Oscarathon 2016: Predictions: The Creative Awards

In All, Movies by David

Oscarathon 2016 continues with the third in a five-part series predicting this year’s Academy Award winners and losers. Each of these posts will take on one or more awards, and we’ll keep coming back to each in the run up to the official ceremony in our continuing coverage of the 2016 Oscar race. Enjoy!


Now that I have covered the Best Picture and Acting contenders, we can move on to the Creative Awards. (I’ll admit now, how I decided how some of these should be classified between this and the Technical Awards is a bit arbitrary, so if you think a category should be here, it will instead be in the Technical Awards Prediction post.)

DIRECTING

Adam McKay, The Big Short

George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant

Lenny Abrahamson, Room

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Instant Analysis

Okay, so I knew the Academy really loved Room, but never would I have thought that love would have knocked Ridley Scott out of a nomination. Lenny Abrahamson does a solid job with very little to work with in Room, but his nomination is a real stunner. What this highlights, however, is that every year the Best Director category is stacked. This was always true, but it has become more and more glaringly obvious since the Academy increased the number of Best Picture nominations without increasing the number of Best Director nominations. This has led to a lot of issues, as many people believe that if a picture is nominated for Best Picture then so too must it be nominated for Best Director. (I am not one of these people, and in fact am a staunch believer of the opposite in a lot of cases–believe it or not, saying a film is not one of the five best (or even ten best) directed movies of the year does not mean it was not well directed. That’s a rant for another time, though.) Still, if ever there was a category that could use a nomination bump, it is this one, as every year it feels like there is some sort of controversy about who is in and who is out. The biggest example of late was the 2013 Oscars, where Ben Affleck (who won every other major directing award that year) for Argo, Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained, and Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master all failed to receive a nomination. The actual winner from that year, Ang Lee for Life of Pi, probably would have lost to any of those four if any of them had received a nomination. I feel all of this is important context for when I say that a lot of the diversity arguments being levied at the Academy this year are a lot less fair when it comes to the directing category. There are simply too few nomination slots, and deserving people are always going to be left out unless the number of nominations are increased.

I say all this not because I don’t think the lack of diversity in the director category as whole isn’t an issue–because it is–but I wanted to give some context for why the Best Directing Oscar has some other factors beyond pure racial bias that make the category a constant source of snubs, hurt feelings, and injustice. That said, Hollywood has to do a better job opening things up for minority directors (and really, all the behind the camera roles). In a given year, it is possible that there are no minorities worthy of nomination, but this has been a systematic trend for the entire existence of the Oscars and something must be done. More diverse voices mean more diverse stories, and the only way that our Best Picture nominees are going to stop being the same old film types is if Hollywood starts hiring more diverse directors, writers, and other creatives. That and, you know, just raise the number of nominations in this category. It will save way more headaches than it will cause.

Let’s talk about this year specifically. Scott was probably the biggest snub, but he was certainly not the only one. The biggest outcry was for Ryan Coogler for Creed, whose case is a bit weird. Make no mistake, Coogler does an excellent job with Creed, and completely reinvigorates the Rocky franchise, but this never quite felt like a director job worthy of a Best Director nomination. If he had gotten the nom, it wouldn’t have been a travesty or anything, but it’s hard to justify any other director giving up their slot (other than Abrahamson). Furthermore, there is really nothing the Coogler does in Creed that J.J. Abrams doesn’t do in taking on the much harder job of reinvigorating Star Wars. No one seems to have a problem with Abrams’ exclusion, so Coogler’s exclusion also seems valid. Coogler is a rising star in the directing world, and there is a good chance that he will get many nominations if not wins in the future, but this year was just not quite his time. A lot of Coogler support comes from the fact that people felt Creed should have been a Best Picture nominee, but as I have said, being the director of a Best Picture nominee does not mean you deserve to also be a Best Director nominee, and even if it did, there aren’t enough spots to accommodate all of those directors. Similar logic is used to justify why many people thought F. Gary Gray deserved a nomination for Straight Outta Compton, but that too feels a bit like a stretch. Of course, I would be much more okay saying all this if Abrahamson hadn’t somehow gotten a nomination, so never mind, yell all you want.

