Category Archives: Blatherings

Screen Watch, June 18th 2017

Thoughts on movies, TV, and anything else seen on a flat screen recently:

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It Comes At Night

I didn’t see the first feature by Trey Edward Shults, 2015’s “Krisha”, but his sophomore effort is the kind that makes me want to not only go back and catch up, but pay close attention to whatever project he’s got lined up next (Trey, more “Moonlight”, less “La La Land”, please). “It Comes At Night” is a solid entry in the new wave of indie horror. Like “It Follows” or “The Babadook” or “Get Out”, it’s steeped in genre history: Shults’ techniques are familiar (slow, brooding zooms, plenty of shadows, sharp and sudden stings of music or sound), but impeccably deployed in a “Night of the Living Dead”-esque scenario that strips out the metaphorical monsters and skips right to the oppressive, sweat-inducing dread.

It is not a spoiler to say, straight up, that you will never see or really learn much of anything about the threat lurking in the woods outside the secluded home of Paul (Joel Edgerton), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.), and if you need anything more concrete, this will not be your movie. Whereas Romero’s walking, lurching dead are a (brilliantly) simple metaphor for mortality, Shults’ monster is an even broader sense of anxiety and the many, many forms it can take for people: not just death, but xenophobia (sorry, “economic insecurity”), sex, loneliness, puberty, machismo. Our fears are innumerable and therefore, overwhelming and unnameable. There’s been plenty of apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fare at the box office for the better part of a decade now, and I’m not looking to expound on the likely reasons for that – but “It Comes At Night” for me, taps into a fascinating (and disturbing) new feeling of existential dread: less cataclysmic than Hollywood’s vision of extinction, but a smaller and much harder-to-shake sense that the world we are creating will be worse than the one we’re in now. Society might crumble, our loved ones will be lost, and we’ll be forced to watch it all happen.

The ensemble performance, including surprising turns from Christopher Abbott of “Girls” and Riley Keough (“Mad Max: Fury Road”, “American Honey”), is universally terrific, but the tête–à–tête of Edgerton and Harrison, Jr. as weary, loving father and unmoored son stands out.

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Big Little Lies (HBO)

I missed the cultural conversation on HBO’s all-star mini-series, but hopefully the Emmys will bring back around a revisit of this impressive, occasionally infuriating, terrifically performed production. That “occasional” fury is, at any given moment, almost certainly the blame of an incredibly clunky script by David E. Kelley that tends to throw nuance in the trash at critical moments. The reasons it only pops up now and again, rather than a constant stream of why-am-I-watching-this self-interrogation, are 1) surprisingly moody, woozy direction by Jean-Marc Vallee (making a leap above “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Wild” here), and 2) a veteran cast of actresses clearly reveling in the ability to play women with seven hours of development and shading rather than three scenes of “concerned love interest”.

Nicole Kidman does the most with the most room to play, Reese Witherspoon the most with the least, and Zoe Kravitz is the most ill-served by Kelley’s wildly inconsistent script – for a project otherwise so explicitly meant to explore female perspectives, it’s insane to me how completely uninterested in her character the show is beyond “hippie-dippie step-mom that all the middle-aged white men want to fuck”. Laura Dern at least has much much more screen time to turn a cartoonishly terrible character (in all senses) into something relatable, by pure dint of being Laura Dern.

Oh, also Shailene Woodley is pretty good? Honestly, maybe it’s just her smaller body of work overall, but I have almost no opinion on her career, performance, or character here.

This is what makes the series unique though: a desire to delve into and nitpick the roles of these women and performances at a level of complexity and nuance so rarely afforded these actresses (I mean, Kidman’s had a fair share of real shots on goal, but who’s going to begrudge her more).”Big Little Lies”-stans, please get at me, I’d love to talk more.

Oh oh also, the “Greek chorus” of gossiping townsfolk is a great pilot-episode device that gets increasingly misguided as it continues on throughout the series; but I did appreciate and greatly enjoy that, by the final episode, I could potentially see literally any character on the show murdering any of the other characters. No joke, that makes for a riveting mystery.

