We’re down to the wire. Sunday, we will find out just how much we did and did not know about this Oscar season. While I’ve contributed quick thoughts to our Rundown articles, I always like to do more with my final post of the year. This will include how I think the races will finish out, what has the best chances of surprising and what I overall felt about the nominees, non-nominees and other general thoughts.
The categories below are sorted in order from least competitive to most competitive.
I will not be sharing my personal thoughts on the quality of the foreign language, documentary or short film categories since I haven’t seen many of these and apart from Foreign Language Film and Documentary Feature, I don’t know that my guesses would have much impact. I have still written a little something on each and these are separated out at the end of this article.
Who Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio. After nearly two decades of chasing and campaigning heavily for the Oscar, it looks like DiCaprio is finally going to capture that brass ring. There are few precursors that didn’t go his way and those that didn’t were mostly awarded early in the season before anyone really saw much of The Revenant. This is also the most easy prediction of the night.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Michael Fassbender. What if there is a spoiler? Could DiCaprio being everywhere hurt his chances? Not likely. Glad-handing has been a long Academy tradition and with his nearest quality competitor doing almost no campaigning, there’s little chance for an upset. Yet, if The Revenant crashes with the Academy (it won’t), then Fassbender has the most other prizes, so he could win (he won’t).
My Personal Thoughts: Some might say that the lead actor race is very tough and full of high quality performances, but I don’t really see that. I love Michael Fassbender, but the rest have just left me a bit cold (even the ones I have only seen snippets of). Of those who weren’t nominated, I think Tom Hardy deserves a lot of attention for his work on Mad Max: Fury Road. It may not have been a traditional performance, but it’s a smashing one. On the other hand, there’s Jacob Tremblay, the young boy who grew up within the confines of an isolated suburban shed where his mother had long been kept captive. Tremblay may have been heavily coached in his performance as some of the scenes just don’t seem like something an actor his age could fully conceptualize, but beyond that, he gives a believable performance, one that’s both dramatic and subdued at precisely the right moments. If I had to choose, I would go with Michael Fassbender who easily dominates this line-up with a strong, passionate performance that, while perhaps modestly fictionalized, is no less than brilliant.
Best Animated Feature
What Will Win: Inside Out. There is no competition. Write this one in ink on your prediction score pad because any other result is wishful thinking. Unlike the last few years, Inside Out has so steadfastly dominated the scene that no other film has found its way into the conversation. Like many of the Pixar wins of the late ’00s, there are no other potential outcomes.
What Could Potentially Upset: Anomalisa. Like with Best Actor, there’s almost no reason to select a runner-up in the category. The leader is so strong that were it not to come to pass it would be a bigger scandal than The Lego Movie failing to secure a nomination last year. For those who want something more specific, I give the edge to Anomalisa, Charlie Kaufman’s adult-only stop-motion feature, which is the only film to earn any level of acclaim this season approaching Inside Out‘s.
My Personal Thoughts: This has just not been a good year for animation, DreamWorks’ Home was decent, but not award worthy and Minions was a pale off-shoot of the Despicable Me franchise. Quite easily, I would pick Inside Out as the best of the year. The film was nearly perfect in its depiction of childhood angst, emotional woe and the struggle we all face learning not to let go of the past, but to embrace and incorporate it into our present selves.
What Will Win: The Revenant. Emmanuel Lubezki is about to do something few people ever do: win three consecutive Oscars. He has become one of this era’s most prominent cinematographers and, with the American Society of Cinematographers’ support, he has become nigh unstoppable in his pursuit of the Oscar win.
What Could Potentially Upset: Carol, Mad Max: Fury Road. There isn’t just one, but two potential films that could upset The Revenant in that unlikely event. Carol is probably the weakest of the two, having been proven as a film that the Academy wasn’t nearly as enamored with as it should have been. Yet, Ed Lachman’s amazing photography is one of the most celebrated aspects, which could give those wanting to honor Carol, that small number there are, a chance to recognize it. Then there’s Mad Max: Fury Road, the film that started the season as a leading contender for this award thanks to its mind-boggling action sequences. Like his fellow nominees, John Seale is a legend and, were it not for the dominance of The Revenant this season, we might have been hearing his name called out.