Of course there are more snubs. Todd Haynes did an exquisite job handling the feminine and queer perspective in Carol. Steven Spielberg seems to have at least made half an effort with Bridge of Spies. Quentin Tarantino tried something different (and mostly succeeded) with The Hateful Eight. Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson brought real humanity to puppets in Anomalisa. Denis Villeneuve made Sicario an extraordinarily visceral experiences. Alex Garland injected life into his sci-fi thriller Ex-Machina. László Nemes delicately handled the Holocaust in Son of Saul. Both Tom Hopper and Danny Boyle threw their hats into making biopics interesting with The Danish Girl and Jobs respectively. Cary Fukunaga did great work in Beasts of No Nation. Marielle Heller’s honest work on Diary of a Teenage Girl and Sean S. Baker’s innovative work on Tangerine are also worthy of praise. So this year was a great year for directing, and narrowing down the list to five people was always going to be a brutal struggle.

How The Hell Did You Make This List

Lenny Abrahamson

Look, it’s not your fault you probably shouldn’t be here, so congrats and enjoy it.

  • Here’s the thing about snubs. Someone can only really be a snub if you can name the person that got picked over them. So if for example you are like, “Ryan Coogler got snubbed,” you got to name the person who took his spot. Otherwise you are just stuck with one extra person for a limited number of spots, and the same problem you had before. I bring this up because a lot of time people are like, these four people were snubbed, but will also say that those that got nominated deserved it, which means that the four people left out aren’t really snubs. This is all really important, because this year there are a ton of real potential snubs because Lenny Abrahamson somehow made the cut. Without even thinking too hard, I can list five directors more deserving than Abrahamson (Coogler, Ridley Scott, Todd Hyanes, J.J. Abrams, Denis Villeneuve, and I could go on). It’s not that Abrahamson was terrible or anything. In fact, he does quite a good job with Room. But there is nothing in it that screams Oscar nominee; it just isn’t one of the top five directing jobs of the year. So this is undeserved, and takes a spot from someone else who could have actually won this category. I suppose Abrahamson has a chance because the love for Room could lead to some crazy things happening, but it feels like if that was going to happen, it would have happened by now. So enjoy your nomination, sir, because this is as far as you go.

If You Win, Your Picture is Winning Best Picture

Tom McCarthy

Most people barely know who you are, but you could still win this whole thing.

  • In a lot of ways, McCarthy reminds me of Tom Hooper in 2011, when Hooper directed The King’s Speech. Hooper did some real old school directing in that film, and mostly stayed pretty invisible (although there are definitely points in that movie where Hooper put his stamp on things, for better or worse). McCarthy takes this to another level, and I was happy to see him recognized for his less than showy work. Hooper, of course, went on to win most of the major directing awards as The King’s Speech catapulted to the top of the Best Picture race. That is the path that McCarthy would be looking at if he was to win, because while this may slowly be changing, in general the winner of Best Director also wins Best Picture. Spotlight is currently one of the co-favorites to win Best Picture right now, so that fact alone keeps McCarthy in this conversation. The key difference is that The King’s Speech was on even more of a roll than Spotlight is, and McCarthy has almost no buzz on his side whatsoever. That will probably keep him from winning.

Adam McKay

This funny man may soon be turning up Oscar gold.

  • A lot of what applies to McCarthy applies to McKay, but McKay benefits from a much buzzier directing job for a film that is very timely. This gives him a slight edge over McCarthy. Still, McKay’s strongest indicator is that The Big Short is one of the co-favorites to win Best Picture. Going against McKay is his comedy background, which may cause the other directors to not want to honor him with the big prize quite yet; but generally that type of thinking stops a person from getting nominated so having passed that hurdled he has much less to worry about on that front. Now that McKay has a nomination, he has as good a chance as any. His biggest problem is that he is facing two juggernauts.

I Get It, Your Movie Was Really Hard To Make

Alejandro González Iñárritu

Can he join John Ford in very rare company?

  • After Iñárritu won last year, we may have awoken a giant, and just like his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, it may be hard for him to lose again. The buzz surrounding The Revenant‘s difficult production has really garnered Iñárritu quite a bit of support. He has already won the Golden Globe, and there is a real chance he could win his second straight trophy. The only thing is that only one person has ever won back-to-back Best Director trophies–John Ford for Grapes of Wrath and How Green Was My Valley, and that was all the way back in 1940 and 1941, so while it is possible this could happen again, it’s very, very unlikely. The tide has slowly turned away from Iñárritu lately, and it is possible that people don’t want to honor him again so quickly. (Keep in mind he lost last year’s Golden Globe to Richard Linklater.) So while he could certainly still win this award, Iñárritu currently finds himself at a bit of a disadvantage.

This May Finally Be Your Time To Journey On The Road to Valhalla

George Miller

Is it finally his time?