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The Americans, season 5 (FX)

Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, why you gotta do us like this? After four seasons, by sheer force of will, TV critics and Russian majors had finally gotten the viewing public (or at least the Emmys) to pay attention to your riveting slow-burn spy drama. And then as a victory lap you decide to finally reach the breaking point of “how much plot is too little plot”. When you can literally summarize each character’s season (including, and I can not emphasize this enough, their entire emotional arc) in a sentence or two, you’re really pushing what can even be considered narrative.

In retrospect, we should’ve known we were in for a hit, with the two most interesting side characters on the show, Nina and Martha, more or less taken off the chessboard. But the failure to replace them with any equivalent (oh how this season would’ve benefited from something on the level of season 4’s lights-out supporting turn by Dylan Baker), and then to hand sterling season regulars literally nothing but anticlimax (see: Elizabeth learns tai chi, Oleg investigates grocery fraud) – hooooey. When you catch me admitting that I’m currently most invested in the Paige/Pastor Tim subplot, something is very wrong.

I fully expect “The Americans” to bring it back around for their sixth and final season – I mean, SOMETHING *has* to happen in order to wrap this up – but it was incredible to watch a show that had otherwise so meticulously ratcheted tension for four seasons completely flatline emotionally. When the show, along with Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, earn Emmy nominations again through pure inertia, I will be retroactively applying those nods to season 3.

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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, season 3 (Netflix)

UKS is following the mold of its Tina Fey-forerunner “30 Rock” of getting stronger the less plot there is. With the Reverend finally out of the picture (Jon Hamm did an amazing job with that character, but really, I’m not convinced we ever ever ever need to see him again), UKS could just go small ball with low-stakes sitcom arcs and focus on being, pound-for-pound and joke-for-joke, the funniest show out there right now. Carol Kane and Tituss Burgess both got some of their best material yet (seriously, that hurricane bottle episode, complete with the perfect Maya Rudolph cameo, is *everything*), while Ellie Kemper proved that Kimmy’s winsome enthusiasm and naivete may very well never grow tiresome.

Jane Krakowski’s character remains the biggest flaw of the show – when somehow *still* sincerely pursuing the nausea-inducing notion of Jacqueline-as-woke-whitewashed-Native American, UKS is, yet again, a black hole of misplaced intentions. Luckily, they improve on season 2 by at least doing *less* of that and much more of the straight-faced absurdity (David Cross getting “smooshed”, flirting with a dead grandmother, anything involving Amy Sedaris) that is Krakowski’s wheelhouse.

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Master of None, season 2 (Netflix)

The increasing indulgence of “Master of None”‘s second (and possibly last) season plays both in its favor and against it. Even more so than the first season, the show revolves around a structure of isolated vignettes – meaning it can live or die not just episode by episode, but sometimes even scene to scene. An homage to “Bicycle Thieves” can be alternately charming AND gratingly twee. Suddenly doubling the running time of an episode for an hour-long romantic interlude can both afford more depth than usual to Dev’s desires AND reveal how shallow the object of that romantic interest (first Rachel, now Francesca) is written.

“Master of None” remains one of the most perceptive and empathetic depictions of 21st-century young-adulthood and immigration, especially when it comes to dating and family relationships. But Dev is increasingly the least interesting character on his own show (partly, I gotta say, because of Aziz Ansari’s limited range – he’s got a note, and he played it extremely well for about a season and a half!), and it feels like Ansari and Alan Yang know it – that explains (terrific) episode-long tangents dedicated to say, Denise’s family dynamics, or literally *a bunch of random strangers encountered on the street* (“New York, I Love You”, which for me ranks with season one’s “Parents” as the best the show has offered, despite the more direct crack at a sequel in “Religion”).

Ansari has made noises that “Master of None” won’t return unless he and Yang really come up with stor(ies) that they love, and I get the sense from season two that might not be likely. Seeing their sensibility and writing brought to a slightly different project, though, would be most welcome.

