The Martian – 7 nominations: Picture, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Visual Effects, Production Design, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing.
After the disappointments of The Counselor and Exodus: Gods and Kings, Ridley Scott is back on form with this remarkable adaptation of Andy Weir’s novel The Martian. In a future where space travel wasn’t deemed just ‘too expensive’, the Ares III manned mission to Mars lead by Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) is forced to leave the red planet immediately after a high-power storm threatens their equipment and lives.
During the evacuation, crew-member Mark Watney, brilliantly played here by Matt Damon, is hit by a communications antenna, and consequently left behind and presumed dead by the rest of the expedition. As NASA will quickly find out, it turns out Watney is alive and alone on Mars.
Scott beautifully conveys one survival story that somehow feels both intimate and universal, shifting between Watney’s loneliness and survival strategies and NASA’s desperate measures to bring him back home. The script and Damon successfully keep the same refreshing humour from the book, and put together one of the most entertaining and compelling films of 2015.
Will it win? Even though The Martian is by far one of the most well crafted movies this season, right now the odds of winning are fairly low. Visual effects and the sound categories seem to be its best shot, but nothing else.
The Revenant – 12 nominations: Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Editing, Costume Design, Production Design, Visual Effects, Makeup, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing.
Winning almost everything there was to be won last year with the wonderful Birdman, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu strikes again, this time with The Revenant, the story of a man who’s left to die in the wilderness and has to painfully make his way back to the world of the living.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, this is a brutal piece of cinema that combines Iñarritu’s gritty style of his earlier films (21 Grams, Amores Perros), with the grandiose look of his more recent work (Babel, Birdman).
While The Revenant may fail to appeal to all audiences, Lubezki’s unforgettably beautiful cinematography and DiCaprio’s remarkable performance make Iñarritu’s latest film a peculiar tour-de-force.
Will it win? Here we have the film with the most nominations overall. And in some of those categories, The Revenant is already a secured winner. Having won the Globe, the Critics Choice and the SAG, it is pretty much guaranteed that DiCaprio will win his first and long-overdue Oscar. In terms of cinematography, Lubezki has no rivals whatsoever, and the Mexican should already be preparing his acceptance speech for his third consecutive Academy Award.
Now, when it comes to Best Director and Best Picture, this is where things get really interesting. Iñarritu took the Globe and (surprisingly) the DGA, which in a normal Oscars race means he is pretty much in line to take the golden statue too, yet the fact he won last year makes a win slightly less likely this year, which I’m sure George Miller is very happy to hear.
And when it comes to the big award, well, the coin is flipped and the result is unpredictable, as The Revenant is in a sort of virtual tie with The Big Short (won the PGA) and Spotlight (won the SAG). Let it be said, this might shape to be one of the closest calls in the Oscars’ recent history.
For my full review of The Revenant see here
Room – 4 nominations: Picture, Director, Actress and Adapted Screenplay.
Lenny Abrahamson directs this adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s book of the same name. Joy Newsome has been held captive in a room by a rapist and psychopath for over seven years, where she gave birth to a child named Jack, aged five at the time we meet him. Room tells the story of mother and son trying to escape from that place and it manages to maintain enough tension whilst being, at points, inspiring and heart-breakingly painful.
Brie Larson rises to well-deserved acclaim in a spectacular performance, complemented by the scene-stealing Jacob Tremblay. Sublimely directed, impeccably acted and with an incredible first half leading to one of the most beautiful scenes of 2015, Room is a must-see.
Will it win? Someone might as well give Larson the Oscar now, as she’s won every single major award to date. Besides that, the film is unlikely to win for anything else.
Spotlight – 6 nominations: Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay and Editing.
Early 2000s in Boston, a group of journalists working in the Spotlight section of The Boston Globe newspaper embark on an investigation into alleged child abuse carried out by priests, and an apparent cover-up imposed by the Catholic Church itself. A horrible real-life story brought to the big screen by Tom McCarthy, and starring the likes of Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Stanley Tucci.
McCarthy directs and co-writes, pulling together a hugely interesting investigative drama that plays on many emotions and will leave more than one viewer shaking in anger. The film pays tribute to the real group of journalists at the Globe and promotes the importance of journalism while criticising the corrupting power of the Church.
While every single actor is at the top of their game here, Ruffalo is the closest thing to a lead, and knocks it out of the park, in what is probably a career best performance.
Will it win? One of the three big contenders along The Revenant and The Big Short, Spotlight began the race as the absolute favourite, named the best film of the year by several major critics’ associations in the US. Right now, however, it’s fighting not to be overshadowed.
In acting categories, neither McAdams nor Ruffalo are big contenders, while the Original Screenplay does seem to be secured for McCarthy and co-writer Josh Singer, though it faces fierce competition from films like Inside Out and Ex-Machina.
And the Oscar goes to…(?)
If it was up to this humble critic, I would give the big award to Mad Max: Fury Road in the blink of an eye. A weird, crazy movie and one I personally think will be talked about a lot in the years to come. However, being realistic, Fury Road doesn’t seem to stand a chance against the big three.
Purely based on the awards season so far, I will say The Revenant has a slight edge over Spotlight and The Big Short, but the gap is marginal. All of these films have taken one of the big three Guilds (PGA, DGA and SAG), and any of them could end up with the golden statue.
Acting-wise there are two Oscars that are, basically, already won – Leo for Best Actor and Larson for Best Actress. And yes, it sounds like a joke, but after years of waiting, Leo is finally going to get his Oscar. The internet should start getting ready, because it’s going to be a huge moment.
Supporting roles are not as easy to predict. Stallone was victorious at the Globes and Critic’s Choice, making him the favourite, although Mark Rylance might still surprise everyone when they announce the winner, so don’t forget about him. On the ladies’ side, Alicia Vikander seems to be well positioned, given her SAG victory, but Rooney Mara and Kate Winslet are not far behind.
So there you have it – my predictions for the Oscars 2016, taking place on Sunday February 28th. To see if I’m right catch up with the results the next day or, if you just can’t wait, watch the 88th Academy Awards live in the early hours of Monday morning. Enjoy!