  • George Miller is having a moment. After a long career, he finally received his first Oscar nomination, and Mad Max: Fury Road is beloved by many. This has allowed him to benefit from the Academy’s complex for awarding people who are “due” for a win. Miller has build some momentum at the Critic’s Choice and London Critics Circle Awards, taking a slight lead over the field. This win would be well deserved, as the meticulousness Miller brings to Mad Max allows it to burst past the genre shackles some might place on it. The biggest thing holding him back, however, is that Mad Max: Fury Road just doesn’t seem to have quite enough juice to cross the Best Picture finish line, and people might be hesitant to split the vote. Others might use genre snobbery to justify not voting for him. But for now, Miller is the favorite by the slightest of margins–at least until this weekend’s DGAs can offer a bit more clarity about what will happen on Oscar Sunday.

Current Predicted Winner: George Miller

Current Rankings:

  1. George Miller
  2. Alejandro González Iñárritu
  3. Adam McKay
  4. Tom McCarthy
  5. Lenny Abrahamson

Who Should Win: George Miller

Who Should Have Been Nominated: Instead of Abrahamson, so, so many. But to keep this easy, Ridley Scott.


WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

Bridge of Spies, written by Matt Charman and Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

Ex Machina, written by Alex Garland

Inside Out, screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; original story by Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen

Spotlight, written by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy

Straight Outta Compton, screenplay by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff; story by S. Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff

Instant Analysis

This is always a fun category, because it doesn’t get hung up on some of the stupid biases present in the Best Picture category. All that matters is that a film is well written. So any given year you will see a mix of normal Best Picture contenders as well as well as foreign films, animated films, sci-fi films, and pictures in other genres that usually get overlooked by the Academy. This year is no different, and a solid group has once again been chosen. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t some interesting choices left out. The Hateful Eight delivered a script that could have worked as a play as well as a movie. Trainwreck had a clever script that deconstructed the romantic comedy, and would have been an inspired choice. Son of Saul has the kind of screenplay that tends to be nominated.  Tangerine offered a unique script. There was a lot of support for Sicario, too, although I think in that case it’s less that the script is strong and more that Denis Villeneuve is a creative genius. Honestly, there is not a lot to quibble with this year’s selections because this feels like a bit of an off year for the category. There is certainly a lot of good scripts this year, but nothing that gets you really excited, if we are being truthful.

Not Even the Coens Can Save You

Bridge of Spies

You hear that sound? That’s the sound of no buzz.

  • This just feels too much like a nomination to honor how awesome the Coens are (apologizes to Matt Charman, who also is worthy of praise here, obviously), and to help pad the the nomination count for Spielberg’s film. In a stronger year, I am not sure if this film would make the cut. Bridge of Spies has little chance, really, so I’m moving on.

The Nomination is Your Win

Ex Machina

This film will mess with your head.

  • This nomination definitely feels like the writing branch flexing their muscles to make sure an innovative film gets highlighted in some way. Ex Machina is quite popular, and the way it shakes up the sci-fi genre helped earn it a nomination. Ultimately, though, while films like this get nominated often, they rarely win, so Garland’s chances are quite slim. It is a bit sexier than Bridge of Spies, though, so it has that going for it.

Could be a Contender But…

Straight Outta Compton

Straight_Outta_Compton_poster

This win would look really bad, unfortunately.

  • After the whitewashing disaster of this year’s nominations, Straight Outta Compton‘s one nom would seem like a strong contender to win, except for one tiny problem–the writers are white. This made the nomination almost as much of a slap of the face to a lot of people as it was an honor. Sylvester Stallone faced similar backlash as the only nominee from a film highlighting black talent, but the difference is that everyone still loves Sly, they want him to award his long-running Rocky performance for the first time ever, and there isn’t a real contender around in the category for people to vote for instead (sorry, Mark Rylance, but its true). This category, however, has plenty of other solid choices, so it seems very unlikely that voters will allow the optics of a bunch of white dudes accepting the Oscar for Straight Outta Compton. The film’s issue in terms of how it treats and objectifies women should also weight heavily against the script winning. But this has been a weird season, and a lot of voters may may vote for Straight Outta Compton for political reasons no matter what. Also controversy aside the script is good, and sometimes that overcomes everything else.

This Could Be Something

Inside Out

Is this finally Pixar’s year?

