Welcome to the Film Room! Our cerebral cinephile, Chris Corbellini, has made his Oscar picks. Without further adieu…
When the Best Picture winner is announced tonight, note that while the actors and director initially draw your attention on stage, it is the producer who gets a chance to speak, and almost always takes that Oscar trophy home. In this category, the producer matters.
In the words of one of my former bosses, producers are the ones building the airplane when you’re already at a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet. They option the script and develop it, get all the contracts signed, put world-class talent (and ego) together, watch the money, hire connected folks’ kids and make them feel important, sign off on locations, lie, cheat, steal and basically touch everything involved until the director says action and cut. And when you factor in the dailies — footage shot that day, screened on set — they often have input on that as well.
These are the folks who are being honored in that final category on Oscar night. And I think that’ll be the difference in a Best Picture race that’s very close to call at the line. The Producer’s Guild Awards already honored the The Big Short as their best picture. And if producers don’t have the pulse of their own industry, who does?
So I’m going against the movie with all the momentum (The Revenant). Here’s how I see it all shaking out:
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo Matt Damon, The Martian Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Who will win: DiCaprio. This has been snowballing for some time. It’s not his best performance, or his second-best performance, or the bronze medal, but voters believe it’s time. When you put DiCaprio’s mug on the one-sheet poster of your own movie, you’ll be able to buy your own Malibu property within two weeks of the movie opening. He’s over 40 now, and with an Oscar, he checks off everything a movie star needs to remain bankable, and the business knows it.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Cate Blanchett, Carol Brie Larson, Room Jennifer Lawrence, Joy Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Who will win: Larson. Easiest category to predict. A few months back I met and chatted with an actual Hollywood studio head (predictably, he wanted to talk sports with me, and I wanted to talk movies), and when I asked if he’d seen anything recently that blew him away, he immediately mentioned Room, and in particular, Larson’s performance. I’m going with the insider on this one.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Christian Bale, The Big Short Tom Hardy, The Revenant Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Who will win: Stallone. Don’t call it a comeback. He’s been here for years.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight Rooney Mara, Carol Rachel McAdams, Spotlight Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Who will win: Vikander. Admittedly, I’m going with the crowd here. Would like to see Jennifer Jason Leigh take this little statue home, but not this year.
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Anomalisa Boy and the World Inside Out Shaun the Sheep Movie When Marnie Was There
Who will win: Inside Out. Full disclosure here: I once owned Pixar stock, and that didn’t suck.
Carol The Hateful Eight Mad Max: Fury Road The Revenant Scare
Who will win: The Revenant. The elements are beautifully and brutally captured in The Revenant. The greatest strength of that picture. You can tell from the trailer alone.
Carol Cinderella The Danish Girl Mad Max: Fury Road The Revenant
Who will win: Mad Max. Don’t f-ck this up, Academy. The obvious choice is the best one. The director told his costume department “I want batsh-t crazy” … and they DELIVERED.
Amy Cartel Land The Look of Silence What Happened, Miss Simone? Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom
Who will win: Amy. When a documentary is so well received it’s offered as an in-flight movie, it’s got a good shot at Oscar.
DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)
Body Team 12 Chau, beyond the Lines Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness Last Day of Freedom
Who will win: Body Team 12. Could see “Spectres of the Shoah” here, too.
The Big Short Mad Max: Fury Road The Revenant Spotlight Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Who will win: Mad Max. All that footage of blood, explosions, desert, minimalist dialogue, and cutaways of Charlize was sewn together into heart-thumping entertainment. What a runner’s pace they maintained here. There must have been moments where the editor(s) thought, “How do I make two hours of a car chase feel fresh at the 50 minute … 90 minute … 110 minute marks?” and he/she/they absolutely nailed it.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Embrace of the Serpent Mustang Son of Saul Theeb A War
Who will win: Son of Saul. This one has some buzz going in. Otherwise I’d just be throwing darts at the titles here blindfolded, and hoping I hit one.
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Mad Max: Fury Road The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared The Revenant
Who will win: Mad Max. That lunatic with the flaming guitar looked like a member of KISS who dumps his face in a bucket of acid every morning.
