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The B+ Oscar Guide to the 88th Academy Awards

Everything you need for Oscar night in one place. I make things as simple or as complex as you want them to be. You can read all 34,000 words like the insane person who wrote them, or you can skip through and look purely for my picks. It’s up to you. All I can promise is a respectable showing in your office/party pool and enough knowledge to make you look like you know what you’re talking about.

This article acts as both my own personal ballot as well as a tool for guessing what will win in every category. On the personal side, this acts as an extension of my Oscar Quest. I rank each category based on my thoughts having seen all the nominees and pick what I’d vote for if I were casting a ballot. That’s just for me. The practical side is more interesting. I run down every category, discuss the nominees in depth. I give you all the precursor information you need, then break down the categories. I tell you what’s most likely going to win, what its biggest competition is, and which nominee has a chance at sneaking up to surprise everyone with a win. I also link to all the category breakdowns I’ve been writing over the past couple of weeks (hint: you can click the name of each category to get to them) if you want every bit of information you can possibly get.

Then, at the very end, I plainly say “Here’s what I am taking on my ballot” and “Here is what you should take, because it is the safest and smartest decision, based on everything I’ve presented above.” I also color code everything, so you can easily find stuff. No one else goes this nuts with their coverage. Trust me. This is why you come to me.

I can’t guarantee you’ll win your Oscar pool, since, as always, I expect to do pretty terribly. Last year, I did 18/24, which is an average year. 2013, I got 22/24, which was a personal best. I aim to get about 20/24 each year, and expect I’ll only get 16.

At this point, I gauge my strengths in terms of diagnosing the categories rather than guessing everything correctly. That’s really where my interests lie. I don’t even care if I get ten wrong. As long as I could correctly boil a category down to “here’s what’s probably going to win, and here’s what’s going to win if that one doesn’t,” I’m cool with however I do. I think I’m down to one category a year where something other than the two films I tell you are going to win ends up winning instead. (Not necessarily counting the more random categories like Documentary Short and Live-Action Short, which are always going to be wild cards. Though I am generally pretty good there).

I can think back and count the categories that flat out threw me for a loop with their decisions on one hand. Best Production Design 2012, where Lincoln won out of nowhere over Les Mis and Anna Karenina, and Best Editing 2011, where Girl with the Dragon Tattoo won. Both of those were considered the relative shockers of the year. I have a very good handle on this stuff, and the fun is more in the diagnostics than the guessing.

And because of that, I’ve started doing this new form of measuring how good I was at guessing the categories. Rather than go purely on picking winners, I rank every single nominee in every category. I call it the Scorecard Ballot. You rank 1-5 for most of them, 1-3 for Makeup and 1-8 for Best Picture. And if the film you have at #1 wins the category, you get 1 point. If your #2 wins, 2 points & etc. A perfect score is 24, so you want to get as low a score as possible. Last year I was +9, 33, which feels too high for me. I’d love to get in the 27-28 range for this year. 2013, I was +5, 28. I’d like to be able to do that again. 30 is the borderline for me. I’ll take 30, but want to be under.

This year, especially, I feel like it’s such a wild card all over the place that I want to take risks on my personal ballot, which has become more for things that I’m secretly hoping will happen that go against logic and precursor. Typically the “what you should take” ballot is the one that I call the “smart” ballot, which is usually the one that does better. That’s the one where, if we’re playing it totally safe, and we’re really trying to “win” and guess the most correctly, that’s the way I’d go. But that’s not always the most fun way. Also, for some reason, the personal ballot, where I’m “taking risks” is the one that’s actually playing it safe, historically speaking. This year is all sorts of crazy. But that’s always the fun of it. If it’s not crazy, then you know what’s winning and it’s easy. The fun is in the crazy. (I like my women like I like my Oscar ballots?)

Now for the categories…

Oh, wait — if you want a nice place to find everything you’re looking for in one (that’s not this article), check out my Oscar Central 2015 page. That has everything you need if you really want to go specific into a category.

Sometimes I forget to plug all the other crazy shit I do that no one sees. Apparently you’re supposed to promote this stuff and not just do it for yourself and not care if anyone ever sees it.

Okay, now we can get down to business.

Best Picture

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies

Brooklyn

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: This is a very weird year where every single Best Picture entry is in my top fifteen favorite films of the year. However, I’m not sure what I’d vote for, because I’d be okay with any of them winning. I don’t even know how to rank them. There are my top ten favorite, and then there’s the “Oscar” ranking list, which is slightly different. So I guess I’ll put my rankings purely in terms of how much I enjoyed the films. Since Mad Max was my favorite film on this list, I’ll rank it #1. But I honestly don’t need or particularly want to see it win Best Picture. There’s always a difference between what my favorite film is and what I’d want to win Best Picture. So I don’t know what the hell to do. The same for The Martian. I don’t particularly want to see that win either. I’d have loved it if they nominated Steve Jobs. That I’d’ve voted for that in a second. Bridge of Spies wouldn’t rank high for me. The Big Short I loved, but not for a vote. Spotlight is also one that’s middle of the pack. Honestly, it’s between The Revenant, Room and Brooklyn. And given the way things are sitting now… I kinda want to vote for The Revenant. So fuck it. Nobody comes here for my vote. They come for the winner. I’ll figure out what my actual vote is in a couple of years. I feel like this year might actually come down to people voting exactly the way I’m about to vote.

My Vote: The Revenant

If I Had a Ballot: The Revenant

Should have been nominated: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Inside Out, Steve Jobs

– – – – –

The Analysis

This year, as per usual, the PGA got 7 of the nominees correct. They missed Room. Instead, they had on their ballot Ex Machina, Straight Outta Compton and Sicario. All solid choices. The only minor surprise in the whole thing is that Carol missed both the PGA and this list. It got a respectable number of nominations overall, but you’d think they’d have voted it on based on its stature throughout the process. (Though honestly, that’s just outside perception talking. I won’t have put it anywhere near the list either.)

The other fringe contenders (including those three PGA nominees) never got Best Picture kind of support anywhere else. Maybe they get on if there’s a fixed list, but they never had enough overall support to make it the way things are now.

And for those who like to speculate, I imagine, if we’re dealing with a fixed list of ten, Carol gets on, Straight Outta Compton gets on, and the last nominee is coming from this pool: Star Wars, The Danish Girl, Ex Machina, The Hateful Eight, Sicario, Inside Out and Steve Jobs. (Most likely contenders there are Star Wars and Ex Machina. Maybe then Sicario and Inside Out. Don’t think they loved Steve Jobs enough to nominate it. The Danish Girl doesn’t feel like it would get on, and Hateful Eight… maybe.) But that’s not gonna help us here. I’m just telling you how I’d hypothesize a full list of ten that based on what I see.

I think it’s actually a strong set of nominees. I can’t point to a weak entry in the bunch. The most I can do is discuss the other strong films that didn’t make it.

Here’s how the Best Picture voting works. It’s different from all the other categories:

Everybody is told to rank all eight films from 1-8, in order of their preference. So unless someone refuses to vote for anything, everybody will have a #1 vote. If a film gets more than 50% of first place votes (50% + 1), it will win Best Picture then and there. But if not (and it’s likely none will), what they then do is tally up all the first place votes. Say there are 6,000 people in the Academy. There are more (they’re gonna be at 7,000 within the next couple of years), but let’s say 6,000. And say all 6,000 of them vote. This is a hypothetical scenario. You’ve seen the presidential election turnouts, I’m sure.

So 6,000 votes are cast, and everyone puts a #1 for Best Picture. No film gets 3,001 #1 votes. So, we count. One film has 1,800 votes, another has 1,650. Another has 750, and so on. The film that comes in eighth in the first round of voting — counting just the #1 votes — is out. It is now out of the race and cannot win Best Picture. Let’s say, of the 6,000 votes, it had 150 of them. What happens to those 150 votes is, they look at what film those 150 people had at #2. And then that film gets that vote.

So now we have 7 films left. The film with the lowest tally the second time is now eliminated. Say that had 300 #1 votes. Those 300 now get absorbed to whatever film was ranked #2 on those ballots. And if by chance the film ranked #2 was the film that was already eliminated, the votes go to the #3 choice. And if the person decided to try to be slick and only vote for a #1 and didn’t rank 2-8, well then that vote is out entirely and it actually makes it easier for films to win because the overall number of votes they need just dropped a little bit. And this process continues until one nominee has more than 50% of the votes. And that’s your winner.

There are two things to address with this. First, the people who say, “Well I just want (this film) to win, and I don’t care what else wins,” and only vote for one movie and don’t rank anything else. As I mentioned up there. Well they just waste their vote. Because the second their film is eliminated, then their vote gets thrown away, and that’s one less overall vote in the tally. Now, of course, they theoretically could rank 1-5, and more than likely their vote would continue to count all the way through. But the idea is, gaming the system does nothing for the person trying to do it. You actually do your film a better service by ranking all 8. And you do more damage to other films by actually putting them at #8 than by not voting for them at all.

The other thing to note is: it’s theoretically possible that a film can win Best Picture without the most #1 votes. That is to say, a film can start with 27% of the number one votes and have the most in round one, but if it’s a divisive film, and some people deliberately vote for it as #7 or #8, that will hurt it in the long run. Because if the film that’s got 24%, second most number one votes, is ranked #2 and #3 on the most ballots, that film is gonna end up winning Best Picture despite not being ranked #1 on the most ballots.

The idea is for the film that the most people like wins Best Picture. So the odds favor not the film that gets the most #1 votes, but the one that has the most #2, #3 and #4 votes on top of their #1 votes, with the least last place votes. Theoretically, a film could still place fourth on a lot of ballots and still win, even if another film had more #1 votes, if enough people had that other film toward the bottom of their ballots. You always have to keep that in mind when looking at Best Picture. It does take into account what people liked more.

So that means we have to look at which film is most likely to rank highest on the most ballots as well as the precursors in figuring this out. They’ve been doing this type of voting system since 2009, so we’re starting to get a bit of a history for it.

Usually, for precursors, the PGA is the thing. Technically SAG and DGA have more members, but the PGA is usually the precursor that matches most with Best Picture. Since 1989, they’ve matched Best Picture all but seven times:

  • 1992, The Crying Game wins the PGA, Unforgiven wins the Oscar.
  • 1995, Apollo 13 wins the PGA, Braveheart wins the Oscar.
  • 1998, Saving Private Ryan wins the PGA, Shakespeare in Love wins the Oscar.
  • 2001, Moulin Rouge! wins the PGA, A Beautiful Mind wins the Oscar.
  • 2004, The Aviator wins the PGA, Million Dollar Baby wins the Oscar.
  • 2005, Brokeback Mountain wins the PGA, Crash wins the Oscar.
  • 2006, Little Miss Sunshine wins the PGA, The Departed wins the Oscar.

The PGA has matched the Oscar winner every year since 2006. And the important note there is that it has matched every year since the preferential ballot started happening, rather than people simply voting for one film of the five like it used to be.

And then, in those years when the PGA wasn’t right, here’s how BFCA and BAFTA did when faced with the same choices:

  • 1992: BAFTA went with Howards End. BFCA wasn’t giving out awards yet.
  • 1995: BAFTA and BFCA both went with Sense and Sensibility.
  • 1998: BAFTA went with Shakespeare in Love. BFCA went with Saving Private Ryan.
  • 2001: BAFTA went with Fellowship of the Ring. BFCA went with A Beautiful Mind.
  • 2004: BAFTA went with The Aviator. BFCA went with Sideways.
  • 2005: BAFTA and BFCA both went with Brokeback Mountain.
  • 2006: BAFTA went with The Queen. BFCA went with The Departed.

Only once did BAFTA get it right. And that’s because it was about Shakespeare. BFCA actually got it right twice. The Departed win makes sense for BFCA. The A Beautiful Mind win actually surprises the shit out of me. That’s the film the critics liked best? Not Fellowship? Wow.

So far this season, three films dominated the entire race: The Big Short, Spotlight and The Revenant. No other film won any major awards, and we can pretty much narrow the race down between those three. The fourth film that is generally in the conversation is Mad Max: Fury Road. But that’s more of a sneaky contender than a favorite. (It’ll be #2 and #3 on a lot of ballots.)

Here’s how one breaks it down, in case you want to understand why it’s only those films: Generally a film needs a Best Director nomination in order to be a contender. Immediately making your five most likely winners The Big Short, Spotlight, The Revenant, Mad Max and Room. It also should have an Editing nomination as well, which takes Room off. And there’s your four.

Looking at the precursors, only four of them matter to me: PGA, BAFTA, BFCA and SAG Ensemble (and even that I don’t really care about). The Globes are, for the most part, meaningless. But I talk about them because maybe one day they’ll surprise me.

The Big Short won the PGA.

Spotlight won BFCA and SAG Ensemble.

The Revenant won BAFTA (and I guess the Globes too).

Here’s how the splits have worked in the past 20 years (conveniently when BFCA and SAG Ensemble started):

(Best Picture winners in red.)

Year PGA BAFTA BFCA SAG Ensemble Golden Globes
2015 The Big Short The Revenant Spotlight Spotlight The Revenant (Drama)/ The Martian (Comedy)
2014 Birdman Boyhood Boyhood Birdman Boyhood (Drama) / Birdman (Comedy)
2013 12 Years a Slave and Gravity 12 Years a Slave 12 Years a Slave American Hustle 12 Years a Slave (Drama) / American Hustle (Comedy)
2012 Argo Argo Argo Argo Argo
2011 The Artist The Artist The Artist The Help The Descendants (Drama) / The Artist (Comedy)
2010 The King’s Speech The King’s Speech The Social Network The King’s Speech The Social Network
2009 The Hurt Locker The Hurt Locker The Hurt Locker Inglourious Basterds Avatar
2008 Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire
2007 No Country for Old Men Atonement No Country for Old Men No Country for Old Men Atonement
2006 Little Miss Sunshine The Queen The Departed Little Miss Sunshine Babel
2005 Brokeback Mountain Brokeback Mountain Brokeback Mountain Crash Brokeback Mountain
2004 The Aviator The Aviator Sideways Sideways The Aviator (Drama) / Sideways (Comedy)
2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2002 Chicago The Pianist Chicago Chicago The Hours (Drama) / Chicago (Comedy)
2001 Moulin Rouge! The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring A Beautiful Mind Gosford Park A Beautiful Mind (Drama) / Moulin Rouge! (Comedy)
2000 Gladiator Gladiator Gladiator Traffic Gladiator
1999 American Beauty American Beauty American Beauty American Beauty American Beauty
1998 Saving Private Ryan Shakespeare in Love Saving Private Ryan Shakespeare in Love Saving Private Ryan (Drama) / Shakespeare in Love (Comedy)
1997 Titanic The Full Monty L.A. Confidential The Full Monty Titanic
1996 The English Patient The English Patient Fargo The Birdcage The English Patient
1995 Apollo 13 Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility Apollo 13 Sense and Sensibility

Looking at these, we throw out 1995 and 2004 off the top. I don’t see a film coming out of nowhere and winning, the way Braveheart and Million Dollar Baby did. (Mad Max would be that choice, FYI.) I feel it’s between our contenders. So those aren’t reference points.

We also throw out 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. They’re all either unanimous or near unanimous decisions that came in. Not helpful. We want the years that are somewhat in doubt or where the unexpected happened.

So that leaves us with 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2014.

1996 — English Patient had PGA and BAFTA, so that basically had the win. That’s off. 1997 — did anyone think Titanic was gonna lose? 1998, the two films dueled all the way to the finish line, and that was a 50/50. 2014 was another one or the other scenario, with Birdman winning the two more important battles. Not exactly overly helpful.

And 2005 is interesting because Brokeback Mountain swept absolutely everything and managed to lose. Not relevant to this year, but fascinating that they just said “fuck you” and didn’t vote for it.

The two that I want to look at are 2001 and 2006. Those are the years that seem as eclectic as this year in terms of precursors. Oh, and because the BAFTAs only started being handed out before the Oscars in 2001. Before that, the ceremony took place after the Oscars, making them mostly meaningless.

2001 — Moulin Rouge wins the PGA, Fellowship wins the BAFTA, A Beautiful Mind wins BFCA, Gosford Park wins SAG. Literally went across the board. The only Best Picture nominee that won nothing was In the Bedroom. In that scenario, the PGA winner did not take home Best Picture. It was BFCA (and the Globes) who called it. And also the DGA awarded Ron Howard, which also may have had something to do with it.

2006, which is the year I keep saying this one feels like — Little Miss Sunshine wins both PGA and SAG, The Queen wins BAFTA, The Departed wins BFCA. Letters from Iwo Jima won nothing, and Babel did win the Globe (also Inarritu). Scorsese wins Best Director and The Departed goes on to take home Best Picture.

Until two weeks ago, this felt like a battle between The Big Short and Spotlight. But seeing what I see now, how can it not be a battle between The Big Short and The Revenant? Inarritu has the DGA, meaning it’s easier for them to vote for both than to vote for the split. Plus the BAFTA win does help. Only once has BAFTA Best Film matched the DGA winner and that film lost Best Picture (it was Brokeback). Also of note — 2004, Eastwood took DGA and that film took momentum all the way to Best Picture. This could be a big sign for The Revenant.

Spotlight has BFCA and SAG, which are important, but not overly important. And then it will also feature #2, #3 and #4 on a lot of ballots. Though how many of the other contenders will be above it on those ballots? Its chances are starting to feel a bit dubious. It felt like the contender other people wanted to take and it just didn’t pan out. We’d be speaking a different tune if this won the PGA, but since it didn’t, this now feels like an afterthought. I bet BFCA, if they handed out just a bit later, would have went elsewhere. I bet they thought they were starting a trend and then it didn’t take. The SAG win I totally get. Actors all around in a big ensemble. That makes perfect sense to me. (Though the non-Big Short win there is interesting. Though that’s more about the direction and editing and stuff. Spotlight is purely about the acting.)

The Big Short is only holding on with a PGA win, which is big, but also not a whole lot in terms of general feeling. The PGA went to a similar voting system to the Oscars in 2009, and since then, they’ve matched the Best Picture winner every single time. So by definition, it is theoretically the favorite. But all the momentum does not feel like it’s in this film’s corner. The two things people can hold onto is the fact that BAFTA has a fixed voting system and not a preferential ballot. (Same for the Globes, but honestly…) Plus, BAFTA (and the Globes) did not give anything to Inarritu last year for Birdman, so they could be making up for that. (Ditto the Golden Globes, the other precursor The Revenant won.) So if you think they were just making up for last year and that it’s all smoke and mirrors and that on a preferential ballot, more people will have The Big Short #1, #2 and #3, while The Revenant may have the most overall #1s but also have a lot of #5, #6 and #7 votes, that works in this film’s favor.

This is sure gonna be an interesting one. If The Big Short wins, then nothing to see here, PGA is right as per usual. If The Revenant wins, then the PGA prognosticator takes a hit and we have to look at everything surrounding the year before automatically just listening to one voting body. (Which we should really be doing anyway.) But on the other hand… BAFTA isn’t always right. And this year could be seen as a makeup year for Inarritu, who got shut out for Birdman last year. If Spotlight wins, then it’s almost like Argo, where the film that everyone sort of liked snuck in and won in the end over some more polarizing films. (Then the big question is, how did it lose the PGA?) And then there’s Mad Max, who could shock EVERYONE —

— by being #2 and #3 on so many ballots that all those #1 votes cancel each other out and it sneaks up to win everything.

Boy, would a lot of jaws drop there. That would be mind-blowing.

Good luck to the people predicting that. That would really shock me, and I’m almost incapable of being shocked. (Though at that point, wouldn’t Miller have already won Best Director? If he doesn’t and the film wins… holy shit. Then we’re talking about the preferential ballot.)

Now, the one thing I like to do before we get into it is do a simulated ballot in my head, figuring which way voting is gonna go.

I imagine, with this set of nominees, the film that will be off in the first round of voting is Brooklyn. I just don’t see it getting that many number one votes. I loved it and even I wouldn’t put it #1 (though maybe in a few years). So that’ll be your first casualty. And if it’s not the first, I guarantee it’ll be the second.

Next off, I’m thinking Bridge of Spies goes. Spielberg is respected, and older voters might be swayed to give it a #1, but it’s not gonna get that much overall support. Spielberg can only do so much and the film is generally respected but not loved. Again, if not second off, then third. It’s not getting very far.

Thinking about how people are going to vote — if you had Brooklyn and/or Bridge of Spies in your top two rankings, you probably also really loved Spotlight or The Martian. Which means that The Martian, which was going to be my next cast off, survives this round of voting, and that means Room is off.

I know Room has fervent support out there, but it can only go so far with those #1 votes. Not enough people will have this ranked 2 and 3 to keep it afloat for the latter stages of voting. I know it has the Best Director nomination, but I can’t see this ultimately getting past #5 at best. More people respect Brie Larson’s performance more than they love the film.

Which then takes us to The Martian. Won’t get enough #1s to get to the end, and then even the people who rank it highly will still have one of the four other nominees above it (and I’d wager that film is one of the three top contenders), meaning there’s a greater chance that other film will end up with the votes this film needed to stay on. It’ll probably make the top five, given how many people like it, but it doesn’t have the support to go all the way. It’ll get a fairly healthy share of votes, though.