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The 10th Annual EMOs

It’s a big year – for the tenth time, I’m rolling out my annual awards for the Year in Movies gone by. On the one hand, I would like to pause and celebrate, not just the 35 films mentioned herein, but, self-indulgently, the EMOs themselves. Ten years of movies, ten years of jokes, ten years of hastily and poorly-chosen awards – Ethan’s Makeshift Oscars are a pleasure to put together and present every time, whether in the form of Facebook Note, formalwear party, dialogue between the darkest parts of my own id, Google Hangout, what have you. They started as a way to correct, in my mind, some of the wrongs done by major awards bodies – not enough love for the demi-god Michael Shannon, for instance – but a perusal over the history of the EMOs reveals that my own quirky, spur-of-the-moment choices are not necessarily more guaranteed to stand the test of time (that Best Supporting Actress for Chloe Möretz in Hugo stings). I’m glad for everyone who has indulged this nonsense with me, anyway.

But I’d also like to just get a move on, because I am as eager as everyone else to put the year 2016 firmly in the rearview mirror. In past years I’ve gone further with the EMOs in terms of offering “bonus” commentary, and framed things in terms of nominees. As I’m handing them out purely via this blog post this year, we’re going to cut to the chase in every category, with the winner immediately revealed, followed by others “receiving votes”; that is, other films or performances that I’d still like to mention that I considered. If I’ve called it out, it’s worth your time, is my general attitude. And as always, in Part II of the EMOs, every movie is a winner. At some point I might do a compendium of my favorite EMO awards from the first ten years of its existence, but it is not this day.

And, of course, a reminder that to qualify for the EMOs a film must’ve been theatrically released in the U.S. in 2016 AND I had to see it in 2016 (with the exception of the poster and trailer categories, of course). I’ll be back with a more robust Top 10 list after I’ve had some time to catch up with the end-of-year glut in January and February. And do watch for the second annual ERPs (Ethan’s Repertory Picks), also coming soon! Enjoy!


Best Action Film: Green Room

Receiving Votes:
Captain America: Civil War
Deadpool

Funniest Film: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Receiving Votes:
Deadpool
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
The Nice Guys
Manchester by the Sea (no, really)
Zootopia
Hail, Caesar!

Most Fucked-Up Protagonist: sad white rich people, Nocturnal Animals

Receiving votes:
Michéle, Elle
Lee Chandler, Manchester By the Sea
Wade, Deadpool

Most Inexplicable Multi-Scene Pop Star Appearance: Shakira, Zootopia

Receiving votes:
Janelle Monáe,  Moonlight
Seal, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Most Deserving to Have Everyone Involved in Production Die a Horribly Painful Death Just For Making Me Watch the Trailer: Same Kind of Different As Me

Receiving votes:
Yoga Hosers
Gods of Egypt
The Wild Life
Maximum Ride

 

Best Cameo: Will Arnett/Chelsea Peretti/Eric Andre/Mike Birbiglia as the “CMZ” reporters, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Receiving votes:
Jena Malone, Nocturnal Animals
Justin Timberlake, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Frances McDormand, Hail, Caesar!
Taika Waititi, Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Christina Hendricks, The Neon Demon
Michael Shannon, Loving

Breakthrough Actor/Actress of the Year: Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch

Receiving votes:
Jaeden Lieberher, Midnight Special
Lily Gladstone, Certain Women
Ashton Sanders, Moonlight
Lucas Hedges, Manchester By the Sea
Markees Christmas, Morris from America
Wyatt Russell, Everybody Wants Some!!
Sasha Lane, American Honey
Julian Dennison, Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Best Poster:
Moonlight
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Receiving votes:
The Handmaiden
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Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World
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Men Go to Battle
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De Palma
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The Birth of a Nation
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La La Land
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Green Room
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The Neon Demon
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American Honey
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Best Trailer: Moonlight

Receiving votes:
The Witch
Logan
La La Land
The Handmaiden
Jackie
High-Rise
Rogue One
Get Out
American Honey

 

Best Scene: mansion detour, American Honey

Receiving votes:
diner, Moonlight
“Would that it were so simple”, Hail, Caesar!
the ending of The Lobster
“Do you think we could get lunch sometime?”, Manchester By the Sea
Churchill, Love & Friendship
the runway, The Neon Demon
“Once, I was a fucking jet engine”, Sing Street
offering a ride, Certain Women

