It’s awards season again, and the Oscars are fast approaching! So far we’ve only heard the nominations but it’s already brought about much controversy. With the current debate, IMPACT asked its contributors, in an ideal world, who would they like to win the golden man?
If we’re going for ‘old-fashioned technical achievement + worthy material = Best Picture’, of the nominees it should be Spotlight, a film missing a lot of the acclaim it could be getting (though the tone of the stuff it’s getting is pretty much all good anyway) by virtue of its ‘workmanlike’ direction. Bull. There’s artistry in subtlety, in knowing when to exclude things and in the power of silence. The Revenant shows the difficulty in pulling it off, by being all technical prowess and hollow content.
But on the other hand…
…it should be Fury Road. This is the reason the Academy expanded the potential nominees from five to ten, to show they’re not out of touch. A B-movie legend, an Ozploitation classic, a 30 year dead franchise became nearly everyone’s favourite action experience overnight. It’s a thundering masterclass in building character and developing plot through spectacle on the move. Plus, one of the noisiest films of the year is a natural successor to the silent era, with minimal dialogue and fantastic physicality from all involved. Those who criticised it as simple and undercooked not only missed how it was so efficiently working, but they also profoundly misunderstand how visual storytelling works.
Could this finally be Leo’s year? After 39 films and 5 Academy Award nominations for acting, fans have been wanting DiCaprio to get an Oscar for years, and this time it might actually happen. However, as always, there is strong competition. Eddie Redmayne, who won this award last year, was controversially cast in The Danish Girl as Lili Elbe, one of the first people to undergo sexual reassignment surgery, but managed to very convincingly portray the internal agony and confusion of a woman born in a man’s body.
Matt Damon starred in the highly popular The Martian, combining resourcefulness and humour to produce a first-rate astronaut trying to survive long enough to get home. There were also great performances from the likes of Bryan Cranston in Trumbo and Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs, both actors playing the title characters in their respective biopics, although up against the competition already mentioned, they are unfortunately unlikely to win this year. Will Smith missed out on recognition, though many believed his talent and enthusiasm in Concussion should have at least earned him a nomination.
Best Supporting Actress
There appears to be a fair amount of overlap this year between the Supporting and Best Actress categories, with Rooney Mara playing an almost central role in Carol, which places her in a strong position to win this year’s Supporting Actress Oscar. However, there have also been impressive performances from the likes of Jennifer Jason Leigh in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, Rachael McAdams in Spotlight, and Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs. There was also a lot of love for Charlize Theron, who played the highly popular Furiosa in critically-acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road, but she missed out on a nomination in both this category and Best Actress. But in my opinion, the award should go to Alicia Vikander for her emotional and highly believable portrayal of Gerda Wegener, opposite Best Actor nominee Eddie Redmayne, in The Danish Girl. Gerda’s inner turmoil while watching her husband undergo sexual reassignment surgery is vividly brought to life, and so compelling and central she could equally have been nominated as Best Actress.
Best Animated Feature Film
Pixar never fails to bring innovative, fun and visually striking animated films to the big screen – and Inside Out is no exception. It takes place in the mind of 12 year-old Riley, where her five key emotions (Joy, Fear, Sadness, Anger and Disgust) guide her as she leaves her happy life in Minnesota for a new one in San Francisco.
Part of the magic is the attention to detail. Not only do each of the emotions have distinctive personalities, but also auras – built into the animations themselves – that embody their respective traits. For example, Joy has speckles of gold – a reflection of her feistiness, optimism and energy – which makes for a visually spectacular experience.
However, what truly sets Inside Out apart from other nominated films is what it aims to do, and ultimately achieves – a bold, ambitious and creative coming of age story. Sure, Boy and the World shines for its provocative observations, but Inside Out is arguably the more creative of the two.
Joy and Sadness have set out to restore balance to Riley’s emotions. For younger and older audiences alike, it’s a story of how to accommodate feelings – from Joy to Anger – and ultimately, develop as a person.
This narrative is wise without preaching. In doing so, Inside Out has set itself up as an instant classic and, fittingly, deserves the title as the Best Animated Feature Film of 2015.
Ryan Coogler, Todd Haynes, Ridley Scott, Danny Boyle, Alex Garland and Steven Spielberg (once again), can count themselves unfortunate not be a part of this year’s Best Director nominees. Yet of the ones that do find themselves worthy – The Big Short‘s Adam McKay, Mad Max: Fury Road‘s George Miller, The Revenant‘s Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Room‘s Lenny Abrahamson and Spotlight‘s Tom McCarthy – each command their respective film with an impressive determination to produce something quite magical.
Mad Max and The Revenant delve into unsympathetic terrains with a no-holds barred effort to be more than just Oscar films – they’re the full package. The Big Short, Room and Spotlight all show impressive management of difficult topics and lurid detail, with The Big Short being the most complex, Spotlight the most profound and Room the most distressing. Room is also the least talked about, but that’s a testament to Abrahamson’s faultless direction.
George Miller should win on his wondrous return after 30 years with Mad Max, whilst Tom McCarthy has shown that something equally big (in a metaphorical sense) can blow you away with pure shock. Yet Adam McKay could sneak up and grab the little gold man because his inventiveness knows no bounds.