My Personal Thoughts: The two films I selected as runners-up for this category are also the two films I rank as the year’s best photographed. Carol handily wins the prize with its gorgeous, crisp framing mixed with hits metaphorical, dirty-glassed view of life. Mad Max: Fury Road is visually impressive, giving life to a desolate landscape like few other cinematographers could. The film I most wanted to see on this list was Brooklyn, a simple, elegant tale whose lack of visual flare may have hurt it. Nevertheless, the film’s photographic work is stunning, hearkening back to a time that may be gone, but with such lush visuals won’t be easily forgotten.
Who Will Win: Brie Larson. When I hear people talk about the sudden emergence of Brie Larson as this ingénue who emerged from Room with a shelf full of awards, I want to shake them and demand that they watch Short Term 12. For any who saw that film, it was clear from the outset that here was a star in the making. It’s great that Room completed her launch into the stratosphere, but those of us who cited her as giving the best performance of the year for Short Term 12 will sagely advise that they saw it coming.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Saoirse Ronan. For such a young actress, it might surprise some to know that this is Saoirse Ronan’s second Oscar nomination, the first coming for her breakout performance in Atonement eight years ago. From that early film, she has remained a luminous, spectacular screen presence. She may have had a few duds, but when she was given the right material, she shone. Having that long background makes her feel like an old Hollywood soul and there might be a few Academy voters who see her performance and are reminded of the quiet ferocity of many inimitable performance. If enough rally behind her, she could upset even if that currently seems unlikely.
My Personal Thoughts: For me, the race for the year’s best comes down to two names: Saoirse Ronan and Brie Larson. These young woman delivered, in their own ways, two of the most classic performances this category has seen in some time. It’s unfortunate that only one of them can win. As for who else I would have liked to see nominated, Rooney Mara tops the list with her subtle, but superb performance in Carol, one I might have been tempted to vote for in a three-way race with Ronan and Larson. She is every bit the lead of the film as Cate Blanchett and probably more so. Her growth, exploration and passion give the character resonance, especially for anyone whose felt adrift in their own life and then been invigorated by love. She comes alive without theatrics and that’s why I love her performance so much. Charlize Theron is near the top of the list. In Mad Max: Fury Road she went toe-to-toe with Tom Hardy and the actors successfully played off one another to create two strong, indelible screen performances. Just behind her is Carey Mulligan. In Far from the Madding Crowd and Suffragette, she delivers two wholly different performances with Madding Crowd easily demonstrating why she is one of today’s finest working young actresses.
Best Original Screenplay
What Will Win: Spotlight. There’s only been one dominant screenplay all season and it’s Spotlight. Every high profile Original Screenplay competition has gone to Spotlight making it a fairly safe bet for the win. It’s also the one category the movie has to win to even be considered a potential Best Picture winner.
What Could Potentially Upset: Inside Out, Straight Outta Compton. Upsets are always possible, even for juggernauts. That’s why it’s possible one of two other nominees could triumph over Spotlight. Considering the film peaked some months ago, it’s possible Spotlight‘s originality pales in comparison to the absolute inventiveness of Inside Out. Since animated films aren’t eligible for the WGA, we have no way of knowing if it was much of a threat. Of course, BAFTA said otherwise, so we shouldn’t put to much stock in this or the other film winning. That film is Straight Outta Compton. Many thought that the film that documented the rise of rap group NWA was going to end up a Best Picture nominee even though it was something of a long shot. However, when the entire acting slate was white for the second year in a row, disgruntled contenders decried the outcome and created a stir that has left a controversial membership change ahead for the Academy. If backlash was strong enough, an unexpected push for Straight Outta Compton could occur. Of course, since the team of writers is white, it might not look very good on Academy voters to recognize the one all-white aspect of that film.
My Personal Thoughts: You can’t really top Inside Out and Spotlight in terms of screenwriting this year. They were easily the cream of the crop. The one screenplay I’m saddened didn’t make it through to the nominations was Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck. She might not be a gifted thespian, but her film was raucously funny and turned the romantic comedy genre on its ear. The same could be said for Spy as well, a deeply funny twist on the spy thriller that easily managed to beat this year’s Bond outing in terms of overall quality.
