I used to be obsessed with the Academy Awards.

I probably still am but with a good amount of hipster disdain thrown in there. Instead of compiling a list of my favorite movies from 2015 and writing something about the Oscars, I’m lazy and decided to combine the two. This way, I get to play the Oscar game, and still look like a cool guy who likes all the REAL CINEMA that doesn’t get its due attention.

Below, in each category (that I feel comfortable having an opinion on) are my personal choices among the nominees,  my predictions for those most likely to actually win, and the films/creators I would have nominated in my dream-world. There are plenty of movies that I didn’t see this year, but the most notable omissions in regard to these awards are: “The Danish Girl” — I just really hate Tom Hooper’s movies; “Son of Saul” — enough people I trust hated it; good chunks of the animated and documentary feature categories; and all shorts.

Best Picture

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WINNER:
SPOTLIGHT

Individually, I like all of the films nominated for best picture. As a whole, it’s a pretty boring, unsurprising group.  It seems like either “The Revenant” or “The Big Short” are likely to take this prize, I’m going with optimism and picking “The Big Short.” “Revenant” is fun, and beautiful to look at, and impressive; but it’s a typically pretentious work from Innaritu, and I really do not want one of his movies to win this two years in a row. On the other hand, “The Big Short” is funny, kind of insane, and so appropriately exhausting and infuriating.  Outside of it being about a significant (recent)historical event, pretty much everything about it goes against typical award-seeking fair. Plus, an Adam Mckay movie could win best picture, pretty neat.

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My fantasy nominees here are really just the 11 movies I saw this year that I most liked; I could not keep it to 10.  Anyone who lacks faith in the current state of American film should quickly move “The Mend”, ” Queen of Earth”, and “Results” to the top of your queue(or make your way back in time and see them properly in a theater).  Each of these 3  showcase real strong young voices in independent film, and in wildly different ways.  “Phoenix” and “Eden” would be my picks for Best Foreign Language film, but quite a bit of strange bureocracy goes into which films are eligible for that nomination. Noah Baumbach had two great new movies this year with “While We’re Young” and “Mistress America”, but it’s in the latter thatCarol Baumbach, with his muse/writing partner/partner-partner Greta Gerwig, paints a laser-accurate picture of collegiate youth under the guise of classical screwball comedy.  “Bridge of Spies” is Spielberg operating in the same master-mode that he was in “Lincoln”, and if it feels a bit minor compared to that, it’s only because the main character doesn’t have his face on the five-dollar bill.  Thoroughly enjoyed “Mad Max” on opening night, but it really opened up to me upon a second viewing. Knowing what was coming, it felt like a Buster Keaton movie with something greater on its mind — a kind of vismasterual essay on the nature of cause and effect.  I love 2012’s “Magic Mike’, like I do pretty much all Steven Soderbergh films. But where that was a cynical look at the underbelly of male stripping in Florida, “Magic Mike XXL” is a “one last ride”-movie of the highest order. A sex-positive, male-objectifying movie that is as inclusive as possible, you get the feeling that this movie could solve a lot of the world’s problems if everyone was forced to attend a screening. “Carol” is immediately one of my favorite films ever. It could’ve so easily been just another sad tale about how hard it was to be anything other than white, heterosexual, and male in 20th century America. It IS that, in part, but it can’t help but shift its focus in wonder to the strange, almost inexplicable connection between Rooney Mara’s Therese and Cate Blanchette’s titulare.t. Carol. In this, it reminds me of the relationships between E.T. & Elliot, and Freddie Quell & Lancaster Dodd, in “E.T.” and “The Master”, respectively, two films that also move me in ways I still don’t quite understand. You get the sense that if alien-Carol became extremely sick because she wasn’t used to Earth’s atmosphere, earthling-Therese would fall ill right alongside her.

 

Actor, Leading Role

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WINNER:
LEONARDO DICAPRIO

I had a few problems with “Steve Jobs” overall: it usually takes someone like David Fincher to fully reign in the obnoxiousness of such a Sorkin-y Aaron Sorking script, and Danny Boyle almost does it here, but still a few too many grandstanding metaphors, and the insanely sentimental ending really did not land for me; but it’s so thrilling to watch Fassbender slice through  backstage goings-on like a cocky shark.