  • Inside Out continues Pixar’s great screenwriting track record with the studio’s eighth writing nomination (seven Original and one Adapted). The writing branch of the Academy has never had a problem recognizing great writing in animated films, and that is excellent, because Inside Out‘s wondrous exploration of growing up is every bit deserving of this nomination. There is a lot of love for this film across the industry, and that could spill over into helping Inside Out pull out the rare double win for an animated film. Still, the problem is that animated films still have to grapple with the fact that they are also up for their own award–one that Inside Out is almost definitely going to win, which is why it is so hard for an animated film to get multiple nominations, let alone wins. That is part of the reason every past nominated Pixar script has come up short. If Inside Out had managed to pull off a Best Picture nomination, things might be different, but it did not, so it feels like another Pixar film will have to be content with just a nom. It should be noted, however, that at some point it feels like Pixar is going to pull off one of these wins, and this could very well be the year.

The Tepid Favorite

Spotlight

This win is not nearly the sure thing it should be.

  • This feels like the obvious choice, because this is the best place to ensure that Spotlight is awarded in some way no matter what on Oscar Sunday. Being a Best Picture frontrunner can only help this movie, as there are a lot of people who will just vote for Spotlight because they voted for it for Best Picture. Here’s the thing, though: this is exactly how Spotlight has felt in the Best Picture race, and there it has struggled to maintain its place as a favorite. The film is just too understated and hard to get excited about. The script is quite good, but it isn’t the best part of the film, as the writing probably lags a bit behind the acting (which, to be fair, it obviously supports), the directing, and probably the editing, too. That doesn’t mean Spotlight won’t win, because it probably will, but it is why it is currently hard to be too confident about this pick.

Current Predicted Winner: Spotlight

Current Rankings:

  1. Spotlight
  2. Inside Out
  3. Straight Outta Compton
  4. Ex Machina
  5. Bridge of Spies

What Should Win: Inside Out

What Should Have Been Nominated: Trainwreck


WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

The Big Short, Charles Randolph and Adam McKay based on the book  The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis 

Brooklyn, Nick Hornby based on the book of the same name by Colm Tóibín

Carol, Phyllis Nagy based on the book The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

The Martian, Drew Goddard based on the book of the same name by Andy Weir

Room, Emma Donoghue based on her own book of the same name

Instant Analysis

This category was loaded this year, as many of the great movies from 2015 were Adapted. There were tons of potentially great choices left out for these worthy selections. The biggest omission was Aaron Sorkin’s Jobs, which certainly is curious; I have to wonder if that was motivated by anti-Sorkin sentiment more than anything else. Anomalisa had a devastatingly beautiful script that also failed to be recognized. Me, Earl, and The Dying Girl did a fantastic job transferring a fine book from page to screen. Trumbo got a WGA nomination, but didn’t translate that into an Oscar nomination. I have less of a quibble with films like Creed and Star Wars being left off, because both films are much more director-driven than writing-driven, but an argument could be made that the scripts help both films reinvigorate franchises, so they deserved recognition. Similarly, The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road were ignored for having scripts that were the weakest parts of strong films; though, it must be said that their omissions likely cost both a Best Picture win. This is really a category where you could swap out a lot of names with the actual nominees and still feel like you’ve made a strong slate. Which is why it is good that the actual nominees are a really solid list (yes, even Room, which even I will say had a very strong script). Plus, with Jobs not among the nominees, this race is wide open.

Hey Everyone It’s Nick Hornby

Brooklyn

Enjoy the love, Nick Hornby. It’s not a win, but it’s something.

  • Unlike Original Screenplay, it wouldn’t be a total shocker if any of these films actually won. Even Brooklyn, which is going to be the primary example of happy-to-be-there at the Oscars this year, has a shot. Nick Hornby is an acclaimed and beloved writer for both the page and screen, and at some point he will probably win an Oscar. It likely won’t be this year, but at the same time, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise. With all that said, Hornby is not winning.

Such a Shame

Carol

What could have been…

  • Sigh, what could have been… If Carol had gotten the nomination it deserved for Best Picture, this would be a lot more interesting. Phyllis Nagy’s beautiful script helped create the movie’s rich world, but without that Best Picture nom, this film just doesn’t have the juice to pull off a win here. The only reason it gets the jump over Brooklyn is because I could see support building to reward Carol in the best way possible, but that is not likely to happen.

This One is Deserved

Room

No mistake for this nomination.

  • While I could see the previous two films winning, this is where the real contenders kick in. Emma Donoghue’s script is amazing and helps build the atmosphere that permeates throughout the movie. Obviously, she has a real handle on the material, since she was adapting her own book, and it shows in a confident script. Room has a lot of love and that could totally propel her to victory. (Because love knows no boundaries, apparently. – Ed) Brie Larson continuing to win for her role in Room also helps, and keeps Room in people’s minds. What doesn’t help is that Room wasn’t nominated for a WGA Award, but considering how often the WGAs fail to nominate Oscar nominees for a number of reason, that is not as big a deal as it would be for other categories. Overall, however, Room could really use some sort of big win to help it overcome the two buzzier films in this category.