Now we’re down to the same four films we began with. And to be perfectly honest with you, the next film off for me is Spotlight. I know the actors voted for it, but the actors were not voting for Best Picture. They were voting for the best overall cast. And when you had an ensemble like that film had, I couldn’t blame them. People might say The Big Short also had a cast like that, but The Big Short didn’t have a cast like this that also was worthy of being nominated for individual acting awards. This cast has two nominees and Michael Keaton who didn’t get nominated, plus a lot of other great actors in it. So, while this will get a lots of 2s, 3s and 4s… the other three will feature more prominently.

Next might actually be The Big Short, but I’m gonna stick with my tried and true Academy and say Mad Max: Fury Road comes off next. It’ll have lots of #2s and #3s. Even if you vote The Big Short or The Revenant, chances are your #2 behind it is this film. That’ll keep this going for a long time, and might even take it to second place overall. But I just feel like too many people are gonna see it as an action movie and not as a movie that fits the Best Picture mold and somehow this will end up falling off in the end. Also, again… why didn’t it win the PGA? That’s the same type of voting as this, and arguably it should have fared better there. I’d be really surprised if it won, and to an extent, happy, because that’s a whole different kind of breakthrough for the Academy, but I’ve done this enough to know — if you expect them to be boring, old and white, you usually end up being right.

And then you have your tossup between the other two. And right now, The Revenant looks stronger simply because it has two major wins already (Actor and Director) and feels like the kind of movie that wins here. And I think ultimately voters will adhere to what feels like a Best Picture winner over logic. But that’s just me.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The Revenant. It started off the season with a Golden Globes win. Most people figured, “Well Leo won, and they made up for not giving Inarritu Best Director last year. So they went with the film too.” And then it remained quiet for a lot of the race. It won the DGA, which was big, but reasonable. Then it won BAFTA. And everyone started looking twice at it. Because that’s a healthy set of precursors.

Plus — sight test. This is most likely going to win Best Director, Best Actor and Best Cinematography. That’s four wins right there (with Picture). And it could easily take down one or more of the other 8 awards it’s nominated for. One of the Sound categories seems likeliest. Makeup & Hairstyling is a toss-up. Production Design is a long shot, Editing feels like a long shit. So does Visual Effects. Supporting Actor would really surprise people but is within the realm of general possibility. Costume Design could also happen, but also seems unlikely. I could see this walking away with five or six Oscars including Best Picture. That makes it the safest choice in my book. Right now, you’re either picking The Big Short and making the Editing play for it (a la Crash and Argo), or you’re assuming the multiple wins for this film, including two major ones are going to carry it to the finish line.

However, I will give you one word of caution before you do that: only nine times —

— has a Best Picture winner not been nominated for Best Screenplay. It doesn’t have to win, but in the history of the Oscars. most of them have at least been nominated.

Four of the nine were in the first six years of the Oscars. Meaning that in the past 80 years, it’s only happened FIVE TIMES. Ready for the five?

  • First, The Great Ziegfeld. 1936. I’m kinda surprised it wasn’t nominated, but again, it was early. Plus, that movie was three hours and had ten giant musical numbers in it. So perhaps that’s why they didn’t nominate it.
  • Second — Hamlet. 1948. Self-explanatory. They took the exact Shakespeare text for the dialogue.
  • Third — The Greatest Show on Earth. 1952. Also kinda surprised they didn’t even at least nominate that film for Screenplay. That film’s gonna come back in a second when we get to our next nominee, so I’ll leave this alone for now.
  • Fourth — The Sound of Music. Musical. Though My Fair Lady got nominated. I guess because that was dialogue based and this one wasn’t as much? Don’t know.

This means 8 of the 9 times were 1965 or prior. So only once in the past 50 years has a film won Best Picture without being nominated for Best Screenplay. And you know what the film was?

Titanic.

So like I said, either The Big Short is winning and all the stats we have hold up once again, or this film wins, and some major statistics go right out the window. It’s all a matter of how you see it playing out.

Though I will also say — Birdman wasn’t even nominated for Best Editing, and that stat completely fell apart last year. So maybe the Screenplay wasn’t as important for this one. No matter how you slice it, this film feels like it has all the momentum and is the most likely winner.

Biggest Competition: The Big Short. Here’s how this works: until proven wrong, you have to take the PGA as the most important precursor. Especially now that the PGA votes exactly the same as the Academy does. They’ve gotten it right every time since they started doing it this way in 2009. Meaning this is by metrics, your most likely winner of Best Picture.

I’m not particularly strong on this actually happening, and a few things will have to also happen in the event that this does win. The big one is — it has to win another award. It’ll win Screenplay, and if it wins Picture, it’ll need another Oscar to go home with it. Because even the weakest (in terms of overall awards) Best Picture winners have managed at least three. A few of the recent winners got 3 awards. Even Argo and 12 Years a Slave managed 3 wins. (Argo won Editing and Screenplay. 12 Years a Slave won Supporting Actress and Screenplay.) Shit, even Crash managed 3 wins (the same 3 as Argo).

If it doesn’t win Editing and just wins Picture and Screenplay, it’ll be the Best Picture winner with the lowest total number of Oscars since The Greatest Show on Earth in 1952 (which beat The Quiet Man and High Noon, FYI). The most obvious category for it to win is Editing. It’s only nominated for five awards, and two of them it “can’t” win (Supporting Actor and Director). Which means that if you’re picking this to win Best Picture, you’re going to take it to win Best Editing as well. Because it’ll have to win that. And the good news is, the minute this wins Editing, you can feel pretty safe that you have it in the bag. Or at least your odds have gotten much stronger than otherwise. Otherwise, some sort of major precedent is going down. It’s just a matter of which one.

Spoiler Alert: Mad Max: Fury Road. Spotlight used to be second, then it was third. Now it’s not even here. Because, like I said with The Big Short, I can’t see Spotlight winning any other awards. Not gonna win either acting award, not gonna win Director. Could even lose Screenplay. But assuming it wins that, we’re left with two wins if it wins Picture, going back to that Greatest Show on Earth stat. I just don’t see it happening. I know that has precursors, but I just don’t see it happening.

And now, with Max — it’s going to win Oscars. Three or four, at minimum. Between Editing, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing, I can’t see it not taking home at least three of those. And that’s before you factor in the potential Cinematography or Director upsets (which seem very unlikely, but are possible, as it’s the second choice in either category). And it’ll be ranked #2 or #3 on the majority of ballots. Making it a really sneaky contender to win the whole thing. It’ll be really strange to see this win and not also win Best Director. That would really throw the stats for a loop. Consider this still in play if it wins Editing (even though it’s the favorite to win Editing).

If there’s a real spoiler to be had, this is it. And pretty much no matter what happens, some sort of stat is going down. The Big Short is really the only film that can keep things mostly in tact and have things go the way we’d expect based on history. Otherwise, chaos reigns.

P.S. The really, really savvy voters who are looking to game the system a little bit might look to vote for this for Best Picture. This is the sneaky choice that could come in big. (And of course, in taking it, you’re aware that it probably won’t win, making it the perfect flyer to take.) Though if you’re gonna do that, you might also take Miller for Best Director, because, if you want to talk about chaos… Mad Max winning Picture and him not winning Director? Oh, boy.

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

If I Were a Betting Man: It’s a three-horse race. I see Mad Max getting a lot of 2 and 3 votes. It’ll be right there until the end. But will it get the overall votes it needs to win? Hard to tell. It would really shock me if that happened. But the preferential ballot actually does help a film like that in the end.

The Revenant will get a lot of #1 votes, but how many #7s will it get? It’s the most divisive of the three. Which leaves me to The Big Short — it’ll get its #1s, and it’ll have a lot of #2s and #3s too, because people seem to really like it. Which makes me think this is actually the film that will take down the preferential ballot, just like with the PGA. The BAFTAs don’t use a preferential ballot. They vote for a winner. So in that scenario, sure, I’ll take The Revenant. But here… I’m not so sure.

I think the #7 votes it’ll get from the people who didn’t get it might ultimately hurt it in the end. So right now, I’m saying The Big Short takes it home. That’s me personally. I don’t think that’s necessarily the smartest decision, but it’s more interesting to me to stick with this and also it makes me feel better to stick with the history here. I’ve split my votes into two, where my personal ballot is more a mix of what could happen mix with what I want to see happen in a weird way (but not even completely subjectively, because that’s that first part up top, just… intellectually. It’s very weird. The Three Faces of Mike) and the “you should take” ballot is the one that’s geared toward getting the most right based on what’s most likely going to come in.

You Should Take: I’m torn. Because I like to keep things uniform and not go wild. But quite frankly, if we’re going with the “smart” choice, then that would be The Revenant. I don’t know why, but I keep feeling like The Revenant is turning into Gravity. The film that in the end, looked like it couldn’t lose. And there was 12 Years a Slave pulling it out in the end. Which is not the justification you want from someone telling you to pick it for the win. But honestly, I don’t even know if the momentum this film has can be beaten, because at least here, it has the DGA and BAFTA support. And all the box office, and the narrative on the film turned from “giant mess” to “artistic triumph in the face of adversity” — Hollywood loves an “overcoming adversity for the sake of art” story. Plus this feels like a Best Picture winner, oddly enough. This is the smart choice right now, it seems. But again, if you really want to go nuts, you could. I wouldn’t say to take Spotlight, and Mad Max is that crazy flier vote you’re not really expecting to come in. You can if you want. But the smart money’s on this. I’ll continue to stick with Big Short, but the smart choice is The Revenant, and the sneaky (but unlikely) choice is Mad Max.

On My Ballot: The Big Short

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Director

Lenny Abrahamson, Room

Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Adam McKay, The Big Short

George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: I can’t quibble that much with their choices. Two of my top three favorite efforts are here. Son of Saul was the third, and I can accept that not being here because they are always going to put heavy Best Picture favorites on this list no matter what. I love that Abrahamson got nominated. He was also in my top five. So I can be okay with the final two, even though I didn’t overly love the efforts. As for a vote, Inarritu was my favorite effort of the year, so I’ll give him two in a row, even though Miller was a close second. The Revenant was a hell of a feat. And I don’t like to not vote for someone just because they “just won” and because someone else hasn’t. If my #1 effort is nominated, I have to take it. To do otherwise is stupid.

My Vote: Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant

If I Had a Ballot: Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant

Should have been nominated: Laszlo Nemes, Son of Saul, Denis Villeneuve, Sicario

– – – – –

The Analysis

You have to go with the DGA on this. They have been the most accurate precursor in history, going back to 1950.

Of the 68 DGA Awards that have been handed out (the 68th was this year), the winner has only differed from the Oscar winner seven times. The PGA also missed seven times… since 1989. They’ve missed 7 times out of 67. Just to give you a full sense of accuracy.

  • 1968, The Lion in Winter won the DGA, Oliver won the Oscar.
  • 1972, The Godfather won the DGA, Cabaret won the Oscar.
  • 1985, The Color Purple won the DGA, Out of Africa won the Oscar. (Spielberg wasn’t even nominated.)
  • 1995, Apollo 13 won the DGA, Braveheart won the Oscar. (Howard wasn’t even nominated.)
  • 2000, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won the DGA, Traffic won the Oscar.
  • 2002, Chicago won the DGA, The Pianist won the Oscar.
  • 2012, Argo won the DGA, Life of Pi won the Oscar. (Affleck wasn’t even nominated.)

(Note: Joseph L. Mankiewicz won the DGA in 1948 for A Letter to Three Wives and won the Oscar in 1949. So technically the years were wrong, but he did win. It was also the first DGA awards. In a way, it’s happened eight times, but in a way, not. It’s worth mentioning.)

I also like to give people some trivia, since while I have you here, I might as well learn you some. 1968 — Stanley Kubrick was nominated for 2001: A Space Odyssey and lost both. 1985 — it was generally regarded that the Academy was anti-Spielberg because he was thought of as a “commercial” filmmaker who made blockbusters and not “serious” films. (Also probably racism.) 2000 — Steven Soderbergh was actually nominated twice in the category, for both Traffic and Erin Brockovich. Making his win all the more impressive. I can’t go too deep into the older categories, since I wasn’t following the Oscars back then. But the trivia is fun. Also interesting that The Godfather won the DGA, lost the Director Oscar yet still won Best Picture. Go figure.

Okay, back to the analysis. The thing to point out with the DGA — of those seven times they didn’t match, three of the times the person who won wasn’t even nominated for the Oscar. So if we assume they would have won had they been nominated, then you’re really only looking at four times. Which brings the current 88% match percentage up to 94%. It’s… pretty accurate.

This year’s DGA Award went to Alejandro G. Inarritu for The Revenant. He becomes the first person in history to win back-to-back DGA Awards. Making him the overwhelming favorite to win the Oscar. Plus he also won BAFTA. Kinda hard to go against him at this point.

(Note: Joseph Mankiewicz (A Letter to Three Wives, All About Eve) and John Ford (The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley) won back-to-back Best Director Oscars, but not back to back DGA Awards. So he’d be the first person since 1950 to win consecutive Best Director awards at the Oscars, and is the first person ever to win back to back DGA Awards.)

The argument against him winning is that people are gonna say, “No, we’re not giving him two in a row,” and will vote for someone else. Probably George Miller, but who’s to say for certain? I feel like Adam McKay will get his share of votes. (By the way, I hope we’re all ready for Academy Award winner Adam McKay, because it’s going to happen. And the next time he makes a comedy, they’re gonna use that all over the marketing.)

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant. The DGA and the Oscars have not matched 7 times. Ever. 88% of the time, the DGA gets it right. And if you factor in the times when the DGA winner wasn’t even nominated at the Oscars (and assume that they’d have won if they were), that brings it up to 94%. Oh, and by the way, have you seen The Revenant? It’s hard to think Inarritu is going to lose this, even if he’ll be making history by being only the third back-to-back Best Director winner. Even if you want to vote against him, there’s no denying he’s most likely to win. Plus, with a BAFTA win, he has all the major contingents voting for him. You have to consider this locked.

Biggest Competition: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road. He’s really the only other choice. If anyone other than Inarritu wins, Miller has got to be considered the one. Unless you can pick not only which film is gonna win Best Picture, but also correctly predict that they’re gonna go for that Director on top of that (be it McKay or McCarthy). In which case, good luck. Miller has a BFCA win for Best Director, and will get his share of votes. Though you can’t help but feel like his film is an also-ran in the main categories and will be rewarded with technical awards for the most part. (Plus, he wasn’t even nominated for BAFTA. Which is strange in and of itself.)

You also do have some history working in your favor here if you are going to pick Miller. I mean, yes, only 6% (12% if we’re going by the general stat), but if those odds comes in, here’s the logic you’re gonna use to justify the pick: since BFCA started handing out awards, the DGA winner and Oscar winner have differed three times. One of those times was Ben Affleck, who won every other Best Director award except the Oscars (because he wasn’t nominated). The other two times, Mel Gibson in 1995 and Steven Soderbergh in 2000, BFCA had that. BAFTA didn’t have either. Only BFCA picked those two in their respective years (though to be fair, Soderbergh won for both films that year, which gave them a bigger chance of getting it right, but still). Miller wasn’t nominated for BAFTA, so he fits right in with that patten. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but if it does, you have the reasoning all set up for you and you get to sound like a genius.

Though I must also point out that in the past 25 years, only once did someone go un-nominated for BAFTA Best Director and then won the Oscar. And that was Clint Eastwood in 2004. Who also won the DGA. So also keep that in mind before you pick him for the upset.

Spoiler Alert: Adam McKay, The Big Short. I used to have the third spot as a toss-up between McKay and McCarthy. I said it was to whichever film you thought had the better chance of winning Best Picture. But at this point, it seems like if it’s gonna be anyone, it’s gonna be McKay. Abrahamson has no major support for the actual win, and I just feel like McKay’s direction stands out more than McCarthy’s. I feel like more people will actually vote for McKay for Director without voting his film for Best Picture than they would for McCarthy. Making him my third choice. But at this point, you’re talking less than 2% chance. You’re either gonna realize that all logic says to go with Inarritu as winner and Miller as the only possible upset choice, or you’re gonna say…

Take the 2%

Likelihood of Winning: 1) Inarritu 2) Miller 3) McKay 4) Abrahamson 5) McCarthy

If I Were a Betting Man: Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant. You never go against the DGA. Miller is the choice if you want to dream big. I’m not going against all logic on this one.

You Should Take: Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant. Seriously, go with the DGA. That’s like being handed a gift horse and looking for cavities. Or sleeping inside of it. Whilst being raped by a bear.

On My Ballot: Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Actor

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Matt Damon, The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts:

It’s so close, you guys.

This year’s Best Actor race was pretty anti-climactic. Not a whole lot of contenders. The only other person who could have made it on was Johnny Depp, who never felt like a real player throughout the race. Will Smith’s film also fell really flat too. Also, pretty much from the start, the whole thing felt like a crowning for Leo more than anything. So there hasn’t been a whole lot of surprise or intrigue in this one. Which is the way it’s been for a few years now.

Nice to see Cranston get nominated. He’s well respected and this is their way of showing the love for him being around for so long and being on Breaking Bad. Eddie Redmayne was one of those nominees who was nominated back in January because of the nature of his film and then held on for dear life to stay on in the end. DiCaprio and Fassbender were always locks. And Damon had to carry part of his film, and that made total sense. Also nice to see him get nominated purely because of how few times it’s happened. You realize this is only his third acting nomination? The second was Invictus. Do people even remember he was nominated for that film? So it’s nice to see him get nominated, though he’s never been in that spot of actually winning one.

As for the category and my personal opinions — replace Cranston with Geza Rohrig and that would be my preferred list. No problems with this at all. Fassbender was my favorite lead performance of the year, so he gets my vote. He’s really so far ahead of all the other four for me that it’s not even close. It’s actually kind of crazy to me that he’s not even going to win. But Leo’s had some cache building up for years, so I understand it. Fassbender is in the place Leo was all those other times he didn’t win.

My Vote: Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

If I Had a Ballot: Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Should have been nominated: Geza Rohrig, Son of Saul

– – – – –

The Analysis

That about covers it, don’t you think?

The only precursor you need for the acting categories is SAG. Most of the time, SAG knows what they’re doing and will give you the winner. Not every time, but a lot of the time.

SAG Best Actor has matched the Oscar winner 17 out of 21 times. The four misses:

  • 2000: Benicio Del Toro wins for Traffic and Russell Crowe wins the Oscar. (It should also be noted that Benicio won Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars for Traffic. So in a way, SAG wasn’t entirely wrong.)
  • 2001: Russell Crowe wins for A Beautiful Mind and Denzel won the Oscar.
  • 2002: Daniel-Day-Lewis wins for Gangs of New York and Adrien Brody wins the Oscar.
  • 2003: Johnny Depp wins for Pirates of the Caribbean and Sean Penn wins the Oscar.

Every single other time, they’ve matched.

And, you look at those four… one they technically didn’t get wrong (category difference) and one was Captain Jack Sparrow. Everyone else had Sean Penn and we knew he was winning. Of the other two categories, both times BFCA and BAFTA had the same thing SAG had. So it’s actually kind of surprising the results went the way they did.

The point being, you wanna go against SAG, go right ahead.

This year, Leonardo Dicaprio won SAG for The Revenant. Oh, and he also won BFCA and BAFTA and the Globes, if you want to be inclusive.

This shit is locked. This is like, Daniel Day-Lewis in 2012 locked. For different reasons, but still — locked.

And since I’ve so little to talk about, here’s something no one’s really thought about: this category is made up of a brilliant asshole, a communist, a man who cuts his dick off, a man raped by a bear, and a guy who eats potatoes farmed in his own shit.

Adversity, man.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant. SAG, BAFTA, BFCA, Golden Globe. This motherfucker cannot lose. Don’t even try to think about an upset. Take the easy win and move on.

Biggest Competition: Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs. He’s the only one, really. Though given the lack of overall support for the film, I could theoretically make a case for him as third choice. Not that it matters, because Dicaprio ain’t losing. But right now, I’ll take him as the competition. He’s the only one who can keep Leo out.

I’m having way too much fun with this.

Spoiler Alert: Matt Damon, The Martian. He might be the actual runner up. The film has the most nominations of the remaining nominees, he carries it for the middle section, and people love him. No one’s beating DiCaprio, but Damon will get a small handful of votes. Put him second if you want. What do I care?

Likelihood of Winning: 1) DiCaprio 2) Fassbender 3) Damon 4) Redmayne 5) Cranston

If I Were a Betting Man: It’s his year. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant. Swept every precursor and the “get Leo an Oscar” train is unstoppable at this point. The less I say in these spaces, the more of a lock they are. This is locked.

You Should Take: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant. Don’t question the easy ones. That’s how you lose your pool.

On My Ballot: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett, Carol

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Brie Larson, Room

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: This was really the only category they could have had. Alicia Vikander should have been on here, but you know, category fraud. No real surprises here, and overall pretty solid.

