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The B+ Oscar Ballot: 2015 – The Quick Picks

My giant ballot article went up a few hours ago. This is the abridged version of that, for easy reference during the ceremony.

Here’s everything you should be taking, and what I’m taking. Very succinct, with cliff notes versions of all the categories.

And in a bit, I’m gonna post my scorecard for how I’m gonna rank myself on that. (Note: The rankings here may be slightly different from the ones I’m picking on the Scorecard.)

Here are the quick picks for the 88th Academy Awards:

Best Picture

My personal choice: The Revenant (probably)

What you should take: The Revenant

What I’m taking: The Big Short

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: The Big Short

Rankings:

1. The Revenant
2. The Big Short
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
4. Spotlight
5. The Martian
6. Room
7. Bridge of Spies
8. Brooklyn

Analysis:

Right now, it seems like this is The Revenant’s to lose. The PGA has always been the most accurate precursor for the Oscars, so based on that, you may want to take The Big Short. But seeing the momentum The Revenant has, plus the fact that it has the most overall nominations and is going to win Best Actor and Best Director, you should probably take that. The sneaky choice is Mad Max, which will be #2 and #3 on a lot of ballots (if not #1), and theoretically could make a play for it. I think it’s between those main three, but I feel like The Revenant will take it in the end.

Best Director

My personal choice: Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant

What you should take: Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant

What I’m taking: Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Rankings:

1. Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant
2. George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
3. Adam McKay, The Big Short
4. Lenny Abrahamson, Room
5. Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Analysis:

The DGA has only been wrong seven times in its history. That’s 88% of the time the DGA winner has matched the Oscar winner. Inarritu won that. And he won BAFTA. It seems like he can’t lose. Miller is your alternate. If for some reason everyone decides he’s not going to win two in a row, Miller is the person to take. And Adam McKay will get some votes, but not enough to actually win.

Best Actor

My personal choice: Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

What you should take: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

What I’m taking: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Rankings:

1. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
2. Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
3. Matt Damon, The Martian
4. Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
5. Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Analysis:

It’s gonna happen, guys.

Best Actress

My personal choice: Brie Larson, Room

What you should take: Brie Larson, Room

What I’m taking: Brie Larson, Room

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Rankings:

1. Brie Larson, Room
2. Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
3. Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
4. Cate Blanchett, Carol
5. Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Analysis:

Brie Larson won’t lose. She’s got this locked.

Best Supporting Actor

My personal choice: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

What you should take: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

What I’m taking: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Rankings:

1. Sylvester Stallone, Creed
2. Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
3. Tom Hardy, The Revenant
4. Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
5. Christian Bale, The Big Short

Analysis:

Stallone seems to have this in the bag. He wasn’t nominated for the two major precursors, which doesn’t work against him. He won the Globe and BFCA, but none of those have Academy members in them. SAG went off the board, and Mark Rylance won BAFTA, making him theoretically the second choice. Tom Hardy is a sneaky pick, given the year he had. But I don’t think they can resist going with Stallone, who created Rocky, this iconic character, comes back to him in a very endearing way, and they get a chance to award him the statue they feel he’s earned for all of that. I think it’s him. Rylance is the alternate based on the numbers, and Hardy is the really sneaky choice that probably won’t come in, but would be the spoiler if it’s not either of those two.

Best Supporting Actress

My personal choice: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

What you should take: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

What I’m taking:Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Rankings:

1. Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
2. Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
3. Rooney Mara, Carol
4. Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
5. Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Analysis:

Vikander should take this. It’s her or Winslet. Winslet won the Globe and BAFTA, but both times, Vikander was nominated lead for this performance and was on the Supporting list for Ex Machina. Vikander won SAG and BFCA against Winslet for this performance. I think Vikander gets the votes to win, plus the Ex Machina votes as well. Since I know Winslet is the only other choice, and not a lot of people loved that movie. She could pull off the upset, and is a fairly good choice, but I think Vikander will take it.