Best Use of an Existing Song: “We Found Love,” Rihanna + Calvin Harris, American Honey

Receiving votes:
“American Honey”, Lady Antebellum, American Honey
“Nazi Punks Fuck Off”, The Dead Kennedys, Green Room
“God’s Whisper”, Raury, American Honey

Best Original Song: “I’m So Humble”, perf. The Lonely Island w/ Adam Levine, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Receiving votes:
“Drive It Like You Stole It”, perf. Sing Street, Sing Street
“Incredible Thoughts”, perf. The Lonely Island w/ Michael Bolton, Justin Timberlake, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
“Brown Shoes”, perf. Sing Street, Sing Street
“Up”, perf. Sing Street, Sing Street
“Try Everything”, perf. Shakira, Zootopia
“Milestone 2 (Skux Life)”, perf. Moniker, Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Best Original Score: Nicholas Britell, Moonlight

Receiving votes:
David Wingo, Midnight Special
Jóhann Jóhannson, Arrival
Mark Korven, The Witch
Dario Marianelli, Kubo and the Two Strings
Cliff Martinez, The Neon Demon
Nick Cage and Warren Ellis, Hell or High Water
Clint Mansell, High-Rise

https://open.spotify.com/user/egates12/playlist/7xdVKEbVkRp6Cm0vZMTy8C

 

Best Cinematography: Robbie Ryan, American Honey

Receiving votes:
James Laxton, Moonlight
Chung Chung-hoon, The Handmaiden
Bradford Young, Arrival
Jarin Blaschke, The Witch
Christopher Blauvelt, Certain Women
Stéphane Fontaine, Elle
Giles Nuttgins, Hell or High Water
Seamus McGarvey, Nocturnal Animals
Nathasha Braier, The Neon Demon
Laurie Rose, High-Rise
Anthony Dod Mantle, Our Kind of Traitor

Best Adapted Screenplay: Whit Stillman, Love & Friendship

Receiving votes:
Chung Seo-kyung, Park Chan-wook, The Handmaiden
David Birke, Elle
Taika Waititi, Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Franck Ekinci, Benjamin Legrand, April and the Extraordinary World

Best Original Screenplay: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou, The Lobster

Receiving votes:
Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By the Sea
Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water
Jeremy Saulnier, Green Room
Robert Eggers, The Witch
Jeff Nichols, Midnight Special
Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Hail, Caesar!

Best Supporting Actor: Alden Ehrenreich, Hail, Caesar!

Receiving Votes:
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Laurent Lafitte, Elle
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals
Tom Bennett, Love & Friendship
Gil Birmingham, Hell or High Water
Craig Robinson, Morris from America
Joel Edgerton, Midnight Special
Jack Reynor, Sing Street
Damian Lewis, Our Kind of Traitor
Patrick Stewart, Green Room

Best Supporting Actress: Jena Malone, The Neon Demon

Receiving votes:
Lily Gladstone, Certain Women
Kristen Stewart, Certain Women
Laura Dern, Certain Women
Léa Seydoux, The Lobster
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Rooney Mara, Kubo and the Two Strings
Kate Dickie, The Witch

Best Actor: (tie) Ben Foster and Chris Pine, Hell or High Water

Receiving votes:
(tie) Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevonte Rhodes, Moonlight
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Michael Shannon, Midnight Special
Colin Farrell, The Lobster
Josh Brolin, Hail, Caesar!
Sam Neill, Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Logan Marshall-Green, The Invitation
Ralph Ineson, The Witch
Ryan Gosling, The Nice Guys
Joel Edgerton, Loving

Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Receiving votes:
Kim Tae-Ri, The Handmaiden
Kim Min-hee, The Handmaiden
Amy Adams, Arrival
Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch
Kate Beckinsale, Love & Friendship
Ruth Negga, Loving
Imogen Poots, Green Room
Rachel Weisz, The Lobster
Sasha Lane, American Honey