I wSJobsill always love Bryan Cranston, but his nomination for  “Trumbo” is a prime example of the academy loving movies about moviemakers. Ben Mendelsohn continues to be the most interesting man alive, and he brings it fully to “Mississippi Grind”, as a gambling addict in need of a muse, which he finds in the almost-as-good Ryan Reynolds. DiCaprio is obviously going to win it, just to silence all of the loyal fans on your Facebook feed that have been oh-so-angry about his lack of trophies.

 

Actress, Leading Role

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WINNER:
BRIE LARSON

Here’s the rub: as is often the case, there is some serious blurring of the leading/supporting line going on here. The Weinstein Company chose to promote Blanchette as the lead of “Carol”, and Mara as supporting so they wouldn’t compete with each other and cancel out votes. Really, they are co-leads, and if a distinction had to be made, Mara would be the lead, as the film’s point of view mostly belongs to her character. That being said, all of these nominees are wonderful. I didn’t much care for “Joy”, but Jennifer Lawrence is as Jennifer Lawrence-y as she always is.  Brie Larson is really affecting in “Room”,  and even though the child actor who plays her young son, Jacob Tremblay, gives the most impressive performance, her win here won’t be undeserved.

Actress, Supporting Role

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WINNER:
ALICIA VIKANDER

Again, Mara is misplaced here, but I would still choose her out of these nominees.  Gerwig is a comic wonder in “Mistress America”, doing some serious screwball work worthy of Claudette Colbert, and of course, below that surface is a very sad, very real person; and maybe a superhero? This was a big year for Alicia Vikander in general, and it seems like her probably win for “The Danish Girl” will be just as much for her incredible performance as a male fantasy of a robot taking charge of her own existence in “Ex Machina”.  I was a complete sucker for everything Jennifer Jason Leigh did in “The Hateful Eight”, from her miming of her own execution in the trailer on through her toothless cackles. A strangely watchable performance, peeling back the layers on a western Manson Girl who might be something of a mastermind.

Actor, Supporting Role

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WINNER:
MARK RYLANCE

Tom Hardy is always watchable as hell, and it’s always exciting to see what odd vocal choice he will have made, but his inclusion here feels like spillover from all of  the “Revenant” love.  Conversely, I always anticipate a Bale performance with the same excitement, and this one is actually on par with his best work. His character in “The Big Short” exists separately, in an narrative adjacent from the one carrying the film’s other stars. He somehow carries a whole separate third of the film by himself, and brings so much humanity to a financial analyst with Asperger’s who bets against the American economy. Mark Ruffalo’s great in everything and we all know it and we all love him and he hates fracking so, someday, Mark. I completely understand why Stallone is going to win for this; he’s quite good in a very good movie that continues the franchise he started and brought to Oscar success almost 30 years ago. He did make me tear up a few times throughout “Creed”, but pretty much any old movie star who used to be a young Movie Star can pull the tears from me pretty easily. I adore Mark Rylance in “Bridge of Spies” to no end. Brings a ton of empathy to a Russian spy by being so believably a guy who was just doing his job. But, it’s a performance that’s easy to take for granted, and he disappears for about a third of the film, so this will probably go Sly’s way.

Best Director

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The Nominees:
Adam McKay, “Big Short”
George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Alejandro G. Innaritu, “The Revenant”
Lenny Abrahamason, “Room”
Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”

Fantasy Nominees:
Steven Spielberg, “Bridge of Spies”
Todd Haynes, “Carol”
George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Noah Baumbach, “Mistress America”
Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, “Anomalisa”

My Prediction: Alejandro G. Innaritu, “The Revenant”

My Pick: George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Fantasy Pick: Todd Haynes, “Carol”

WINNER:
Alejandro G. Innaritu

Don’t see any real difference between this category and best picture, but degree of difficulty seems to play a big part. That makes Innaritu and George Miller the obvious favorites, and Innaritu looks like he is going to win solely because of how cold it was where they shot. The artist must suffer!  It’s cool that someone relatively unheralded like Lenny Abrahamason could get nominated for “Room”. He pretty deftly makes the tiny confines of the first half of the film expand and contract, telling it from the point of view of a child whose whole world is just a Room.  Speaking of point of view, Todd Haynes does more with it in the exchange of gazes in Carol’s inciting meet-cute than most filmmakers are able to do over an entire movie.

