Thursday, December 10, 2015

December Oscar Predictions: The Best Pictures

And we finish off our week of Oscar predictions with a look at the Best Pictures.  This doesn't just include the obvious top prize, but instead also Best Animated Feature, Doc Feature, and Foreign Language film, so let's get a move on before some critics or group precursor makes me look a fool or late-to-the-party.

Best Picture

We'll start out with the big enchilada, which thanks to the "Choose Your Own Adventure" style of nomination count, we don't even know how many nominees there will be.  I think it's cheating to just guess ten and claim you got them all right, so I'm going to go with the standard of 8-9 right now as that seems to be the trend at the moment.  Spotlight, The Martian, and at this point The Revenant all feel like nominees here-they have ardent supporters, are gaining a lot of steam and feel like they could be the winners.  The same could also be said for Carol and Brooklyn, though in both cases I do wonder if the female-lead problem may hurt, as films with female leads rarely get nominated for Oscars in Best Picture (at least not with the same consistency as male-dominated movies) as we saw yesterday with the SAG Awards.

The rest of the field will be decided as the month continues.  Bridge of Spies is darn prestigious, has Spielberg behind it (which helped both Lincoln and War Horse in the expanded field), but will it be forgotten?  The same question could be asked for Room, which got raves but most of them have centered on Brie Larson and not necessarily on the film as a whole, though it's worth noting people who like it really like it, which could give it an edge in the way that Whiplash got one last year.  Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight is a threat principally because he's made it for the last two films, but there's still relatively small buzz on this movie-is this actually going to be an Oscar contender, or is it a Jackie Brown only-a-couple-categories scenario?  Steve Jobs, Beasts of No Nation, Trumbo, and even Pixar's Inside Out will show up on ballots, but will they be enough?

Finally, there's two populist hits that feel like they could be in the competition, but don't seem serious enough for Oscar's history.  The first, and probably best shot, is Creed, a populist hit that managed to make this competition with a huge push from critics, in addition to solid buzz, box office, and word-of-mouth.  It's the sort of old-fashioned Oscar film that occasionally sneaks in, but it's hard to imagine a random Rocky sequel making the cut.  The same has to be said for a film that will be all over Top Ten lists later this year, but that you sort of question with a "really?!?" when people talk about it as a best picture: Mad Max: Fury Road.  The film continues to amaze and grab random major critics' prizes, and perhaps in a weaker year (it needed to be said) it might have a shot-let's not forget District 9 also made it in the expanded field, though that didn't have the taint of a sequel.  We shall see, but these are the two films I am genuinely wondering if they are actually on the list.

My Predictions: Beasts of No Nation, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Carol, Creed, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Spotlight

Best Animated Feature

With only sixteen contenders this year, the category can technically go five-wide, but it doesn't have to and one wonders if it might stick to three.  The one thing that won't be sitting out is Inside Out, which won this Oscar the moment it was announced, and has only gone on to solidify that hold in the months since with critical raves, huge box office, and people kind of being obsessed with the movie.  Pixar has only been nominated once for its past three films before this year, but don't think the Academy can't remember they're supposed to vote for it when it wins.

The rest of the field is a bit of a question mark.  There's Anomalisa, a critically-acclaimed Charlie Kaufman movie that is actually getting a pretty decently-sized release in the next couple of weeks, and is the sort of movie that the Academy seems poised to honor (it seems the right timing for an adults-only nominee in this category).  Pixar also has another movie out this year, and considering Disney doesn't have a flick out The Good Dinosaur, despite a pretty tepid box office compared to some of its predecessors and the way critics have sort of ignored it, could make it based on being from the most powerful studio alone.  And of course there's The Peanuts Movie, the populist hit that also got critics behind it (something that Home and Minions can't quite claim, despite even bigger pots of gold).

Of course the Oscars usually go with at least a couple of foreign films, which should help some of the GKids releases like Boy and the World, The Prophet, or When Marnie Was There, the latter being the final Studio Ghibli film which the animation branch might want to acknowledge.  Finally, even if no one in the states seemed to want to see it, Shaun the Sheep is from Aardman, who a few years ago managed a hugely surprising nomination in The Pirates! Band of Misfits when no one really saw that coming, and the studio itself, led by legendary Oscar favorite Nick Park, has managed to become a bit of an Oscar magnet through the years.  If it ends up being five-wide in particular, it's difficult to see the critically-adored movie getting bumped.