Rampling now becomes that nominee you look at in fifteen years and have no idea what the movie is. Like Catherine Deneuve in 1992, Isabelle Adjani the two times she was nominated… that’s how these go. Jennifer Lawrence is amidst her hot streak with the Academy and it made sense they’d nominate her. She’s actually the best thing about the film, whereas the other two times she was nominated for David O. Russell movies, it felt like she was part of a bigger thing and the film was helping her in some aspects. (I say this fully having voted for her in 2012.) This is a “nomination is the reward” situation for her. Cate Blanchett, in a different universe, would have been the favorite to win. She may be a lot of people’s personal choice in the category, either now or years from now. Julianne Moore in 2002 was my preferred choice for a similar movie. But she won two years ago, and it just feels like she’s got the “congrats, you were really good. If only we could vote for you” nomination.

Larson and Ronan were the two big nominees for them all the way. They’re both kind of surprising in the sense that Larson really doesn’t have the kind of track record that Hollywood likes. She’s very anti-the whole thing, almost quit acting, and has been taking smaller, more interesting parts rather than the big “Oscar” parts. And even this performance doesn’t feel like the kind of performance they’d usually vote for the win. It’s really surprising to me. I know Short Term 12 is there, but even that I don’t think was a huge factor in her favor. It’s pleasantly surprising how much of a winner she’s seemed throughout. And then Ronan is surprising because she’s only 21. She’s been a respected actress for a while, having been nominated for Atonement (and I voted for her for there, too), but has mostly been taking those transitional roles where she’s still playing kids. Brooklyn is that perfect combination of an adult role and a perfect type of film for voters to embrace her. I wonder if she’d have been the winner in a different year, without Brie Larson.

For the vote, it’s between Larson and Ronan for me. They’re so far and away my favorites they’re the only two I’d even consider voting for. And it’s fairly close. But Larson takes it for me. She was incredible, and what she had to do in that movie (much of which wasn’t even shown on the screen) puts her over the top. Over time, it might become Ronan, but for now, it’s Larson all the way.

My Vote: Brie Larson, Room

If I Had a Ballot: Brie Larson, Room

Should have been nominated: I’m fine with this list. But if I had to add one, I’d say Bel Powley, The Diary of a Teenage Girl

– – – – –

The Analysis

Again, SAG is the way to go. They’ve gotten it right 15/21 times.

  • Jodie Foster won in ’94 for Nell and Jessica Lange won the Oscar for Blue Sky.
  • Annette Bening won in ’99 for American Beauty and Hilary Swank won the Oscar for Boys Don’t Cry.
  • Renee Zellweger won in ’02 for Chicago and Nicole Kidman won the Oscar for The Hours.
  • Julie Christie won in ’07 for Away from Her and Marion Cotillard won the Oscar for La Vie en Rose.
  • Meryl Streep won in ’08 for Doubt and Kate Winslet won the Oscar for The Reader. (Note: She won SAG Supporting Actress for the same performance.)
  • Viola Davis won in ’11 for The Help and Meryl won the Oscar for The Iron Lady.

Now, branching those six times out to the other percursors…

  • 1994, BAFTA went to Susan Sarandon for The Client. (What?)
  • 1999, BAFTA had Bening, BFCA had Swank. (Wow.)
  • 2002, BAFTA had Kidman, BFCA had Julianne Moore for Far from Heaven.
  • 2007, BAFTA had Cotillard and BFCA had Christie.
  • 2008, BAFTA had Winslet and BFCA had her win Supporting Actress.
  • 2011, BAFTA had Meryl and BFCA had Viola.

Meaning, if there’s gonna be a difference, BAFTA will give you the winner, most of the time. 1999 is interesting to me. 1994 was the first year, so I don’t care about that so much. Otherwise, in the three times they’ve split since 2000, BAFTA had them all.

Oh, but yeah, this year, the same actress won all three. Brie Larson, Room. So yeah.

The big secret of the Oscars? They’re really not that difficult to pick.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Brie Larson, Room. She swept. Even BAFTA which I thought for sure could have gone another way and still not affected her frontrunner status. She’s your winner, and she’s as much of a lock to win as Leo at this point. Sweeps don’t lose.

Biggest Competition: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn. She’s seemed to be the alternate choice throughout, but she’s lost to Larson every step of the way. At this point it doesn’t seem like Larson has any competition.

Spoiler Alert: Cate Blanchett, Carol. You could make the case that it’s Charlotte Rampling because she hasn’t faced the others in open voting. Okay, fine. Put her third. Do you think it’s going to happen? At least the majority of voters have seen Carol. Plus, Harvey. So for those two things, I put Cate here. Plus people love Cate. Lawrence is hampered by no one really liking her film and (I think) a general “over her” quality. So either Cate or Rampling is third, and it won’t matter because it ain’t happening.

Likelihood of Winning: 1) Larson 2) Ronan 3) Blanchett 4) Rampling 5) Lawrence

If I Were a Betting Man: You gotta take Brie Larson, Room. She’s such a lock it’s not even worth considering an alternative. Lawrence and Blanchett got theirs recently, Rampling is just lucky to be nominated (and even then, not enough people will have seen her film to vote for her), and Ronan couldn’t even manage a BAFTA win, which would have even made this a half-a-second’s conversation. This one’s all sewn up.

You Should Take: Brie Larson, Room. Every precursor went to her. It’s a lock. You automatically have one more right. We’re four categories in and you’re guaranteed to get three right (or have the same one wrong as everyone else).

On My Ballot: Brie Larson, Room

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale, The Big Short

Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone, Creed

My 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

My Thoughts: This has been the craziest category of the year. The precursors were all over the place. Unlike last year where it was just sealed and delivered from day one. Aside from these five, the other contenders were Idris Elba, Benicio del Toro, Paul Dano, Michael Shannon and Jacob Tremblay. No one really knew how the category was going to turn out in the end. (Though I will again point out that I called that out of nowhere Tom Hardy nomination.) It’s hard to really fault any of the performances they chose.

Personally, yes to Elba and yes to Del Toro and yes to Dano. Who do I take off? No fucking clue. That’s the problem the Academy had. Tremblay is a lead, but I’d have wanted to nominate him too. Shannon was great but I’d have to leave him off because of the embarrassment of riches.

Rylance has hit every precursor throughout, but as soon as he got nominated, he became an afterthought for the win. Tom Hardy snuck on and remains a sneaky contender for the win, even though it feels unlikely. Christian Bale is there along for the ride with his film, like Alan Arkin for Argo. Ruffalo is there because they love him, because he was solid and because the film is a well-respected ensemble piece. But, as is always the case with him, you can never find a reason to actually vote for him.

Then you have Sylvester Stallone, who, I think we can say — after that Golden Globes win, the entire thing turned for him. Before that, maybe he got nominated. But after that, how does he lose? But most of the precursors didn’t nominate him, so you don’t have hardcore evidence to say it’s going to happen. Very interesting category.

Based on what’s here… I can’t vote for Bale. Ruffalo was solid, but I don’t think I’d vote for him (which is what he goes through every time he gets nominated). Rylance was great, and I’d consider him. Tom Hardy had a hell of a year. The performance… maybe. But I’d probably vote Rylance over him. But then, Stallone. I love Rocky, and I love how he’s given us this character. And here he is, coming back to it, like an old glove. I know it’s somewhat manipulative and almost unfair, but I have to vote for him. It’s like Paul Newman winning for reprising Fast Eddie. Sure, he didn’t do it seven times, but you get the idea. I just love this character, and Stallone is so good in it. I’d be very okay with him winning. It would be the best story. I’m rooting for him.

My Vote: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

If I Had a Ballot: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Should have been nominated: Benicio Del Toro, Sicario, Jacob Tremblay, Room, Paul Dano, Love & Mercy, Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation

– – – – –

The Analysis

Historically, SAG actually doesn’t do as well with Supporting Actor as they do in the other acting categories. Only 13/21 times. That said, the past decade, they’re 8/10.

Their misses:

  • Ed Harris in 1995 for Apollo 13. Kevin Spacey won the Oscar for The Usual Suspects.
  • Robert Duvall in 1998 for A Civil Action. James Coburn won the Oscar for Affliction.
  • Albert Finney in 2000 for Erin Brockovich. Benicio Del Toro won the Oscar for Traffic. (He won Best Actor for SAG that year.)
  • Ian McKellen in 2001 Fellowship of the Ring. Jim Broadbent won the Oscar for Iris.
  • Christopher Walken in 2002 for Catch Me If You Can. Chris Cooper won the Oscar for Adaptation.
  • Paul Giamatti in 2005 for Cinderella Man. George Clooney won the Oscar for Syriana.
  • Eddie Murphy in 2006 for Dreamgirls. Alan Arkin won the Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine.
  • Tommy Lee Jones in 2012 for Lincoln. Christoph Waltz won the Oscar for Django Unchained.

Christoph Waltz is one of only two people to not be nominated at SAG and go on to win an Oscar. Thought that should be mentioned.

Technically that means in picking Stallone you’d be going against the order of things.

Looking at BAFTA and BFCA for the eight misses:

  • 1995, BAFTA had Tim Roth for Rob Roy. BFCA had Spacey.
  • 1998, BAFTA had Geoffrey Rush for Shakespeare in Love. BFCA had Billy Bob Thornton for A Simple Plan.
  • 2000, BAFTA also had Benicio. BFCA had Joaquin Phoenix for Gladiator.
  • 2001, BAFTA had Jim Broadbent. BFCA had Ben Kingsley for Sexy Beast. (YES!)
  • 2002, BAFTA also had Walken. BFCA had Chris Copper.
  • 2005, BAFTA had Jake Gyllenhaal for Brokeback Mountain. BFCA had Paul Giamatti.
  • 2006, BAFTA had Alan Arkin. BFCA had Eddie Murphy.
  • 2012, BAFTA had Christoph Waltz. BFCA had Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master.

So, of the eight, BAFTA got two of them, BFCA had two.

I usually say the Golden Globes are meaningless, but I’m actually gonna invoke them for this category.

  • They had Brad Pitt in 1995 for Twelve Monkeys.
  • They had Ed Harris in 1998 for The Truman Show.
  • They had Benicio in 2000 (not that it’s really one SAG got wrong).
  • They had Broadbent in 2001.
  • They had Chris Cooper in 2002.
  • They had Clooney in 2005.
  • They had Eddie Murphy in 2006.
  • And they had Christoph Waltz in 2012.

That’s a pretty strong rate of getting it right over the others. If SAG got it wrong the past fifteen years, the Globes had it.

This year, SAG went with Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation. BFCA and the Globes went with Sylvester Stallone for Creed. And BAFTA went with Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies. Stallone wasn’t nominated for either SAG or BAFTA.

Stallone would have walked away with this if it weren’t for those meddling kids BAFTA going with Rylance over Elba. Elba sweeping everything else would have made it easy to take Stallone guilt-free. But now, that Rylance win is hanging out there. Though, to be fair, they like Brits at the British Academy Awards (who knew). So the Rylance win makes sense to me.

Looking at this category, the only one person you can rule out totally is Christian Bale. He’s had no momentum, and even if the film wins most of its awards, it won’t win here. (Again, three at best.) Rylance I guess could take it, but he’s such a low key performance, and he’d really be flying in the face of SAG, who didn’t vote for him. Which has happened. Ruffalo didn’t get SAG, so that makes him potentially dangerous, with the film hanging around the Best Picture conversation. But I don’t see it.

The one person I do see as dangerous is Tom Hardy. Between The Revenant, Legend and Mad Max, he has a lot of love out there. Plus with Leo winning and campaigning and giving him a lot of shout outs throughout the season, he might get some votes because of that. So for that reason, I consider him really the only stoikiy muzhik in Sly’s way. Which doesn’t feel like much, does it?

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed. Not being nominated for SAG or BAFTA isn’t his fault. The two he was nominated for, the Globe and BFCA, he won. So he’s your frontrunner, and it sure as hell doesn’t seem like he’s got a lot of competition standing in his way for the win. The person who won SAG isn’t nominated, and the person who won BAFTA feels like he won because he’s British, and because the two real contenders they wanted to vote for weren’t nominated. They love a veteran in this category, and it’s Rocky… I find it really hard to think he won’t win this. I can’t back it up with tons of evidence, but he does have the most precursor wins of anybody nominated. So there is that. Plus, also, sentiment counts for a lot this year. I think he’s got it in the bag. It’s gonna be a sweet moment. I feel like they’ll probably kick the show off with him winning, too. You know, after the opening half hour of nothing.

Biggest Competition: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies. It’s very, very, very rare for someone to win an acting award without any precursors. In this category specifically, it’s happened once. James Coburn in 1998. (Clooney had the Globe in 2005, if we count that as a legitimate precursor. I’m 50/50 on that.) The only person I see benefitting from that is Tom Hardy. Otherwise, Rylance is really your only alternative to Stallone in terms of pure numbers. So he’s the alternate. Wanna put Hardy here? Fine. Rylance at least has BAFTA though. Plus, the argument against Stallone is that only twice ever has someone not been nominated for SAG and actually won the Oscar. Which means that, on that alone, Rylance and Bale are the only two that can win. So if you really want to go based on the numbers, Rylance is the only play.

Spoiler Alert: Tom Hardy, The Revenant. He snuck on with zero precursors except a BFCA nomination and I’m still happy I saw that coming (for the future, the thing to note is that Leo always brings another actor with him when he gets nominated). He has no other wins, which makes him a real long shot in the category. But with Bale and Ruffalo seemingly only here for the films to get acting support, and Rylance seeming like a nominations powerhouse with no real win power, Tom Hardy is really the only person I can see beating Stallone. It almost never happens that someone has no previous wins and goes on to win the category, but that just goes to show me that Stallone can’t lose more than anything. If you think it’s Ruffalo here and not Hardy, feel free. I couldn’t say he’s not the third choice. He certainly doesn’t feel like one, though. Especially not having won any precursor wins. The reason I say Hardy is the spoiler is because Leo is talking him up every time he takes that stage. And he had a hell of a year. People will vote for him because of that. I think he’s your spoiler who might actually end up second choice. Tough call. But it shouldn’t matter in the end.

Likelihood of Winning: 1) Stallone 2) Rylance 3) Hardy 4) Ruffalo 5) Bale

If I Were a Betting Man: How could you not take Sylvester Stallone, Creed? Just look at this category as a whole. You know Bale won’t win. And you know Ruffalo probably won’t win either. Dude can never seem to win an Oscar. Rylance has BAFTA, but does it feel like he has any momentum since nominations came out? Tom Hardy and Stallone are the only two who feel like they can take this. And of the two, which one do you feel more confident about? Tell me you’re not gonna smile seeing him go up on that stage, Rocky finally winning, after the career he’s had? It’s going to be a wonderful moment, and people are gonna vote for that. Just remember the outpouring of love he got at the Globes. They want that to happen again. They will vote for it.

You Should Take: Sylvester Stallone, Creed. Come on. You know that’s the one we all want to see. What other outcome do you see happening? If you can pick an alternative that makes sense and actually feel like that’s gonna happen, be my guest. Me? I like things to be easy, and I think this is the safest and most appealing outcome, so that’s what I’m taking.

On My Ballot: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara, Carol

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: Another category that was pretty easy to predict all the way. Owing to two cases of category fraud with two lead performances being nominated here. Rachel McAdams went along with her ensemble. Jennifer Jason Leigh got a mix of “we’ve always respected you” and “you had a flashy, memorable part in a movie we’re otherwise ignoring” support. And then Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs is the purest example of what this category is all about. Which cuts right to the chase — she’s my vote. She’s the best in the category and was my favorite supporting performance of the year.

Vikander had a hell of a year, and I almost wish she were nominated for Ex Machina instead. She still would have won. I feel like she might have won by a larger margin if she were nominated for that instead. Otherwise, this year, my favorite supporting performances were ones that weren’t overly flashy, like Joan Allen or Julie Walters. And the Academy instead went for fraudulent performances because that’s allowed.

My Vote: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

If I Had a Ballot: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Should have been nominated: Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina (category fraud… what are you gonna do), Joan Allen, Room, Julie Walters, Brooklyn

– – – – –

The Analysis

SAG again. They’ve matched the Oscar winner 14/21 times. Oh, and they’ve only missed once since 2002. Though that’s not counting the 2008 Kate Winslet different category fiasco of 2008.

Of the seven times the missed:

  • 1995: They had Kate Winslet for Sense and Sensibility. Mira Sorvino won the Oscar for Mighty Aphrodite.
  • 1996: They had Lauren Bacall for The Mirror Has Two Faces. Juliette Binoche won the Oscar for The English Patient.
  • 1998: They had Kathy Bates for Primary Colors. Judi Dench won the Oscar for Shakespeare in Love.
  • 2000: They had Judi Dench for Chocolat. Marcia Gay Harden won the Oscar for Pollock.
  • 2001: They had Helen Mirren for Gosford Park. Jennifer Connelly won the Oscar for A Beautiful Mind (she won SAG Best Actress).
  • 2007: They had Ruby Dee for American Gangster. Tilda Swinton won the Oscar for Michael Clayton.
  • 2008: Kate Winslet (who won Best Actress at the Oscars) for The Reader. Penelope Cruz won the Oscar for Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Two faces for the mirror, in case you were wondering.

So really only five times have they been wrong, due to category fraud (twice!). Also, Marcia Gay Harden actually had zero precursors when she won. She was only nominated at the Independent Spirit Awards (didn’t win) and won the New York Film Critics Circle. That’s it. She’s the other person, aside from Christoph Waltz, to win an Oscar despite not being nominated for SAG. Though I’m expecting there to be a third with Stallone this year.

Now, of the seven times:

  • 1995: BAFTA had Kate Winslet. BFCA had Mira Sorvino.
  • 1996: BAFTA had Juliette Binoche. BFCA had Joan Allen for The Crucible.
  • 1998: BAFTA had Judi Dench. BFCA was a tie between Joan Allen (Pleasantville) and Kathy Bates.
  • 2000: BAFTA had Julie Walters for Billy Elliot. BFCA had Frances McDormand for Almost Famous.
  • 2001: BAFTA and BFCA both had Jennifer Connelly.
  • 2007: BAFTA had Tilda Swinton. BFCA had Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone.
  • 2008: BAFTA had Penelope Cruz. BFCA also had Winslet Supporting.

BAFTA had the winner when SAG didn’t four, technically five times. The fifth time was Jennifer Connelly, who was an utter lock across the board no matter what category she was in. BFCA had it once, but twenty years ago and not since. So aside from Harden, and one instance in 1995, SAG or BAFTA had your winner cold. And BFCA can’t really be trusted if they go off the board.

This year, SAG and BFCA went to Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl.

Kate Winslet won the BAFTA and Globe for Steve Jobs (Vikander was nominated lead in both cases).

This means that we’re right on track for those statistics to hold up. Either Winslet or Vikander is winning this. Either you’re going with SAG or picking the BAFTA upset. It’s almost even at this point. This category is the least locked of the acting categories, and this is an instance not totally unlike Best Picture.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl. She should walk away with this one fairly easily. Or maybe dance away with it.

But not without major competition for the upset. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if Kate Winslet snuck in a win here. (I also would not be upset with that in the least.) But the reason I take her is twofold. First, SAG. The BFCA win helps too. But SAG is the big one. They’ve only missed once since 2002 (again, not counting 2008, with whom? Kate Winslet. But that was a category difference). The one miss was 2007, which was a wide open category. Though BAFTA had that, I will point out.

The second reason I’ll take her is because in the two categories she’s lost, the Globe and BAFTA, she was nominated both lead and supporting, and this performance was nominated lead. So she technically didn’t face Kate Winslet for this performance in both categories. So you wonder now how many of those votes go to her in this category that she was getting in lead. Plus, with the two performances, and Winslet being British, and BAFTA loving a Brit — I think Vikander is still the favorite here. Even if they don’t love the film, they’ll take her for the other performance that wasn’t nominated.

Biggest Competition: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs. She’s definitely got a chance at this. This is the one acting category that feels most ripe for an upset. Not Supporting Actor. That one feels like Supporting Actress last year, where it was basically locked the minute the category was finalized. Here, Winslet led off the season with a Globe win, and the BAFTA win kept her afloat. I don’t think you can call her the favorite, but she’s definitely there if you want to pick an upset winner. Her losing SAG and BFCA (more so the former) to Vikander for this specific performance (and beating Vikander for the Ex Machina performance) go against her. But this category isn’t as locked as you’d think. There is a chance people deliberately don’t vote for Vikander out of dislike for her film. I think there is a play to be made here, if you want to make it. If there’s an upset to be had, she’s the one to do it.

Spoiler Alert: Rooney Mara, Carol. There’s really no other choice besides Vikander or Winslet. There will be no shocker here. McAdams might catch a few votes because of Spotlight, but not many. Leigh stands no chance whatsoever. Even though she’s probably the most memorable character in that movie. Which leaves me with Mara. Maybe I put too much stock in Harvey campaigning, but I assume he’ll wrangle a few votes his way in the end. Maybe you want to put Leigh here. I can understand that. I can also say it shouldn’t matter in the least because I’d personally be shocked if the winner wasn’t one of the other two nominees up above.

Likelihood of Winning: 1) Vikander 2) Winslet 3) Mara 4) Leigh 5) McAdams

If I Were a Betting Man: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl. SAG rules everything around me. Gotta stick with SAG. I know BAFTA, but she was lead there. The Globes are pretty meaningless, in all. And she went lead there too. BFCA backs up SAG, and given the year she’s had, I think she’s your safe choice to take it home. It’s not 100% locked, but I’d say she’s 75% locked, which is enough for me. If you’re playing the scorecard method, you’re gonna get a 1 or a 2 here. So take the safer choice and feel confident about your chances here.