Best Adapted Screenplay
What Will Win: The Big Short. Late-year successes often have a way of rewriting the conversation. The Big Short did just that, generating a level of enthusiasm that was largely missing from this year’s Oscars. Whether the film’s screenplay is actually great or its competition just pales in comparison is hard to know, but this may be the only category the film wins at the Oscars, so it’s not likely to lose.
What Could Potentially Upset: Carol, Room. Writing is one of the few areas where comedies can thrive at the Oscars, especially heavily dramatic ones. That said, for an upset, look no further than two films frequently honored for their scripts this year: Carol and Room. Neither has developed the narrative that would merit a surprise victory, but these are the only two with any real shot of doing so.
My Personal Thoughts: On opposite ends of the screenwriting spectrum are two films that deserved far more consideration from the Academy than they got. On the one end is Steve Jobs, a dialogue rich film that hails from The West Wing scion Aaron Sorkin. Known for his rapid-fire, dense and pointed dialogue, Sorkin’s film is every bit the epitome of his style. On the complete opposite end is the almost dialogue-free Mad Max: Fury Road, which relies almost entirely on visual descriptions to tell its story. From the knowledge-rich enclave where the escaped women learned about oppression to the simple gesture of a man allowing a woman to use his shoulder as a gun mount. Mad Max: Fury Road told a complex and contextually rich story with little need of dialogue, which might be the reason why the Academy ignored it. I also love the writing of Carol and would definitely consider voting for it here. Phyllis Nagy’s adaptation is beautifully complex, a pristine glimpse into the bigoted American past. It’s both tender and pointed in its commentary.
Who Will Win: Alejandro G. Inarritu. Only once or twice each decade does the DGA winner for Best Director not go on to win the Oscar. Typically, the DGA victor isn’t even an Oscar nominee when it loses, but a rare situation occurs when the DGA goes with someone other than Oscar (such as Ang Lee for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon who lost to Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh for Traffic). So, it’s a good rule of thumb to pick the DGA winner.
Who Could Potentially Upset: George Miller, Adam McKay. Those rare cases where DGA doesn’t go the same direction are those where a major auteur has a breakthrough film that demands Oscar attention. George Miller and Adam McKay are the only two capable of doing so this year and neither seem incredibly likely. If The Revenant hadn’t also picked up all eight tech awards, Mad Max: Fury Road would be in a good position to follow the Gravity route. Not to Best Picture but to Best Director. However, that’s not the case and all signs are pointing to a Inarritu victory. For Adam McKay, his only hope for winning Best Picture lies with a win here. If he cannot take this trophy, his film has no shot at the Oscars.
My Personal Thoughts: There are few directors more under-rewarded than Todd Haynes. Perpetually turning out mesmerizing and gorgeous films, Haynes has never been adequately rewarded. Not for Far From Heaven nor for this year’s Carol. Not only should he have been nominated, but I think he would have been a terrific winner. As for the nominees, George Miller is my choice. Mad Max: Fury Road was an incredibly difficult film to mount and execute while looking so effortless. His is the kind of achievement that deserves all the acclaim it receives.
Best Visual Effects
What Will Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There was a time when no one had seen Star Wars and speculation leaned towards a potential Mad Max: Fury Road win. Those days are behind us and while Star Wars doesn’t have any revolutionary effects, it is undoubtedly in the lead of this competition.
What Could Potentially Upset: Mad Max: Fury Road. In another year, Mad Max: Fury Road would have been the indisputable winner. Now, it feels like an also ran. Not because it’s effects work isn’t superb, but because it has the unfortunate duty of going up against the rebirth of the celebrated Star Wars franchise.
My Personal Thoughts: There is no question that I would give this award to Mad Max, but a film that I feel was unfairly overlooked is Tomorrowland. While the effects may seem conventional, they are streamlined and compelling. While I couldn’t say that it should have been nominated over any of these, it should have been given far more consideration than it was.
Best Film Editing
What Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. One of the winningest films this season has been Mad Max: Fury Road and one of the few categories where it’s been wiping the floor with everyone and seldom yielding a surprise is Best Film Editing.
What Could Potentially Upset: The Big Short, The Revenant. This film could have a huge night at the Oscars, especially if it upsets Mad Max: Fury Road in several categories, which is entirely possible at this juncture.