Is This How We Give An Award to The Martian?

The Martian

Can making science fun for everyone win you an Oscar?

  • For a movie as beloved as The Martian, it is in real danger of being shut out on Oscar night. This is one of its winnable categories, however, and its popularity could help it eek out a win. People really loved Drew Goddard’s script (I’ll admit, I am not one of those people), and felt it was one of the main reasons The Martian was so entertaining. If The Martian had shown a better chance of winning Best Picture, the idea of it winning here would make more sense, but the film has very little momentum right now on that front. Still, if Ridley Scott wins the DGA this weekend, it could be a sign that a wave of The Martian support is coming, and propel this film to the top of the list.

<Insert Everything I Said About Spotlight>

The Big Short

Is this the sign of bigger things to come?

  • Seriously, everything I said about Spotlight more or less applies here. Best Picture frontrunner? Check. At the same time, real chance this is this film’s only win? Check.  This film is going to get a lot of votes here from the people who vote for it for Best Picture, and that should carry it to victory. More importantly, unlike Spotlight, this just feels buzzier. Add in that this timely script is in a lot of ways the heart of this movie, and The Big Short feels like a pretty good bet to win, even if I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it lost to any of its fellow nominees.

Current Predicted Winner: The Big Short

Current Rankings:

  1. The Big Short
  2. The Martian
  3. Room
  4. Carol
  5. Brooklyn

Who Should Win: Carol

Who Should Have Been Nominated: Anomalisa


PRODUCTION DESIGN

Bridge of Spies, Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo and Bernhard Henrich

The Danish Girl, Production Design: Eve Stewart ; Set Decoration: Michael Standish

Mad Max: Fury Road, Production Design: Colin Gibson; Set Decoration:  Lisa Thompson

The Martian, Production Design: Arthur Max ; Set Decoration: Celia Bobak

The Revenant, Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Hamish Purdy

Instant Analysis

This award is always fun, because it helps cap the first part of the Oscars show, and a lot of times creates moments of doubt in otherwise predictable broadcasts, such as last year with The Grand Budapest Hotel, and in 2012 with Hugo. This year it has a real chance to do the same, especially considering how chaotic the races already are. This is a solid list, but there were other worthy contenders. Like all parts of Carol and Brooklyn, the production design was beautifully superb and helped each create a vibrant look into the past. Both The Hateful Eight and Room used impressive production design to help make relatively limited sets really stand out. The simplicity of Ex Machina‘s sets helped craft the movie’s slick look. Crimson Peak used its sets to evoke its haunting tone, and featured one of the prettiest house sets ever. Tomorrowland had a lot of problems, but the art design was not one of them. Star Wars used its practical sets combined with its visual effects for a very effective look. Cinderella created house and castle sets that are exquisite. This is another category with loads of worthy choices and not enough spots. It would be nice if the Academy wasn’t as generally beholden to period (the same could be said for a lot of categories), but this is rarely a category that suffers from more than playing it a bit too safe.

The Non-Guild Winners

The Danish Girl

They are rocking that set.

  • The production design in this film does an excellent job of conveying early 20th century Copenhagen and Paris. This film would be a strong contender most years, and it could still win in the end, but its support is far from universal, as the lack of a BAFTA nomination shows. It also already lost at the Art Director’s Guild Awards to The Revenant, so it seems hard to believe that this result would change at the Oscars. Still, period pieces tend to do well, and it still has the Satellite Awards to help show support, so that gives it a shot, especially if voting is split between the The Revenant and Mad Max.

Bridge of Spies

That’s some period appropriate shit right there.

  • This may sound familiar, but most of what is said about The Danish Girl could be said about Bridge of Spies, except with a BAFTA nomination and Steven Spielberg as added factors in this film’s favor. It has multiple chances to demonstrate its support, but it too lost to The Revenant already, so that is one too many hurdles to clear for a victory.

The Guild Winners

The Martian

Don’t be too bummed.

  • Here begins the trio of Art Director Guild winners. The Martian was the Contemporary Winner. But the thing is, contemporary films generally have a hard time winning this category, and it has even less support in smaller nomination pools than either The Danish Girl or Bridge of Spies. But it could use the momentum from its big win to catapult it to victory, so for now it gets to rank a little higher than one would normally expect.

The Revenant

This looks promising.