You Should Take: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl. You should take Vikander. I’ll trust SAG on this one. Winslet won BAFTA, but that’s because they put Vikander lead for this role. And because, in the end, they like voting for Brits. I think that’s what put Winslet over the top there. If someone else had won BFCA, I might say Vikander could lose, but with that and SAG, the two categories where this performance in particular was up against Kate Winslet, I think she remains the safest choice. You could take Kate Winslet on the upset choice, and that would be something you;d have information to back up. But I don’t know if that’s what you should do. So I think Vikander is the choice, but Kate Winslet definitely could score the upset here. (If she does, do you think she’ll thank Leo?)

On My Ballot: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Original Screenplay

Bridge of Spies

Ex Machina

Inside Out

Spotlight

Straight Outta Compton

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: This category is a no-brainer. The Hateful Eight was the biggest overt snub. But looking at the category, there’s not much you can take off for it. And I loved Love & Mercy and wish that got more love across the board.

Otherwise, Straight Outta Compton got the token nomination. They like to sneak films like that onto Screenplay. Borat, Bridesmaids, My Big Fat Greek Wedding — they’ve done this for years. (Not that it’s not deserving. That’s just what they like to do. Token doesn’t always have to mean race. I could be referring to the author, J.R.R. Token.) Ex Machina was a nice inclusion. That was a great film that got the right amount of respect from the Academy. A small sci-fi movie released in April got two overall nominations, that’s solid. Not to mention it should have been nominated for containing the single greatest scene of 2015.

Bridge of Spies is a classy Spielberg film that was clearly well liked if not overly loved, and the Coens wrote on it. Inside Out is the best Pixar movie in at least five years, so that was an easy inclusion. The good Pixar movies usually get nominated. And Spotlight — no fucking brainer.

Spotlight is also the clear winner here. I loved Inside Out and even I’d take Spotlight. These screenplay categories are so easy this year you don’t even have to think about them.

My Vote: Spotlight

If I Had a Ballot: Spotlight

Should have been nominated: Love & Mercy, The Hateful Eight

– – – – –

The Analysis

The WGA is our main precursor award. But it gets complicated here, because if writers aren’t guild members, they can’t win the award. So a lot of times scripts are ineligible for WGA yet still are favorites to win the Oscar.

  • 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel (Birdman was ineligible)
  • 2013: Her
  • 2012: Zero Dark Thirty (Django Unchained was ineligible)
  • 2011: Midnight in Paris
  • 2010: Inception (The King’s Speech was ineligible)
  • 2009: The Hurt Locker
  • 2008: Milk
  • 2007: Juno
  • 2006: Little Miss Sunshine
  • 2005: Crash
  • 2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • 2003: Lost in Translation
  • 2002: Bowling for Columbine (Talk to Her was ineligible)
  • 2001: Gosford Park
  • 2000: You Can Count on Me
  • 1999: American Beauty
  • 1998: Shakespeare in Love
  • 1997: As Good As It Gets
  • 1996: Fargo
  • 1995: Braveheart (I am unsure whether The Usual Suspects was eligible or just not nominated)

As you can see — most of the time the WGA is going to get it right or the winner won’t be nominated. They have a really impressive track record the past fifteen years. They only missed in 2000. So assuming this year goes the same (hint: it should), then they’ll have been right every year for fifteen years except for three when the actual winner was ineligible.

Other quick notes: BAFTA only has a 10/20 success rate in this category. They did have Django and The King’s Speech, Talk to Her, Almost Famous and The Usual Suspects in those years. They did not have Birdman, however. Nor did they have Good Will Hunting. So when the WGA is wrong, BAFTA is right most of the time.

BFCA had one combined Screenplay category for ten years, so they’re not as helpful. Though they have gotten Original Screenplay right for five years now. And overall, Original/Adapted, they have gotten a Screenplay winner correct 17 times, and only missed three times (they had Inglourious Basterds, which shockingly lost to Precious in 2009, they had In America in 2003, which Lost… in Translation (I’m the best), and they had Memento in 2001, which lost to Gosford Park).

The Globes, which only has one Screenplay category, runs about the same rate. 16/20 years with their winner winning one of the two. Though they will miss this year because Steve Jobs went un-nominated at the Oscars (no comment). The past four years, they went with original screenplays, which are much harder to hit. That’s slightly impressive.

Mostly, though — the winner of the WGA, unless something big isn’t eligible, is the way you want to go when guessing this one.

This year, Spotlight won all three precursors. So yes, I gave you all of that information to say — doesn’t matter. Shit’s probably locked.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Spotlight. WGA, BAFTA, BFCA. And it still has an outside shot at Best Picture (which makes this an essential win for it). No need to expound on this too much. It’s probably going to win.

Biggest Competition: Straight Outta Compton. Because of the backlash. This will get votes purely because of that. It’ll get enough votes to make it the second choice, and maybe even make it a slightly sneaky contender for an upset pick. But ultimately I can’t see it actually completing the upset. After all, old white people are the majority. Second choice, but won’t win. Don’t be fooled by the noise. They only do it when the noise is loud and there’s a person (Denzel) or a film (Precious) they respect. Not enough people will take this film seriously enough to actually see it win here. (Also, the punchline if it does win is going to be — all four writers are white. Get your memes ready.)

Spoiler Alert: Bridge of Spies. The Coens helped write this. It’ll get a few votes. But not enough to really make a run at it. Pixar has never won a Screenplay category and will always be considered a #5 in the category because no one takes animated films seriously. (Though I do know some people who have voted for it.) And then Ex Machina is rewarded by even being here. Vikander couldn’t even win for the film in all the precursors, the writing has no shot. This is the only other choice if for some reason we even get this far.

Likelihood of Winning: 1) Spotlight 2) Straight Outta Compton 3) Bridge of Spies 4) Ex Machina 5) Inside Out

If I Were a Betting Man: Spotlight is going to win. All the precursors, major Best Picture contender. I don’t think it can lose. Every shred of evidence points to this. (I realize all evidence also pointed to Jason Reitman in ’09 when he lost to Precious, so do what you will. But I’m pretty sure we all realize this shouldn’t lose here.)

You Should Take: Spotlight. You could take Straight Outta Compton here if you want to pick the upset and think the backlash has affected their thought process. I’m more apt to think it’ll make them double down and be even more stingy.

On My Ballot: Spotlight

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Big Short

Brooklyn

Carol

The Martian

Room

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: This was a category that felt like most years. There’s always one screenplay category where there are only six contenders and five of them get nominated. Though this year, they omitted a huge one: Aaron Sorkin for Steve Jobs. That script should have WON this category. That’s so bizarre to me. But that aside, the other five are nicely deserving (even though I don’t think they needed to nominate Carol).

Most years, I could vote for three of these contenders. Wouldn’t vote for Carol and The Martian I thought was too much exposition and too… I don’t know. Doesn’t feel like I want to vote for it for a win.

Brooklyn normally would be my vote. Room would normally be my vote. I could still vote for either of them. But man… The Big Short. What McKay accomplished with that, I have to vote for it. The reason being… he had to layer in so much exposition from a book that doesn’t already have its own narrative. It wasn’t meant to be a movie. And he had to synthesize a lot of information that most people don’t understand and show it to you in a way that helped you both understand it and entertained you. Yes, some people didn’t like the celebrity interludes. I get it. But the rest of this script was so well-crafted that he’s gonna be a deserving winner for this. I can’t vote for anything else.

My Vote: The Big Short

If I Had a Ballot: The Big Short

Should have been nominated: Steve Jobs, Me & Earl and the Dying Girl

– – – – –

The Analysis

WGA again:

  • 2014: The Imitation Game
  • 2013: Captain Phillips (12 Years a Slave was ineligible)
  • 2012: Argo
  • 2011: The Descendants
  • 2010: The Social Network
  • 2009: Up in the Air
  • 2008: Slumdog Millionaire 
  • 2007: No Country for Old Men
  • 2006: The Departed
  • 2005: Brokeback Mountain
  • 2004: Sideways
  • 2003: American Splendor
  • 2002: The Hours (The Pianist was ineligible)
  • 2001: A Beautiful Mind
  • 2000: Traffic
  • 1999: Election
  • 1998: Out of Sight
  • 1997: L.A. Confidential
  • 1996: Sling Blade
  • 1995: Sense and Sensibility

So in twenty years, they’re 14/20, with two ineligibles. And in the past fifteen years, they’ve missed four times, and two of them were ineligible. So out and out missed twice. I’d listen to them.

Also, of the two out and out misses — there was no way Return of the King wasn’t sweeping the Oscars, and the other was the Precious shocker of 2009.

The other thing to mention is (though it doesn’t mean much to us this year), usually the Best Picture winner wins Best Screenplay. And the two major contenders are likely going to win, since the third isn’t nominated.

For trivia’s sake: 31 times did a Best Picture winner lose Best Screenplay, and 11 of them happened in the past 40 years. So about only a third. And only four times since 2000. In the past decade, only The Artist didn’t win. So odds favor a Best Picture winner winning Screenplay. But like I said, this isn’t a year we have to deal with that, since two of the three contenders are nominated and The Revenant isn’t, which hasn’t happened since Titanic. FYI, and then not since 1965, The Sound of Music. Which isn’t good for that film.

Now, BAFTA, in the past 20 years: not great. The Social Network, Slumdog Millionaire, Brokeback Mountain, Sideways, Return of the King, Traffic. 6/20. What’s the opposite of a bank to take them to? The track?

BFCA — 8 times ever. Though half the time they had Screenplay as one category. In the past five years, they’re 2/5. So they’re not overly helpful. You gotta stick with WGA. But…

This year, WGA, BAFTA and BFCA, much like Original Screenplay, went to the same film, The Big Short. And if there ever was such a thing as a lock in a Screenplay category, this is it. Spotlight could lose on the racism backlash. This film will not. This is perhaps the second biggest lock of the night behind Leo.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The Big Short. WGA, BAFTA, BFCA, oh, and the USC Scripter, which apparently people think means something. Given the job he did, he cannot lose. This is will win.

Biggest Competition: Room. I guess, right? It got Picture and Director nominations, and she’s gonna win Actress. That should make it second choice. Not that it has any chance.

Spoiler Alert: The Martian. I waned to take this time to consider the shocking omission of the category and how different it would seem if that nominee were here, but I realized that goes against the point of this and talking about what is here and what is nominated, so I won’t. That said, I really have nothing to add, because there’s no way we’re even getting to an alternate choice in the category. I put this third because at least it has seven overall nominations. And the other two seem really unlikely to make any kind of headway. So put whatever you want third. 0% chance.

Likelihood of Winning: 1) The Big Short 2) Room 3) The Martian 4) Brooklyn 5) Carol

If I Were a Betting Man: The Big Short. It’s not losing.

You Should Take: The Big Short

Jacked to the tits

On My Ballot: The Big Short

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Editing

The Big Short

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Spotlight

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: Hard to analyze an Editing category, because the Best Picture frontrunners are always going to be nominated here. If we’re looking at pure editing, I don’t put at least one or two of these here. Maybe I nominate Room instead because I loved it. Steve Jobs too. That film also being heavily edited. Otherwise, I can’t be that upset with what they went for, because I understand it.

That said, the win for me is Mad Max. The chaos that movie creates and keeps controlled, and the fact that they have you understand what’s going on in nearly every frame of the film, is truly impressive. That’s my vote.

My Vote: Mad Max: Fury Road

If I Had a Ballot: Mad Max: Fury Road

Should have been nominated: Steve Jobs

– – – – –

The Analysis

Oh, I guess I should mention, after the fact — if a film doesn’t get an Editing nomination (and isn’t Birdman, where the idea is that it looks like it wasn’t edited), it really has no chance at Best Picture. The only films to win Best Picture and not be nominated for Best Editing are:

It Happened One Night, The Life of Emile Zola, Hamlet, Marty, Tom Jones, A Man for All Seasons, The Godfather Part II, Annie Hall, Ordinary People, Birdman.

Ten times, and one of them was the very first Best Editing category. Which means that right now, the only films that can really win Best Picture (not that we didn’t already know) are: The Big Short, Mad Max, The Revenant and Spotlight. This category is what did The Martian in, not Best Director.

The key with this category is… sometimes it tells you which way Best Picture is going to go. When Crash won, you knew. When Argo won, you knew. So if The Big Short wins this over Mad Max, you’ll know. (Also, The Revenant.)

As for precursors, the ACE Eddie Awards are overall solid. In the past 30 years, they have matched with the Oscar winner for Editing 23 times. And then overall, going back to 1961, of 54 times, they’ve missed 17 times. So they’re hovering at 70% all-time, and just over 75% the past thirty years.

I won’t list all the ones they got right, just the ones they got wrong. Which are:

  • 2014: Boyhood wins ACE, Whiplash wins the Oscar
  • 2013: Captain Phillips wins ACE, Gravity wins the Oscar
  • 2011: The Descendants wins ACE, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo wins the Oscar
  • 2000: Gladiator wins ACE, Traffic wins the Oscar.
  • 1995: Braveheart wins ACE, Apollo 13 wins the Oscar.
  • 1989: Glory wins ACE, Born on the Fourth of July wins the Oscar.
  • 1988: Rain Man and Mississippi Burning tie for ACE, Who Framed Roger Rabbit wins the Oscar.
  • 1984: Amadeus wins ACE, The Killing Fields wins the Oscar.
  • 1983: WarGames wins ACE, The Right Stuff wins the Oscar.
  • 1977: The Turning Point wins ACE, Star Wars wins the Oscar.
  • 1974: The Longest Yard wins ACE, The Towering Inferno wins the Oscar.
  • 1971: Summer of ’42 wins ACE, The French Connection wins the Oscar.
  • 1969: Hello, Dolly! wins ACE, wins the Oscar.
  • 1967: The Dirty Dozen wins ACE, In the Heat of the Night wins the Oscar.
  • 1966: Fantastic Voyage wins ACE, Grand Prix wins the Oscar.
  • 1962: The Longest Day wins ACE, Lawrence of Arabia wins the Oscar.
  • 1961: The Parent Trap wins ACE, West Side Story wins the Oscar.

I can’t really start breaking them all down, since most of them feel like a year-by-year scenario.

BAFTA:

  • 2014: Whiplash
  • 2013: Rush
  • 2011: Senna
  • 2000: Gladiator
  • 1995: The Usual Suspects
  • 1989: Mississippi Burning
  • 1988: Fatal Attraction
  • 1984: The Killing Fields
  • 1983: Flashdance
  • 1977: Annie Hall
  • 1974: The Conversation
  • 1971: Sunday Bloody Sunday
  • 1969: Midnight Cowboy

Not great.

BFCA:

  • 2014: Birdman
  • 2013: Gravity
  • 2011: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

BFCA only started handing out in 2009. And they’ve also only been right those two times out of six.

You pretty much have to take each year as it comes. Though pretty much — the Eddies are gonna be right.

This year:

ACE Eddie Dramatic + BAFTA + BFCA: Mad Max: Fury Road

ACE Eddie Comedic: The Big Short

All the overwhelming evidence points to Mad Max easily taking this category home. And if not, The Big Short will win, and the Eddies will be right again.

I also have to say this… if you’re gonna pick The Big Short to win Best Picture, you might as well take it here too. Because this is swing category. Argo, The Departed, Crash — Best Picture swung on this single category. When a film wins for Editing, that’s usually a sign of a Best Picture win. So sometimes it’s okay to fly in the face of the obvious. That said… Mad Max is tough.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. It won every precursor, is clearly edited like crazy. There’s really no reason to go against it. The only reason you vote against this is because you think there’s gonna be that swing vote on Best Picture. And even then, not wholly likely to happen. This is the choice.

Biggest Competition: The Big Short. If it’s not Mad Max, it’s this. And even then, don’t fully rule out The Revenant. This is one of those categories where, if it’s not the frontrunner, it might be busted wide open. I explained up there why I think this is the choice if not Max. First, that means it’ll probably win Best Picture. And it also has to do with the usual numbers, where if they like a film enough to win Best Picture, they will also look to get it other awards. Not since 1952 has a film won Best Picture with only two wins, and if this film doesn’t win this category and wins Best Picture, it will almost certainly only have two wins. So that’s why this is the upset choice.

Spoiler Alert: The Revenant. Maybe they really love it. Maybe this is gonna win way more Oscars than we expect. Maybe my idea of the Best Editing tip off to Best Picture is going to be right, just with this film instead. Who’s to say? But this has no precursor support anywhere, and I don’t see people feeling the need to vote for this here. So I keep it as third choice. The other two — couldn’t tell you where to put. If you think Spotlight can win Picture, I’d put that fourth. Otherwise I’d put Star Wars. But I still don’t think they’re gonna vote for that en masse.

Likelihood of Winning: 1) Mad Max: Fury Road 2) The Big Short 3) The Revenant 4) Spotlight 5) Star Wars: The Force Awakens

If I Were a Betting Man: In for a penny, in for a pound. I have to take The Big Short. There’s no real reasoning behind it, and even logic tells me Mad Max is the choice in the category, even if The Big Short even manages to win Best Picture. But this film is heavily edited, and I know people who will vote for it because of how they constructed it. So it does have a puncher’s chance at it.

You Should Take: Mad Max: Fury Road. Every precursor points to this. And even basic logic points to this winning. You should take it, because it’s the smartest and most likely choice. This one is down to two choices, and this one has the better odds of the two.

On My Ballot: The Big Short

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Cinematography

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Sicario

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: This category is always one where they’re never usually that far off. You rarely see something horrendous get on. Usually it’s about what they left off.

This year, I loved the work on Crimson Peak, Son of Saul and Steve Jobs, and none of those got nominated. These five are all pretty solid. Bridge of Spies was also good and un-nominated.

The Hateful Eight I can’t vote for because despite the 70mm it’s shot almost entirely inside. Can’t do it. I like Carol’s use of Super 16, but also can’t vote for that. Deakins… I’m sorry. But I look to vote for him every year. Still can’t do it this year. Mad Max would be my vote, if not for Chivo. Chivo is about to win three in a row, and each time, the efforts get better. I have to vote for him. Though honestly, if I did have a ballot, I’d probably try to vote for Deakins in the hopes that it had some effect.

My Vote: The Revenant

If I Had a Ballot: Sicario

Should have been nominated: Son of Saul, Crimson Peak

– – – – –

The Analysis

ASC is our precursor here. But even they’re not perfect (since they actually give Deakins awards):

  • 2014: Birdman
  • 2013: Gravity
  • 2012: Skyfall
  • 2011: The Tree of Life
  • 2010: Inception
  • 2009: The White Ribbon
  • 2008: Slumdog Millionaire
  • 2007: There Will Be Blood
  • 2006: Children of Men
  • 2005: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • 2004: A Very Long Engagement
  • 2003: Seabiscuit
  • 2002: Road to Perdition
  • 2001: The Man Who Wasn’t There
  • 2000: The Patriot
  • 1999: American Beauty
  • 1998: The Thin Red Line
  • 1997: Titanic
  • 1996: The English Patient
  • 1995: Braveheart
  • 1994: The Shawshank Redemption
  • 1993: Searching for Bobby Fischer
  • 1992: Hoffa
  • 1991: Bugsy
  • 1990: Dances with Wolves
  • 1989: Blaze
  • 1988: Tequila Sunrise
  • 1987: Empire of the Sun
  • 1986: Peggy Sue Got Married

BAFTA:

  • 2014: Birdman
  • 2013: Gravity
  • 2012: Life of Pi
  • 2011: The Artist
  • 2010: True Grit
  • 2009: The Hurt Locker
  • 2008: Slumdog Millionaire
  • 2007: No Country for Old Men
  • 2006: Children of Men
  • 2005: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • 2004: Collateral
  • 2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • 2002: Road to Perdition
  • 2001: The Man Who Wasn’t There
  • 2000: Gladiator
  • 1999: American Beauty
  • 1998: Elizabeth
  • 1997: The Wings of the Dove
  • 1996: The English Patient
  • 1995: Braveheart
  • 1994: Interview with the Vampire
  • 1993: Schindler’s List
  • 1992: The Last of the Mohicans
  • 1991: Cyrano de Bergerac
  • 1990: The Sheltering Sky
  • 1989: Mississippi Burning (won Oscar for 1988)
  • 1988: Empire of the Sun
  • 1987: Jean de Florette
  • 1986: Out of Africa

BFCA:

  • 2014: Birdman
  • 2013: Gravity
  • 2012: Life of Pi
  • 2011: The Tree of Life / War Horse
  • 2010: Inception
  • 2009: Avatar

As you can see, they’re all hit and miss. Usually this is another category you take on a year by year basis. I don’t have a whole lot to add here, because this one seems like one of the five biggest locks of the night.

This year, ASC, BAFTA and BFCA all went with Chivo for the third year in a row. The Revenant is an overwhelming favorite.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The Revenant. Kinda hard to vote against him. Looking at the film, it’s hard to beat. Plus he’s beloved, and one of the best two working DPs today. All the precursors. He’s gonna win three in a row. Would be pretty shocking if he didn’t at this point.