Best Original Screenplay

My personal choice: Spotlight

What you should take: Spotlight

What I’m taking: Spotlight

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: Straight Outta Compton

Rankings:

1. Spotlight
2. Straight Outta Compton
3. Bridge of Spies
4. Ex Machina
5. Inside Out

Analysis:

Some people might say Inside Out, but Pixar has never won the Screenplay category and would really shock me. Theoretically I should have it higher than fifth, but I’m playing the “never won” card. Spotlight has won all the precursors and should take this down pretty easily. However, you have to take into account the potential backlash vote and everyone rushing to vote for Straight Outta Compton to make them seem less racist. That would be a very funny overreaction, and everyone will soon realize, if it wins, that all of the writers on that film were white. Plus, you can never really go wrong assuming the Academy will be old, white and out of touch. So I think Spotlight is the choice.

Best Adapted Screenplay

My personal choice: The Big Short

What you should take: The Big Short

What I’m taking: The Big Short

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: Room

Rankings:

1. The Big Short
2. Room
3. The Martian
4. Brooklyn
5. Carol

Analysis:

The Big Short will not lose this category.

Best Editing

My personal choice: Mad Max: Fury Road

What you should take: Mad Max: Fury Road

What I’m taking: The Big Short

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: The Big Short

Rankings:

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
2. The Big Short
3. The Revenant
4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
5. Spotlight

Analysis:

Mad Max should have this in the bag pretty handily. It won all the precursors. That said — if you’re taking The Big Short for Best Picture, you might as well take it here too, because most films, when they win Best Picture, win at least three Oscars. And this is the only other category besides Screenplay that The Big Short can win (unless you’re predicting a Director or Supporting Actor upset). A Best Editing win has tipped off a Best Picture win in the past (Crash, The Departed, Argo), and this film is heavily edited, won the Eddie for Comedy and has a lot of support. It’s not the craziest upset in the world and could happen even if the film doesn’t win Best Picture. Also keep an eye out for a Revenant win, which would trigger a potential sweep vote, with Revenant winning 7-8 Oscars instead of 4-5. Safe money’s on Max, with Big Short the alternate.

Best Cinematography

My personal choice: The Revenant

What you should take: The Revenant

What I’m taking: The Revenant

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: Mad Max: Fury Road

Rankings:

1. The Revenant
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
3. Sicario
4. Carol
5. The Hateful Eight

Analysis:

Chivo isn’t losing this. It’ll be 3 in a row for him. And with good reason.

If for some reason Chivo loses, Mad Max will win this.

Deakins doesn’t have any momentum and his name won’t even be on the ballot, so him winning for Sicario is a pipe dream. And the other two have no chance whatsoever.

Best Original Score

My personal choice: Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight

What you should take: Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight

What I’m taking: Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies 

Rankings:

1. Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight
2. Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies
3. John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
4. Carter Burwell, Carol
5. Johan Johannsson, Sicario

Analysis:

Sicario is out off the top. I thought Carter Burwell would cruise to this, but now, he seems like he has no chance at all. I don’t think the film will get enough votes to win, whether people know who composed it or not. Star Wars will get votes because it’s Star Wars, but John Williams hasn’t won in 13 years, is 0-17 in that span, and he only won for the first Star Wars and none of the others. Seems unlikely, but could happen. I think Morricone is the choice clearly. People know he composed that movie even if his name is on the ballot. He’s never won an Oscar, and I think everyone knows that and will vote for him. I can’t see him losing. And honestly, if anyone’s going to win, I’m thinking it’s Bridge of Spies. I know a non-Williams Spielberg score has never won, but I’m thinking that’s somehow the upset choice. But I don’t think it’s gonna happen. I think everyone knows Morricone will win.

Best Original Song

My personal choice: “Writing’s on the Wall,” from Spectre

What you should take: “Till It Happens to You,” from The Hunting Ground

What I’m taking: “Writing’s on the Wall,” from Spectre

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: “Writing’s on the Wall,” from Spectre

Rankings:

1. “Till It Happens to You,” from The Hunting Ground
2. “Writing’s on the Wall,” from Spectre
3. “Earned It,” from Fifty Shades of Grey
4. “Simple Song #3,” from Youth
5. “Manta Ray,” from Racing Extinction

Analysis:

What happened to film music?