  • Generally being the Art Director Guild’s winner for Best Period Film would make this film the favorite, but The Revenant is a weird case, as it doesn’t have support in most other places and its nomination may in part be due to the wave of momentum the film had at the beginning of this process when it got 12 nominations. Unless The Revenant is about to sweep a lot of awards in a big night culminating in a Best Picture win, it probably won’t win this category. But it has the period film bias and being a legitimate Best Picture contender on its side, factors that could still propel it to victory.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Thank you for playing, everyone! This should be over.

  • There is a lot of support right now for Mad Max to win most of the visual awards, and that hype is justified. The film has an Art Director Guild’s victory for Best Fantasy Film already, and has garnered support from other nomination branches like the Satellite and BAFTA Awards. All of this means it seems very likely that Mad Max can overcome the period piece bias in this category and ride being the most unique looking film nominated here all the way to a win. That said, don’t count out any of its period piece competitors, and this could be an example of The Revenant and Mad Max sharing too many of the same admirers to allow one of them to win too many of these types of awards.

Current Predicted Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road

Current Rankings:

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Revenant
  3. The Martian
  4. Bridge of Spies
  5. The Danish Girl

Who Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Who Should Have Been Nominated: Crimson Peak


COSTUME DESIGN

Carol, Sandy Powell

Cinderella, Sandy Powell

The Danish Girl, Paco Delgado

Mad Max: Fury Road, Jenny Beavan

The Revenant, Jacqueline West

Instant Analysis

Presenting the hardest category to forecast. Not simply because any of these nominees could win, that’s true for a couple of categories. No, there are just too many competing narratives here, which is strange for a category that often just comes down to which film has the swankiest period dresses. That has started to changed in recent years, making Costume Design this a trickier proposition to figure out. Before that, though, let’s acknowledge a few films that didn’t make the cut. Crimson Peak had swanky dresses and period garb in spades. Brooklyn was probably the most surprising snub, as it looks like it got pushed out by The Revenant. Asian fare The Assassin and The Throne came up short, as did a slew of period British films like Mr. Holmes, Far From the Madding Crowd, and Suffragette. Even Shakespeare came up short with MacBeth. The Hateful Eight‘s great use of costume to showcase character was not recognized. Sadly, neither was Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which suffered from being a science fiction film in a category that generally only cares about period garb. (Hey, it technically takes place long ago! – Ed) Contemporary films like The Martian, Joy, or even the surprisingly well-costumed Kingsman: The Secret Service also missed the cut. All this leaves a category full of standard period pieces, with Cinderella being borderline, plus the ultimate exception in Mad Max.

The Forgotten One

The Danish Girl

These are rather swanky dresses.

  • The Danish Girl has real potential here. The costuming in this movie had plenty of people at parties to clothe in the swankiest and most stylish garb. It has support across the board with BAFTA, Satellite, and Costume Designer Guild Award nominations. This is the second nomination for Paco Delgado, and this is the type of film that has won in the past. If Sandy Powell splits her vote, and the generally conservative costuming voters don’t go with Mad Max, this film could easily find itself victorious.

The Sleeping Dragon

The Revenant

Fur trapper looks good.

  • Another nomination that I think came more from the wave of frontrunner momentum than anything else, The Revenant would appear to have a tall order ahead of it, considering it didn’t receive nominations for the BAFTAs, the Satellite Awards, or the Costume Designer Awards. Still, there are signs it could win. Obviously it benefits from being a Best Picture nominee, meaning voters are both more likely to have seen it and more likely to vote for it, either as a straight ticket or in compensation for choosing a different Best Picture. Second, the costuming in this film is quite good, especially the details for the Native American styles. Finally, this is Jacqueline West’s third nomination, so she has the pedigree to pull out this win. It seems unlikely that The Revenant can win at this point, but it certainly can’t be ruled out.

The Power of Powell

  • Sandy Powell is a powerhouse in this category, as she has now been nominated 12 times and won three Oscars. Her pedigree could bring any film she works on to a win. If either one of her movies were her sole nomination this year, she would be the clear favorite in this category, but with both of them here it makes things a bit tricky. Using the power of exquisite clothing and Cate Blanchett, Powell created two beautiful looks in two very different styles for two very different films. It is possible that voters will not be able to agree on which Powell job they liked best, and her support will be split, which would ultimately cost her the win.

Carol

This is how you rock period garb.

  • Oh man, this film is beautiful to watch, and one of the strongest reasons is Powell’s costuming job. The colors she gets in this film despite its desaturated look are amazing, and everything in it is swanky as hell. This type of stylistic period fare is how The Grand Budapest Hotel was victorious last year. This film has both BAFTA and Costumer Guild support, and could easily roll to victory by being a more conventional looking (for this category) type of film.