Writing, Original Screenplay

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The Nominees:
Matt Charman and Joel & Ethan Coen, “Bridge of Spies”
Alex Garland, “Ex Machina”
Pete Doctor, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, “Inside Out”
Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”
Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff, “Stright Outta Compton”

Fantasy Nominees:
Charlie Kaufman, “Anomalisa”
Matt Charman and Joel & Ethan Coen, “Bridge of Spies”
Quentin Tarantino, “The Hateful Eight”
Noah Baumbach & Greta Gerwig, “Mistress America”
Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”

My Prediction: Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”

My Pick: Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”

Matt Charman and Joel & Ethan Coen, “Bridge of Spies”

Fantasy Pick: Charlie Kaufman, “Anomalisa”

WINNER:
Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”


It is indeed a bummer that the only two films not about white people up for major awards, “Creed” and “Straight Outta Compton” only garnered nominations for white people. That being said, I did not particularly like “Straight Outta Compton” and don’t think it deserved any recognition here. Enjoyed the performance set pieces, but not much more. Wouldn’t have been my pick, but it’s very cool to see something as bold and genre-heavy as “Ex Machina” nominated. That just goes to show that, oftentimes, it’s the writers branch that gives a little attention to the films that aren’t queued up for the oscars with period settings and “important” topics. Heck, they gave this award to “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” in 2004, when it wasn’t even up for best picture, and it’s surely had more staying power than “Million Dollar Baby’, that year’s winner. This makes it a bit disappointing that there was no room here for “Eternal Sunshine” writer, Charlie Kaufman’s newest film, “Anomalisa”. Originally written as a radio play — shoot just realized that would appropriately qualify it for “Adapted Sceenplay”. Oh well, it’s my fantasy, that is a silly rule, still wish it would win here. Among those films nominated, can’t really choose between “Spotlight” and “Bridge of Spies”. “Spotlight” seems to be getting the most attention for its screenplay, because it’s a movie that people love, but they dismiss it as “not very cinematic”, so it MUST be the screenplay doing all the work. I found it to be very cinematic in a very restrained, blue-collar way that perfectly matched the journalists at the center. Plugging away, getting the job done, and the framing is so quietly beautiful throughout. “Bridge of Spies” gets a bit of a Coen brothers boost here with the screenplay. This is a wonderful Spielberg movie through and through, especially the somewhat-dropped ending, but some of the period exchanges are straight out of a Coen brothers film. Tom Hanks would have been great either way, but he gets to be play kind-0f-a-dick here with their dialogue, particularly in an early scene with him repeatedly correcting a lawyer referring to a plaintiff as “his guy”, and Tom Hanks as a dick is something we do not get enough of.

Writing, Adapted Screenplay

The Nominees:
Charles Randoph and Adam McKay, “The Big Short”
Nick Hornby, “Brooklyn”
Phyllis Nagy , “Carol”
Drew Goddard, “The Martian”
Emma Donaghue, “Room”

Fantasy Nominees:
Charles Randoph and Adam McKay, “The Big Short”
Phyllis Nagy , “Carol”
Reid Carolin, “Magic Mike XXL”
Emma Donaghue, “Room”
Aaron Sorkin, “Steve Jobs”

My Prediction: Charles Randoph and Adam McKay, “The Big Short”

My Pick: Phyllis Nagy , “Carol”

Fantasy Pick: Phyllis Nagy , “Carol”

WINNER:
 Charles Randoph and Adam McKay, “The Big Short”
As annoying as Aaron Sorkin can be, I really think his “Steve Jobs” screenplay was worthy of a nomination. The decisoin to sum up a man’s life by giving us three acts, each taking place in the half-hour leading up to a different Apple Product launch, is brilliant enough. But he also gives us Jobs spewing an abundance of ridiculous metaphors, like “God sent his only son on a suicide mission, but we like him anyways because he made trees”.  As far as adapting from source material goes, “Carol” is the only film based on a book, “The Price of Salt”, that I’ve read. Nagy does an excellent job of paring down the book, which is much more from Therese’s point of view. The addition of the “Brief Encounter”-esque bookend that opens and closes the film only makes the whole affair feel even more like something akin to destiny.

Cinematography

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The Nominees:
Ed Lachman, “Carol”
Robert Richardson, “The Hateful Eight”
John Seale , “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Emmanuel Lubezki, “The Revenant”
Roger Deakins, “Sicario”

Fantasy Nominees:
All current nominees PLUS:
Peter Andrews, “Magic Mike XXL”

My Prediction: Emmanuel Lubezki, “The Revenant”

My Pick: Ed Lachman, “Carol”

Fantasy Pick: Ed Lachman, “Carol”

WINNER:
Emmanuel Lubezki, “The Revenant”

All of the movies nominated here are so dang pretty, it’s hard to complain. Wanted to include the Magic Mike sequel because Steven Soderbergh(as “Peter Andrews”) does some incredibly interesting available light stuff. There’s a beach set meet-cute that must be the DARKEST scene in mainstream cinema, and it feels like the memory of every night time beach encounter you’ve never had.  Carol’s inky, grainy greens and browns bring 50s America to reality in a way that diametrically opposes Todd Haynes previous film, also shot by Ed Lachman, of almost identical subject matter, “Far From Heaven”.

Documentary (Feature)

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The Nominees:
“Amy”
“Cartel Land”
“The Look of Silence”
“What Happened, Miss Simone”
“Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom”

My Prediction: “The Look of Silence”

My Pick: “The Look of Silence”

Fantasy Pick: “Amy”

WINNER:
“Amy”

I KNOW I saw more documentaries this year than “Amy”, or “The Look of Silence”, but I can’t remember what they were, and now I’m embarrassed. Whatever. “Amy” is really sad and lovely and interesting in that it’s a movie about invasion of privacy helping destroy a life, and the movie itself is one big invasion of privacy. But, “The Look of Silence”, Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up/companion piece to 2012’s “Act of Killing” is one of the most powerful documentaries I’ve ever seen. It’s more pared down and traditional than the insane “Act of Killing”, and maybe stronger because of it. A purer cut. It helps that Oppenheimer makes it so visually arresting and Adi Rukun gives a great “performance” as the brother of a man killed in the Indonesian genocide that the two films grapple with decades later.

Music (Original Score)

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The Nominees:
Thomas Newman, “Bride of Spies”
Carter Burwell, “Carol”
Ennio Morricone, “The Hateful Eight”
Johann Johannsson, “Sicario”
John Williams, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Fantasy Nominees:
Carter Burwell, “Carol”
Ennio Morricone, “The Hateful Eight”
Michael Giacchino, “Inside Out”
Tom Holkenborg, “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Keegan DeWitt, “Queen of Earth”

My Prediction: Ennio Morricone, “The Hateful Eight”

My Pick: Carter Burwell, “Carol”

Fantasy Pick: Carter Burwell, “Carol”

WINNER:
Ennio Morricone, “The Hateful Eight”

I love “Bridge of Spies”, and I love Thomas Newman, but man, his score is the only thing here keeping this from being one of my very favorite Spielbergs. Completely undercuts what could have been an appropriately sobering ending and turns it into something mawkish for Spielberg-haters to easily jump on.  Seems like there was definitely plenty of new stuff from Williams in “Star Wars”, but none of it stood out much to me.  Giacchino has gotten plenty of love for his work with Pixar, but this one really stood out to me, even next to “Up”.  Whatever is going on sonically in the ice skating scene made the tears rain down.  Morricone will probably win for “The Hateful Eight”, and while it’ll definitely be more because he’s a legend than because of the quality of the score, it’ll be deserved. He weirdly eschews the expected spaghetti western vibe for something more horror-movie appropriate, right out of his work on “The Thing”(1982), which has more than Kurt Russel in common with this flick. BUT, like with most of these categories, I can’t imagine choosing anything over “Carol” here. Carter Burwell consistently does an incredible job with pretty much every Coen brothers pic, among others, but his simple theme here, repeated throughout, feels like it ushers in fate in the last scene and a half of “Carol”.

Production Design

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The Nominees:
Adam Stockhausen, “Bridge of Spies”
Eve Stewart, “The Danish Girl”
Colin Gibson, “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Arthur Max, “The Martian”
Jack Fisk, “The Revenant”

Fantasy Nominees:
Adam Stockhausen, “Bridge of Spies”
Judy Becker, “Carol”
Yohei Taneda, “The Hateful Eight”
Colin Gibson, “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Jack Fisk, “The Revenant”

My Prediction: Colin Gibson, “Mad Max: Fury Road”

My Pick: Colin Gibson, “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Fantasy Pick: Colin Gibson, “Mad Max: Fury Road”

WINNER:
Colin Gibson, “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Chrome. Shiny. Valhalla.

 

Published by Tanner Kundrat

I like to watch movies, drink coffee, eat cereal, eat fruit, drink fruit, hold fruit, be outside, commit arson, and watch movies. Los Angeles.

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