Biggest Competition: Mad Max: Fury Road. This is the only other contender, and not a single person has chosen it thus far. Feel like Chivo’s got this one in the bag, even if this sweeps all the other technical awards it’s up for (which would give it a total of… seven. Which seems a lot. I’m thinking 5-6 is the total for this film, if even that). This is the only film that can beat Chivo. Good luck picking it, if you think they’ll vote if across the board.

Spoiler Alert: Sicario. Deakins. He’ll get votes because he hasn’t won. But he has no chance. The film hasn’t caught on and the nominees’ names aren’t on the ballot. No chance. (Also, Carol and Hateful Eight, actually no chance.)

Likelihood of Winning: 1) The Revenant 2) Mad Max: Fury Road 3) Sicario 4) Carol 5) The Hateful Eight

If I Were a Betting Man: The Revenant. How could you not? Look at the film, for one, and he has all the precursors. All evidence points to a three-peat.

You Should Take: The Revenant. You gonna vote against Chivo?

On My Ballot: The Revenant

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Original Score

Bridge of Spies

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

My Rankings:

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  2. The Hateful Eight
  3. Sicario
  4. Carol
  5. Bridge of Spies

My Thoughts: I don’t get into what is or isn’t nominated with this category. It’s too much to deal with. They almost never put what I love most on their nominations list.

As for this list — sure. I like Thomas Newman, so I’m cool with the nomination. But no way would I vote for that. Sicario was a great score, but I also wouldn’t vote for it. I love that Carter Burwell was finally nominated, but I wouldn’t want to vote for him for this unless I had to. Williams — love the score, love Star Wars, but no. So that leaves Ennio Morricone. He’s never won, so I’ll vote for him. Why not.

My Vote: The Hateful Eight

If I Had a Ballot: The Hateful Eight

Should have been nominated: Inside Out, Steve Jobs, Crimson Peak

– – – – –

The Analysis

There are no real set precursors here, so we have to look at everything we can and realize that the whole category remains a crapshoot regardless.

Golden Globes:

  • 2014: The Theory of Everything
  • 2013: All Is Lost
  • 2012: Life of Pi
  • 2011: The Artist
  • 2010: The Social Network
  • 2009: Up
  • 2008: Slumdog Millionaire
  • 2007: Atonement
  • 2006: The Painted Veil
  • 2005: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • 2004: The Aviator
  • 2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • 2002: Frida
  • 2001: Moulin Rouge!
  • 2000: Gladiator
  • 1999: The Legend of 1900
  • 1998: The Truman Show
  • 1997: Titanic
  • 1996: The English Patient
  • 1995: A Walk in the Clouds
  • 1994: The Lion King
  • 1993: Heaven & Earth
  • 1992: Aladdin
  • 1991: Beauty and the Beast
  • 1990: The Sheltering Sky

BAFTA:

  • 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • 2013: Gravity
  • 2012: Skyfall
  • 2011: The Artist
  • 2010: The King’s Speech
  • 2009: Up
  • 2008: Slumdog Millionaire
  • 2007: La Vie en Rose
  • 2006: Babel
  • 2005: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • 2004: The Motorcycle Diaries
  • 2003: Cold Mountain
  • 2002: The Hours
  • 2001: Moulin Rouge!
  • 2000: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • 1999: American Beauty
  • 1998: Elizabeth
  • 1997: Romeo + Juliet
  • 1996: The English Patient
  • 1995: Il Postino
  • 1994: Backbeat
  • 1993: Schindler’s List
  • 1992: Strictly Ballroom
  • 1991: Cyrano de Bergerac
  • 1990: Cinema Paradiso

BFCA:

  • 2014: Birdman
  • 2013: Gravity
  • 2012: Lincoln
  • 2011: The Artist
  • 2010: The Social Network
  • 2009: Up
  • 2008: Slumdog Millionaire
  • 2007: There Will Be Blood
  • 2006: The Illusionist
  • 2005: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • 2004: The Aviator
  • 2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • 2002: Catch Me If You Can, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • 2001: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • 2000: Gladiator
  • 1999: The Talented Mr. Ripley
  • 1998: Saving Private Ryan

To make everything easy, I’ve put it all into a single table. Here’s how everything matches up to the Oscar winner for the past 15 years:

(Anything in BLUE was not nominated at the Oscars.)

Year Oscar BAFTA Globe BFCA
2014 The Grand Budapest Hotel The Grand Budapest Hotel The Theory of Everything Birdman
2013 Gravity Gravity All Is Lost Gravity
2012 Life of Pi Skyfall Life of Pi Lincoln
2011 The Artist The Artist The Artist The Artist
2010 The Social Network The King’s Speech The Social Network The Social Network
2009 Up Up Up Up
2008 Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire
2007 Atonement La Vie en Rose Atonement There Will Be Blood
2006 Babel Babel The Painted Veil The Illusionist
2005 Brokeback Mountain Memoirs of a Geisha Memoirs of a Geisha Memoirs of a Geisha
2004 Finding Neverland The Motorcycle Diaries The Aviator The Aviator
2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Cold Mountain The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2002 Frida The Hours Frida Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets & Minority Report
2001 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Moulin Rouge! Moulin Rouge! The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
2000 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Gladiator Gladiator

Since 2008, three times were all three precursors unanimous, and that film won the Oscar. There’s also 2005, when they all matched and it didn’t. The real important thing to note is that, going back to 2000, only twice has a film won the Oscar without having won any of the precursors, and those years were 2004 and 2005. One of those years, the precursors swept and the Oscars went another way, and the other, none of the precursor winners were eligible.

This year all three precursors, BAFTA, BFCA and the Golden Globe, all went to Enni Morricone, The Hateful Eight.

So four times, the three precursors were unanimous, and three of those times, that person won. The other was John Williams actually losing, of all people. This is Ennio Morricone, who has zero Oscars, and I think people know it. This is a situation where, even if his name isn’t on the ballot, they know he scored that movie. And I think that makes it hard not to consider him a runaway winner here.

It’s Score, though. So nothing is set in stone. But shit, take the easy ones when you can get them. Who else you gonna vote for here?

Thomas Newman is 0 for 12, I think. Never won before. And I don’t think a Spielberg movie has won for Score since Schindler’s List, and I don’t think a non-John Williams Spielberg score has ever won. Actually, a Spielberg score has only won three times. That, Jaws and E.T. (Raiders did not win, FYI. It did lose to Chariots of Fire, which is also iconic in its own right.) My point is, doubtful.

Now there’s John Williams. They love him. They love him when he does Star Wars, too. But guess how many times he’s won for Star Wars? Once. The first one. Because the first one is iconic, and the rest are all trading on that kind of sound. That and Williams hasn’t won since Schindler’s List. Maybe some people want to give him one more for the road (since how much longer does he have composing?) But he is 0-17 since Schindler’s List, and that does include nominations for Harry Potter, Saving Private Ryan and Memoirs of a Geisha. Hard to see him taking it.

Then there’s Sicario. Johannsson has become a new favorite of theirs. People thought he should have won for The Theory of Everything last year, but he lost to Alexandre Desplat, who had never won before and had two films up. One can understand. And here he is again, with a score that really helps his movie gain the suspense it needs to work as well as it does. That said, why would they vote for it? The movie has no real support anywhere and they haven’t picked an action-type score for the win in this category since… I guess Gravity? But even then, is it? There’s no score like this that’s won going back a long time. I can safely say this has no chance at winning.

And then there’s Carol. I thought this was your winner until Morricone started sweeping everything. Burwell had never been nominated, despite scoring Fargo, True Grit, Miller’s Crossing, and all those great Coen brothers movies, and I thought he’d get his nomination and his win. And then Morricone swept the precursors and Carol ended up getting omitted in all the major categories. Hard to consider him anything other than an upset possibility with a small likelihood of actually happening.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The Hateful Eight. He has every precursor, he’s Ennio Morricone, and he’s never won an Oscar. I know this is one of the more nebulous categories, but usually you can sense who’s going to win. Do you at all think he’s not gonna win this?

Biggest Competition: Carol. It’s not Bridge of Spies, because that would shock everyone. And it’s certainly not Sicario, because no one’s gonna vote for that. If Burwell could pick up any precursor, I’d have wanted to stick him in as a surprise winner. But for a guy who’s never been nominated before and what could have been a cakewalk for him two months ago, he’s sure looking like he’s got no chance in this category right now. I wouldn’t say he won’t win, but right now, hard to consider him most likely to, with a legend staring him down and one right on his heels.

Spoiler Alert: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s John Williams doing Star Wars. Some people will vote for that. Now, the man has something like 52 nominations and a bunch of wins. I doubt he’ll win this. I’d be surprised. I don’t think they need to vote for him or will vote for him. So he’s a spoiler. I think Morricone is the legend they all want to see win, and I think he will. Also maybe keep an eye out for Thomas Newman, who may finally break through and lead yet another year where a Spielberg film sneaks up and wins an Oscar out of nowhere, surprising everyone.

Likelihood of Winning: 1) The Hateful Eight 2) Carol 3) Star Wars: The Force Awakens 4) Bridge of Spies 5) Sicario

If I Were a Betting Man: I can’t go against The Hateful Eight. Man’s won every precursor, and with two scores I can’t see winning, one that’s a wild card but unlikely, and only one real contender (and that film being one that they liked but clearly haven’t embraced all that much), it’s hard for me to see him not taking this one down. It’s not 100% locked, but I like it enough to say it is.

You Should Take: The Hateful Eight. Maybe Carol if you think a shocker is going to happen, but usually in a shocker situation, you’d want to take a nominee that you think they’re going to want to get another award to (like Brokeback in 2005). In that situation, Bridge of Spies is your bet. But do you really see that happening? Stick with Morricone. He’s the safest choice.

On My Ballot: The Hateful Eight

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Original Song

“Earned It,” from Fifty Shades of Grey

“Manta Ray,” from Racing Extinction

“Simple Song No. 3,” from Youth

“Till It Happens to You,” from The Hunting Ground

“Writing’s on the Wall,” from Spectre

My Rankings:

  1. “Writing’s on the Wall,” from Spectre
  2. “Till It Happens to You,” from The Hunting Ground
  3. “Simple Song No. 3,” from Youth
  4. “Manta Ray,” from Racing Extinction
  5. “Earned It,” from Fifty Shades of Grey

My Thoughts: I was thoroughly underwhelmed by the eligible songs this year. I only really liked two or three songs in total. And since the song I liked most of the potential nominees is here, that’s the song I’m going to vote for. I remain unimpressed and lament the days of great original songs in films.

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

If I Had a Ballot: “Writing’s on the Wall,” from Spectre

Should have been nominated: “Feels Like Summer,” from Shaun the Sheep Movie

– – – – –

The Analysis

This is the one semi-major category where you fly completely blind. You have no idea what they’re gonna do. Usually you have some sort of sign of what the favorite is, but you never really know. Even “Let It Go” felt like it had stiff competition from Pharell and Bono that year. And even last year, with “Glory,” we felt like the stupid Lego song could take it down. No one knows. You just have to grasp blindly and hope for the best.

Fortunately, I’m here to help. The beauty of this year is that no one’s even heard of two of the nominees, maybe even three of them. So you can just toss that shit out right off the top.

Manta Ray” is a song from a nature documentary. It is the equivalent of 2012, when J. Ralph was also nominated for the song from Chasing Ice. No one knew that song either, which means we threw it right the fuck out. This is an open vote. The people voting are voting for the songs they heard. Meaning you have to guess how many people are not only gonna have listened to all five of the nominees, but are actually willing to vote for this one, of the five. The link is right up there. You listen to it. You think it has a chance? I don’t.

Earned It” is from Fifty Shades of Grey. And I think I could rest my case there. Academy Award nominee The Weekend. I don’t think the Academy knows who that is. I barely know who that is. I know the name, but I couldn’t tell you one of his songs. That said, no one’s gonna vote for Fifty Shades of Grey. They’re just not. And listening to the song — ehh. Universal campaigned like crazy for it to be nominated, but do you really think people are gonna vote for this? This is one of those situations where I just refuse to think it’ll happen, and will be flat out wrong if that’s the case.

Simple Song #3” is really important for its film, and it’s a lovely song. But will they vote for it? Seems a stretch for them. They changed nominations for this category in 2012. Since then — “Skyfall,” “Let It Go,” “Glory.” The songs that most people would vote for when listening to the nominees. This does not sound like it has a chance in an open vote. That said, it’s technically still the same voting that gave us “Al otro lado del rio” in 2004. So I guess you could say this has a shot. But I’m not thinking too highly of it.

Till It Happens to You” is an interesting case study. Written by Lady Gaga and Diane Warren. Warren’s been nominated in this category eight times (most recently last year for Beyond the Lights). The three most memorable compositions of hers are “Because You Loved Me,” “How Do I Live,” and “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” So she’s got some respect going. And Lady Gaga is on a hell of a run since last year. She impressed a lot of people with that Sound of Music tribute. Plus she performed this song at the PGA awards and that turned a lot of heads. Oh, and that Super Bowl national anthem. People actually kinda respect her now. If this wasn’t a song from a documentary that no one knows about it, this would run away with the category. Still seems like the probable winner.

Writing’s on the Wall” is a Bond song. People will have heard it. Adele won for the previous Bond song, but the franchise doesn’t have a good track record in this category. That was the first time it’s ever won, and the only other times it’s been nominated were for Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only. This might be the only song people have really heard of, making it the seeming most likely choice. But also, a lot of people were underwhelmed by it. So they may not like anything and side with the Gaga song because “it’s important.”

Tough call this year. It’s one or the other.

The biggest question about this category, though, is — are they even gonna bother having them perform them live? Only two of them are worth performing. Much like 2012, where they only performed the songs that made sense (one of which was part of a medley of other songs from that musical). I think maybe three of them are gonna be performed. Is what I’m hearing. Which is still one too many.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: “Till It Happens to You,” from The Hunting Ground. It just feels like the favorite. Could be way off here, but with the momentum Gaga has, and all the public places she’s been taking this song (including the PGA awards), I feel like this has become the unquestioned favorite to take this award. I can’t justify much of anything in this category. It’s the only major one (meaning, not a shorts category) that’s entirely without precursor and also entirely subjective. You hear the songs, you vote for a song. I have no idea what they’re gonna do. You just guess.

Biggest Competition: “Writing’s on the Wall,” from Spectre. If it’s not Gaga, it’s this. The other three make zero sense. Typically the song that wins has some sort of exposure. A documentary has only won this category once, and that was An Inconvenient Truth. That’s the only real precedent for the other song winning. At least here, a Bond song won three years ago and the category has become much more populist since they changed all the voting requirements. Which might theoretically favor this song. I don’t know. It’s a toss-up. Justify it however you will.

Spoiler Alert: “Simple Song No. 3,” from Youth. Because I refuse to believe people would willingly vote for a song from Fifty Shades of Grey or vote for a song from a nature documentary. At least some people saw this movie. At this point, I have a hard time thinking the category will go below #1 or #2. I flat out refuse to believe we’re gonna get Academy Award winner Fifty Shades of Grey, so this becomes my Default Contender #3.

Likelihood of Winning: 1) “Till It Happens to You” 2) “Writing’s on the Wall” 3) “Simple Song #3” 4) “Earned It” 5) “Manta Ray”

If I Were a Betting Man: “Till It Happens to You,” from The Hunting Ground is probably going to win. But I don’t know why except that’s just what feels like it’s going to win. I personally would feel terrible if I went off a Bond song and it won, so I’m gonna stick that on my personal ballot. But I think this is the most likely winner and I think it’s the safest choice. I think that’s what you put.

You Should Take: “Till It Happens to You,” from The Hunting Ground. Or take “Writing’s on the Wall.” I have no fucking clue. I’m gonna learn a lot from the result of this category. I think you should take the song that sounds like it’s gonna win, but this is honestly one of those categories I can’t gauge. It’s one or the other, and you’re just gonna have to hope for the best.

On My Ballot: “Writing’s on the Wall,” from Spectre. Fuck it. I’d hate myself if I didn’t take it on at least one of the ballots. I know I’ll probably be wrong, but I don’t care about my ballot. That one’s not trying to get everything right.

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Production Design

Bridge of Spies

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: I don’t necessarily love anything here, but I’m cool with all of them. I guess if I had to vote, it would be Mad Max. The Martian was good, but ehh. Bridge of Spies was fine. The Danish Girl, no. The Revenant was mostly outdoors. At least Max had all the crazy cars and shit. So I’ll vote for that.

My Vote: Mad Max: Fury Road

If I Had a Ballot: Mad Max: Fury Road

Should have been nominated: Crimson Peak

– – – – –

The Analysis

ADG is our precursor:

  • 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel (Period)
  • 2013: The Great Gatsby (Period)
  • 2012: Anna Karenina (Period)
  • 2011: Hugo (Period)
  • 2010: The King’s Speech (Period) / Inception (Fantasy)
  • 2009: Avatar (Fantasy)
  • 2008: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Period)
  • 2007: There Will Be Blood (Period)
  • 2006: Pan’s Labyrinth (Fantasy)
  • 2005: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • 2004: Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events
  • 2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • 2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • 2001: Moulin Rouge!
  • 2000: Gladiator
  • 1999: Sleepy Hollow
  • 1998: What Dreams May Come
  • 1997: Titanic
  • 1996: The English Patient

You’ll notice I start saying less about the precursors, sine you mostly just need to add them up and see what you’re left with.

ADG is 11/19 all-time.

BAFTA:

  • 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • 2013: The Great Gatsby
  • 2012: Les Misérables
  • 2011: Hugo
  • 2010: Inception
  • 2009: Avatar
  • 2008: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • 2007: Atonement
  • 2006: Children of Men
  • 2005: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • 2004: The Aviator
  • 2003: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
  • 2002: Road to Perdition
  • 2001: Amelie
  • 2000: Gladiator
  • 1999: Sleepy Hollow
  • 1998: The Truman Show
  • 1997: Romeo + Juliet
  • 1996: Richard III

7/19, hitting 6 of the same 7 ADG hit (getting only The Aviator right when ADG got it wrong).

BFCA:

  • 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • 2013: The Great Gatsby
  • 2012: Anna Karenina
  • 2011: Hugo
  • 2010: Inception
  • 2009: Avatar

4/6 is pretty good, considering 2012 shocked everyone.

So typically it’s ADG getting it right or it’s something off the board entirely.

This year: ADG went with The Revenant (Period), Mad Max: Fury Road (Fantasy), The Martian (Contemporary)

BAFTA + BFCA both went with Mad Max: Fury Road

Since 2009, when we’ve had three precursors for this category, they’ve out and out matched across the board five times out of six. And four of those times, the film that swept went on to win the Oscar. The other time was 2010, when Inception swept across the board and was upset by Alice in Wonderland at the Oscars. And then, 2012, Anna Karenina won BFCA and ADG but lost the BAFTA to Les Mis, and Lincoln snuck up and won the Oscar right out from all of them.

The point is, in 2014, 2013, 2011 and 2009, the same film won all three precursors and went on to win the Oscar.

Which tells me that Mad Max is an overwhelming favorite in this category, and what the hell can beat it?

The Danish Girl clearly doesn’t have the support. The Martian is a space film and space films don’t win here. Bridge of Spies would have to be a 2012 scenario, if you want to pick it. And The Revenant is mostly outdoors for 80% of the film. So is Mad Max. One of them has trucks and crazy shit. The other has trees.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. Hard to see it losing at this point, with BAFTA, ADG and BFCA wins under its belt. Plus it’s a film built on crazy production design. It should be a walk in the park here. Its competition is clearly defined, but I don’t know if it can be taken down. Vote against this at your own risk. (Which is something you can say for most of the technical categories.)

Biggest Competition: The Revenant. Because what else can legitimately be seen as the competition? This has the most Oscar nominations, is a potential Best Picture winner, and they’ll look to get it some awards regardless. Sure, a lot of the film takes place outside and has no real production design (you gonna give an Oscar to nature?), but maybe that doesn’t stop them. I don’t consider it a favorite (or even really likely to win) simply because over the past couple of years, the Academy has at least been pretty discerning when voting for films. They tend to vote things when it “makes sense.” Remember The Artist? People assumed that was going to sweep a lot of awards. But they really only gave it the ones that made sense for it below the line. Costumes, Score. Hugo won all the techs that year. So I don’t think this is a real contender for this award, yet I can’t entirely rule it out. So here we are.

Spoiler Alert: Bridge of Spies. The precedent to cite here is 2012. For both competitors. In 2012, most people assumed this category would be won by either Anna Karenina or Les Mis. The Hobbit had no shot and Life of Pi was one of those, “I guess they could” nominees that no one really saw happening because most of the film took place in a lifeboat. And then Lincoln jumps up out of nowhere and wins. Though, there, Lincoln had twelve nominations overall and wasn’t gonna win anything outside of Best Actor. So they gave it one more. (Plus not everyone saw Anna Karenina and not everyone loved Les Mis or its production design.) So that could be your justification for The Revenant, if you want (the 12 nominations thing. But I think if we’re assuming that’s gonna win Picture, it doesn’t necessarily need another one), but also this. And also — hey, it’s Spielberg again. Though the difference here is… this isn’t 1865 and this isn’t the White House. Know what I mean? This is just the 50s. So, it’s a spoiler for sure, and you have to at least consider it, but I don’t think this has all the elements they’re gonna go for in all. They might. And this might actually be your second choice. But I don’t know if I vote for the upset.