Cinderella

The ball brings out all the best clothes.

  • While The Danish Girl is close, if ever there was a film to illustrate the swankiest dress model from this year’s nominees it would be Cinderella. The talk of color with Carol applies doubly here, especially because this film’s generally brighter and hyper-saturated look is more attractive than the desaturated look of Carol (admittedly, Cinderella‘s special effects help some in that regard). This film has support from BAFTA, the Satellite Award, and the Costumer Guild, and right now has the closest feel to a winner of this group. It’s lack of any amount of Best Picture buzz is problematic, and it will need voters to specifically single it out as opposed to voting in block for one film, as many do. But for now, best dress wins, so I’ll stick with that.

Gloriously Clothed to Valhalla

Mad Max: Fury Road

One of these things is not like the others.

  • The strangest and most innovative nominee. Seeing a film like Mad Max get rewarded for costuming is rare, and really emphasizes the wide support the film’s visuals have gotten. This type of costuming isn’t generally awarded, nor are fantasy or sci-fi films in general, unless they are fairy tales, Shakespeare, or The Lord of the Rings. Jenny Beavan’s presence helps, as she has been nominated ten times, and only won once. This is probably one of the main reasons the film was able to go against tradition with its nomination. There is a real chance that Mad Max may just sweep everyone of these visual craft awards, including this one, and it also has BAFTA and Costumer Guild support. The only thing holding it back is that this is still not what generally wins this category, and there is probably a hesitance to fully embrace it, as its lack of a Satellite Awards nomination shows. That, and Sandy Powell may just have a little more juice than Beavan. This race will become a lot more clear after the Costume Designer Awards, when we can see them choose between Cinderella and Mad Max.

Current Predicted Winner: Cinderella

Current Rankings:

  1. Cinderella
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. Carol
  4. The Danish Girl
  5. The Revenant

Who Should Win: Carol

Who Should Have Been Nominated: Crimson Peak


MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Mad Max: Fury Road, Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, Love Larson and Eva von Bahr

The Revenant, Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini

Instant Analysis

This can also be a weird category, and it can be hard to figure out what the Academy is thinking. It’s always been a smaller category in terms of nominations, so things get squeezed out really easily. A number of alternate movies could have gotten in, from big genre films like Star Wars, Cinderella, and the final Hunger Games to smaller ones like Ex Machina. Black Mass seemed like a lock until its Best Picture chances soured so monumentally. Both Carol and The Danish Girl were exquisite looking period pieces, and could have justifiably made the cut. Still, with the low amount of nominees, it is hard to get to upset over anything.

What The Hell is This?

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared

I have no idea where this came from.

  • Look, even if I haven’t seen a movie, I generally know what it is, and I have no idea what this movie is. Some might think such a movie getting a nomination is ridiculous, but I love it. This is exactly what should be happening, because it is silly to think that only huge Hollywood films can be the best at everything. So I applaud this movie’s nomination. Normally, I would even think it had a strong chance to win, because The Revenant and Mad Max might split the vote, but it doesn’t have the support of the Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, garnering no nominations there, so I don’t think the broader support will be there for this film at the Oscars. But kudos for the nomination.

If Only Its Best Picture Odds Weren’t Teetering

The Revenant

Pretty affecting.

  • If The Revenant had built off its Golden Globes win and become the clear Best Picture frontrunner, it would have been primed to sweep a lot of the awards Oscar night. That has not been the case, so it is hard to believe it can overcome the general swell of approval for all of Mad Max‘s visual aspect. Add in that The Revenant also lacks support in the Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, and unless The Revenant starts turning around its Best Picture chances, this race seems over.

Who Knew Post-Apocalyptic Could Look This Good?

Mad Max: Fury Road

This is pretty damn impressive.

  • Mad Max: Fury Road is a visual feast for the eyes, and the makeup and hairstyles in the film are a big part of that. Moreover, this is the only nominee here that matched its nomination with one from the Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, and this looks to be part of a big night for Mad Max in the early part of of the Oscars.

Current Predicted Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road

Current Rankings:

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Revenant
  3. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared

Who Should Win: Either Mad Max: Fury Road or The Revenant is fine. Hair is better in Mad Max, but I actually like the make-up better in The Revenant.

