In advance of tomorrow morning's Oscar nominations, I thought it would be fun to take a stab at predicting the outcome of a few key races, from Best Picture and Director through Cinematography and Editing all the way to Sound and VFX. Here goes — I'll make sure to revisit this tomorrow to see how I did and what I got wrong. Updated 1/14/16: Strikethroughs are guesses I got wrong; nominations I missed have been added and annotated in red.
This category has come into focus in the last weeks of the race, although it's still a slippery one since the final list can include anywhere from five to 10 films, depending on how voting shakes out. I'm taking the easy way out and listing 10 films, which means a few of my selections are wild cards. I'm thinking Brooklyn may squeeze in thanks largely to a widely admired performance by Saoirse Ronan; ditto for Room, which should benefit from the many plaudits for Brie Larson. Star Wars: The Force Awakens might seem like one crowd-pleasing blockbuster too many in an Oscar field that already includes Mad Max and The Martian, but I think Oscar voters will find it hard to ignore the film's box-office returns — not to mention the strong feelings of nostalgia it inspires. Carol is a beautifully made film anchored by two strong female performances, but is it flying under the Academy's radar? You could ask the same question about Bridge of Spies, which came and went without much fanfare — but it's a film full of solid craft from top to bottom, including a noteworthy supporting performance by Mark Rylance, and the Academy recognizes solid craft, and loves Spielberg. I'm thinking Sicario could find its way into the mix, too. It will be interesting to see what happens here.
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I did OK here if you ignore the fact that I selected 10 titles instead of 8, with Carol and Star Wars missing the cut-off.
My list is basically the DGA's list of nominees, except that I've awapped out Adam McKay (The Big Short) for Carol director Todd Haynes. If Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara get nominations for their performances (and I think they will) I'm betting Haynes sneaks in here. Don't think there's room for the directors of Brooklyn or Room in this category no matter how you slice it.
Adam McKay, The Big Short
Todd Haynes, Carol
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Ridley Scott, The Martian
Alejandro Inarritu, The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
No one expected Ridley Scott to miss here, but Room fared well with the Academy.
I'm borrowing this list from the ASC, with one substitution. I think Robert Richardson slides in here for his work helping resurrect the Ultra Panavision film format on The Hateful Eight. In my formulation, that means he pushes out Janusz Kaminski, who already has two wins out of six Oscar nominations. That's only possible because Bridge of Spies is relatively low-profile Spielberg. If that film surges tomorrow morning, maybe Richardson pushes out Carol instead, trading Ed Lachman's Super 16 cinematography for Richardson's 65mm work — a shame, since they're both such beautiful films.
Ed Lachman, Carol
Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight
John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road
Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant
Roger Deakins, Sicario
For the editing Oscar, the Academy tends to favor movies with lots of visible editing. That means Hank Corwin's aggressive editorial work on The Big Short is a shoe-in. The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road will both get lots of nominations tomorrow, and there's no reason to think they won't score in this category along with Pietro Scalia, a terrific editor and a two-time Oscar-winner already, for The Martian. Finally, I'm thinking Joe Walker's work cutting some very tense action in Sicario will get him some attention here. If he's not nominated, I'd expect this might be a category where Star Wars: The Force Awakens gets some love.
Hank Corwin, The Big Short
Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road
Pietro Scalia, The Martian
Stephen Mirrione, The Revenant
Joe Walker, Sicario
Tom McArdle, Spotlight
Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
In hindsight, it seems obvious that Star Wars would make it in here.
Best Sound Editing
Speaking of The Force Awakens, it's never a good idea to bet against Star Wars in a sound category. The series has been winning sound Oscars since 1978. (Only Episodes II and III missed that mark.) I'm going out on a limb and putting Spectre in this category, too, since the Bond movies are so well known for their audio, but this spot could just as easily go to Wylie Stateman for The Hateful Eight, Richard Hymns for Bridge of Spies, or even Glenn Freemantle for Everest.
Scott Hecker, Mark Mangini and David White, Mad Max: Fury Road
Oliver Tarney, The Martian
Martin Hernandez and Lon Bender, The Revenant
Karen Baker Landers, Per Hallberg, Spectre
Alan Robert Murray, Sicario
David Accord and Matthew Wood, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Best Sound Mixing
This category looks much the same as the one above it, except I've squeezed in the team from Straight Outta Compton, which juggles a lot of different types of soundscapes, from street scenes to studio sessions to live performances, to great effect. Special shout-out to Stuart Wilson who, in my formulation, is in competition with himself!
Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Drew Kunin, Bridge of Spies
Ben Osmo, Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudlogg, Mad Max: Fury Road
Paul Massey, Mark Taylor and Mac Ruth, The Martian
Chris Duesterdiek, Frank A. Montano, Jon Taylor, Randy Thom, The Revenant
Stuart Wilson, Scott Millan, Gregg Rudloff, Spectre
Stuart Wilson, Andy Nelson, Chris Scarabosio, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Willie Burton, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montano, Straight Outta Compton
No surprise, really. All solid choices.
An easier one, given that the Academy has already culled the field to 10 films that were invited to last weekend's Oscar bake-off. I figure Star Wars, Jurassic World, and Mad Max are sure bets, The Walk overcomes widespread audience indifference thanks to the scope of the digital environment work required to recreate the Twin Towers, and The Revenant gets in on the strength of a single scene featuring featuring the meanest bear in the movies.
Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett, Ex Machina
Tim Alexander, Glen McIntosh, Tony Plett, Michael Meinardus, Jurassic World
Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver, Andy Williams, Mad Max: Fury Road
Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence and Steven Warner, The Martian
Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith and Cameron Waldbauer, The Revenant
Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan, Chris Corbould, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Kevin Baillie, Jim Gibbs, Viktor Muller, and Sebastien Moreau, The Walk
Ex Machina is the little movie that could, squeaking in to this category of very big movies on a reported $15 million budget. It's a bad day to be The Walk, and congratulations to everyone in this category for going up against the dinos and coming out on top.
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