When this year’s Oscar nominations were announced without a single actor of color making the final cut, the response was swift and decisive.
By Noah Gittell
When this year’s Oscar nominations were announced without a single actor of color making the final cut, the response was swift and decisive. The Academy responded to their critics with a new policy to eliminate voters who were no longer professionally active from the rolls. The idea was met with nods of approval, and all involved can look forward to a time when the Oscars better represent the diverse racial landscape of America.
Yet nothing can be done about this year’s nominees. Host Chris Rock will surely take aim at the Academy during his opening monologue, but concerned viewers will still be left staring at twenty white faces when the acting categories come up, and a Best Picture slate in which only one of the eight nominated films features a significant African-American speaking role (“The Martian”). Can we still enjoy the Oscars? Let’s try, starting with the predictions.
Who Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”
Who Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”
Even if you weren’t a fan of “The Revanant,” this award is something of a lifetime achievement honor. DiCaprio is only 41, but this is his fifth nomination without a victory, and the Academy would love to honor one of the last movie stars who can truly open a movie on name recognition alone (consider the huge opening weekend of “The Revenant” as evidence). There is no dark horse here: Eddie Redmayne was brilliant in “The Danish Girl” and Hollywood loves Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs”), but this is DiCaprio’s night.
Who Will Win: Brie Larson, “Room”
Who Should Win: Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years”
An extremely competitive category this year. Rampling, so subtle and powerful in the little-seen “45 Years,” has little chance. The Academy will always choose the young ingénue over the older actress, and Rampling’s recent criticism of the Academy’s new rules to promote diversity didn’t help her cause. Cate Blanchett (“Carol”) has already won twice, Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”) gave a performance perhaps too subtle for recognition, and Jennifer Lawrence (“Joy”) was in a movie ignored in all other categories. No one will complain if Larson gets the gold for her big, brilliant performance in “Room.”
Best Supporting Actor
Who Will Win: Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”
Who Should Win: Christian Bale, “The Big Short”
The Academy loves a comeback story, and Stallone is the sentimental choice. We already know the Academy loves him, since they favored “Rocky” for Best Picture in 1977 (over “Network,” “Taxi Driver,” and “All the President’s Men”). His only real competition is Tom Hardy in “The Revenant” and Christian Bale in “The Big Short,” and they only have a chance if their films, each nominated for a slew of awards, end up sweeping. Don’t expect it: Stallone will raise the championship belt once again.
Best Supporting Actress
Who Will Win: Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”
Who Should Win: Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”
We should celebrate Leigh’s versatility, playing both a psycho killer in “Eight” and a shy, sensitive soul in the animated “Anomalisa” this year, but Academy members didn’t fall for Tarantino’s latest as they usually do. All the performances in this category are worthy (Kate Winslet won the Golden Globe for “Steve Jobs”), but Vikander is a rising star, and she stole “The Danish Girl” away from an excellent Eddie Redmayne.
Who Will Win: Adam McKay, “The Big Short”
Who Should Win: Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”
Tom McCarthy’s direction of “Spotlight” is probably too minimalist to gain traction. Alejandro Gonazles Iñárritu (“The Revenant”) is unlikely to become the first director to win twice in a row. Lenny Abrahamson (“Room”) is just happy to be in the room. That leaves McKay and George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”), who actually already has an Oscar (for the animated film “Happy Feet”), and while McKay is not a typical Academy winner (having previously helmed “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights”), his success at handling more substantial material in “The Big Short” is just the kind of story the Academy goes for.
What Will Win: “Spotlight”
What Should Win: “Spotlight”
What a terrific group of films. “The Martian,” “Room,” “Bridge of Spies,” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” all offer top-notch filmmaking in a wide variety of flavors (unfortunately, not in colors). But “Spotlight” has been the front-runner ever since its release, and despite taking some blows from “The Revenant” and “The Big Short,” nothing has been able to knock it down. Either one of them could make a strong push and walk away a winner, but “Spotlight” is too important and well-told a story to ignore.