Ladies and gentleman, it is that time of year once again. The High Holy Days of the Church of Hollywood are upon us and Saint Narcissus is reading his list and checking it twice, finding out who's been naughty and nice, and who gets a shiny new best friend named Oscar.
The Oscar Trophy is the most sacred of objects, a religious talisman that bequeaths upon its holder a glory and an immortality that no man could bring asunder. The Oscar statuette is a golden key that unlocks the door to the stairway to heaven. We as lowly peons, who get to watch the Oscars, should be eternally grateful for the opportunity to catch this brief glimpse into the goings on among the gods atop Mount Olympus.
As a citizen of the Kingdom of Hollywood, the United States of America, The Planet Earth, The Milky Way Galaxy, and the Kardashian Universe, it is not only my reverent duty, but my deepest and most glorious pleasure to share with you my picks for the 88th annual Academy Awards.
RESPECT THE GODS!!! PLEASE NO WAGERING!!
Best Supporting Actress :
Jennifer Jason Leigh - The Hateful Eight: Jennifer Jason Leigh is one of the bright spots in the otherwise dreary The Hateful Eight, but her character is totally under written in the second half of the film. I do hope we see more of her though as she is a terrific actress.
Rooney Mara - Carol : I have not seen Carol. I know, I am a bad person. Rooney Mara is a pretty great actress though and from what I hear she does solid work in Carol. Sadly, hearsay is not allowed in evidence in the court of Oscar.
Rachel McAdams - Spotlight : Spotlight is the best work Rachel McAdams has ever done. Amusingly enough, the costumers took a page from Amy Schumer's stand up act and put McAdams in khaki's to un-beaufity and un-sex her. It doesn't work, she is still gorgeous, but it does help her look more like a normal schlub that would work as a reporter and less like a movie star.
Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl : The Danish Girl is a mess of a movie, just a disaster area in terms of a coherent narrative. That said, Alicia Vikander does solid if unspectacular work in it. Vikander's true award worthy work this year was in Ex Machina where she is absolutely mesmerizing.
Kate Winslet - Steve Jobs : Kate Winslet is staggeringly good in Steve Jobs. The film itself, and her work in it, are exquisite. For a such an accomplished woman, it is a credit to her artistic integrity that she not only chooses to take on such demanding roles, but also gets better and better at them as she goes along.
WHO WINS: ALICIA VIKANDER . This is a tough category but I think Vikander pulls it out because she is beautiful, talented and Swedish…a deadly combo for the Academy. Vikander is the new acting "it" girl. It will be exciting to see what direction her career takes after this.
WHO SHOULD WIN: KATE WINSLET. Her mastery of the Sorkian dialogue and her commitment to character in Steve Jobs are a wonder to behold.
Best Supporting Actor:
Christian Bale - The Big Short: I was luke warm about Bale's performance when I first saw the film. After watching it again I was really, really impressed. It is a subtle and specific piece of superb acting. Bale is often over-looked, but he is a consistently great actor, especially when he takes on supporting roles in more artistic films.
Tom Hardy - The Revenant: I am a fan of Tom Hardy, and really respect his work. His work in last year's The Drop was particularly noteworthy. In The Revenant, I found him to be a bit, one dimensional and shallow. It is not his fault, as the character is poorly developed in the script.
Mark Ruffalo- Spotlight: Mark Ruffalo is an actors actor. Everybody loves him. He is on a role with three nominations in the last five years, including for his excellent work in the fatally flawed Foxcatcher last year and now in Spotlight. In Spotlight Ruffalo is able to imbue his character with a history and a secret that makes him undeniably compelling. It is a fantastic bit of work.
Mark Rylance- Bridge of Spies: I am admittedly biased for Mark Rylance. I have great respect for his Shakespearean work. I am glad to see him getting recognized for film work. I think Bridge of Spies is a big pile of nothingness, but Rylance is certainly a bright spot. His performance is so meticulous yet human that you can't take your eyes off of him.
Sylvester Stallone- Creed : Sly is not exactly a great actor. He has tried over the years…but to no avail. He is a movie star and he was, at one time, a good one. That is all I have to say.
WHO WINS: SLY STALLONE. I know, I know…but this is how the Academy works. They reward guys for their careers, no matter how atrociously they've acted in those careers. Sly has made a ton of money for a ton of people…and now they pay him back. The Academy also loves this kind of story…the comeback. With that said…keep an eye out for Mark Ruffalo. he might sneak in there an get the win, which frankly, I think he deserves.
