The 88th Academy Awards: An Off Year

When you’ve been doing something for close to nine decades, you’re bound to have an off year every once in awhile. And as the 88th Academy Awards approach, it’s easy to see that 2015 was one of those years. Aside from a few standouts (Spotlight, Inside Out, maybe a performance or two), there was a noticeable lack of prestige. Somehow, both The Martian and Matt Damon’s performance are up for Oscars. Were nominee options really that bad? In any case, here’s a rundown of the contenders along with some ideas on how the Academy might’ve avoided what could end up being one of the most boring Oscars yet.

2016BestPictures

BEST PICTURE

Will Win: The Revenant

Should Win: Spotlight

Beautiful cinematography aside, there’s little about The Revenant that deserves recognition. But the Academy loves pretentious films, especially when they’re helmed by awards darling Alejandro Innaritu and sidekick Emmanuel Lubezki. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if for once the Oscar went to a less-flashy but far more topical and entertaining contender? Spotlight shed light on the Catholic church sex scandal in a way that was both enlightening and engaging. It might not have had gorgeous shots or Oscar-bait performances, but you learn something by the end of the film. The only thing to learn from The Revenant is that life sucked back then.

As for the other nominees… The Martian and Bridge of Spies have no business being nominated, especially when Concussion and probably Creed and Straight Outta Compton (I didn’t see either) are more deserving. The Big Short is nominated more for the all-star cast than the film itself (good, not great). Mad Max: Fury Road was certainly different and unique but rather over-hyped. And lastly, Brooklyn and Room both told emotional stories that deserve nominations but not the gold.

2016BestActors

BEST ACTOR, LEADING ROLE

Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio

Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio

2016 is the year Leo finally wins his Oscar. There’s no doubt he deserves one, but should it really be for this role? Probably not. Still, I suppose it’s some consolation that he won’t be stealing the trophy from more deserving hands when he finally accepts the long-time-coming award on Sunday.

On the other end of the spectrum is Matt Damon in The Martian. Now, I’m a Matt Damon fan as much as the next guy, I really am. But an Oscar nomination for his performance and the movie? Give me a break. I don’t know who made those decisions, but the Academy should consider revoking their voting privileges. Off the top of my head I can think of at least two far more deserving nominees: Mark Ruffalo in Infinitely Polar Bear and Will Smith in Concussion.

2016BestActress

BEST ACTRESS, LEADING ROLE

Will Win: Brie Larson

Should Win: Brie Larson

Like the Best Actor race, this one is a foregone conclusion. Brie Larson will take home the Oscar and she should. Saoirse Ronan’s homesick immigrant was a moving performance, but it couldn’t top Larson’s role as an imprisoned and abused abductee. Her win will be a refreshing break from Jennifer Lawrence fatigue, who’s a talented actress but hasn’t deserved the award since her first win for Silver Linings Playbook. Cate Blanchett is excellent in everything she does, but she’s got two Oscars and it doesn’t hurt to share the wealth once in awhile. And Charlotte Rampling is… well, I can’t say I’ve ever heard of her or the film she was in, actually. So there’s that.

2016BestSupActor.png

BEST ACTOR, SUPPORTING ROLE

Will Win: Sylvester Stallone

Should Win: Sylvester Stallone

Sure, the Academy might feel like they owe Stallone after giving the Oscar to Peter Finch rather than him way back in 1977. But looking at the other nominees, he deserves to win anyway. His competitors all played characters that required minimal effort – Bale’s Wall Street wiz in The Big Short, Ruffalo’s journalist in Spotlight, Rylance’s spy in Bridge of Spies, and even Hardy’s filthy, mumbling woodsman in The Revenant. It just goes to show that this year’s Supporting Actor pool was pretty limited. All of this means yet another category that’s essentially locked in (read: boring).

My expert opinion: Ruffalo’s Infinitely Polar Bear performance should’ve been nominated, which could’ve given Stallone a run for his money.

 

2016BestSupActress

BEST ACTRESS, SUPPORTING ROLE

Will Win: Alicia Vikander

Should Win: Alicia Vikander, Rooney Mara, or Jennifer Jason Leigh

Like many of the other categories, Supporting Actress is mostly a lock for Vikander. Some experts are predicting Winslet will upset, but the majority consensus is that the newcomer will beat out the vet. I haven’t seen The Danish Girl, The Hateful Eight, or Carol, but what I can say is that neither Winslet nor Adams deserve the award. That’s not to say they were bad – they both played their parts well. But neither performance required Oscar-caliber acting, either. The other three ladies, maybe so.

Cinematography.png

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Will Win: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant

Should Win: Roger Deakins, Sicario

It’s time to give Roger Deakins his well-deserved Oscar already. The man has been nominated an astonishing thirteen times and has never won. He’s been nominated seven of the past nine years and his impressive career includes films like Fargo, The Shawshank Redemption, Prisoners, and No Country for Old Men. I don’t care if Lubezki’s cinematography for The Revenant was better than Deakins’ for Sicario. Lubezki won last year AND the year before, and Deakins is long overdue. The man’s not getting any younger. Let’s just give him his Oscar, okay?

2016Directing.png

DIRECTING

Will Win: Alejandro Innaritu, The Revenant

Should Win: Alejandro Innaritu, The Revenant

As much as I disliked The Revenant, Innaritu does deserve the Oscar here. Some people think George Miller has a shot with Mad Max: Fury Road, and I can see why. Both projects were massive in scope and required a skilled director at the helm. But in the end, I think the biting cold of Revenant trumps the desert heat of Fury Road when it comes to filming in harsh conditions. From what I’ve heard, shooting Revenant was absolutely grueling, and for that reason Innaritu should take the gold over his fellow nominees.

2016AdaptedScreenplay.png

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Will Win: The Big Short

Should Win: The Big Short

The Big Short was a good-not-great movie, but the screenplay deserves recognition for the feat of adapting an extremely dry subject matter in an entertaining way. The movie had to explain a number of Wall Street terms so that the audience understood what’s even going on, and writers Charles Randolph and Adam McKay somehow managed to pull that off (in some rather unorthodox ways). Personally I thought the stories behind Brooklyn and Room made far more of an impression, but adapting those source materials was surely a lot easier than it was for The Big Short.

2016OriginalScreenplay.png

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Will Win: Spotlight

Should Win: Inside Out

Finally, a dissenting opinion! There’s no way Spotlight should win over Inside Out. The creativity of Pixar’s latest (let’s forget The Good Dinosaur even happened) blows the other nominees out of the water. The entire concept came entirely out of the writers’ heads, as opposed to Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton, and Bridge of Spies, which were all based on real events. How one could argue that Spotlight is more creative and more of a challenge to write than Inside Out is beyond me. But it’s favored to win on Sunday night. Bummer.

 

In a year of lackluster nominees and most of the winners already locked, the 88th Academy Awards are looking pretty boring at this point. Here’s hoping Chris Rock delivers and gives us at least one thing to remember in an otherwise forgettable year at the Oscars.

 


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