Who Should Have Been Nominated: Star Wars: The Force Awakens


MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

“Earned It,” Fifty Shades of Grey, Music and Lyric by Abel Tesfaye, Ahmad Balshe, Jason Daheala Quenneville and Stephan Moccio

“Manta Ray,” Racing Extinction, Music by J. Ralph; Lyric by Antony Hegarty

“Simple Song #3,” Youth, Music and Lyric by David Lang

“Til It Happens To You,” The Hunting Ground, Music and Lyric by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga

“Writing’s On The Wall,” Spectre, Music and Lyric by Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith

Instant Analysis

Sigh. I almost don’t even want to talk about this category, because the Academy doesn’t care about it, so why should I? At least they bothered to nominate five songs this year, so that’s something. Too bad they failed to nominate “See You Again” by Whiz Khalifa, which is without question the best use of a song in a film this year, so really whatever wins is a sham. On the other hand, they nominated a song from Racing Extinction, which was unexpected to say the least (though it is questionable if they picked the right song–“Candlelight” might have been a better choice–but they are both good, so I’m glad one was recognized). It is a little surprising that the Academy went with the Fifty Shades song it did over Ellie Golding’s “Love Me Like You Do,” but it’s the better song and allowed the Oscars to bring The Weeknd to the show. There was a lot of support for “I See You In My Dreams” from the movie of the same name, but it too failed to make the cut. It is also a bit surprising that Love & Mercy couldn’t get a song nominee, considering its musical subject matter. Ultimately, this is always a weird category, because it is unclear if the Oscars really want it to be there, or keep it there just to get certain movies or names at the show for ratings purposes. Considering how populist the choices have become in the last couple of years, I think we can safely assume it is the latter.

Presenting the Spot Stolen From “See You Again”

“Manta Ray”

  • This a good song, and it really helps make Racing Extinction tick, but it totally stole “See You Again”‘s spot. I appreciate the Oscars actually trying to not make this purely a popularity contest, but it is, and leaving out the best song is silly. Anyhow, hopefully this exposure helps get Racing Extinction more publicity, and the team behind it enjoys its time at the Oscars, because it has absolutely no chance of winning.

Everyone Loves James Bond, Right?

“Writing’s On The Wall”

  • I actually really like this song, and felt it helped get Spectre off to a strong start before the film descended into hell, but it definitely has been a divisive tune. Sure, it won the Golden Globes, but that felt a lot like the Golden Globes just being the Golden Globes and wanting to talk to Sam Smith. Smith’s star power and the Bond name together could propel this song to victory, and so it certainly can’t be counted out, but it feels like this song was lucky to get nominated. (Readers should note that the rejected Spectre theme by Radiohead is also a strong, unusual track. – Ed)

Just Slip This In So We Can Pretend This Award Isn’t a Popularity Contest

“Simple Song #3”

  • This is the kind of song that used to win this category. Something from a smaller film most people have never heard of that sneaks up on the pack and takes advantage of a core base that loves it combined with more widely known songs splitting the vote. Considering this song is from a movie (Youth) that is actually about music (among other things) gives it a real shot to have a strong voting base, and it will especially play well with older voters. Lately this type of shocker has happened less and less, but it is certainly still possible.

Kids Today like that 50 Shades Movie, Don’t They?

“Earned It”

  • Say what you will about Fifty Shades of Grey, but the music in it is actually pretty solid. So it is not surprising it had multiple songs up for potential nomination. In past years, this might have led to multiple nominations that split the vote and cost the film any win, but everyone has learned their lesson, and that is why one song was picked. The fact that this song is by one of the hottest current acts in music, The Weeknd, certainly helps. There is a real chance that popularity could lead this song to victory, especially when it can allow voters to put a person of color on stage to win an award, and thus pretend Hollywood isn’t racist. The problem is this song is going up against Lady GaGa, and, well, that probably doesn’t end in victory.

We Can Get Lady GaGa to Come to the Oscars?

“Till It Happens To You”

  • This song has two things going for it: it is from a movie about rape survivors, which is the kind of thing that plays well at the Oscars, and Lady GaGa sang it. This means it is really hard for me to imagine any song beating this one. Lady GaGa drew great acclaim for her Sound of Music tribute at last year’s Oscars, and, you know, is Lady GaGa, so the votes are going to be there. It being a good song makes it easier as well.

Current Predicted Winner: “Till It Happens To You”

Current Rankings:

  1. “Till It Happens To You”
  2. “Earned It”
  3. “Simple Song #3”
  4. “Writing’s On the Wall”
  5. “Manta Ray”

Who Should Win: It probably should be “Simple Song #3,” but I really want The Weeknd to win an Oscar, so “Earned It” all the way.

Who Should Have Been Nominated (and Won): “See You Again” Whiz Khalifa


That’s it for now. Keep checking in for more updates.

Director Update: February 12th