There are only two choices in this category. It’s either the Bond song, which underwhelmed everyone but is really the only song people know, or the Gaga song about sexual assault. I think she’s got in the bag, and the song’s been promoted properly and will pull out a win. Clearly the Bond song is the alternate and can easily win. I’m taking it because I’d hate myself if I didn’t and it won. But the Gaga song is the smart choice and should win.

Best Production Design

My personal choice: Mad Max: Fury Road

What you should take: Mad Max: Fury Road

What I’m taking: Mad Max: Fury Road

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: Bridge of Spies

Rankings:

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Bridge of Spies
3. The Revenant
4. The Martian
5. The Danish Girl

Analysis:

Mad Max swept all the precursors and should take this easily. The Revenant could be the alternate, but I don’t see why people would vote for it. It takes place outside. Who did the production design? Nature? I think Bridge of Spies is the alternate here, which might be an overreaction from 2012, when Lincoln won out of nowhere despite no precursors. The Martian is contemporary, so that’s out. Contemporary doesn’t win here (technically it’s space, so it could be considered a fantasy, but either way, I’m not seeing it). And The Danish Girl, I can’t see having any support to actually win this over the others. Mad Max should take it. Maybe it’s The Revenant, if people are blindly voting for it. But I feel like they’re somewhat discerning in these categories. So if it’s not Max, it’s probably Bridge of Spies.

Best Costume Design

My personal choice: Cinderella

What you should take: Mad Max: Fury Road

What I’m taking: Mad Max: Fury Road

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: Cinderella

Rankings:

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Cinderella
3. The Revenant
4. The Danish Girl
5. Carol

Analysis:

Mad Max has swept every precursors award, beating Cinderella every step of the way. You have to take it. Cinderella is exactly what they go for in this category and could still win, but even I’m not taking it for the upset. I’ll just let it happen. The Danish Girl won the CDG Award for Period (Max won for Fantasy), so that could be a potential upset choice, but I don’t know. The Revenant seems more likely given the overall support of the film. Carol isn’t going anywhere in this category. I think Max takes it, and Cinderella is such an obvious alternate that you’d take that if not Mad Max.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

My personal choice: Mad Max: Fury Road

What you should take: Mad Max: Fury Road

What I’m taking: Mad Max: Fury Road

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: The Revenant

Rankings:

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
2. The Revenant
3. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Analysis:

Mad Max will win this. Or it’ll be The Revenant. It’s a 50/50 choice, and Mad Max won all the precursors. Plus, all the crazy characters they created. Much more memorable than blood and dirt and scars in The Revenant. I think Max wins this one pretty handily.

Best Visual Effects

My personal choice: Mad Max: Fury Road

What you should take: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

What I’m taking: Mad Max: Fury Road

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: Mad Max: Fury Road

Rankings:

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
3. The Revenant
4. The Martian
5. Ex Machina

Analysis:

This one is kind of hypocritical. Because every year, my one mantra in this category is to NEVER GO AGAINST THE BEST PICTURE NOMINEE. Ever. The category because Best Visual Effects in 1962. Before that, Visual Effects were not what they are now. Technically, Visual Effects weren’t what they are now until 1977 when Star Wars came out. But even if we go back to 1962, only ONCE did a Best Picture nominee lose this category to a non Best Picture nominee. You know when that was? 1970. Tora! Tora! Tora! beat Patton. Do either of those sound relevant to what effects are today? Not really.

Based solely on the history, Mad Max or The Revenant should win this category. But, I’m telling you to go with Star Wars, because it actually seems like that might win. The BAFTA ward for Effects is pretty solid in terms of guessing. And since Star Wars won the most VES awards at the guild, I’m thinking they might actually vote for it. The rationalization is that Max had car crashes and not effects as we think of them now, and The Revenant has pretty much just the bear scene and not much else (though there are definitely effects there).

