careers.
Thus Peter O’Toole is presented an honorary Oscar after being denied more than a dozen times, and Paul Newman wins for “The Color of Money” after losing for such films as “The Verdict” and “The Hustler.”
And though Di Caprio still is a relatively young man, he has been nominated at least five times without being recognized. So, call this his lifetime achievement Oscar.
Plus, his fellow artists like him, and that will swing the vote his way.
If I sound cynical, well, I am. My choices for best actor, Jason Segel from “The End of the Tour” and young Jacob Tremblay from “Room” were not even nominated.
Will win: Leonardo Di Caprio
Actress: Brie Larson is a consensus selection, having swept most of the major critics and other awards. And hers is a well-deserved choice.
I have enjoyed Larson since first seeing her in “Short Term 12,” and knew immediately upon viewing “Room” that her performance stood above the majority of other women in 2015.
My one regret is that Charlize Theron was not nominated for “Mad Max: Fury Road.” I would have taken her over Saoirse Ronan in “Brooklyn” or Jennifer Lawrence in “Joy.”
Will win/should win: Brie Larson.
Supporting actor: The Academy embraces sentimentality almost as much as self-congratulations. That is why Sylvester Stallone will take home the statue for his reprise of an older and wiser Rocky Balboa in “Creed.”
I can picture the standing ovations, the “hurrahs” and “hoorays” as Stallone lumbers to the stage to accept his award.
This is nothing against Stallone. He gave a very fine performance, one of the best — if not the best — of his career.
But when stacked against some of the other nominees, most notably Mark Rylance for “Bridge of Spies,” you must ask yourself whether Stallone deserves the award.
Considering that two of the strongest performances of the year, Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation” and young Jacob Tremblay in “Room” (even though he should have been considered in the best actor category) were criminally overlooked, the award, by default, will land in Stallone’s lap.
Again, this Oscar is a thank you for all his years of work and all the money his films have earned for the industry.
Yes, I know, I am a cold bastard!
Will win: Sylvester Stallone.
Should win: Mark Rylance.
Supporting actress: This is the most wide-open and interesting category, since recognition for performances have been divvied up more than a 14-inch pizza.
I lean toward Alicia Vikander for “The Danish Girl,” even though I consider her role a co-lead with Eddie Redmayne. But, I don’t make the rules, folks.
Her performance was heartbreaking and vulnerable. Plus, she had a very good year with strong turns in “Ex Machina” and “Testament of Youth,” so Vikander is on a roll and an Oscar will recognize the breakout year she experienced.
The other hot nominee is Kate Winslet for “Steve Jobs,” a movie that did not impress me as much as others. I thought Winslet gave a fine performance, but nothing about it really stood out for me.
In my heart, I would love to see Jennifer Jason Leigh accept the award for “The Hateful Eight.” Her performance was one of the major highlights of the film. She was delightfully despicable, cursing and cackling as if she was high on meth.
Will win: Alicia Vikander
Should win: Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Animated feature film: While Charlie Kauffman’s “Anomalisa” has garnered much acclaim, I still prefer a strong traditional animated movie such as “Inside Out.”
The movie, while aimed at kids, also gave a nod to adults, especially parents, who recognized some of their offspring and, perhaps themselves, in the process.
Will win/should win: “Inside Out.”
Foreign language film: “Son of Saul” is not only the best foreign film of the year, it is one of the strongest features released in 2015.
This Holocaust drama was like touring Hell while sitting on the shoulder of the devil as it follows a concentration camp inmate trying to find a rabbi to give a proper burial to the body of a boy he believes is his son.
The movie is bleak, depressing, heartbreaking — and magnificent.
Will win/should win: “Son of Saul.”
Documentary feature: This was a particularly strong year for this category with such titles as “The Look of Silence” and “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.”
But “Amy” overshadowed them all. This depressing examination of the short, sad life of Amy Winehouse makes you shake your head in despair and disgust of the loss of this talent as well as how badly she was treated by those closest to her.
Will win/should win: “Amy.”
Writing: original screenplay: Another strong category, but “Spotlight” will take the Oscar as a consolation in case “The Revenant” walks off with the best picture statue.
The other nominees, “Inside Out,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Straight Outta Compton” and “Ex Machina” are solid, but I still believe “Spotlight” had an emotional resonance the others lacked.
Will win/should win: “Spotlight.”
Writing: adapted screenplay: This is the category where “The Big Short,” also nominated for two supporting actor awards as well as best picture and best director, will be recognized.
Telling the story of the 2008 financial collapse with anger, humor and panache is no easy task, but the movie accomplished that feat and made a horrendous event understandable and, in a dark way, entertaining and palatable.
The movie’s closest competitors would be “Room” and “The Martian,” very strong adaptations that, after seeing the movies, compel you to read the books on which they were based.
Will win/should win: “The Big Short.”
Cinematography: “The Revenant.” As much as I believed that Inárritu and his cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, were calling attention to how clever they were, I must give them credit for executing a plan and sticking to it from beginning to end.
They wanted us to experience how cold, dangerous, desolate and formidable, the American wilderness of the 1830s was, and they succeeded in a breathtaking manner.
Love it or hate it, the cinematography was the backbone for whatever success “The Revenant” achieves.
Will win/should win: Emmanuel Lubezki.
Film editing: Margaret Sixel’s work on “Mad Max: Fury Road” was incredible and magnificent. The movie was basically a nonstop, speeding bullet train that she kept on the track.
No other movie even came close to reproducing the adrenaline rush she helped sustain with George Miller’s movie.
Will win/should win: Margaret Sixel.
Music (original score): Ennio Morricone for “The Hateful Eight.” From his early work with Sergio Leone on “The Man With No Name” trilogy to his scores for such films as “The Mission,” “Once Upon a Time in America,” and “The Untouchables,” Morricone has created the music of our movie lives for several decades.
Seeing him take home the statue will be one of the joys of the evening.
And if he does not win, then God must not enjoy movie music.
Will win/should win: Ennio Morricone.
Music (original song): “Til It Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground,” music and lyric by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga.
Here are the rest of my picks for the rest of the categories, most of which are technically oriented.
Costume design: “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
Production design: “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
Makeup and hairstyling: “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
Sound editing: “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
Sound mixing: “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
Visual effects: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
Documentary (short subject): “Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah.”
Short film (animated): “Sanjay’s Super Team.”
Short film (live action): “Shok.”
That’s it. Feel free to share your choices and opinions at the Oscars at ReelBob, and I will be blogging during the Sunday night’s ceremony.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.