My Personal Thoughts: Nearly every quality film has a quality edit and while Mad Max: Fury Road is easily my top choice, my runner-up choices are films like Carol and Brooklyn, films which are so well edited that they almost seem like they were organically constructed. Solidly paced and emotionally resonant with seemingly little effort, these are the kinds of films that need to have editing prizes just to show that it doesn’t have to be a bunch of quick edits to be considered the best.
Best Original Score
What Will Win: The Hateful Eight. Seldom to narratives make a play in down-ballot categories, but the chance to award legendary film composer Ennio Morricone, who rose to prominence for his western film scores, for scoring a western has become a steamrolling juggernaut that seems impenetrable.
What Could Potentially Upset: Carol, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Yet, there are two other films who have narratives that could develop: Long admired composer Carter Burwell surprisingly nabbed his first Oscar nomination this year. Carol doesn’t have a lot of places where it can get awarded and this could be it. Of course, as Danny Elfman will tell you, earning a long-deserved nomination only means more nominations, it doesn’t always mean more awards. On the other side of the coin is John Williams who earned his 50th career nomination for scoring the rebirth of one of his most legendary works. Some might want to give the legend one more trophy for his collection, but I doubt it will be to the detriment of Morricone.
My Personal Thoughts: There are many fine scores this year, including Carol, but the one that should have been nominated is Brooklyn, a finely crafted, elegant score. Michael Brook is one of those journeyman composers whose work is always so simply crafted that it seems like no work at all, which could be why he’s never been recognized.
Best Makeup & Hairstyling
What Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. While it might be common to say that Mad Max: Fury Road has this in the bag, it wouldn’t be accurate. As much as I would love there to be more than one category where the film is an unmatchable frontrunner, the juggernaut of The Revenant and the audacity of The 100-Year-Old Man could easily steal its thunder. However, it’s very likely at this point that Mad Max will come out on top, but until the envelope is opened, no one will be certain.
What Could Potentially Upset: The Revenant. It’s been building steam towards an Oscar win and although it didn’t have a nomination with the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, it has enough momentum that some might just do a single-film ballot consisting mostly of awards for The Revenant.
My Personal Thoughts: There needs to be a separate category for the non-prosthetic makeup work out there, especially when it pertains to hairstyling. Although the name was fully added to the category recently, this group has seldom been interested in recognizing non-makeup work. One film that deserves kudos this year for its terrific work is Carol were the hairstyles and makeup effects were perfectly trimmed to each character and handily set the audience at ease for the time and place of its setting.
Best Supporting Actor
Who Will Win: Sylvester Stallone. For awhile now, the narrative has been that the beloved Rocky franchise would ultimately result in two-time Oscar nominee (in 1977, now three-time nominee) Sylvester Stallone winning a prize for the character he originated. The film has a sterling reputation with many, though just as many don’t think the film’s that great. Stallone’s career between the original Rocky and today have some believing that he could be vulnerable. He didn’t even get nominated at SAG and wasn’t up for the BAFTA award, so he’s had no room to build momentum.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hardy. There are two actors who could ride support for their films to victory. Mark Ruffalo would need to win Best Supporting Actor for Spotlight for the film to have a conceivable chance at Best Picture. Ruffalo is a respected, journeyman actor whose earned two prior nominations in this category and could be the perfect upset victor in this category. So, too, could Tom Hardy if he can ride the coattails of Best Picture frontrunner The Revenant. Hardy’s problem is that he doesn’t campaign, which requires the over-campaigned Leonardo DiCaprio and Alejandro G. Inarritu to pick up the slack, which might ultimately hurt him in the end.
My Personal Thoughts: I love Hardy in general and Ruffalo in specific to this film, but there are two actors that should have been in the conversation but weren’t. Matthias Schoenaerts was simply spectacular in his supporting role in Far from the Madding Crowd. He may not be in every scene, but whenever he shows up we remember just how significant his character is to the proceedings. The same can be said for Emory Cohen whose effervescent performance in Brooklyn is so incredibly friendly, amiable and sweet that you understand why a scared Irish immigrant girl could fall in love with him and turn her entire life around for him. He treats her with respect and admiration without the demeaning and superior attitude many men push onto women. He’s such a presence that you cannot imagine how she could even think of falling in love with someone else.