So I think you should take Star Wars, even though it’s going against all the history I tell you to never ignore and always take. I’m gonna take Mad Max, but I don’t know if that’ll win. I actually think if a Best Picture nominee is gonna win this, it’ll be The Revenant. So I don’t know. I can see this going one of three ways. You should take what you feel is right. But I think right now most people are thinking Star Wars is the choice.

Then again, keep in mind, Hugo won this category, and there weren’t a whole lot of effects in that movie either. So I’m probably not listening to the same logic and reason I make you all listen to every year. My rationalization is — if any film’s gonna do it, it might as well be Star Wars, which started the trend. So I’ll do it this once, and if it doesn’t work out, never again.

Best Sound Mixing

My personal choice: Mad Max: Fury Road

What you should take: The Revenant

What I’m taking: The Revenant

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: Mad Max: Fury Road

Rankings:

1. The Revenant
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
4. The Martian
5. Bridge of Spies

Analysis:

Both Sound categories are between The Revenant and Mad Max. Going in, you’d think The Revenant would easily take both. Now, after the guilds announced and we saw where BAFTA went, it looks like The Revenant is gonna win at least one of them, if not both. I would say it’s safest to take Mixing, as the overall sound effort works better than with Editing, which tends to go more for a film like Mad Max. BAFTA Sound went to Revenant, and the CAS (Mixing) guild voted for it too. And it tied Mad Max in the MPSE (Editing) award. So right now, I think you call Revenant the favorite to take both. But Max could easily jump up to win one or both of them.

Best Sound Editing

My personal choice: Mad Max: Fury Road

What you should take: The Revenant

What I’m taking: Mad Max: Fury Road

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: Mad Max: Fury Road

Rankings:

1. The Revenant
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
4. The Martian
5. Sicario

Analysis:

My mantra in the sound categories is “Don’t split the Sound categories, Mike.” Unless there’s a musical, don’t do it. But I’m gonna do it, because I’m a fucking idiot. Think of this as a teachable moment. You should stick with the same film for both. I’m telling you to take The Revenant, but you could take Mad Max if you want. Odds favor one film winning both because they don’t know the difference between the two. I think either could take both, and a split could happen, but how would people know which to vote for which? If Revenant won Editing and lost Mixing, that would be strange. The split this way, with Revenant going Mixing and Mad Max going Editing makes the most sense, assuming a split does happen. Which… “don’t split the Sound categories, Mike.”

Best Animated Feature

My personal choice: Inside Out

What you should take: Inside Out

What I’m taking: Inside Out

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: Anomalisa

Rankings:

1. Inside Out
2. Anomalisa
3. Shaun the Sheep Movie
4. When Marnie Was There
5. Boy and the World

Analysis:

Inside Out has this mortally locked. Be happy.

Or don’t, fine.

Best Foreign Language Film

My personal choice: Son of Saul

What you should take: Son of Saul

What I’m taking: Son of Saul

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: Mustang

Rankings:

1. Son of Saul
2. Mustang
3. Theeb
4. Embrace of the Serpent
5. A War

Analysis:

Son of Saul is so incredible, I don’t know how it can lose. If there’s an upset to be had (and I guess it could happen, since it’s Foreign Language Film), Mustang is that film. It’s one or the other. Though Son of Saul is such an overwhelming favorite, don’t go against it unless you really want to take a flyer. I’ll give it 15% chances of happening (which is way more than you’d usually get and actually grounds for considering it), but you should probably stick with Saul here.

Best Documentary

My personal choice: Amy

What you should take: Amy

What I’m taking: Amy

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: What Happened, Miss Simone?

Rankings:

1. Amy
2. What Happened, Miss Simone?
3. The Look of Silence
4. Cartel Land
5. Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Analysis:

Amy looks like a near-lock to take this. They’ve gone with music/pop culture type stuff the last few years more than “important” stuff. Last year, Snowden won because the Roger Ebert doc wasn’t nominated. Otherwise you have to go back to 2009, when Inside Job beat Banksy to win (and that was about the financial collapse). So safe bet is Amy. What Happened Miss Simone is your alternate because Netflix is quietly throwing a lot of money around and will get votes on that alone. The Winter on Fire doc might benefit as well, but not for the win. Look of Silence makes no sense because The Act of Killing didn’t win. And Cartel Land might have seemed like an alternate, but I feel they’re gonna vote for the more palatable docs instead. So it’s either white lady or black lady. And we know what the Academy prefers!