WHO SHOULD WIN: CHRISTIAN BALE. Bale does a really fantastic job in The Big Short. I'd give it to him…or Mark Rylance, just because I like him so much. Bale's work is impressive because it is so layered and naturally off-beat.
Cate Blanchett - Carol : I have not seen Carol. I know this makes me a bad person. Regardless, I know that Cate Blanchett is one of the very best actresses on the planet, so I trust she is more than worthy of this nomination. Beyond that I can, and will, say nothing.
Brie Larson - Room : Brie Larson is utterly magnificent in the terribly uneven Room. She brings a captivating and genuine humanity to her role and an appealing presence to the screen. She has the opportunity to be one of the hand full of actresses whose work really matters in the coming years.
Jennifer Lawrence - Joy : It seems you can't have an Academy Awards without Jennifer Lawrence anymore. That is fine by me as she is a solid, if inconsistent actress, and a vivacious movie star. I have not seen Joy…I cannot imagine any scenario where I missed anything by not seeing it. I cannot say if Lawrence deserves this nod for her acting, but she does deserve it for her "star" qualities, which always brighten an otherwise dull festivities.
Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years : Due to circumstances beyond my control, i was not able to go to as many movies as I usually do this year. In fact, I was so out of the loop that I had never, and still have not, ever heard of this movie. That said, Charlotte Rampling is as good an actress as you'll find, and she has done consistent quality work over the course of her illustrious career.
Saoirse Ronan - Brooklyn : I am a big fan of Saoirse Ronan. Her work in Brooklyn is so much better than the film that surrounds her. She is one of those actresses who can tell an entire story just with the slightest look in her eye. She is as interesting an actress as I've seen in recent years, and I look forward to watching her career unfold.
WHO WINS: BRIE LARSON: This is a no brainer. Larson has won most of the other acting awards leading up to this, so the Academy will fall in line and reward her for a job well done in Room.
WHO SHOULD WIN: BRIE LARSON. I have no problem with Larson winning, I would also have no problem with Saoirse Ronan winning. Both young actresses live up to the hype of their performances in films that don't live up to the same hype.
Bryan Cranston - Trumbo: Bryan Cranston is a terrific actor. He can do drama, comedy, television and film. I love Bryan Cranston. I don't know anyone who doesn't love Bryan Cranston. That said…he is not only "not good" in Trumbo…he is actively terrible. This film, and Cranston's performance in it, are so atrociously awful as to be embarrassing. Yuck.
Matt Damon - The Martian: This is not so much an acting performance as it is a movie star performance. Matt Damon has done some stellar work in his career, and you can make the argument hat he is the best, and most underrated actor of his generation. That said, his work in The Martian is, just like the film itself, underwhelming and a little…soft.
Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant: I found Leo's work in The Revenant to be a step back in his artistic evolution. There was a lot of grunting and groaning, and wailing and gnashing of teeth, but there wasn't much skill or craft on display. To DiCaprio's credit, he always brings high energy and 100% commitment to his work, but in The Revenant he fell back into old and bad habits.
Michael Fassbender - Steve Jobs : Fassbender is a wonder in the sensational Steve Jobs. The degree of difficulty in this role is off the charts, especially when you throw in the very particular writing style of Aaron Sorkin, which is difficult to master. Fassbender not only conquers the difficult script , but imbues Jobs with a driving inner life that fills the screen and every scene he inhabits. Fassbender has proven himself to be one of the best and most interesting actors working in film today. The sky is the limit in terms of his future.
Eddie Redmayne - The Danish Girl: Eddie Redmayne won a Best Actor Oscar for what I thought was a rather mundane performance as Stephen Hawking in last years The Theory of Everything. I felt that performance was trite and shallow, but in The Danish Girl, Redmayne brings a palpable wound to his role that is magnetic. Redmayne's work in the terribly flawed The Danish Girl, is far superior to his work in The Theory of Everything, and shows that Redmayne is not a one trick pony.
WHO WINS: LEONARDO DICAPRIO. This is a lock. Why? Well, in Hollywood terms…Leo is due. He has played the Hollywood game the right way. He has been a movie star and a big time actor and has never bitched and moaned when he hasn't won an Oscar. He has waited his turn and now…he is due.