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
Bridge of Spies Carol The Hateful Eight Scary Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Who will win: The Hateful Eight. The new Star Wars score had the original to riff from, and the rest of the field didn’t wow me.
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
“Earned It,” Fifty Shades of Grey “Manta Ray,” Racing Extinction “Simple Song #3,” Youth “Til It Happens To You,” The Hunting Ground “Writing’s On The Wall,” Specter
Who will win: ’Til It Happens To You. No way the Academy is going to award Fifty Shades of Grey anything on Oscar night. They’ll give it to Lady Gaga instead.
Bridge of Spies The Danish Girl Mad Max: Fury Road The Martian The Revenant
Who will win: Mad Max. They didn’t just build a set. They built a new world. In many cases the vehicles were more important characters than the actors.
SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
Bear Story Prologue Sanjay’s Super Team We Can’t Live without Cosmos World of Tomorrow
Who will win: Bear Story. Could see World of Tomorrow here too, due to the name recognition.
SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
Ave Maria Day One Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut) Show Stutterer
Who will win: Stutterer. But Day One is a real player here as well. An Afghan-American woman on her first day as an interpreter with the U.S. Military is a nice, tidy, high-concept short.
Mad Max: Fury Road The Martian The Revenant Scare Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Who will win: Mad Max. There were just so many audio tracks to put together. Screams. Exhaust. Gunfire. Actual fire. It’s a noisy movie, but it all make sense on the screen.
Bridge of Spies Mad Max: Fury Road The Martian The Revenant Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Who will win: Revenant. This one was the toughest to choose. Experience tells me The Revenant, my gut says Mad Max. With sound mixing, it’s what sound you hear above the rest in big moments and small. Again, Mad Max is a lot of noise that works. But Revenant pulls out sounds from the wilderness.
Ex Machine Mad Max: Fury Road The Martian The Revenant Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Who will win: Max Max. For the sandstorm, and the seamlessness between the “that must-be-illegal” stunts and the nip/tucks of the special fx around them. Kudos to all the below-the-line staffers on this movie (everyone but the producers/director/actors). They brought their A-game.
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
The Big Short Brooklyn Carol The Martian Room
Who will win: The Big Short. Makes you laugh, Makes you want to lead an angry mob down to Wall Street. You can put this movie in a time capsule labeled “2008” because it deftly encapsulates the financial crisis. And it takes an ages-old story — big business screws the little guy, and almost everybody is the little guy — and puts an innovative spin on it. Every producer in La La Land is looking for that. As funny as the explanations are, the fact that the script had a character that was almost relatable (Steve Carell) — a finance king with a guilty conscience?!? — was the most surprising, and welcome, part of the picture.
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
Bridge of Spies Ex Machine Inside Out Spotlight Straight Outta Compton
Who will win: Spotlight. When I look at this category I ask: “What script is so good they could have made it on a minuscule shoot budget without any stars, and still put together a winner?”
Under that criteria, one original script stands apart from the rest. A true story of just shocking evil and the perils of faith in the church. Each character in this ensemble cast gets a moment to remind us of that, while also showing how burningly efficient they are at their jobs.
Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
Adam McKay (The Big Short)
George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant)
Lenny Abrahamson (Room)
Who will win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. All that suffering in the name of story. For every one minute of screen time, it took 60 minutes of somebody feeling a chill in their bones to make it work. He cut no corners out there. Neither did Leo, or his crew. Back to that studio head conversation I had: During our discussion he admitted that most movie directors have a “prime” not unlike a pro athlete, a 2-4 picture run that’s truly special, and obviously as a producer you want to catch that creative just as he’s entering that stage. With back-to-back directing Oscars, Alejandro is rolling, and at the same time, I wonder how much he has left.
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
Who will win: The Big Short. I know, The Revenant is a heavy favorite. Most are predicting a big night for it — the lead, the director and the production all walking off with Oscars. But remember, producers move mountains behind the scenes, and they honored The Big Short. When Carell ends the movie at his Fifth Avenue penthouse apartment by glumly answering “Sell it all,” I remember thinking “That’s the movie of the year.” I’m going against the tide here. We’ll see.