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

If I Were a Betting Man: I’m taking Mad Max: Fury Road. There’s clearly a lot of love for this out there. And I assume it’ll win most of its technical nominations. Plus it has all the precursors, and there just doesn’t seem to be anything out there to beat it. The Martian is contemporary, and that never wins here. The Danish Girl has no support. The Revenant is mostly outdoors, so I don’t think people are gonna vote for that in droves. It really leaves Bridge of Spies. And that’s the 50s. I don’t think they automatically take that either. I think Mad Max wins by process of elimination. Even before you get into how impressive the whole thing was.

You Should Take: Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s not 100% locked, but it’s about as safe a choice as you’re gonna get.

On My Ballot: Mad Max: Fury Road

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Costume Design

Carol

Cinderella

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: The costumes in Carol were too standard fare for me. I liked them, but I wouldn’t vote for them. The Danish Girl — nah. The Revenant looked nice, but not a vote for me. Mad Max and Cinderella are the two. And you know what? I’m taking Cinderella. Call me old-fashioned, but the costumes there did look really good.

My Vote: Cinderella

If I Had a Ballot: Cinderella

Should have been nominated: Crimson Peak

– – – – –

The Analysis

CDG is our main precursor:

  • 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel (Period)
  • 2013: 12 Years a Slave (Period)
  • 2012: Anna Karenina (Period)
  • 2011: W.E. (Period)
  • 2010: Alice in Wonderland (Fantasy)
  • 2009: The Young Victoria
  • 2008: The Duchess
  • 2007: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
  • 2006: Curse of the Golden Flower
  • 2005: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • 2004: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • 2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • 2002: Chicago
  • 2001: Moulin Rouge!
  • 2000: How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • 1999: Sleepy Hollow

9/16. They’re not always right, which is why we look at the others…

BAFTA:

  • 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • 2013: The Great Gatsby
  • 2012: Anna Karenina
  • 2011: The Artist
  • 2010: Alice in Wonderland
  • 2009: The Young Victoria
  • 2008: The Duchess
  • 2007: La Vie en Rose
  • 2006: Pan’s Labyrinth
  • 2005: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • 2004: Vera Drake
  • 2003: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
  • 2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • 2001: Gosford Park
  • 2000: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • 1999: Sleepy Hollow

Hell of a streak they have going there. Seven years running and nine out of ten.

BFCA:

  • 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • 2013: The Great Gatsby
  • 2012: Anna Karenina
  • 2011: The Artist
  • 2010: Alice in Wonderland
  • 2009: The Young Victoria

BFCA has hit this category every year since they started handing out the award.

All that said, this year, CDG (Fantasy), BAFTA and BFCA all went to Mad Max: Fury Road. (The Danish Girl also won Period for CDG.)

Here’s a comparison of all the precursors:

Year CDG BAFTA BFCA Oscar
2015  Mad Max: Fury Road (Fantasy) Mad Max: Fury Road Mad Max: Fury Road
2014 The Grand Budapest Hotel The Grand Budapest Hotel The Grand Budapest Hotel The Grand Budapest Hotel
2013 12 Years a Slave The Great Gatsby The Great Gatsby The Great Gatsby
2012 Anna Karenina Anna Karenina Anna Karenina Anna Karenina
2011 W.E. The Artist The Artist The Artist
2010 Alice in Wonderland (Fantasy) Alice in Wonderland Alice in Wonderland Alice in Wonderland
2009 The Young Victoria The Young Victoria The Young Victoria The Young Victoria
2008 The Duchess The Duchess   The Duchess
2007 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street La Vie en Rose   Elizabeth: The Golden Age
2006 Curse of the Golden Flower Pan’s Labyrinth   Marie Antoinette
2005 Memoirs of a Geisha Memoirs of a Geisha   Memoirs of a Geisha
2004 Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events Vera Drake   The Aviator
2003 The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World   The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2002 Chicago The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers   Chicago
2001 Moulin Rouge! Gosford Park   Moulin Rouge!
2000 How the Grinch Stole Christmas Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon   Gladiator
1999 Sleepy Hollow Sleepy Hollow   Topsy-Turvy

Since 2008, when everything matches, that film wins the Oscar. And the two times one of them was wrong, it was actually the GUILD.

So I think we have all the information we need for this one.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. CDG, BAFTA and BFCA. And when they all match, that film has never not won the Oscar. I don’t think we need any more than that to proclaim this most likely to win.

Biggest Competition: Cinderella. I’m actually thinking this might not be second choice. It’s faced Mad Max in three different precursors now and is 0-3. That said… the Academy loves them some frilly costumes. So you have to consider this alternate choice based solely on the history of the category more than anything. I think the thing that will ultimately prevent this film from winning is that it’s thought of as a lighter, lesser film. It’s a Disney kids movie, not some classy picture. Look at what usually wins here — not movies like this. Sure, Alice in Wonderland, but that’s Tim Burton. So I almost want to say this is your third choice and not second choice. That said, the next film more appropriately fits the mold of spoiler, so I think I’m gonna leave it as is.

Spoiler Alert: The Revenant. This wasn’t nominated in any of the precursors, so it hasn’t faced Mad Max at all. Leading to yet another category that’s ultimately a face off between those two films. I can make more of a case for this upsetting than Cinderella. The one thing that prevents me from putting it second is — look at previous winners. When have they gone with something similar to this? Return of the King, but that swept. Gladiator, is the last one. Not a western, though. But, Best Picture winner. This is a really strange category this year. Most people have The Danish Girl here, some people even have it to win. I guess because it won the Costume Designers Guild. Which is good enough reason. But… so did 12 Years a Slave, and I didn’t think that had any chance at winning. Maybe you want to put it here or alternate or whatever because it won that, but I don’t see any overall support for the film or why people would automatically seek out the costumes there as being worthy for a vote over anything else. I feel like if they’re gonna think about costumes, they’re either gonna go with Mad Max or Cinderella. And if not that, then they’ll go with The Revenant because they loved it. But that’s just my two cents.

Likelihood of Winning: 1) Mad Max: Fury Road 2) Cinderella 3) The Revenant 4) The Danish Girl 5) Carol

If I Were a Betting Man: Mad Max: Fury Road. You almost have to. It’s won every precursor and that always leads to a win. Going back 15 years, never has more than one precursor gone the same way and then the Oscars went another way. You gotta take it. Looking at what wins this category, I’m actually kinda shocked this is the favorite and is going to win. Cinderella is the kind of film that wins this category. But even though I want to take that upset, this has swept everything. I can’t. I’d be purely guessing based on category history and not all the data that’s staring me right in the face.

You Should Take: Mad Max: Fury Road. How can you argue with EVERY precursor? The Revenant could win this and actually fit. That’s the upset you take, not Cinderella. FYI. So keep an eye on that if you want to pick the upset. Right now, I gotta stick with the data.

On My Ballot: Mad Max: Fury Road

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: I guess I take Mad Max? In my mind, I didn’t really care about any of them, and then I figured, “Well, The Revenant had bear scars.” But in the grand scheme of things, Mad Max had all the crazy looking characters and shit, so we’ll go with that.

My Vote: Mad Max: Fury Road

If I Had a Ballot: Mad Max: Fury Road

Should have been nominated: Meh. Maybe Legend or Black Mass.

– – – – –

The Analysis

Not a whole lot in the way of precursors. The guild only really started up in 2013. But they are 2 for 2, so there is that.

Makeup & Hairstylists Guild

  • 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel / Guardians of the Galaxy / Birdman
  • 2013: Dallas Buyers Club / Bad Grandpa / Prisoners

BAFTA has been pretty good, when their winners have been nominated at the Oscars.

BAFTA:

  • 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • 2013: American Hustle (Dallas Buyers Club wasn’t nominated)
  • 2012: Les Misérables
  • 2011: The Iron Lady
  • 2010: Alice in Wonderland (The Wolfman wasn’t nominated)
  • 2009: The Young Victoria (Star Trek wasn’t nominated)
  • 2008: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • 2007: La Vie en Rose
  • 2006: Pan’s Labyrinth
  • 2005: The Chronicles of Narnia
  • 2004: The Aviator (Lemony Snicket wasn’t nominated)
  • 2003: Pirates of the Caribbean
  • 2002: Frida
  • 2001: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • 2000: How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • 1999: Topsy-Turvy
  • 1998: Elizabeth
  • 1997: The Wings of the Dove (Men in Black wasn’t nominated)
  • 1996: The Nutty Professor
  • 1995: The Madness of King George

Oh, and BFCA gives out the award too.

BFCA:

  • 2014: Guardians of the Galaxy
  • 2013: American Hustle
  • 2012: Cloud Atlas
  • 2011: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  • 2010: Alice in Wonderland
  • 2009: District 9

Not the most helpful.

This year, the Makeup & Hairstylists Guild + BAFTA + BFCA all went to Mad Max: Fury Road.

So yeah.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. It beat The Revenant in all the precursors. Hard not to take it at this point.

Biggest Competition: The Revenant. Because if Mad Max isn’t winning, it’s gonna be this one. Because you’ve never heard of the other movie, and I can’t remember the last time a movie no one’s ever heard of actually won in a category that’s not a short or Foreign Language Film.

Spoiler Alert: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. Well it’s the only one left, isn’t it? I saw it. It’s fun. But it’s not gonna win because no one knows what it is.

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

If I Were a Betting Man: Mad Max: Fury Road. All the precursors. And in the past decade, BAFTA’s gotten the winner right when their winner has been nominated. I’ll take those odds.

You Should Take: Mad Max: Fury Road. Any reason to go against the precursors and the fact that this, off the top of your head, feels like the winner? I don’t see one. It’s 50/50, and the scale tips when you see that everyone else has taken this.

On My Ballot: Mad Max: Fury Road

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Visual Effects

Ex Machina

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: Solid list. I love practical effects, so I’m taking Mad Max. Star Wars has a lot of practical effects as well, so that’s second, and I appreciate what Ex Machina did with a limited budget. The Revenant was impressive in its limited effects, and The Martian is solid all around. Good category.

My Vote: Mad Max: Fury Road

If I Had a Ballot: Mad Max: Fury Road

Should have been nominated: I’m okay with this.

– – – – –

The Analysis

*** PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE YOU MAKE YOUR PICK IN THIS CATEGORY ***

Every year, I say the same thing, and almost every year, people try to go against me. In a post-Star Wars era, ANY time a Best Picture nominee has been in the Visual Effects field, it has NEVER lost. (The caveat being, unless it lost to another Best Picture nominee.) Never. The last time it’s actually happened was 1970, 45 years ago, when Tora! Tora! Tora! beat Patton. Before then? 1945. Spellbound was nominated and didn’t win. But that’s long before special effects were even remotely what they are now. The category wasn’t even called Visual Effects before 1962. So essentially once, ever.

So chances are, no matter how much you want to take Star Wars, it will not win. Then again, it would be fitting if Star Wars was the one to end the streak it started. But again — never happened in this modern era of visual effects. I need you to understand this before you pick.

Okay, now we can get into our guilds.

VES, the Visual Effects Society, is the primary guild. They hand out a lot of different awards. The major one used to be the “Effects in an Effects-Driven Film.” It’s now called Effects in a Photoreal Film. The winner of that category went on to win the Oscar in 2002 (the first year of VES), 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013.

They also have a category for Animated Character, whose winner won in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2012. Usually, a film will win more than once at VES.

Also, of the years where VES didn’t pick the winner of the Oscars in the main category…

  • 2004 — Spider-Man 2 won the Oscar, even though Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban won the two major VES categories. I can only guess that was do to the major critical and commercial success of Spider-Man.
  • 2007 — Transformers won VES in the Effects Driven category, but somehow lost the Oscar to (Academy Award Winner) The Golden Compass. To this day, I don’t know how to explain that one. I don’t know if anyone can.
  • 2011 — Hugo won the Oscar, and also won Supporting Visual Effects from VES. Rise of the Planet of the Apes won Effects in Effects Driven.
  • 2014 — Interstellar won the Oscar, even though Dawn of the Planet of the Apes won Effects in Effects Driven.

BAFTA:

  • 2014: Interstellar
  • 2013: Gravity
  • 2012: Life of Pi
  • 2011: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  • 2010: Inception
  • 2009: Avatar
  • 2008: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • 2007: The Golden Compass
  • 2006: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
  • 2005: King Kong
  • 2004: The Day After Tomorrow
  • 2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • 2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • 2001: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • 2000: The Perfect Storm

Pretty solid, overall. 12/15 the last few years. Going back all the way, they are 21/33. Which is respectable. Though Visual Effects really only matters from 2010 onward, because they only had three nominees before then.

BFCA:

  • 2014: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • 2013: Gravity
  • 2012: Life of Pi
  • 2011: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • 2010: Inception
  • 2009: Avatar

Decent.

This year:

VES: Star Wars: The Force Awakens won four awards: Effects in a Photoreal Feature, Created Environment, Virtual Cinematography and Models. The Revenant won for Supporting Visual Effects, Composting and Animated Performance. Mad Max: Fury Road won Effects Simulations.

BFCA: Mad Max: Fury Road

BAFTA: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Tough call.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. I’m telling you this based on history. I may still tell you to take Star Wars, since apparently this is the year where it seems like all the major tenets of Oscar-picking are falling. The next thing will be the DGA being wrong on top of it all. But the fact still remains: the Visual Effects category was not called Best Visual Effects until 1962. I don’t consider the category to be within the realm of “modern” special effects until 1977 when Star Wars came out. Since then, not a single Best Picture nominee, when nominated, has lost the Visual Effects category unless it lost to another Best Picture nominee. The only one on record, post-1962, is Tora! Tora! Tora! beating Patton in 1970. The statistics overwhelmingly support this film winning. NEVER HAPPENED is pretty strong. That said…

Biggest Competition: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The stats this year seem to support a Star Wars win. VES and BAFTA both went with it. Though BFCA did go with Max and Max also won a VES award (which is all Interstellar won last year). So I don’t know. This isn’t quite Planet of the Apes, where I knew it wasn’t going to win. I see a universe (or a galaxy) where this could take this home. I’m not putting it on my ballot, because I stand by my principles. But I may be convinced that you should take it. We’ll see.

Spoiler Alert: The Revenant.

Look at those effects.

But seriously, this is probably third choice. The Martian doesn’t seem to have a hell of a lot of support for actual wins, and I don’t see it galvanizing enough votes to actually win. And Ex Machina seems lucky to be nominated. Doubt it’ll get many votes. Which leaves this, the film that seems most likely to win Best Picture (also BEST PICTURE), has 12 overall nominations, and is well-respected for its effects, even if they are minor in the overall scope of the picture. So it’s the third choice. It could happen, and I wouldn’t be shocked, but I’m not putting it above those other two.

Likelihood of Winning: 1) Mad Max: Fury Road 2Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3) The Revenant 4) The Martian 5) Ex Machina

If I Were a Betting Man: Mad Max: Fury Road. I have to stick with the history. At this point, I’m all but convinced that this isn’t going to win, but I’m going down with the ship. 45 years is a long time. Just ask Charlotte Rampling.

It’s only won BFCA, and technically has one VES win, so I guess you could say it does have everything it needs. Plus, BAFTA… Star Wars was shot there and stars a lot of Brits. Maybe that’s why they voted for it. I don’t know. I’m stretching. I’m purely going on history here and nothing else.

You Should Take: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. BAFTA and VES wins make this certainly seem like the frontrunner. And I think since this feels like the most likely winner, and, to people glancing at the category, this looks like the winner, I think you should take it. At this point, everyone seems convinced it’s gonna happen, so let’s say you should take it. I’m gonna feel simultaneously smug and stupid when Mad Max wins, since of course it did, because that’s history, but also, why the fuck did I let anything sway me from that? But on the other hand — Star Wars started this trend, so it’s only fitting that if anything is gonna end it, that’s the one. So I feel okay with this.

On My Ballot: Mad Max: Fury Road

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Sound Mixing

Bridge of Spies

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: Mad Max. Those are pretty much my thoughts.

My Vote: Mad Max: Fury Road

If I Had a Ballot: Mad Max: Fury Road

Should have been nominated: Love & Mercy

– – – – –

The Analysis

I have a mantra I repeat every year that goes like this: “Don’t split the Sound categories, Mike.” Unless you are absolutely certain that they’re going to split (ie, there is a musical that’s going to win Mixing), there is absolutely no earthly reason to predict a split. None whatsoever. Say you split them, and there is a split, only it splits the other way. You’re fucked. You’ve just lost both. Take them both and they split, hey, you’ve got one of them.

These are also categories where you have to consider both Mixing and Editing as one, almost, because voters have no idea what the fuck to do with either of them and can’t tell the difference between them.

Sound Editing is the compilation of all the sounds in the movie. Sound Mixing is the entire sound design that you hear within the film. So the creation of bullets and gunfire and people’s heads being smashes, that’s editing. And then what you hear when you watch the film is mixing. Very simple.

The big precursor for Mixing is the Cinema Audio Society.

CAS:

  • 1993 – Jurassic Park
  • 1994 – Forrest Gump
  • 1995 — Apollo 13
  • 1996 – The English Patient
  • 1997 – Titanic
  • 1998 – Saving Private Ryan
  • 1999 – The Matrix
  • 2000 – Gladiator
  • 2001 – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • 2002 – Road to Perdition
  • 2003 — Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
  • 2004 – The Aviator
  • 2005 – Walk the Line
  • 2006 – Dreamgirls
  • 2007 – No Country for Old Men
  • 2008 – Slumdog Millionaire
  • 2009 – The Hurt Locker
  • 2010 – True Grit
  • 2011 – Hugo
  • 2012 – Les Misérables
  • 2013 — Gravity
  • 2014 — Birdman

Big Best Picture candidates usually win. But usually the ones that end up sweeping a lot of the awards. Or are gonna win at least five. Though most of them have some element that makes them easy decisions. Like action or war scenes, or a lot of music.

Typically you can understand when CAS differs from the Oscar. Like True Grit losing to Inception. You get it. Or Whiplash beating Birdman. Makes sense. And you know they love a musical, too. So that’s always something to consider.

And again, this category also works in tandem with Best Sound Editing, so there’s a lot to look at here, and you’re never gonna have all the information until it’s time to make final predictions. So we’re just gonna wade our way through the category as best we can.

BAFTA only has one category for sound, but when you look, it usually matches up with Mixing more than Editing.

Pretty impressive track record. Only one out and out miss since 2002. Your BAFTA winner usually wins at least one of the Sound categories.

This year:

CAS: The Revenant

BAFTA: The Revenant

So yeah, that’s kinda surprising.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The Revenant. Could not have seen that coming. I’d have thought for sure Mad Max was the favorite here. But this has both precursors. And going back to when CAS started being handed out in 1993, BAFTA + CAS have matched 9 times, and 7 of those times, that film won the Oscar. One of the two times was 2003, when Return of the King was clearly sweeping. The other time was The Fugitive in 1993, losing to Jurassic Park.

So there are two cases to be made there. One, this ain’t losing. And two, Mad Max is this year’s Jurassic Park.

Biggest Competition: Mad Max: Fury Road. If it’s not The Revenant, it’s this. I’m starting to think a split might happen, but that’s just death to pick the split. It’s one or the other, and all precursors favor The Revenant. And logic seems to favor this. But again, this feels more like an Editing winner than a Mixing winner.

Spoiler Alert: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Feels like the logical third choice. The Martian and Bridge of Spies won’t get enough votes. I don’t think you’re

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

If I Were a Betting Man: Right now, I’m saying take The Revenant. It’s always safe to go with the Best Picture contender here, even if the other film is loud and explosive. You can easily go with Mad Max and I wouldn’t fault you, but all signs point to this.

You Should Take: The Revenant. You do what you want. You should take this. I know it’s counterintuitive, but I’m really surprised both precursors went this way. That tells me something. I’m playing that hunch.

On My Ballot: The Revenant

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Sound Editing

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: Same as my thoughts for Mixing.

My Vote: Mad Max: Fury Road

If I Had a Ballot: Mad Max: Fury Road

Should have been nominated: I’m fine with this.

– – – – –

The Analysis

First we’ll start with the Motion Picture Sound Editors.

MPSE:

(Note: They’re only really helpful from 2006 forward, since after 2006, the Sound Editing category at the Oscars had five nominees, but I’m giving you everything, because I’m nice like that.)