Best Documentary Short

My personal choice: Last Day of Freedom

What you should take: Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah

What I’m taking: Chau, Beyond the Lines

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: No fucking clue.

Rankings:

1. Chau, Beyond the Lines
2. Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
3. A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
4. Body Team 12
5. Last Day of Freedom

Analysis:

Normally I say this for Live-Action Short — I have no fucking clue. This category you can usually guess how they’re gonna go. But this year, nothing really feels like what they go for. So this is truly the one I have no clue for. Last Day of Freedom seems unlikely, even tough it’s the one that moved me the most. Body Team 12 has the issue they like (Ebola), but it’s only 13 minutes long and doesn’t have an emotional resonance, really. It’s just awful stuff. Though HBO does well here, so it could win. Clause Lanzmann is the guy talking about his Holocaust doc. It’s fine, but will they vote for it just because of the title? If they actually watch it, it probably shouldn’t win. A Girl in the River fits with what they like — Pakistani girl survives an “honor” killing by her own father (she married without his consent and he beat the shit out of her and threw her in the river, thinking she was dead), and because of the law, can get him acquitted by forgiving him. Definitely fits. And then there’s Chau, which fits exactly what usually wins here. Kid deformed by Agent Orange wants to be a fashion designer. So, kid overcoming disability/surroundings to make art. They love that shit. But, it’s pretty boring, overall. So I don’t know. I’m gonna stick with what I know and take Chau, and I think, since most people don’t know, they should either go with me or take the Holocaust one, because I have a feeling they’ll just vote for that. I think most people would feel bad to not have that and see it win. So take Shoah. Though also, Body Team 12 and A Girl in the River both make sense as well. I can go four deep here, and have no idea. It’s a real toss up. You just have to get lucky. But my knowledge of how this category usually goes tells me the two likely winners are either Chau or A Girl in the River.

Best Live-Action Short

My personal choice: Stutterer

What you should take: Shok

What I’m taking: Stutterer

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: Stutterer

Rankings:

1. Shok
2. Stutterer
3. Day One
4. Ave Maria
5. Everything Will Be Okay

Analysis:

Tough call. Everything Will Be Okay is out. Ave Maria is one note and I don’t think they’d go for it. Straight comedy usually doesn’t win here. Day One is intense, and could sneak up for a win. But I think it’s either Shok, which is more of an anecdote and depressing as hell, or Stutterer, the light romance of the bunch. They like that sort of thing. I’m taking the light one, because that usually is what I feel is the choice. But Shok seems to be the overall favorite, so I say you should take that. That one typically fits with what they go for. The spoiler is Day One, which most feels like it could be made into a feature, and usually the most feature-ready one of the bunch wins. (Though not always. The Phone Call last year was very much a short.)

Best Animated Short

My personal choice: Bear Story

What you should take: Bear Story

What I’m taking: Bear Story

What will win if the first choice doesn’t: World of Tomorrow

Rankings:

1. Bear Story
2. World of Tomorrow
3. Sanjay’s Super Team
4. We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
5. Prologue

Analysis:

Bear Story was the most emotional of the bunch and fits exactly what they pick here. So that’s my choice, and that’s the one I think you should go with. Pixar almost never wins here (three times ever, and not since 2001), and I don’t think Sanjay’s Super Team really has a chance. I wouldn’t even put it as the alternate. I’m standing my ground on this one and will be wrong. Feel free to take it, since I can’t guarantee anything with a shorts category. But you know my reasoning behind saying it won’t happen. So do with that whatever you like. And then World of Tomorrow is so batshit crazy I can’t see it really winning, but it’s so entertaining that maybe it could sneak up there. So that’s my alternate. It’s so wonderful in its insanity. But I think Bear Story is the choice.

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