WHO SHOULD WIN: MICHAEL FASSBENDER. Fassbender gives by and far the best performance of the year in Steve Jobs. It is as meticulous, specific and detailed a piece of work as you'll see. Sadly, in Hollywood's eyes, it just isn't Fassbender's time.
Best Original Screenplay:
Bridge of Spies: A terrible movie and a terrible script. But the Coen brothers co-wrote it so it gets nominated. Yay Hollywood!!
Ex Machina: Fantastic film and a remarkable script. Alex Garland is THE best science fiction writer in film today. Ex Machina is proof of his prodigious talent and skill.
Inside Out: Didn't see it and frankly don't care.
Spotlight: Superb film with an exquisitely crafted and tight script from it's director Tom McCarthy.
Straight Outta Compton: Awful script, awful film. Even worse, the only reason the film is nominated is because the Academy assumed the writers were Black. They aren't. Oops.
WHO WINS: SPOTLIGHT. I think McCarthy wins because he wrote a great script, but also because the Academy ( and I), admire his film, and his directing, but won't give him Oscars for either. This is a compromise Oscar. Also, McCarthy is a well-known, and liked actor in the industry, and the Academy is made up of a majority of actors, and God knows actors like to reward other actors.
WHO SHOULD WIN: SPOTLIGHT. That script has no fat and no wasted scenes in it. It is extremly well written.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
The Big Short: A staggeringly well written script that boils down complex and complicated financial topics into digestible, entertaining and compelling dramatic and comedic scenes. Remarkably well done.
Brooklyn : The script has some issues, the biggest of which is the Italian family and the love story. Mama mia!!!
Carol : Did not see it, not proper for me to comment.
The Martian : Why do people like this movie? Why do people respect this movie? I found the script to be a total shit show. The script goes to great lengths to diminish any dramatic tension and momentum it might have had if it were well written. A piece of junk.
Room: A flawed script. The first half is powerful, the second half flaccid. If the writer and director could have maintained the laser focus they had in the first half of the film throughout, they would have had the film of the year on their hands.
WHO WINS: THE BIG SHORT: Besides being exceedingly well written, the script is written by director Adam McKay. The Academy will give McKay, just like they gave McCarthy, a consolation Oscar for screenplay, since they won't give him Best Director, or Best Picture. This is how the game works.
WHO SHOULD WIN: THE BIG SHORT. Easily the very best script in this bunch and maybe of the entire year.
Adam Mckay - The Big Short : After seeing The Big Short for the first time, the credits rolled and it was revealed to me that Adam McKay was the director. Adam McKay? Isn't he "Will Ferrell's" director? Yes, he is. It is almost inconceivable that the man who has directed Will Ferrell movies directed The Big Short. This film is so well made, so well directed that it is astonishing. McKay may not win the Best Director Oscar, but his work in The Big Short is unquestionably worthy of the award.
George Miller - Mad Max: Fury Road: I finally saw Mad Max: Fury Road and while I think it is a tremendous achievement in filmmaking, I don't think it is much of an artistic achievement. The degree of difficulty in making this film, and George Miller's popularity among the Academy are probably why he and the film are nominated.
Alejandro G. Inarritu - The Revenant: Innaritu is an interesting director…I am still not sure he is a good one though. Birdman, while good, was flawed. The Revenant, while similar to Mad Max, is an undeniably great achievement in filmmaking, is not a great film. There is always something just…off…about an Innaritu directed film. I am not sure why…but I am sure it is true.
Lenny Abrahamson - Room: Abrahamson lost control of this film in the second half, just like he lost control of last years Frank in the second half. There is a lack of narrative focus in both films that I find troubling, and the blame for that falls at the feet of Abrahamson.
Tom McCarthy - Spotlight: Spotlight is a professional film across the board. Well acted, well written, and very well directed. There is no dead air, no drop in tension, no narrative sidetracks that undermine this film. McCarthy deserves all the praise he is getting and a helluva lot more for his great work directing Spotlight. To think the last film he directed prior to this one was The Cobbler, starring Adams Sandler, is mind boggling. But as they say, the mortgage aint gonna pay itself.
WHO WINS: ALEJANDRO G. INNARITU. I think this year the academy just goes with the momentum of The Revenant, and Innaritu wins his second consecutive Best Director Oscar.