  • 1991: MPSE: SFX + Foley goes to Barton Fink. Their Dialogue + ADR goes to Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesTerminator 2: Judgment Day wins the Oscar for Sound Editing, beating Backdraft and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. So, MPSE has nothing to do with the Oscars, and the obvious choice wins.
  • 1992 – Under Siege wins MPSE SFX + Foley and Alien 3 wins Dialgoue + ADR. Bram Stoker’s Dracula wins the Oscar over Under Siege and Aladdin. No comment on any of that.
  • 1993 – MPSE: Jurassic Park wins SFX + Foley and Schindler’s List wins Dialogue + ADR. Jurassic Park wins the Oscar over Cliffhanger and the Fugitive. Pretty obvious choice.
  • 1994 – MPSE: Speed wins SFX + Foley, Forrest Gump wins Dialogue and ADR. Oscar: Speed beats Gump andClear and Present Danger. This is somewhat telling. The action film beats the Oscar film with war scenes.
  • 1995 – MPSE: Braveheart and Crimson Tide tie for SFX + Foley, and Crimson Tide wins for Dialogue + ADR.Braveheart takes the Oscar over Crimson Tide and Batman Forever. Oscar movie with many battle scenes wins over action/sub movie. Understandable.
  • 1996 – We ignore this one since it’s totally random. You can go look it up, but trust me, it’s irrelevant.
  • 1997 – Titanic wins the Oscar and both MPSE categories.
  • 1998 – Saving Private Ryan wins the Oscar and both MPSE categories.
  • 1999 – The Matrix wins the Oscar and wins MPSE SFX + Foley while American Beauty wins MPSE Dialogue + ADR. Pretty obvious The Matrix would win the Oscar.
  • 2000 – MPSE gives SFX + Foley to Gladiator and Dialogue + ADR to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The Oscar category consists only of two nominees: U-571 and Space CowboysU-571 obviously wins.
  • 2001 – MPSE gives their SFX + Foley award to Black Hawk Down and A Beautiful Mind wins Dialogue + ADR. The Oscar category consists only of Pearl Harbor and Monsters, Inc. Clearly Pearl Harbor wins.
  • 2002 – MPSE gives SFX + Foley to Road to Perdition (a spirited choice) and their Dialogue + ADR to Gangs of New YorkTwo Towers wins the Oscar, beating Road to Perdition and Minority Report. This is the onlyRings film to win this category. You know why? Big ass fucking battle scene.
  • 2003 – MPSE gives SFX + Foley to Master and Commander and Dialogue + ADR to Pirates of the Caribbean. In the Oscar category, Master and Commander beats Pirates and Finding Nemo (which won MPSE for Animation).
  • 2004 – MPSE SFX + Foley goes to The Aviator, and Dialogue + ADR goes to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindThe Incredibles wins the Oscar, beating The Polar Express and Spider-Man 2. Weird category.
  • 2005 – MPSE SFX + Foley goes to War of the Worlds and Dialogue and ADR goes to Memoirs of a Geisha.King Kong wins the Oscar, beating War of the Worlds and Geisha. I guess they must have really liked the film. (Or that Andy Serkis thing was a big clincher.)

Okay, now we’ve reached 2006. Now there are five nominees at the Oscars.

  • 2006 – Letters from Iwo Jima wins both MPSE awards and the Oscar.
  • 2007 – The Bourne Ultimatum wins both MPSE awards and the Oscar.
  • In 2008, MPSE introduces many of the awards we see now. They get much more specific.
  • 2008: MPSE: Music in a Feature Film goes to The Dark Knight. SFX + Foley goes to Dark Knight. Dialogue + ADR goes to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. And Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue and ADR (essentially, Sound Mixing) goes to Slumdog MillionaireThe Dark Knight wins the Sound Editing Oscar (Slumdog wins Sound Mixing).
  • 2009: MPSE: Avatar wins for Music in a Feature Film and SFX + Foley. Dialogue + ADR goes to Inglourious Basterds. (If you’ve noticed, the Dialogue + ADR award tends to go to well-written films.) Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue and ADR (Sound Mixing, basically, again) goes to District 9 (un-nominated for Sound at the Oscars). The Oscar goes to The Hurt Locker (which clearly points to people not wanting to vote for Avatar).
  • 2010: MPSE: Music in a Feature Film and SFX + Foley go to Inception. Dialogue + ADR goes to The Social Network. (See what I mean about Dialogue + ADR?) Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue and ADR goes toToy Story 3 (which loses Sound Mixing to Inception). Inception wins the Oscar (both of them).
  • 2011: SFX + Foley goes to War HorseHugo wins for Music, Super 8 took Dialogue + ADR, and Tintin took Animation. Hugo won the Oscar (both of them).
  • 2012: SFX + Foley went to Skyfall, Life of Pi won Dialogue + ADR and Music (though Les Mis won for Music in a Musical), and Wreck-It Ralph won for Animation. The Oscar was a TIE between Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty.
  • 2013: SFX + Foley went to GravityCaptain Phillips won Dialogue + ADR, The Great Gatsby won Music (Frozen won Music in a Musical), and Epic won for Animation. Gravity won the Oscar.
  • 2014: SFX + Foley went to American SniperUnbroken won Dialogue + ADR, Birdman won Music, and Big Hero 6 won for Animation. American Sniper won the Oscar.

The major trends I see with MPSE is, when a film wins more than once with them, it’s mostly gonna win the Oscar (happened all but one time, which was Avatar, and I feel like that was a situation where they deliberately didn’t want to vote for it, and loved The Hurt Locker. Plus action films do better in Sound).

This year, that didn’t happen. So we’re back to square zero.

SFX + Foley: (TIE) The RevenantMad Max: Fury Road

Dialogue + ADR: Bridge of Spies

Music: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

So our two contenders tied. Great.

The other thing I always look at is how many times a film won both Editing and Mixing:

  • 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark (Not really, since the Editing award was a special achievement, but that just means they didn’t have a category that year. It would have won if there were other nominees.)
  • 1982, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  • 1983, The Right Stuff
  • 1991, Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • 1993, Jurassic Park
  • 1994, Speed
  • 1997, Titanic
  • 1998, Saving Private Ryan
  • 1999, The Matrix
  • 2005, King Kong
  • 2007, The Bourne Ultimatum
  • 2009, The Hurt Locker
  • 2010, Inception
  • 2011, Hugo
  • 2013, Gravity

Not that often. And typically, I’m seeing a guaranteed winner most of the time, or a big Best Picture contender. (Or both.)

Also, looking at the other times they split… 2014, 2012, 2008, 2006, 2004 — all musical years. Before that (and technically also in 2004), there were only three nominees. Return of the King wasn’t nominated in 2003 either. So, really, without a musical contender being involved, we’re actually looking at one film likely winning both Sound categories.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. “Don’t split the Sound categories, Mike.” That’s that mantra coming to bite me in the ass. I feel like this is most likely to win here because they had a great sound design, and I feel like people are gonna give them one each in the end. This one makes the most sense for this film, but it’s stupid to vote for the split. You should either take this for both or Revenant for both.

Biggest Competition: The Revenant. It’s theoretically the favorite. One of these years, I should see how a film does when it wins both sound guilds.  Which I guess I can do, since we really only need to go back to 2006. Four of the five times, the films that won at both won for Music, and Gravity is the only film that won at both and then won the Oscar. Right now, looking like either this takes both sound awards or loses this one to Max.

Spoiler Alert: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If it’s third choice in one, it’s third choice in the other. No idea what to make of this past the obvious two.

Likelihood of Winning: 1) Mad Max: Fury Road 2) The Revenant 3) Star Wars: The Force Awakens 4) The Martian 5) Sicario

If I Were a Betting Man: “Don’t split the Sound categories, Mike.” Yet, here we are. Mad Max: Fury Road. I’m doing it. Because it’s my ballot. Fuck it.

You Should Take: The Revenant. Gotta. If you’re taking it for one, take it for the other. Feel free to take Mad Max for both. It feels just as likely. But this having won the guilds makes me see the kind of support that got this to 12 overall nominations. This is where the film will show its strength. When it wins these, we’re looking at a Hurt Locker kind of night.

On My Ballot: Mad Max: Fury Road

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Animated Feature

Anomalisa

Boy and the World

Inside Out

Shaun the Sheep Movie

When Marnie Was There

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: Inside Out was my second favorite movie of the year, so that is my vote. That aside, I liked all five of these movies. Anomalisa was great and would have been my vote in any other year. I love that the other three nominees are either stop-motion or hand-drawn. That, to me, shows that the Animation branch values artistry over anything. And I appreciate that. Love this category and love how they pick their nominees.

My Vote: Inside Out

If I Had a Ballot: Inside Out

Should have been nominated: I’m very fine with this.

– – – – –

The Analysis

What do we need to analyze? It’s Best Animated Feature. Pixar usually wins. Do you need precursors? Inside Out has won them all.

When Pixar is on (their game, not the list), they win this. And they won’t lose this one. No analysis necessary.

That said, I want to take a second to promote the two (maybe three) films you haven’t heard of from this category. Well, actually, maybe you haven’t even heard of Anomalisa. So let’s take a second to talk about them all, because they’re great.

Boy and the World is a hand-drawn movie. Not a lot of plot, but gorgeous looking. Look at some of these images:

It’s only about an hour long, too. Very much worth watching. This was better animation than 99% of the other films that didn’t get nominated.

And When Marnie Was There is Studio Ghibli (you know, the ones who brought you all the Miyazaki movies like Totoro and Spirited Away). Any time they make a movie, it is gorgeous. And I will say nothing about it other than that and show you this:

Shaun the Sheep Movie is by the same company that brought you Wallace and Gromit. It’s an absolute delight.

The second movie in the category with no dialogue that handles its story purely through action.

Oh, and Anomalisa. This is Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion movie. It’s the simplest premise in the world. Guy goes on a business trip and then goes home to his family. But it’s Charlie Kaufman, so it’s weird and brilliant and perfect. The whole thing was made with puppets, and it’s absolutely astounding.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Inside Out. Pixar isn’t losing this. Pixar doesn’t lose when they make a non-sequel and when they get another nomination. This has a Screenplay nomination. It’s one of the three biggest locks of the night.

Biggest Competition: Anomalisa. I guess if there’s anything that can beat it, it’s Charlie Kaufman. But not enough people overall will vote for this to have it win. So at best it’s a second choice.

Though I will say this does feature the best stop-motion puppet sex scene you will see all year.

Spoiler Alert: Shaun the Sheep Movie. People do love this movie, but it still nowhere near beating Pixar.

Likelihood of Winning: 1) Inside Out 2) Anomalisa 3) Shaun the Sheep Movie 4) When Marnie Was There 5) Boy and the World

If I Were a Betting Man: Inside Out is going to win this. It’s locked.

You Should Take: Inside Out

Admit it, they make you weep.

On My Ballot: Inside Out

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Foreign Language Film

Embrace of the Serpent

Mustang

Son of Saul

Theeb

A War

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: Embrace of the Serpent was pretty weird, though did evoke shades of Heart of Darkness. Theeb looked great and will draw comparisons to Lawrence of Arabia. It was pretty good. A War was fine. Mustang was terrific, and might have had a shot if it weren’t for Son of Saul, which is one of the most incredible films I saw this year and deserves to win this category and just about any Foreign Language category the past ten years.

My Vote: Son of Saul

If I Had a Ballot: Son of Saul

Should have been nominated: I’m fine with this. Though The Brand New Testament sounds wild.

– – – – –

The Analysis

Precursors here are dicey. The BAFTAs are a year behind, the Globes are the Globes, and BFCA will often nominate and vote for stuff that isn’t even shortlisted by the Oscars.

This is one of those categories you look at and the winner often reveals itself to you.

This year, even if you don’t even know this category, you know what’s gonna win.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Son of Saul. It can’t lose. This film practically reinvents the Holocaust genre. No one comes out of this film not thinking it will or should win the category. It’s a lock. Trust me.

Biggest Competition: Mustang. If there’s anything that’s a second choice, this is it. People love it. But we’d all be shocked if this came in. That said… it could happen. I’m hearing rumblings that people in the Academy think it will win. Which could just be them being clueless (as we usually think of them). I don’t know. Keep an eye out.

Spoiler Alert: Theeb. It won a BAFTA for first film or something like that. So that makes it third choice for me. Embrace of the Serpent is too weird for them, and A War is fine but I don’t think enough people saw it. So this is third choice. It won’t get this far.

Likelihood of Winning: 1) Son of Saul 2) Mustang 3) Theeb 4) Embrace of the Serpent 5) A War

If I Were a Betting Man: Son of Saul. I don’t see how it can lose. To me, it seems like one of the biggest locks of the night.

You Should Take: Son of Saul. You could play the weird hunch and take Mustang, but I don’t know. How are a group of old Jews not gonna vote for the Holocaust? And it’s not like this movie is like Pan’s Labyrinth, where it won all the other categories and lost Foreign Language Film. I think this is safely still the choice. Just make sure you put Mustang second, if you’re gonna do the scorecard thing like I am.

On My Ballot: Son of Saul

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Documentary

Amy

Cartel Land

The Look of Silence

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: As for how the category turned out, I’m really surprised Netflix managed to get two entries on. That, to me, says something about how the voting went down. Otherwise, I’m not wholly surprised Going Clear got left off. Nor am I surprised some of the other potential nominees like Listen to Me Marlon, that people thought were locks, didn’t make it. I am a little surprised The Hunting Ground never made it on, especially with that film poised to win Best Original Song, in all likelihood. I am really surprised that Where to Invade Next didn’t make it, especially since that, to me, was probably the doc of the year (next to the actual eventual winner of this category).

Looking at what’s here — I’d actually managed to see all five before nominations were announced, thanks to the Great Documentary Purge of 2015. And I can say this definitively: I don’t like documentaries. I think that’s been covered very clearly on this site. The form is not for me. I really don’t enjoy them by and large. I only like them when they’re about weird, offbeat stuff like Man on Wire or Searching for Sugar Man, are about things I like (movies, comedy, etc), or they’re presented in interesting ways, like Man on Wire or The Cove. I appreciate when a documentary is good, but to me, most of them are boring and I don’t care. So that will be the prevailing opinion for me on most of these films. Know that going in.

I thought Winter on Fire was boring as shit. I did not care about anything and openly did not pay attention for long stretches of it. Not the film’s fault. This is how documentaries go for me. Cartel Land — similar, yet it did manage to hold my attention for more than half of it. I’m sure people think it’s wonderful… give me Sicario any day. What Happened, Miss Simone was fine. I like musical documentaries. I loved The Wrecking Crew. I thought this one was fine. Did I love it? No. It was just okay. She’s great. I didn’t get much out of the documentary.

What you learn with me is that if I say I like movies in certain genres, and actually say they’re really good movies, that’s how you know they’re really good. For instance, I hate horror movies. So when I say that I loved a horror movie, that should tell you something. Same for documentaries. It takes a lot more to move the needle for me.

The two in the category that I thought were very good were The Look of Silence and Amy. The Look of Silence was just as good as The Act of Killing and was arguably more emotional. It was absolutely terrific.

And Amy was a great portrait of this woman told in a very unique way that works perfectly. Last time, I voted for The Act of Killing over 20 Feet from Stardom (at least I think I did), even though I arguably enjoyed 20 Feet from Stardom more. This time, I’m going to vote for Amy. I thought that film was wonderful, and that is my pick.

My Vote: Amy

If I Had a Ballot: Amy

Should have been nominated: Where to Invade Next

– – – – –

The Analysis

This one is gonna be real simple: Amy is winning. Don’t vote for anything else. Amy is going to win. But we’ll dispense with the other shit in case you really want to waste time on the category.

Amy is about Amy Winehouse. It’s by the guy who did Senna (who wasn’t nominated for that film. And I feel like people are gonna remember that). It tells her story through videos and photos taken by her and her friends throughout her life.

Cartel Land is basically the documentary version of Sicario. Drug trade in Mexico and how it’s ruining lives.

The Look of Silence is the sequel to The Act of Killing. Also great, but if the first one didn’t win…

What Happened Miss Simone is about Nina Simone. Nice, but the drugged out white lady is gonna take the category.

Winter on Fire is about a Ukrainian revolution. Political shit. They toss one of these on every year. No one votes for them. Ever.

Trust me, Amy is winning this. Since they opened this category up, the more populist choice has won every single time. Don’t vote against Amy. Don’t be a schmuck.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Amy. It’s going to win. Last year, they went with CitizenFour, but that’s because the Roger Ebert documentary wasn’t nominated. 2013, 20 Feet from Stardom. 2012, Searching for Sugar Man. 2011, Undefeated. 2010, Inside Job. 2009, The Cove. 2008, Man on Wire. Since 2008, they’ve picked two “serious” documentaries. What were they about? Financial collapse, and illegal surveillance. Two huge issues that people are very, very angry about. Oh, and let’s go back even further. 2007, Taxi to the Dark Side. Guantanamo/torture by American soldiers. 2006, An Inconvenient Truth. Climate change. 2005? March of the fucking Penguins. Unless there’s something we need to be outraged about, they’re going to take the easy way out. There is nothing to be outraged about this year. The category is literally filled with two musical entries. Trust me on this, you cannot lose. Take Amy.

Biggest Competition: What Happened, Miss Simone? I’d have The Look of Silence here, but The Act of Killing didn’t win and will people even vote for a sequel documentary when the first one didn’t win? Has a sequel documentary ever even won? If there’s anything that can upset, it’s probably this. Netflix is promoting this like crazy. Plus it’s a light subject matter and those have been getting voted for over the years. I wouldn’t entirely rule this out. Though at this point, Amy seems like such a lock, it doesn’t matter what I put here. I don’t think that’s losing.

Spoiler Alert: The Look of Silence. It could win. I guess. If it’s not Amy, it’s a toss up between What Happened Miss Simone and this. So if you’re gonna vote elsewhere, be my guest. But seriously, why are you not taking Amy? (Don’t entirely rule out Cartel Land, but I’d be shocked if one of the lighter entries didn’t win this.)

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

If I Were a Betting Man: Amy. Because it’s going to win. Seeing how they vote, seeing how this movie has basically swept all the precursor awards, it can’t lose. Everyone’s gonna have it. Don’t be the idiot who has something else. Just take it and lose with everyone else if you’re wrong. You have more difficult decisions to make.

You Should Take: Amy. Do you really think this won’t win?

On My Ballot: Amy

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Documentary Short

Body Team 12

Chau, Beyond the Lines

Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

Last Day of Freedom

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: This is my least favorite category. In terms of enjoying the films. Documentary Feature at least has some cool music stuff and offbeat things. This category is almost always full of serious stuff, plus it’s documentaries, and ultimately I just don’t care. These are difficult for me to get through most years. This year was no different.

The two frontrunners, Chau and Body Team 12 — didn’t care. Claude Lanzmann… slightly interesting, because it’s about the making of a film, but ultimately whatever. A Girl in the River I did enjoy, just because of how crazy it is that her family tried to have her killed and how the justice system works over there. So that was okay. And Last Day of Freedom, which I thought for sure would be #5 for me, ended up being the best one. They rotoscope it, so it’s shot like A Scanner Darkly, and the story actually drew me in.

My Vote: Last Day of Freedom

If I Had a Ballot: Last Day of Freedom

Should have been nominated: N/A

– – – – –

The Analysis

So I know these are the categories that you don’t know about, that nobody knows about. But don’t worry, I’m here to give you a hand.

Body Team 12 is a 12-minute doc about Ebola. A team goes in to remove the bodies of people who died of Ebola in Africa. No real emotional hook. Pretty much just… “this is what we do.” A lot of people are feeling like this will win, but that’s just because of the subject matter. I don’t know if there’s enough meat on the bone to win this.

Chau, Beyond the Lines is about a kid affected by Agent Orange who is very deformed and wants to be a clothing designer. Not the best watch, but man, does this fit what they go for in this category.

Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah is about the making of that 9 and a half hour Holocaust documentary. Lanzmann is 90, and while the film is basically just a DVD extra, people will probably vote for it because they love that documentary and hey, it’s the Holocaust. That’s probably why I imagine a lot of people think it’s the favorite. A Holocaust survivor doc won this category two years ago.

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness is about a Middle Eastern woman who survived an honor killing. She married a guy her family didn’t want her to marry, so her father and other men put her in a car, beat her savagely and then threw her in the river. Only she survived. And then got them all arrested. Though because of how crazy the laws are over there, if you publicly forgive them, they don’t go to prison. So we see interviews with everyone involved, where the father is openly not apologetic in any way for what he did, and she’s pressured by her family to forgive him. Definitely very interesting.

Last Day of Freedom is a guy recounting the story of how his brother struggled with mental illness and killed a guy, and he helped turn his brother in. And he thought he would get the help he needed, but then a DA trying to make their career got his brother put on death row and his brother was executed, despite clearly being a veteran who needed mental health assistance more than anything. It’s a powerful film, told well and they rotoscope the whole thing which made me interested.

Those are your five. I’ll tell you flat out — they went with veterans last year, so Last Day of Freedom is out. That’s not about the issue so much as it’s about one guy telling his story. I loved it, but it’s not what they go for here. So that leaves us with four choices.

Here’s a list of what has won the past decade:

  • 2014: Crisis center helping war vets in need
  • 2013: 110 year old Holocaust survivor used music to help her through the war
  • 2012: Homeless girl wants to be an artist and has to overcome her surroundings
  • 2011: A doctor helps women who have had acid thrown in their faces
  • 2010: A multicultural school has kids from all facets in the middle of Israel
  • 2009: A girl with a birth defect overcomes her surroundings to be a musician
  • 2008: A girl born with a cleft palate overcomes her surroundings to get it fixed
  • 2007: A dying police officer tries to get her health benefits given to her domestic partner
  • 2006: Orphans in rural China whose parents have died from AIDS are not being properly cared for

Do we notice a trend here? Let’s just get into my rankings so I don’t repeat what little I have to say.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Chau, Beyond the Lines. This, to me, fits everything they go for. In the past (2012), they’ve gone with disabled/otherwise challenged person overcoming their surroundings to become an artist over similar “issue” films. I don’t see what else fits better. The Holocaust entry is just about the making of a film about the Holocaust. And the Ebola one is just about a team that removes bodies, and nothing is really being overcome. A Girl in the River is the only one that makes sense otherwise, based on what they vote for. I don’t know how else to vote for this category except to go by what they typically vote for.