My Predictions: Anomalisa, The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out, The Peanuts Movie, Shaun the Sheep (if it goes only three-wide cut Peanuts and Dinosaur)

Best Foreign Language Film

This prediction is really going to change, as the shortlist is generally a brutal process for this category, with major contenders getting sucked up and random films suddenly gaining a new life (look at last year's Timbuktu, a film no one would have predicted until it randomly made the shortlist and suddenly everyone was all about it).  Still, it's sort of hard to believe that Son of Saul (Hungary), which is getting a proper Oscar push and might actually show up in another category like writing won't be the frontrunner until Oscar night, and so I think it's the only one we can say with certainty will be a nominee.

The rest of the films, though, make for an interesting dilemma.  It's always a good idea to check out your usual suspects, and France (Mustang), Germany (Labyrinth of Lies), and Denmark (A War) all have the sort of high-profile films that sometimes the Academy decides to go for. Sweden's A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting Its Existence is a great title and got good reviews, but might be a bit too autre to actually make the cut.  Brazil, on the other hand, seems to have a bit of a winner in The Second Mother, while Iceland's Rams is also a movie being talked about frequently.

Additionally, there's a couple of countries trying to make it for the first time, which seems to be a focus in recent years by the Academy so one wonders if they will make the cut.  Both Colombia (Embrace of the Serpant) and Bulgaria (Judgement) could end their countries' long losing streaks.  Finally, if they decide it's the mid-Aughts randomly, there's always Taiwan's The Assassin ready to throw a monkey wrench into the proceedings; you just know the Globes will go there.

My Predictions: Labyrinth of Lies, Mustang, Rams, The Second Mother, Son of Saul

Documentary Feature

Here we actually do know the shortlist, but that doesn't always help in a category notorious for throwing out nomination curveballs (even if it's lost its long-established reputation for going with random winners, as the frontrunner has been winning consistently for the past few years).  At the top of the heap is the year's biggest documentary Amy, a film about the late singer Amy Winehouse.  I initially thought this was a strange frontrunner (this is a category that tries to make social issues part of its oeuvre, and this is hardly a social issue documentary), but let's not forget that occasionally Oscar just wants to march with the penguins, and there was no documentary this year that was this big, so there's a solid chance this makes it in despite being so populist.

On the other end of the spectrum is near-certain nominee The Look of Silence, the followup to the Oscar-nominated The Act of Killing (I am still kind of stunned they went with the singing doc over this one), which seems like the sort of heavy subject matter that might just ground this category when they are choosing between pop stars, movie stars (Listen to Me Marlon), and jazz legends (What Happened, Miss Simone?).  The same could be said for the incredibly somber Cartel Land, which is the other likely "make you want to cry for two hours" nominee in the race.

The rest of the field, though, could be interesting.  We have He Called Me Malala, which gets some eye rolls from those who feel the documentary is pandering, but it stars one of the world's most recognizable figures and the Oscars would love to have her on their red carpet so don't dismiss this out-of-hand.  Going Clear may hit too close to home for some members of the Academy, but it's not like Tom Cruise or John Travolta had films out this year anyway so this might be the best time to take a crack at Scientology.  3 1/2 Minutes and 10 Bullets seems extremely timely, and occasionally you can get into this category on subject matter alone (which is also the case for The Hunting Ground, which has the added benefit of also being a Best Song contender).  Finally, one of my favorite films of the year, Best of Enemies, randomly made the shortlist and seems to be on everyone's predictions.  I didn't think when I first saw it that it would be weighty enough for the list, but perhaps it could surprise?

My Predictions: 3 1/2 Minutes and 10 Bullets, Amy, Cartel Land, Going Clear, The Look of Silence

And there we are-the Golden Globe nominations are out in a matter of minutes, but until then, let's get to discussing-what films do you expect to dominate the next few weeks, and what movies will be left in the dust?  Share your predictions (both in these categories and in others) down below!

No comments: