88th Academy Awards Predictions
Tomorrow the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will be unveiling the nominees for the 88th Academy Awards. It’s been an interesting year for cinema, with the foreign and independent markets pumping out some incredibly high-octane content and Hollywood providing a steady slew of strong-but-not-great cinema. From a commercial standpoint, 2016 wasn’t quite as interesting as 2015, but with juggernaut releases like STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS and JURASSIC WORLD, it’s been quite an uproar at the box office this year.
So without further ado, (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER) here are Crossfader’s predictions for the lucky nominees and what we personally believe deserve those nominations instead.
WHAT CROSSFADER BELIEVES WILL BE THE ACADEMY FAVORITES
SPOTLIGHT – A virtual lock for the best picture category. SPOTLIGHT is among the few perfect films this year for Oscar attention. Attentively crafted and restrained, the film doesn’t necessarily take any huge risks in terms of film form, but it delivers its message with full force, depicting the bureaucratic hurdles of investigative journalism like a love letter signed with a bittersweet sense of nostalgia. For the Academy, screenwriting has always been a priority for a best picture winner (just look at the history of the Academy; best picture winners statistically always win best screenplay as well) and SPOTLIGHT is very likely to win big in that category. Read the full review here.
THE REVENANT – THE REVENANT – If not for its Golden Globe attention this past week, THE REVENANT will certainly garner Academy praise for its scope. Although Iñárritu’s frontiersman epic is far from a perfect picture, it also happens to be among the few films that ticks off enough of the necessary boxes to be considered a best picture, most notably the Best Director, Actor, and Cinematography slots, despite the fact that the latter left much of the Crossfader team a tad bit disappointed. Read the full review here.
THE MARTIAN – A return to form for industry favorite Ridley Scott, THE MARTIAN is among what might be a new age of space films initiated by Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR, fueled by the desire to inspire young generations to venture into the unknown rather than showcase galactic warfare with malicious extraterrestrials. Boasting a one man show from Matt Damon and incredible attention to detail, THE MARTIAN is likely to be nominated for its dedication to science alone, even if Crossfader wasn’t a fan of the final product. Read the full review here.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD – George Miller’s journey into arid valhalla is arguably the purest piece of cinematic entertainment in decades. What’s great to see is that despite its popular attention, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD has also been doing incredibly well in the critics circle, garnering awards attention across the board. Although not torturing its film crew the same way Iñárritu did for THE REVENANT, this visual extravaganza is truly perfectionist cinema and one can hope that the Academy can recognize that it merits praise even more than Dicaprio’s revenge tale for the audacity of its visual spectacle alone.
SICARIO – Tense and chilling from start to finish, SICARIO offered up what might be the most haunting 20 minute sequence in cinema for 2015: Emily Blunt’s journey into Juarez. With Roger Deakins at the lens, Denis Villeneuve’s cartel morality tale is not for the faint of heart and showcases some of the strongest cinematography of 2015, elegantly combining the stylings that Deakins has perfected over the years working on SKYFALL, various Coen brother films, and THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD. Read the full review here.
BRIDGE OF SPIES – This will probably go down in Spielberg’s catalog as one of his most personal and underrated productions. BRIDGE OF SPIES is an effortlessly clever, poignant look into political relations and the fact that we are not all that different from one another. Thanks to a screenplay written by Joel and Ethan Coen, BRIDGE OF SPIES dumps a lot of the aggressive sentimentality that Spielberg has become known for in favor of sharper comedic rhetoric, harkening back to the days of DR. STRANGELOVE OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB. Read the full review here.
ROOM – The indie darling of 2015 has to go to ROOM, but this isn’t to say that it was the unequivocal indie champion of this year. As a matter of fact, 2015 boasted enough stellar indie content to warrant an entire best picture category of its own, most notably TANGERINE, THE TRIBE, SLOW WEST, and MISTRESS AMERICA, but ROOM combines something the Academy absolutely adores: addressing a taboo subject and framing it within a narrative that is digestible for the common viewer. In the case of the Lenny Abrahamson film, that is the tale of kidnapping, forced imprisonment, and rape. Read the full review here.
THE BIG SHORT – Adam McKay served up something wholly unique when he could have brought his audiences yet another dry anti-corporate America motion picture. Framing an exposition dump under the guise of a huge ensemble comedy, THE BIG SHORT not only managed to draw in huge crowds, but make an articulate, roaring statement about the world of finance and how corruption rules the 21st century. Great performances, sharp editing techniques, and a witty screenplay make for one of the year’s most interesting pieces of societal commentary. Read the full review here.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT – Now that Quentin Tarantino has officially been proclaimed acceptable to stand behind by the Academy, it nearly goes without saying that THE HATEFUL EIGHT will garner a Best Original Screenplay nomination. Even if you found the film in need of a good edit (which it was) and find QT’s insistence on participating in his own movies annoying (which it is), you can’t deny the fact that his total grasp of vision and aesthetic make him one of the few viable candidates for the position of modern Hollywood auteur, making him a dark horse for Best Director as well. And besides, any way you slice it, THE HATEFUL EIGHT was impressive more often than it wasn’t, with heavy doses of clear-cut humor, stark and exhilarating bursts of violence, and moments of tension that surpass anything in QT’s back catalogue. Read the full review here.
CAROL – A huge subject of contention among the Crossfader team, CAROL has been hit with a unique combination of critical acclaim and overt disappointment, leaving many shrugging with a confused “eh” as to where Todd Haynes’ latest feature will land come awards season. However, among those versed in the history of LGBTQ cinema, CAROL is a breath of fresh air, cleverly subverting many stereotypes created in popular culture over the years and allowing Blanchet to portray a mother who puts her own personal gratification over the patriarchal expectations of her role in society as a woman. In addition to all this, CAROL is objectively gorgeous and features a spectacular musical arrangement by Carter Burwell, making for one of the more rounded cinematic releases of the year. Read the full review here.
WHAT CROSSFADER WOULD LOVE TO SEE INCLUDED INSTEAD
Obviously, the Academy can’t nominate everything good in any given year, but there are always a handful of fantastic films completely ignored for various reasons. Starting since the early days of the Oscars with films such as KING KONG, all the way up the modern era with FOXCATCHER and plenty of jarring snubs in between (THE SEARCHERS, GROUNDHOG DAY, THE BIG LEBOWSKI), frustrating exclusions always abound. Below is our selection of bold, innovative films from this year that may have pushed the envelope further than the Academy will be entirely comfortable with.
SON OF SAUL – Back in 2013, the Academy nominated AMOUR as a best picture contender. It’s not every year that a foreign language film receives that kind of praise, but if not for its incredible performances, cinematography, and ambition, SON OF SAUL at least deserves a best picture nod for its emotional destabilization. Completely gutting and possibly the most devastating portrayal of the Holocaust experience, SON OF SAUL is a film for the ages and will continue to be essential viewing for anyone who can handle something more authentic than the Hollywood gloss of SCHINDLER’S LIST. Read the full review here.
BEASTS OF NO NATION – Sure, one can make the argument that Cary Fukunaga’s Netflix feature BEASTS OF NO NATION ought to be nominated for diversity’s sake, but that would be undermining how absolutely spectacular this film is. Boasting what is without a shadow of a doubt the best child performance of 2015 and an incredible star turn from Idris Elba, BEASTS OF NO NATION is shocking, gorgeous, and visceral, channeling APOCALYPSE NOW in the best way possible and understanding the messiness of civil warfare far better than any other release in years. But will the Academy grant recognition to a film produced by an internet streaming provider? If not, it only goes to show how much the politics of the industry influence the voting game, because BEASTS OF NO NATION is unquestionably deserving of a best picture nomination. Read the full review here.
MISTRESS AMERICA – A female-centric Woody Allen for the millennial crowd, Noah Baumbach’s work continues to impress. Boasting sharply written character pieces that allowed for some of the best female leads in contemporary cinema, much credit is due to the excellent Greta Gerwig. MISTRESS AMERICA presents an absolute highpoint in the director’s canon, tackling the nuances of being a 20-something New Yorker with incredible tact and a humble lack of pretentiousness. Unfortunately MISTRESS AMERICA is exactly the type of indie darling that is likely to fall under the Academy’s radar, an audience favorite that is just a little too full of youthful exuberance for the predominantly older voters.
MUSTANG – As already stated with SON OF SAUL, it’s not every year that a foreign release grabs the academy’s attention enough to receive a Best Picture nod, but with every passing year it becomes exponentially more apparent that the foreign film industry is up to that challenge, providing some of the most daring cinema of the year. 2014’s ignored masterpieces were FORCE MAJEURE and LEVIATHAN, and this year it’s likely to be THE SECOND MOTHER and Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s coming-of-age tale MUSTANG. Beautifully acted, gut-wrenching, and tackling a tragically timely subject, MUSTANG is among the very best this year had to offer, not just from the foreign circuit but from the entire realm of cinema. Read the full review here.
EX MACHINA – Very rarely in recent memory has a film trusted its audience’s intelligence as well as EX MACHINA managed to. Writer/director Alex Garland managed to make this heady, dense foray into hard sci-fi compelling, mostly through a stellar and deft interweaving of Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster narrative archetypes. Considering that we are hurtling towards actually having to personally confront artificial intelligence within our lifetimes, Garland’s update and twist on our fears both old and new is startlingly relevant, quietly brilliant science fiction. However, that very subtlety is precisely what will most likely hold EX MACHINA back from getting the wide recognition it deserves; the film is so understated that it unfortunately may have flown under too many Academy members’ radars.
TANGERINE – Truly innovative, audacious, and equal parts obscenely hysterical and touching, Tangerine is a daring experiment that paid off in spades. TANGERINE presents a narrative of two marginalized people, trans actresses Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor, and grants them humor, humanity, and dignity in a way that’s rarely portrayed in typical Academy-baited LGBTQ films. All the while, Sean Baker utilizes the iPhone camera to tremendous effect to craft a new form of American hyper-social realism, launching the madcap world of Vine and WorldStarHipHop onto the big screen. This is a special film, the kind of earnestly crafted piece of cinema that only comes around a few times in a decade. It will most likely be ignored entirely by the Academy, ultimately saying more about the institution’s failures than about the merits of this spectacular little film. Read the full review here.
THE TRIBE- The world of THE TRIBE, in which deaf students communicate without subtitles, is entirely foreign and possesses wildly unique social etiquette. The film is bleak, but the fact that audiences come out on the other side with such a visceral understanding of a subculture they might otherwise have never even considered is an incredible testament to writer/director Miroslav Slaboshpitsky’s impeccable filmmaking. This is not a film for the weak of heart – the violence and moral indecency depicted will cause almost anyone to recoil in horror. It so intentionally leaves blanks to be filled that what could be a heavy-handed social realist exploration of teenage violence becomes a deeply compelling drama. This is the kind of film that leaves a sick, painful weight in the pit of the stomach by its end, but within a few days that pit is replaced by a hunger to experience the film a second time. And that’s why this is exactly the kind of film the Academy will ignore. Read the full review here.
Todd McCarthy, SPOTLIGHT
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, THE REVENANT
George Miller, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
Adam McKay, THE BIG SHORT
Ridley Scott, THE MARTIAN
Should but won’t: Cary Fukunaga for BEASTS OF NO NATION
Leonardo DiCaprio, THE REVENANT
Matt Damon, THE MARTIAN
Michael Fassbender, STEVE JOBS
Eddie Redmayne, THE DANISH GIRL
Will Smith, CONCUSSION
Should but won’t: Ben Mendelsohn for MISSISSIPPI GRIND
Cate Blanchett, CAROL
Charlotte Rampling, 45 YEARS
Brie Larson, ROOM
Alicia Vikander, THE DANISH GIRL
Jennifer Lawrence, JOY
Should but won’t: Greta Gerwig for MISTRESS AMERICA
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Sylvester Stallone, CREED
Mark Rylance, BRIDGE OF SPIES
Michael Shannon, 99 HOMES
Idris Elba, BEASTS OF NO NATION
Mark Ruffalo, SPOTLIGHT
Should but won’t: Oscar Isaac for EX MACHINA
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Jane Fonda, YOUTH
Kate Winslet, STEVE JOBS
Jennifer Jason Leigh, THE HATEFUL EIGHT
Rooney Mara, CAROL
Helen Mirren, TRUMBO
Should but won’t: Alicia Vikander for EX MACHINA
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
BRIDGE OF SPIES
Should but won’t (A Whole Slew): THE ASSASSIN, MACBETH, SON OF SAUL, YOUTH, THE HATEFUL EIGHT, BEASTS OF NO NATION
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
THE LOOK OF SILENCE
WHERE TO INVADE NEXT
LISTEN TO ME MARLON
Should but won’t: WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
THE GOOD DINOSAUR
THE PEANUTS MOVIE
SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE
Should but won’t: WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:
Belgium, THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT
Hungary, SON OF SAUL
Germany, LABYRINTH OF LIES
Should but won’t: Brazil for THE SECOND MOTHER, Romania for AFERIM!