Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Final Oscar Predictions: The Aural Categories

We continue our look at Thursday's impending Oscar nominations, and my predictions for who will be very happy (and who will be firing their agents) with a perusal of the sound and music categories (if you missed acting, writing/directing, and the visual categories, you know how links work!).  These categories are interesting, particularly in the music branch because sometimes the Oscar is totally about one specific thing, and other times he just wants something completely new.  As a result, especially in a year this sporadic, it's hard to guess what direction his tastes will go in-let's start with the easiest of the four, shall we?

Original Score
There is only one rule of predicting the Oscars for Best Score-always go with John Williams.  Even if it seems like he can't make it, because he can.  Williams record in the past thirty years is astonishing.  Only thrice in three decades has Williams somehow missed out on a nomination when he was eligible: 1986's SpaceCamp, 1992's Home Alone 2/Far & Away, and 2008's Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  For comparisons sake, if you look at four of the most nominated people in recent history and only give them three chances to miss (let's say Meryl Streep, Sandy Powell, Roger Deakins, and Rick Baker, all of whom are considered "default" nominees), the best they can do is a decade (Streep and Deakins tie, for the record, though I suspect that will be changing in a couple of days).  This is all a fancy way to say that even if he didn't score at the Globes, don't discount John Williams getting his staggering, historic fiftieth nomination for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  I don't feel as confident in it as, say, Lincoln a few years ago but Williams always sinks the basket.  Joining him will probably be both Golden Globe winner Ennio Morricone (who could finally win a competitive Oscar for The Hateful Eight) and Thomas Newman (Bridge of Spies), who took over for Williams on Spielberg duty, and will likely be amply rewarded (though sadly for Newman, he won't be given the Oscar he's longed for after a dozen nominations).  This category is particularly chummy, but if anyone can break the chain it would be Carter Burwell's Carol, who has somehow never been nominated after countless scores, who has the leg up on neophytes like Daniel Pemberton's Steve Jobs and Michael Brook's Brooklyn.  For the final slot, bet on someone who has been here before as that's almost always a good strategy.  Michael Giacchino's Inside Out, Alexandre Desplat's The Danish Girl, Howard Shore's Spotlight, Patrick Doyle's Cinderella, or even James Newton Howard's Concussion could be part of the discussion, or could easily overpower Burwell as this might be a year no one joins the club.  Either way, it would be a massive shock if John Williams somehow didn't show up for yet another go with Oscar.

My Predictions: Bridge of Spies, Carol, The Danish Girl, The Hateful Eight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Original Song

My antipathy toward Lady Gaga and my constant mumblings about her will continue past Thursday, as she seems certain to follow-up her Golden Globe win with an Oscar nomination, though this time it's at least for singing in The Hunting Ground, and could finally net Diane Warren (a 7-time Oscar loser) a trophy to go along with her Grammy and Golden Globe.  Their biggest competition seems to be Wiz Khalifa's ode to Paul Walker "See You Again," in Furious 7 and yes I think it's hilarious too that the Fast and the Furious franchise is going to be Oscar-nominated.  Even more perplexing may be "Love Me Like You Do," from Fifty Shades of Grey, which was a huge pop hit but comes from a film about S&M, so the branch that went for "Alone Yet Not Alone" may not be about such things.  On the opposite end of the spectrum is "Simple Song #3" from Youth, an opera aria that closes the film and netted a Globe nod for the movie-this could be a way for fans of the film to get an in on the Oscars since the film's acting chances have slipped.  I know that Sam Smith just won the Golden Globe for "Writing's on the Wall," but Oscar isn't all about James Bond, and more importantly this category has a horrible match rate with the Globes (in the past twelve years seven of the Globe winners for Best Song couldn't even get an Oscar nomination).  A better bet may be Carter Burwell's "None of Them Are You" in Anomalisa (Burwell could actually go from zero to two in Oscar citations on Thursday).  Finally there's always the possibility they just say 'huh' and go with something truly random like "Phenomenal" from Southpaw or "Flashlight" from Pitch Perfect 2 because this is the music branch, and however rigid they are in Score, they frequently say "what the hell?" in Song and those are two songs that are at least recognizable even if no one in the Academy wants to honor the films.

My Predictions: Anomalisa, Fifty Shades of Grey, Furious 7, The Hunting Ground, Youth

Sound Mixing

The question with the sound categories is do they go loud or do they go posh?  Every year you see something like a Best Picture nominee like Spotlight or The Big Short randomly ending up in a category, particularly one like Sound Mixing completely at random, so don't be 100% surprised if either of these end up being part of this contest.  However, it's probably a better play when a Best Picture nominee is also loud, which should play well for both Mad Max and The Martian, arguably the two frontrunners here.  It's worth noting that Star Wars is still in the Best Picture conversation, and the franchise has done decently in this category before so it would be foolish to discount it.  Rounding out the "loud" Best Picture nominees is The Revenant-the film is making a huge play for the Best Picture trophy (it just made it onto the DGA shortlist, a huge deal for any film), and it could be about to rack up an entire cadre of nominations.  The fifth slot is harder to guess.  Sometimes Oscar goes posh, and of the remaining Best Picture nominees Bridge of Spies probably has the best bet.  They could go with Pixar, as Inside Out was popular enough it still has a shot in other categories aside from Animation, but no film since Toy Story 3 has really had that kind of pull and I wonder if maybe AMPAS is done with Pixar as a theoretical shaker outside its sole reward spot.  Straight Outta Compton is the closest thing we have to a musical to nominate, and it was well-received and has received a solid amount of buzz in the precursors, enough so that this wouldn't be totally surprising.  Finally, if the Academy is more fond of Sicario, Ex Machina, Creed, or The Hateful Eight than expected we'd find out pretty quickly in the sound categories.

My Predictions: Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Straight Outta Compton

Sound Editing

Sound Editing is different in slight ways than Sound Mixing if you're looking purely at "who gets nominated."  This category is a bit of a bridge from Visual Effects, so it would be foolish to discount anyone nominated there, and we're less likely to see more posh "Best Picture" nominees or musicals as that's really more of a mixing thing.  However, any films that made it both on Sound Mixing and Visual Effects for me (which this year was quite a few) probably make it here so I would number Mad Max, Star Wars, The Revenant, and The Martian amongst the best bets in this race.  My remaining predictions are Straight Outta Compton and Jurassic World, but the former doesn't have much to boast of in terms of sound editing while the latter has sort of subsided in memory after Star Wars eviscerated it in terms of domestic Box Office.  As a result, I think that AMPAS will go somewhere else.  Sicario is a solid bet, as it's a classy choice that also has a lot of action, but the question is whether AMPAS, like BAFTA, actually remembered that it was a film.  The same could be said for Creed, which I once thought would make a major play in most of the tech categories but now appears set to only be here for the Stallone pat-on-the-back tour.  Ex Machina seems like a dark horse, but I think it has a better shot in Visual Effects and I couldn't quite go there for it (I'd also throw in Inside Out, since Pixar is a force to be reckoned with in this category historically, but hasn't been in a few years).  Finally there's Quentin Tarantino's massively explosive The Hateful Eight.  If the film does as well as Inglourious and Django did at the Oscars, it's hard to imagine it missing here, but is the love there?

My Predictions: Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Sicario, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Straight Outta Compton

There it is-we'll finish off with the Best Pictures tomorrow, but in the meantime weigh in on who you think is taking the sound and music nominations come Thursday morning!

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