What Will Win: The Revenant. Reading the tea leaves for a Best Picture contest is sometimes as easy as seeing what has swept the precursors and sometimes requires looking at all the evidence and figuring out which criteria will matter and which won’t. We start with Best Film Editing. Only one film in the last 30 years won without a nomination in that category. That was last year’s Birdman. That gives Spotlight, The Big Short, The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road the only shot at the win. All four are nominated for Best Director while the first three also have acting citations, and only the first two have writing nominations. The missing writing nomination is the only factor that could hurt The Revenant, but I doubt it has an impact since neither it nor Mad Max have screenplays that scream “nominate me!” Then there’s the precursors, DGA, PGA and SAG all split between the first three films, a rare feat. The DGA is the most formidable precursor of the lot, which gives The Revenant another plus. Combined with winning both the Golden Globe and BAFTA, along with a pack-leading 12 Oscar nominations, all signs are currently pointing to The Revenant.
What Could Potentially Upset: Spotlight, The Big Short. The film that won at PGA (The Big Short) and the film that won at SAG (Spotlight) both have huge pluses going for them, but the former has faded since it burst onto the scene as a threat and the latter seems to have hit a wall after a strong series of Best Picture wins through the precursors. SAG is the faultiest precursor, which doesn’t give Spotlight fans much hope, and the PGA has no problem recognizing comedy while the Academy clearly does looking at recent history. There could be a shock from-nowhere win for Mad Max: Fury Road to go with its myriad technical prizes, but that all seems like a pipe dream for fans of the film rather than an impending reality.
My Personal Thoughts: Mad Max: Fury Road is easily one of my favorite films this year, as is Brooklyn, but which will end up on the top of my list remains to be seen. The third in that roster is Todd Haynes’ simmering melodrama Carol, a complex drama about forbidden love at time of great prejudice. With impeccable female performances and photography that puts most films of the last decade to shame, Carol is easily one of the most compelling and enchanting films released this year. Another enchanting film, one that won’t likely come close to my top five, but should have been nominated all the same, is Inside Out. This fascinating journey into the mind of a young girl struggling to cope with being uprooted from her happy childhood and relocated into a scary new adventure delivers emotional weight, vivid inspiration and connects us all to our childhoods in ways that few outside of the Pixar Brain Trust can.
Best Production Design
What Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. There is a case to be made that Mad Max: Fury Road‘s vast inventive landscape and awesome car designs are the perfect victor in this category. However, history suggests that anything outside the norm is seldom rewarded. In spite of its BAFTA victory and win at the Art Directors Guild, an outcome at the Oscars in its favor still doesn’t feel quite right.
What Could Potentially Upset: Bridge of Spies, The Revenant. The two other ADG winners are the likely benefactors to a loss for Mad Max: Fury Road. Bridge of Spies has the benefit of recreating a lot of locations that might give it more of an edge over the largely wilderness-set The Revenant. However, that film could also benefit from a sweep.
My Personal Thoughts: While big and ostentatious can often be attributes associated with the Best Production Design nominees, sometimes the most simple and elegant designs are best. While I’ll definitely agree with an Oscar win for Mad Max: Fury Road, two films that were excluded from this competition certainly deserve some recognition. Both set during the same design era, Brooklyn and Carol evoke time and place effortlessly, drawing in the audience to their meek settings and making them feel completely comfortable.
Best Supporting Actress
Who Will Win: Alicia Vikander. This race has turned into something completely unusual, two leads slumming as supporting actresses against two genuinely supporting turns and an ensemble player who represents the only woman in the cast. It’s strange to say, but it’s possible that any of the five nominees could win making this one of the tightest races this year. However, there is evidence that Alicia Vikander may pull away from the pack long enough to coast to victory for her lead performance in The Danish Girl. Having won 12 awards so far for her work in Ex Machina, Vikander has only four for her “supporting” work in The Danish Girl, one of which is the Screen Actors Guild Award, which is what gives her the edge.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Kate Winslet, Jennifer Jason Leigh. However, with both BAFTA and the Golden Globes going for Kate Winslet, there might be something to headlines extolling to triumph of Titanic‘s lovers coming together on the same not to win an Oscar 18 years later. As I said, almost anyone could win this category and there’s a case to be made for longtime indie player Jennifer Jason Leigh whose commanding performance could very well topple all comers as a recognition of a long, varied career of solid performances.
