Monday, January 11, 2016

Final Oscar Predictions: Directing & Writing

We continue on our Oscar predictions with a look at the directors and writers that are making a play for a nomination come this Thursday (if you missed our piece about the actors or the visual categories, please investigate the links).  Considering the completely sporadic nature of this year, these categories in particular could be all over the place if AMPAS is particularly in love or particularly cool on a specific film, but based on my current guesses this seems to be the direction that we're headed:

Best Director

Expect a lot of articles in the coming weeks about Ridley Scott.  The longtime British director has been an Oscar bridesmaid three times so far in his career, losing for Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, and Black Hawk Down.  Were he to win the Best Director Oscar, he would break Clint Eastwood's record and become the oldest man ever to win, and it's not without possibility that he could take the trophy for The Martian, even if it doesn't have the odds to win Best Picture it did a couple of months ago.  Aside from Scott, it's questionable whether anyone else could be considered a "lock" for this category.  Thomas McCarthy (Spotlight) and Adam McKay (The Big Short) are both headlining major Best Picture contenders, but as recent history suggests you can win Best Picture without being nominated for directing (just ask Ben Affleck), and neither of these two are headliners in the way that Scott is.  Still, their chances are better than even, that's for sure.  George Miller seems like a solid bet considering that Max Max: Fury Road is doing marvelously, though one wonders if JJ Abrams (Star Wars) may have stolen some of his "prestige blockbuster" magic in the past few weeks during the crucial voting period.  Still, we could also be looking for Alejando Gonzalez Inarritu, last year's winner, who may have peaked too late to actually pick up this steam (The Revenant's Box Office was impressive, but I still think it might have been more massive had it opened wide on Christmas).  Todd Haynes has Carol, a Best Picture contender that has lost some steam though he's not out of the picture quite yet, though like Lenny Abrahamson (Room) and John Crowley (Brooklyn), his film might be too feminine in a branch dominated by men.  That could help someone like Steven Spielberg (Bridge of Spies) or Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight), both of whom have been cited here multiple times before, and if the branch is feeling truly out-there they could randomly decide that Laszlo Nemes, who is directing a foreign-language film that has garnered a lot of press in Son of Saul, is the right choice to randomly insert a foreign-language film nominee here ala Pedro Almodovar so many years ago.

My Predictions: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Thomas McCarthy, Adam McKay, George Miller, Ridley Scott

Best Original Screenplay

Ooph-this is a weak category this year, isn't it?  We have probably only one nominee certain to make it here, but it's also (unlike Ridley Scott) a guaranteed winner of the trophy, so hats off to Spotlight for already winning this statue.  Amongst those trying to lose to it I suspect we're going to see the return of both Quentin Tarantino and Pixar.  Despite Tarantino's mixed reviews for The Hateful Eight (I count myself amongst those who loathed it) there aren't a lot of options and he has won this category twice, so I suspect he'll pull a Woody Allen and get in regardless (it'd be hilarious if Allen also made it for his underwhelming Irrational Man, but I don't think anyone remembers that exists and Woody isn't the default nominee he once was).  Pixar has a better shot with Inside Out, a creative shot-in-the-arm that also has an inventive plot, all of which should probably make it a nominee in at least one category outside animation, and this is its best option.  The Coen Brothers, also winners in this category in the past, are the men behind Bridge of Spies, and while they haven't had the luck recently that they once did (getting passed over for both Inside Llewyn Davis and Unbroken) this is weaker than those two years were and Bridge of Spies is still a Best Picture prospect so that should be enough to get a fourth position.  The final slot is a hodgepodge.  We have everything from Alex Garland's Ex Machina to Paolo Sorrentino's underseen Youth to the crime drama Sicario that has been gaining late-breaking steam.  In fact, the Academy could go even crazier, picking a foreign-language film like Son of Saul or a rap drama like Straight Outta Compton, which feels too big not to get cited somewhere this season.  All-in-all, that fifth slot is a doozy and one that I'm not at all confident in selecting.

My Predictions: Bridge of Spies, The Hateful Eight, Inside Out, Sicario, Spotlight

Best Adapted Screenplay

Adapted Screenplay seems quite a bit more grounded and a bit fuller than original screenplay, and so as a result you have a few more nominees that I'm strongly confident in guessing.  Chief amongst them is The Big Short, a film that has emerged fast this season and even if it doesn't take the top trophy, this is starting to look like a pretty strong consolation prize for the picture.  Joining it will probably be Emma Donaghue for Room.  Though women who adapt their own novels haven't done great in this category (ask both Helen Fielding and Gillian Flynn), that doesn't mean she can't sink the basket and I think she'll be able to do so alongside fellow novelist Nick Hornby for Brooklyn.  Finishing out the likely nominees list is Phyllis Nagy (Carol) and Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs), though the former is a woman adapting a woman's picture which (I'm aware this is incredibly sexist but AMPAS sometimes is) doesn't always translate into the easiest of nominations while the latter is a big name behind a film that wasn't particularly well-loved by studio executives considering its place in the Sony controversy.  That does leave room for something like The Martian, Mad Max, or Star Wars, all of which aren't really "writer's" films but are all Best Picture contenders that may sneak in if their momentum is strong enough.  The same could be said for Trumbo, still a giant question mark in this year's Oscar races (is it just a precursor that could, or is Oscar about to take a major shine?)-if it's a Best Picture nominee, I could see it making the race considering it's about Oscar-winning writers.

My Predictions: The Big Short, Brooklyn, Carol, Room, Steve Jobs

There are my predictions for the directing and writing categories-share your thoughts on who looks good for these categories in the comments below!

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