However, for a second year running, Alejandro G. Iñárritu will snag the Oscar for Best Director. Not only has he come back stronger, but much more physical, rigorously attacking the limits of himself and his crew – resulting in the spectacular film that is The Revenant. After all the jibber jabber, Iñárritu will stand on that stage once again and strike a Mexican Best Director hat-trick at the 88th Academy Awards.
Most say that cinematographers are the definitive directors of films. They control the camera, lighting and essentially the whole image. So it makes sense that many of them eventually move on to directing, as their abilities don’t receive adequate acclaim. Take a look at any awards show, these guys are lackadaisically praised. The Hateful Eight, Mad Max: Fury Road, Carol, Sicario and The Revenant will contest this year’s award, even though Brooklyn, Macbeth and Youth were strong enough to pinch a place.
Three-time winner Robert Richardson produced some pretty sprawling shots of a blizzard in all its glory in The Hateful Eight, devoting at least 30 needless minutes of its bloated 3-hour runtime to carriage sequences, so a fourth success is out of the question. By contrast, Mad Max: Fury Road is efficient in every technical aspect. John Seale produces shots so unbelievably visceral it’s no wonder its action status is already legendary.
Compared to the other nominees, Carol is somewhat overshadowed by the might of their storylines. However, the way that it captures the 1950s zeitgeist creates a sincere aesthetic for the story to unfold. Having never won, Roger Deakins remains the dark horse for Sicario. The experience is made far more constrained by his expansively claustrophobic cinematography, which has the unique vibe of a middle-eastern/cartel-driven war film.
Emmanuel Lubezski remains the favourite, having built on Gravity and Birdman with the use of free-roaming camera and natural light from the Canadian wilderness. Lubezski’s dedication to detail when faced with a mammoth task in The Revenant is inspiring, and that’s why he’s going to hold on to this award for a third year.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Amongst the many omissions in this year’s nominations, one of the most surprising was Aaron Sorkin’s exhilarating script for Steve Jobs. Adapted from the book of the same name by Walter Isaacson (although, in reality, both were written around the same time), this oversight was all the more shocking due to its recognition at the BAFTAs, the Critics’ Choice Awards and the Golden Globes – the latter even saw him win. Personally, I think Sorkin should also win at the Academy Awards, but considering he wasn’t even nominated, his chances are looking somewhat… bleak.
Instead, although it’s highly improbable, it would be nice to see Emma Donoghue win for the adaptation of her own book, Room, to the big screen. The script succeeded in exploring harrowing themes, whilst also remaining faithful to the book’s choice of Jack – a young boy whose world is just one, tiny room – as the innocent narrator.
However, come 28th February, it will be a big surprise if The Big Short (based on the book by Michael Lewis) doesn’t win. The film – about the financial crisis of 2007-2008 – has won pretty much every other major award so far and is probably Adam McKay’s safest bet of winning an Oscar.
Best Original Screenplay
One of the most innovative ideas for a film in 2015 was the concept of setting a movie inside the mind of an 11-year old girl, with her emotions as the main characters. Although initially the premise is similar to 2013’s short film Brain Divided and the 90’s sitcom Herman’s Head, one of the main reasons Inside Out stood out was how Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley managed to convey a complex premise through well-developed characters and a fully-functioning world – in such a way that even their younger demographic could follow the story. It’s rare for such a wide audience to connect with one film – and even rarer that an original idea in Hollywood should meet with both critical and commercial success. With any luck, Inside Out could take the award home.
Despite this, it’s more likely that Spotlight will be victorious on Oscar night – especially as it’s won pretty much everything else so far. Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer have written a script that is not only tense and fast-paced, but also emotionally wrought in its dealings with such a delicate topic. Although it would be a worthy winner of the coveted statue, it would be more than a nice surprise to see Inside Out win that trophy.
Music (Original Song)
The nominees are as follows: “Earned it” (Fifty Shades of Grey), “Manta Ray” (Racing Extinction), “Simple Song #3” (Youth), “TIl It Happens To You” (The Hunting Ground) and “Writing on the Wall” (Spectre).
The category that made Fifty Shades of Grey an Oscar nominated film perhaps should not be given any credibility, but everything else does deserve a mention.
“Manta Ray”, “Simple Song #3” and “Til it Happens to you” are perhaps the least well known on this list. “Til it Happens to you” is actually sung by Lady Gaga, and is a rather slow low energy. The other two are far better with “Simple Song #3” being a powerful orchestral performance and “Manta Ray” has an eerie cheerfulness to it that is certainly unique.
“Writing on the Wall”, sung by Sam Smith, was an interesting bond song. First off it had to compete with the previous bond song Skyfall by idea that was generally better received before it was heard in the actual film. However, when the music started to play against the best opening Bond credits of the Craig era, the music did its job perfectly by elevating what was on screen, hence the clear winner.
“Earned it” is a good song and even the entire soundtrack to Fifty Shades of Grey was the best part of the movie, but that isn’t saying much. To the previous point a piece of music should elevate what you are watching and the music was nowhere near good enough to achieve this feat.
Predicted Winner: “Writing on the Wall” from Spectre
Images: ‘The Revenant’, 20th Century Foc, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, Warner Bros. Pictures, ‘The Danish Girl’, Focus Features & Universal Pictures International, ‘Inside Out’, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, ‘Spotlight’, Open Road Films, ‘The Big Short’, Paramount Pictures, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, Universal Pictures and Focus Features