My Personal Thoughts: My first decision for this category would be to push Rooney Mara in lead and Alicia Vikander to also-ran for Best Actress, not Best Supporting Actress. Both are the leads of their films, or at the very least co-leads. One is the titular lead and the other is the character whose development is covered at length in the film. Once I toss those two, there aren’t many people left, but two I think should have been given consideration are two most wouldn’t think about in the first place. The weaker of the two is Rebecca Ferguson whose stunning breakthrough in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation reminds one easily of Ingrid Bergman, a comparison that deserves some attention. Although no one would consider her work in Mission: Impossible academically challenging, it’s a solid, stellar star-making kind of turn. Then there’s Rose Byrne, the comic actress who’s turned in plenty of exciting performances who turned the Bond villain archetype on its ear in Spy, a subversive feminist take on the testosterone heavy spy thriller genre. She’s funny, engaging and beats the pants off even the most compelling Bond villains of the last twenty years.
Best Costume Design
What Will Win: Cinderella. For most of the season, the large number of gowns in Cinderella, and their fanciful qualities, have been the talk of this category. Few thought that any of the more traditional (or in one case outlandish) garb would be able to beat the shear number and quality of outfits in Cinderella, but something funny did happen on the way to the forum.
What Could Potentially Upset: Mad Max: Fury Road. What turned this category from a sure thing to an incredibly tight race with Cinderella is a pair of late-in-the-game awards that showed surprising strength for Mad Max: Fury Road First, the British Academy gave it the award in a surprising upset, then the Costume Designers Guild did the same thing, both at the expense of Cinderella. Reminding one of the outlandish and inventive designs of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert turning the traditionalist category on its head, Mad Max: Fury Road could be the surprise victor Sunday night and I wouldn’t be disappointed.
My Personal Thoughts: While the creativity of Mad Max‘s costumes would easily be my choice, I can’t help but cherish the more subtle and period accurate garb of films like Carol, Brooklyn, Far from the Madding Crowd and even The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. While finding a space in this category for all of these films and more would be difficult, each of them excel and succeed in varied and spectacular ways.
Best Original Song
What Will Win: “Til It Happens to You”. A song about the traumas of rape and how you can’t truly understand what it’s like until it happens to you is one with a powerful message. This category has, in recent years, become known for recognizing uncharacteristic entries such as the song “I Need to Wake Up” from An Inconvenient Truth, or songs about the music industry as a whole. Without any other compelling options, it looks like Lady Gaga may pick up her second trophy this awards season along with longtime songwriter Diane Warren.
What Could Potentially Upset: “Racing Extinction,” “Writing’s On the Wall”. If the narrative of Lady Gaga contributing only one line to the song takes hold, voters could look elsewhere. All of the songs are an option, but noted singer Sam Smith could take the prize for his divisive Bond song “Writing’s On the Wall,” as too could another song from a documentary. If a narrative develops over the show producers’ decision not to invite the performers of “Manta Ray” or “Simple Song #3” to the Oscars, it could give the award to transgender nominee Antony Hegarty and J. Ralph who has been non-invited to the Oscars to perform before.
My Personal Thoughts: There aren’t a lot of memorable songs this year, but one that certainly ran circles around the Bond theme is “Who Can You Trust” from Spy. Taking on the familiar sound of many Bond themes, this parody is rich with pointed lyrics and handily beats “Writing’s On the Wall,” this year’s actual Bond song nominee.
Best Sound Editing
What Will Win: The Revenant. We won’t know how the Motion Picture Sound Editors voted until this Saturday, which will be far too late to make an impact on Oscar voters or on prognostications. Still, if they show The Revenant winning over Mad Max: Fury Road or Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it could be a done deal.
What Could Potentially Upset: Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. What helps Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens is that both films are filled with sound, each one having an impact on the events in the film and giving the audience a genuine sense of creativity. That’s what this category is for. While most Oscar voters don’t know enough about it to separate it from the Best Sound Mixing award, a split could occur this year with voters picking one of the three films here and another in the other category.