WHO SHOULD WIN: ADAM MCKAY. It is impossible to overstate what a terrific job he did directing this sprawling, complex story, and making it not only palatable but enjoyable. I would also be pleased to see McCarthy win for Spotlight, but I think McKay did the better job.
The Big Short: Great, great film. The script, the director and the cast are all outstanding. To add to it, the film is incredibly relevant considering the financial storm that is fast approaching us. The lesson from this film is that we have learned nothing from 2008. What you fail to acknowledge you are doomed to repeat.
Bridge of Spies: Utter garbage. Not a single thing is noteworthy about this film. It isn't even terrible enough to be terrible. It is middle of the road, lukewarm, propaganda. It is nominated because Spielberg rules with an iron fist.
Brooklyn: Flawed film, with elements of greatness, but with a love storyline that scuttles the whole ship. Let me take that back, it is the casting of that love story and the italian family at the center of it that scuttles the good ship Brooklyn.
Mad Max: Fury Road: Shooting this film, with all of it's elaborate stunts and locations, and doing it in the conditions of the high desert, is a tremendous achievement. That said, the film is really little more than a two hour chase scene.
The Martian: A mess of a movie that can't get out of its own way. It never could decide on what it wanted to be, so it tried to be everything to everyone and ended up being nothing.
The Revenant: An odd film in that it is not very good on it's surface, but the deeper you dig the more interesting it gets. Some very easily observable structural flaws make this film less than what it should have been, and less than what people make it out to be.
Room: As good a first half of a film as any this year, the second half really undermines the power of the first. Releasing the dramatic tension of life in the room was an unwise narrative choice that is like an albatross around the neck of the rest of the film.
Spotlight: Solid film across the board. Superb cast, script and directing make this film a joy to behold. Reminds one of the solid and steady films Hollywood used to churn out on a regular basis back in the 70's.
WHO WINS: THE REVENANT. I think The Revenant goes on a run this year. It has all the momentum and all of the energy. I also think that the technical people in the Academy admire the degree of difficulty involved in shooting in the cold and the snow and want to reward that. The achievement of even making a film of any note while shooting in those conditions, is worth tipping the cap, and I think the Academy will do so here.
WHO SHOULD WIN: THE BIG SHORT…with Spotlight a close second. Both films boast top-notch, stellar casts that do great work, extremely well crafted scripts and solid and deft direction. I think The Big Short is slightly better than Spotlight, but both films are deserving of recognition.
Thus ends another glorious Oscar preview and prediction post. Be sure to keep your eye out for the expected protests and jokes at the expense of the Academy this year due to the charges of racism and the #OscarsSoWhite meme. I have written at length on the subject, so if you want a rational, and not emotional, approach to the subject, you should read this. And be sure to bring it up to your Oscar party guests as I am sure it will make for some interesting discussions that devolve quickly into racism accusations being shouted at you. Let it bother you not, just notice the blind embrace of emotionalism by #OscarsSoWhite supporters and their allergy to rational discussion and statistical fact.
I think Jamie Foxx, a Best Actor Oscar winner and a Black man, summed it up best when he said of those complaining about a lack of Black actors at the Oscars that they should..."act better". He may have been joking, but he is right. When your argument for Black actors to get Oscar nominations includes that dullard from Star Wars, the amateur hour clowns from Straight Outta Compton and, God help us…WILL SMITH, you don't exactly have a Black leg to stand on.
With that said, you can rest assured that next year we will have many Black actors nominated, even if their work is unworthy of the award, because if the Academy is one thing…besides being White... it is certainly spineless…oh... and easily manipulated too.
Regardless of all of that unpleasantness…please go forth and enjoy the most sacred holiday this universe, of which Hollywood is undeniably the center, has ever known, Oscar Night. Be sure to surround yourself with friends and bask in the warm glow of the frenzied, masturbatorial, self-congratulatory, back slapping that will fill your tv screen on Sunday night. Rest assured that dopes like us, and our stupid, loser friends, will never be worthy enough to win an Academy Award, but we are lucky enough to get to watch the greatest and holiest among us as they win their awards….and that is reward enough for me…and should be for you too.
In conclusion, we pray to the gods atop Olympus and all the Kardashians, we pray to our Father Kevin Costner, to the Son Shia LeBouf and to the Holy Ghost Whoopi Goldberg.