Biggest Competition: Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah. I keep fluctuating between this and Body Team 12. The reason I’m throwing Body Team 12 out, despite the fact that it’s produced by HBO (and Olivie Wilde is in there somewhere, I think), and HBO usually does well here — it’s only 12 minutes. That’s short for them. Most of the time a film that wins here is 35-40 minutes long. So that’s why I say no to that. Here… they might see Shoah and just vote for it automatically. I don’t know if they will, and it goes against logic but this category usually goes against logic, so what the hell.

Spoiler Alert: A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness. It’s definitely emotionally gripping, and is about an “issue.” Honor killings and the awful state of the law in the Middle East. But will they go here? They might. This is arguably the second choice in the category, based on what they usually go for. I can probably go four deep in this category based on what could win. I honestly have no idea this year. This one’s throwing me for a loop.

Likelihood of Winning: 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

If I Were a Betting Man: Chau, Beyond the Lines. I’m taking what I know. I’m not sold on it because it was so boring to me. I’m worried other people will find it boring and not vote for it. But if you want to take the one that’s most like what they usually go for, this is the one, followed by A Girl in the River.

You Should Take: Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah. If you don’t know what you’re doing, and I don’t really know how it’s gonna go and can only guess based on what they usually do, I say take the Holocaust film. I’d feel stupid not telling you to take it, and I think if it came in, you’d go, “Well of course it did.” So best just to take it and if you’re wrong, then what the fuck did we know? It’s Documentary Short. Body Team 12 and A Girl in the River are definite alternatives. Though Body Team 12 still feels too short for me. 12 minutes is a third of what usually wins here. And the more I think about it, the more I’m feeling A Girl in the River is actually the perfect entry for this category and is probably gonna end p winning it. Oh well. I just assume I get this wrong every year. It’s usually for the best.

On My Ballot: Chau, Beyond the Lines

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Live-Action Short

Ave Maria

Day One

Everything Will Be Okay

Shok

Stutterer

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: Having seen them all, my reactions went about as I expected them to go. I thought I’d like Everything Will Be Okay way more than I did. And I thought Shok would resonate more with me than it did. Otherwise, I don’t particularly love anything here. Stutterer and Day One were the two that felt like the overall best to me. Ave Maria was funny, but otherwise I wouldn’t vote for it. Stutterer was cute and had a romantic angle, so I’ll vote for that.

My Vote: Stutterer

If I Had a Ballot: Stutterer

Should have been nominated: N/A

– – – – –

The Analysis

Another category with zero precursors that’s even more difficult to predict than Animated Short. To me, this is the craziest and most unpredictable category of all. My way of going about it every year is to do the best you can, assume you’ll get it wrong and hope for the best.

Here are your nominees:

Ave Maria is a simple short. A group of nuns in the West Bank sit down for a meal. A loud crash is heard outside. A Jewish family has crashed their car into their statue of the Virgin Mary outside. So now the family has to call a cab to get home, only the Sabbath has hit, so they can’t operate machinery. And the nuns — well they’ve taken a vow of silence and can’t speak. Comedy ensues. It’s a cute short. Not overly great. Doesn’t take full advantage of the cultural differences and any of the political stuff inherent in the location. But it’s cute. You can enjoy it.

Day One is about an Afghani woman who is starting her first day as an interpreter for the military. They go to a village where a bomb maker lives. And as they’re getting ready to arrest him, they discover his wife is going into labor. And everything stops. The men aren’t allowed into the room, and they can’t get a doctor there in time to deliver the baby. So the interpreter has to do it. Only the baby is sideways, and doesn’t seem to have a pulse. And difficult decisions must be made. It’s a really emotional short. I’m not sure if it fully comes together for me, but in terms of this category, it’s close.

Everything Will Be Okay is a film that sounded like the best one going in. A father picks up his daughter from his ex-wife in order to spend the day with her. And what starts as an innocent father-daughter day turns into something much more, as it becomes apparent what the father’s intentions are. And I thought it was going to be this big, emotional movie, where they were gonna have this big emotional heart to heart and have all these great acting scenes… and then the movie is about him trying to get new identity papers and essentially kidnap the daughter to prevent his wife from having her. Which isn’t as interesting because you see what’s happening all the way and it never really amounts to anything.

Shok is about two boys in Kosovo who are friends. They’re riding around on this new bike and trading the Serbian soldiers for cigarettes. Though the soldiers don’t respect the boys and one even takes the boy’s bike to give to his nephew. The boys get into a fight, but later reconcile when one covers for the other in front of the soldiers. Then one night, the soldiers raid the one of the boy’s houses and he and his family and line them and threaten them at gunpoint. The other boy comes out with a gun and threatens the soldier. But he’s saved when another soldier tells them to leave the town and not return. So they all start walking out with their things, and the boy who came out with the gun is shot in the head by the soldier he threatened. Cut to present day, where the other boy, now an adult, finds a bicycle like the one that was taken from the other boy in the middle of the road, and rides it back to the town to reminisce about his friend.

I heard this was the most emotional of the shorts. It didn’t really grab me all that much. For some reason, these Eastern European war stories don’t appeal to me. Same for Iraq/Afghanistan ones. I’m just not interested in them. I thought it was okay, but not the best in the category.

And now Stutterer. It’s about a (insert title here), who can never get the words he wants out. We begin with him on the phone with customer service to complain about his internet speeds. But since he can’t get words out, they think he’s not on the phone and hang up on him. Meanwhile, he goes out and has these long conversations with people in his head that can never be fully formed when he tries to have them for real. And whenever strangers try talking to him, he uses a form of sign language to get out of actually speaking to them. He’s also been having an online chat conversation with a woman for the past six months. One night, she suggests they take it offline and meet in person. Which fills him with utter terror. How are they going to communicate? What if this ruins everything? So he doesn’t answer for a few days, but eventually gets over it and says they should meet. And the final scene is him going to meet her at the designated place, and as he stands across the street, he realizes… she’s deaf. It’s a bit on the nose, but it’s cute.

I have no fucking earthly clue what to do with this category. I can say for sure that I do not think Everything Will Be Okay has a chance at winning. After that? Fuck if I know.

Ave Maria, to me, seems too one-note and cute for them to actually vote for. Could they? I guess. Do I think they will? Not really. What’s the purpose of it? Where’s the emotional punch?

Stutterer — I’m torn. It feels like the kind of thing they go for. But it’s also only 12 minutes long, and they haven’t gone for something that short in at least 15 years. Going back to 2000, the shortest they’ve gone is 14 minutes, and that featured an endearing child protagonist, which is they love in this category. After that, all the other winners were 18 minutes or longer. Does that mean anything? I don’t know. By the way, Ave Maria is 15 minutes, if you believe in it. The rest are all longer. 21, 25 and 30. Plus, looking at this gets me to thinking… they like a certain kind of movie like this. More hipster and student filmmaker-y. Like God of Love. Or Curfew. This doesn’t feel like that, which makes me think that just because it’s automatically the lightest entry in the bunch it won’t automatically win.

This is going to be an interesting category because they seem to fluctuate between three different winners the past few years.

  • 2010: God of Love. Hipster/student filmmaker
  • 2011: The Shore. Star power/drama.
  • 2012: Curfew. Student filmmaker/hipster/children
  • 2013: Helium. Children/endearing.
  • 2014: The Phone Call. Star power/drama.

There’s no star power this year. There’s really only one American nominee. No whimsical stories with children. Three of them are depressing as shit.

I feel like Ave Maria is one-note and doesn’t really resolve in any satisfying way. I feel like Everything Will Be Okay is too overbearing and way too depressing for them. It ends on the saddest possible note, and they don’t go for that here. Stutterer is cute, but you can guess the ending and you end up saying, “Okay, that was cute,” and nothing more. The ending doesn’t hit you. It feels almost on the nose. And I think that’s ultimately what’s gonna prevent it from winning.

So, to me, it’s between Shok and Day One. They’re both intense and emotional, and it’s hard for me to pick between the two. I assume Shok has the slight edge because it has children in it, but it still feels really close. This is one of those years where something will win and throw me for a loop no matter what it is. I feel confident throwing one of them out, but after that, I honestly could see any one of them winning. Which is why you have to expect to get it wrong and just do the best you can.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Shok. It’s either this or Day One. I feel like it has to be one of those two. I couldn’t say which is the favorite and which is the alternate. This one has children. And they like kids in this category. (Though I went with Boogaloo and Graham last year, which felt like the exact kind of thing they like, and they went elsewhere. So what do I know?)

Biggest Competition: Stutterer. Originally this was the one I thought would sneak between the two depressing entries for the win, but the more I think about it, the more I don’t see why it would. Sure, it’s light and cute, but where’s the emotional resonance? Or the showiness of the filmmaking? God of Love was very NYU filmmaker style. Curfew had the depressed guy finding something to live for in his niece, and a magical realism quality to it (which God of Love also had). Helium also had that, along with the child protagonist (and magical realism). So, honestly, I don’t think this is your favorite at all. I think it’s just a nice short about a romance that will get some votes, but unless people reject the notion of depressing films outright, probably won’t win. This and Ave Maria are maybe even worthy of being swapped. Because they’re both cute but without real substance or weight to them. Some people might vote for them because they’re enjoyable. I couldn’t tell you which to put where, really. But I do feel like they’re not favorites this year.

Picking the Oscars is all about learning nuance. And I see myself learning more and more nuance throughout the years. Looking back, I see mistakes I made (blindly following certain precursors even though all evidence pointed to other outcomes) that I wouldn’t make now, or finding more wrinkles in how to read a category. Just now, I noticed a wrinkle I never paid attention to before. Other years, I might have voted for Stutterer because it felt like it fit the mold of those other winners. But it doesn’t really, does it? I never really thought about all those other films having elements of magical realism to them. Though I guess Curfew isn’t magical realism so much as a fantasy musical number in the middle. But you get the idea. Now, if it doesn’t win and I don’t pick it, I’m gonna feel really good because I noticed that little nuance. Of course, if it does win, I’m gonna feel like a fucking idiot. So there’s also that. But you know, it’s the little things.

Spoiler Alert: Day One. I put this as spoiler and not alternative, because I feel like it’s either emotionally powerful or light and cute. This one was the most emotionally resonant of the films for me, so arguably it could win.

Likelihood of Winning: 1) Shok 2) Stutterer 3) Day One 4) Ave Maria 5) Everything Will Be Okay

If I Were a Betting Man: Stutterer. It just feels like the choice. Split the two depressing ones and I’ll take the cute one of no substance. I don’t know this category, so I’d feel best losing with this one. This is how you should pick. What do you feel safest losing with?

You Should Take: Shok feels like the most likely choice. I hate splitting these, but honestly I don’t know how they’re gonna turn out. I wasn’t grabbed by this, but it would fit. So would Day One. Honestly, again, pick the one you feel safest losing with. This one feels like the favorite, so I’m telling you to take that. Honestly, go with your gut here. You’ll be doing about as well as everyone else here.

On My Ballot: Stutterer

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Animated Short

Bear Story

Prologue

Sanjay’s Super Team

We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

World of Tomorrow

My Rankings:

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

My Thoughts: I’ve seen them all, so I can speak honestly and intelligently about them. I actually had seen four of them before nominations and only had to wait to see Prologue. I’ll break down what each of them is about in a second, but for now, I will say that I enjoyed all five of them. We Can’t Live Without Cosmos feels like the weakest of the five, but it has stayed with me now after two watches. Prologue looks great but doesn’t feel cohesive. Sanjay’s Super Team is just okay, especially for Pixar standards. World of Tomorrow is wonderfully batshit, and perfectly in line with Hertzfeldt’s other stuff. And Bear Story is easily the choice. Without hesitation. That short is so beautiful and so well animated. That’s my vote.

My Vote: Bear Story

If I Had a Ballot: Bear Story

Should have been nominated: Carface (even though I haven’t seen it. Sounds great)

– – – – –

The Analysis

There’s no precursor or anything here. So really all we can do is go through the nominees and gauge based on how each sounds and by what they usually go for.

We Can’t Live Without Cosmos is about two astronauts who grew up together and are the best of friends. They are both in training and trying to be the best two of their group. They bunk together, they read the book that gives the short its title, which they’ve been reading together since they were kids. (It’s questionable as to whether or not they’re in a relationship. It’s difficult to tell and the movie never makes it that clear which it is.) They’re the best at all the drills and are far and away the best astronauts. Finally, they are told they’re the best and are picked for the mission. And then, in the end, as the rocket is about to go off, we realize only one of them is going. And the other is the reserve astronaut. And we watch as the one goes off and the other is watching, proud. Until an accident happens. And the first astronaut is lost. And now the second astronaut goes into a deep depression. He refuses to leave his suit and escapes the facility to go out onto the launch site to try to go into space where his friend is. Eventually they confine him to his room, where he eventually escapes. And the final shot is him floating away into space, which is very ambiguous. I’m not sure if he killed himself or it’s some sort of magical realism. I have no idea. There’s some emotion to the short, but ultimately I don’t think it’s all the way there for a win. Though major props to the director for shit-talking the other nominees.

P.S. Here’s the film, if you want to watch.

Sanjay’s Super Team is a Pixar short. If you saw The Good Dinosaur, then you saw this beforehand. Which, who am I kidding? No one saw The Good Dinosaur.

It’s about a little Indian boy who wants to watch his favorite superhero cartoon, but his devout Hindu father keeps turning down the volume and turning it off while he prays. He makes the boy sit down and pray with him, and the boy then daydreams about the religious figures turning into superheroes and taking down a villain. And in the end, father and son find a common ground, as the son draws a picture of all the Hindu gods as superheroes. It’s short, it’s cute. I think people are assuming it’s going to win purely because it’s Pixar.

Personally I feel people have been overrating it. It’s fine. It’s better than Lava, which was not great. The Blue Umbrella, Day & Night, Partly Cloudy and Presto were all better. Oh, and La Luna was good too. (None of which won the Oscar. Some of which weren’t even nominated.) This felt fine. It tries to make itself better by having the story tacked on with photos of the director and his father. Eh. Not something I’d vote for.

World of Tomorrow is Don Hertzfeldt. Who, if you don’t know who he is and how wonderful and bizarre his stuff is, watch Billy’s Balloon and Rejected and enjoy. He hasn’t been nominated since Rejected, and when you see his style, it makes sense. This movie is more of the same, but with “better” animation. The people still look like they did in the earlier shorts, but the animation is more complex and there are much more colors. Still completely incomprehensible and hilarious in the strangest ways.

I have no idea how to explain it, but here goes. A little girl answers the phone, and it’s a call from herself in the future. She wanted to talk to her to get an important memory out of her in her “latter” years. She then transports the little girl into the future and explains how the future works to her as well as how her life has gone. There’s crazy shit like people’s consciousness being put into clones to make them live for thousands of years, and the “outernet” instead of internet, and time travel. The humor is in this proper British woman explaining all of these complex things to a four year old, and the four year old’s dialogue being culled from the random shit Hertzfelt’s niece said while recording and things she responded to upon seeing the animation. Trust me, it’s funny. (It’s on Netflix. You can watch it here.) It’s so batshit crazy it’ll be hard to think of everyone embracing it for a win. But man, it’s so entertaining.

Prologue is a film that is gorgeous to look at. It’s by Richard Williams, who made The Thief and the Cobbler, one of the great unfinished animated films. He also directed the animated portions of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

The short is basically… hand drawn, almost flip book style. A bunch of warriors battle. And they get stabbed and killed like crazy. One dude gets stabbed in the dick! They’re Spartans and shit, so they’re wearing some armor but no clothes. So their dick and balls are just hanging out. And one dude literally gets stabbed in the dick and bleeds out. Which is funny because it’s technically the second instance of rectal/genital bleeding in this section. (Hopefully you watched those links I told you too. If you did, that was very funny.) No story here at all and stands no chance at a win.

He hand drew the whole thing, and it looks great. But I don’t know what the story is. It’s just people killing each other. It feels like it’s a scene from a bigger work that he never got to make. I can’t vote for it just because it doesn’t feel cohesive. Nice, though.

And now Bear Story. If you follow this category closely and see a lot of the past winners and/or nominees (but even just winners is fine), you get a sense of what wins. And when you see this short, it feels like the kind of short that wins. It was far and away my favorite.

The short begins with an older bear in a house putting the finishing touches on some pieces to go into a mechanical diorama. He wanders around his empty house before going out for the day with his diorama. He walks the city, letting children watch the diorama for a quarter (or whatever sum it is). And as one child watches, the rest of the film goes inside the diorama to tell the story, which, as we can surmise pretty quickly, is the story of this bear’s life. So we see as he grows up, is happy, has a family, a wife and a kid, and then one day, is taken violently from them by a circus who beats him savagely and kidnaps him. And at the circus he is beaten and forced to do tricks like ride a bike and do these crazy Evel Knievel like jumps. And the whole time, the bear gets by looking at pictures of his family, hoping one day to get back to them. And eventually he devises an escape and manages to get away and is reunited with his family.

It’s the most heart-wrenching of all the shorts and really works because of how wonderful the animation is inside the diorama. It’s so fluid and works really well. It’s definitely the most thought out entry of the list. Unless we’re talking Hertzfeldt, which I don’t even know how to get into that one. This one has everything they look for in this category and is also my vote without hesitation.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Bear Story. I’m aware that most people have no idea what this category is or how to pick it, and this is where I come in. You’re going to have to trust me on this. I may be wrong in the end (I have been known to be before), but believe me when I say that this is the film that is exactly the kind of film they vote for in this category. The sense of melancholy, beautiful animation, leading to an emotionally uplifting conclusion — this has it all. I remember 2013, getting swept up in the “Oh man, they just opened the category up to everyone and not just the people who saw all the nominees” and picking the Disney short (Get a Horse!, which was wonderful) over Mr. Hublot, which was exactly the kind of thing they go for. And that ended up winning. There’s a certain something that all of the winners usually have (unless it’s something like Feast or Paperman, where it’s Disney and you get it), and this has it. And also…

Biggest Competition: Sanjay’s Super Team. Pixar, despite everyone thinking they do well in this category, actually doesn’t. They won in 1988 for Tin Toy, in 1997 for Geri’s Game, in 2001 for For the Birds, and since 2001 — seven nominations, zero wins. This is their 8th nomination. So I know people are assuming they’re gonna win because they’re Pixar, but I don’t know if that’s the case. Most times, I’ll throw them out entirely and say, “It’s not happening,” but this year, I actually think it can happen. That said… I don’t know if it’s anything more than a spoiler.

Originally I thought it was a toss-up, but now I’m seeing an interesting possibility approaching with World of Tomorrow. The others won’t happen. Prologue has no story to it and won’t appeal to the amount of voters it’ll take to win, and We Can’t Live Without Cosmos? Eh. And even World of Tomorrow… they don’t really have a sense of humor in this category (or in general). So to me, it seems to be between these two. Which means that Pixar has a legitimate chance at this. I just don’t think they’re the most likely to win because — if you watch all the shorts, I have a hard time thinking more people aren’t going to come out saying Bear Story is the one they liked best. So it’s a toss-up. You could take Pixar, but everything I know about this category tells me it’s second choice and is most likely not going to beat Bear Story. So take that for what you will. I try to inform, not tell you how to pick.

Spoiler Alert: World of Tomorrow. It’s very accessible. This is the one short that’s on Netflix already for streaming. It’s so fucking bizarre though. I find it hard to believe that the Academy will go with this over something like Bear Story or Pixar, given what their history in this category is like. You have to go back to 2004 to see something fairly crazy win. I just feel like they’d go with Bear Story over this, even though with Pixar not really ever winning, this is theoretically the second choice.

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

If I Were a Betting Man: Bear Story. I’m selling out on this one. This is exactly what they go for in this category. Pixar never wins, World of Tomorrow is two weird, and the other two don’t feel like they’d ever be voted for. This seems like an easy winner to me. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m taking that.

You Should Take: Bear Story. Again, seems like an easy winner. Maybe you want to take Pixar, but honestly, if it’s not this, it’s probably World of Tomorrow. That’s so out there it might end up winning if enough people see it and like it. I think that’s the alternate. Though if you’d find yourself butt hurt if you didn’t take Pixar and it won, then by all means, take them. Me? If Pixar wins, then all that tells me is, “Hmm… they won.” And in the future, makes me wonder if people will automatically vote for them because they’re Pixar. Otherwise, wouldn’t phase me in the least if I missed it by not taking them. So the choice is yours.

On My Ballot: Bear Story

– – – – – – – – –

That should do it.

I always post a “quick picks” version just before showtime for reference throughout the show.

I also always reserve the right to change my opinions all the way up to showtime, but I don’t remember any time where I’ve actually changed something. I’m one of those people that puts a shit ton of thought into things before I do them, and then when the time comes, I’m just like, “Fuck it, whatever happens, happens,” and then once I make my picks I don’t want to think about them again.

I’ll be hopped up on MSG after this. Because you can’t have the Oscars without a shitload of Chinese food.

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