My Personal Thoughts: There’s a lot more going into creating the sounds of Mad Max: Fury Road than there are for adding to the pre-existing soundscape of the Star Wars films, so in terms of general creativity, Mad Max wins out. What should have been nominated? I can’t think of anything really deserved a mention here other than the work on Inside Out. For a time, Pixar made quite a few inroads into the sound categories, but those days seem to be gone. For Inside Out, myriad sounds had to be created to help the audience envision a world within a little girl’s head. They aren’t complicated or outrageous sounds, but they are an inventive batch.
Best Sound Mixing
What Will Win: The Revenant. After winning at BAFTA and the Cinema Audio Society, it seems like The Revenant is revving up for an Oscar victory. The problem is that it’s not nearly as aurally complex as its competitors, which might hinder its chances. Still, as a Best Picture frontrunner, it could pull in several previously unexpected wins.
What Could Potentially Upset: Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. For a time in the 1990s, the two sound awards were paired with the Best Visual Effects award as the most creative uses of the medium were tech-heavy films. Today, however, the rules have changed and almost anything that mixes dialogue, music and sound effects together with remarkable effect can win. That’s how a film like Hugo can beat out films like Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
My Personal Thoughts: There aren’t a lot of stellar efforts in sound mixing this year that I would have nominated in place of this group, but I’ll give my personal seal of approval (like most of the other tech categories) to Mad Max: Fury Road.
And that’s all I have to say about this year’s Oscars. Enjoy this year’s race and don’t forget to keep reading to find out more on my thoughts about the remaining categories.
Below are the remaining categories for the Oscars. I haven’t seen enough of these to make decisions on what should win, what should not or what even should have been nominated. They are all also equally close in terms of potential winners. Best Foreign Language Film and Best Documentary Feature are the only categories anyone is really talking about the winner being a “done deal,” but nothing at the Oscars is ever guaranteed.
Best Foreign Language Film
What Will Win: Son of Saul. Can a Holocaust drama really lose an award from the Oscars, especially for Best Foreign Language Film? I wouldn’t count on it.
What Could Potentially Upset: Mustang. Son of Saul may have dominated most precursors, but if another film strikes voters more emotionally, it could beat it out. I suspect Mustang may be the only film with a chance, but at this point, betting against Son of Saul would probably be fruitless.
Best Documentary Feature
What Will Win: Amy. Seemingly scooping up every prize that wasn’t nailed down, Amy should have no trouble winning this category. While some of the other films might have more emotional impact, a juggernaut like this doesn’t get stopped very easily.
What Could Potentially Upset: The Look of Silence. The first Joshua Oppenheimer film to earn a Best Documentary Feature nomination, The Act of Killing, was also taken down by a steamrolling music doc. The same is likely to happen this year unless voters think he should get recognized for his mesmerizing and original efforts in his series of documentaries.
Best Documentary Short Subject
What Will Win: Chau, Beyond the Lines. While some of the others sound more important in terms of dramatic impetus, Chau, Beyond the Lines is said to be the only uplifting piece of the bunch, which could give it a good boost towards a win.
What Could Potentially Upset: A Girl in the River. When I don’t know enough about how voters will feel in a given category, I often look at the titles and pick the one that sounds most compelling. A Girl in the River handily wins that award and I wouldn’t be surprised if it eked out a victory.
Best Animated Short Film
What Will Win: World of Tomorrow. I may be biased on this and voting with my preference, but World of Tomorrow is a staggering achievement. It’s an inventive sci-fi narrative that is unlike anything we’ve seen in this category in some time. Add to this the legendary name Don Hertzfeldt and it might just be a done deal.
What Could Potentially Upset: Sanjay’s Super Team. This is one of those categories that throws curve balls and while I think Sanjay’s Super Team is the most likely runner-up to World of Tomorrow, I’ve been hearing good things about both Bear Story and We Can’t Live Without Cosmos. This category is rife for upset and any film winning won’t be a real shock.
Best Live-Action Short Film
What Will Win: Ave Maria. This religion-themed short film has been getting solid reviews and may be the one to take this year’s prize.
What Could Potentially Upset: Stutterer. I seldom feel my choices in this category are solid. Last year’s pick of The Phone Call being a very rare exception. This year, I initially thought Stutterer, which had formidable buzz going into the nominations would take the prize, but the more I hear about Ave Maria, the more I think it may ultimately triumph.