As opposed to last year, when Boyhood and Birdman were the indisputable frontrunners, this year the path to Hollywood glory seems to be wide open, leaving The Revenant, The Big Short, Spotlight and even Mad Max: Fury Road with a real chance of taking the Best Picture statue at the end of the gala.
The Big Short – 5 nominations: Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay and Editing.
Directed by Adam McKay and featuring an all-star ensemble cast including Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt, The Big Short takes us back to one of the biggest economic crisis in the United States, and shows how it was actually possible to profit from it. Although it sells itself as comedy, McKay’s film is far from being funny.
It’s a ruthless, yet somehow still emotional enough account of the events previous to the housing market bubble, and how several individuals predicted it and even decided to bet on it. While not exactly a compelling story per se, The Big Short finds its strengths in McKay’s well-balanced direction, and remarkable performances from its cast, especially Bale and Carrell.
Will it win? While it failed to win at the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guilds (SAGs) and Directors Guild Awards (DGAs), its surprising victory at the Producers Guilds Awards (PGAs) automatically makes it a big contender for the Oscars. It might be lacking some momentum right now, but do not be surprised if Brad Pitt pops up on-stage to take his second Academy Award as a producer.
Bridge of Spies – 6 nominations: Picture, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Original Score, Production Design and Sound Mixing.
Some filmmakers need no introduction when they have filmographies that speak for themselves. Spielberg’s unique and extraordinary talents are displayed once again in this Cold War drama based on a real life story, about the American lawyer James B. Donavan and his role in the negotiations between the Soviet Union and the US in the exchange of the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel and the American pilot Gary Powers.
Even though Bridge of Spies is not exactly one of Spielberg’s most memorable pieces of work, it is still a beautifully shot, carefully written and delicately structured movie. Tom Hanks delivers yet another thrilling performance, while Mark Rylance subtly shines as Abel, deserving all the praise he has since received. Symbolic, heartfelt and very human, this is another remarkable film from Spielberg and definitely worth the watch.
Will it win? It might land the Oscar for Production Design and Rylance might also pull up a surprising KO against Stallone in the Supporting Actor category, however its chances for the big award itself are low, if practically nonexistent.
Brooklyn – 3 nominations: Picture, Actress and Adapted Screenplay.
For many critics, this was one of the loveliest surprises of the year. John Crowley’s film adapted from Colm Toibin’s novel Brooklyn tells the story of young Eilis Lacey, an Irish girl who decides to try her luck in America during the 1950s, like so many other brave Europeans at the time.
The movie starts as a period drama and slowly delves into a romance, outstandingly succeeding on both fronts. Crowley’s direction depicts the suffering and insecurity of an immigrant in a very delicate way, confidently making its way into a thoughtful and emotional romantic story between Eilis and her Italian boyfriend Anthony Fiorello, well played by Emory Cohen.
At the heart of the film is Saoirse Ronan playing Eilis, whose performance is, to put it as simply as I can, just magnificent. The Irish actress acts with a maturity beyond her years, and drives the film with confidence and a pure honesty, showing us an Eilis who is, at turns, fragile, strong and charming.
Will it win? In all honesty, Brooklyn’s best chance of winning is for Adapted Screenplay, although even this is quite unlikely. While Ronan would make a worthy winner for Best Actress, she barely stands a chance against Brie Larson, who has taken the awards season by storm. The same more or less applies in the Best Picture category, where Brooklyn’s credentials are not quite big enough to make it an actual contender.
Mad Max: Fury Road – 10 nominations: Picture, Director, Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing.
It takes some time for people to assimilate the fact that the guy who directed this high octane, fast-paced, madness-driven masterclass is also the guy who directed the Happy Feet movies and Babe: Pig in the City. Well, as crazy as it sounds, it’s all true – all of it. After years of production hell, George Miller finally managed to return to the world he himself created decades ago, with this sequel/reboot that easily puts almost every recent action film to shame.
Starring Tom Hardy as Max and Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, Fury Road has probably one of the simplest plots seen in cinema over the last years. A convoy lead by Furiosa takes a detour from its mission and is then followed by dictator Immortan Joe and his cult-fanatic crew of War Boys. Don’t be fooled – while simple, the film still manages to not only display cinematographic marvel and jaw-dropping stunts, but also touch deep topics such as slavery, male oppression and even the politics of a dictatorship.
Miller crafts Fury Road with obvious and admirable passion. It’s intense, entertaining from beginning to end, and proof of how amazing some movies can be if done by the right people and with the right vision. It is 2015’s mad masterpiece for the ages.
Will it win? The Fury Road story in the Awards race is actually quite strange. Released in May, nobody really thought it would make it to the late Awards discussion, which normally starts around September. Yet, the Critics Association across the US started to give its verdicts, and all of a sudden Miller’s film wasn’t only back in the discussion, but also one of the ones to beat.
Funny thing is, this no longer seems to be the case now. While on technical grounds Mad Max is indeed a massive contender, it seems the film has lost its favourite tag in the Director and Best Picture battles. While the possibilities of Miller taking the Best Director Oscar are still relatively high, Iñarritu’s recent wins at the Globes and DGAs would make that achievement at this point more like a nice surprise.
Stay tuned for Part II next week!