Best Acting Ensemble: Moonlight

Receiving votes:
Certain Women
Manchester By the Sea
Love & Friendship
The Lobster
Midnight Special
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Best Director: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Receiving votes:
Kirsten Johnson, Cameraperson
Park Chan-wook, The Handmaiden
Paul Verhoeven, Elle
Andrea Arnold, American Honey
Robert Eggers, The Witch
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Lobster
Ava DuVernay, 13th
David Mackenzie, Hell or High Water
Kelly Reichardt, Certain Women

Best Movie: Moonlight

Receiving Votes:
Cameraperson
The Handmaiden
Elle
The Witch
American Honey
The Lobster
Manchester by the Sea
13th
Hell or High Water
Certain Women
Love & Friendship
Green Room
Arrival

2016 Special Achievement (given to a film or film-adjacent contributor for a stellar year across multiple works or media that I consumed in 2016, potentially including movies, TV, theater, the internet, etc.):
Bill Camp (for Ivo Van Hove’s Broadway revival of “The Crucible”, HBO miniseries “The Night Of”, and stellar work in brief parts of both Midnight Special and Loving, though we won’t mention him in Jason Bourne)

Receiving votes:
Michael Shannon (for never having a dull moment in Midnight SpecialNocturnal Animals or even two minutes of Loving, and for generally being Michael Shannon)
Mahershala Ali (for breaking out of the “House of Cards” doldrums in dramatic style with Moonlight and “Luke Cage”)
Jena Malone (for proving in The Neon Demon and Nocturnal Animals that she desperately needs some talented director(s) to give her a Kristen Stewart-style career makeover)

The Putin the Platypus Memorial Award for Misogyny: The Neon Demon

Fan Service – The Movie! : Deadpool

Most Hot Button Political Issues Stepped Into: Zootopia

Most Hot Button Political Issues Not Stepped Into: Jason Bourne

Happiest Affront to Every John le Carré Book I’ve Ever Read: Our Kind of Traitor

Most Under-Marketed Naked Tom Hiddleston: High-Rise

Cubby Broccoli Memorial Award for Keeping a Franchise Relatively Fresh Thirteen Installments In Even Though Oh My God I Still Don’t Give a Shit About Bucky: Captain America: Civil War

Call Your Mother More: No Home Movie

Most Beautiful Mannequins That Also Happen to Be Famous Actors: Nocturnal Animals

Worst Critical Praise to Bechdel Test Ratio: Everybody Wants Some!!

Most Tilda Swintons: Hail, Caesar!

Least Work Done to Overcome the Stereotype That All Germans Are EDM DJs: Morris from America

Most Terrifying Validation of Every Single One of My Social Anxieties: The Invitation

Best Half-Hearted Impression of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang That Mostly Just Makes You Want to Watch Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Again: The Nice Guys

Most Inarticulate Civil Rights Heroes: Loving

Best Opening Line, And That’s Not Even a Joke, Guys:  Kubo and the Two Strings

The Nigel Tufnel Award For Going to 11: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Most Inauthentically Terrific High School Band: Sing Street

Most Inventive Piece of Alternate Reality That Isn’t As Depressing As “The Man In the High Castle”: April and the Extraordinary World

Blandest Conception of Hyper-Real Extra-Dimensional Space Gods: Midnight Special

Silliest Sam Neill: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Most Plot Holes That Have Nothing to Do with Time Science in a Time Science Movie: Arrival

Most Comfortingly Isolated Nazi Punks: Green Room

Best Redemption of a Dismissed Celebrity and No It’s Not Ryan Reynolds As Deadpool, Dammit: Kate Beckinsale, Love & Friendship

The Robert Altman Memorial Award for Resurrecting Rene Auberjonois: Certain Women

The Jeff Bridges Award for Being Jeff Bridges: Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Most Tightly Paced Application of White Guilt: 13th

Most Authentically Terrible High School Band: Manchester by the Sea

Closest Resemblance to What Wes Anderson’s Personal Upside Down Probably Looks Like: The Lobster

Most Disturbing Rat Tail: Shia LaBeouf, American Honey

Happiest Ending: The Witch

Best Example, Possibly Ever, That the Savviest Direction Can Be Good Casting: Elle

Best Performance of Jingle Bells: The Handmaiden

Most Surprisingly Genial Time Spent in Awful, Awful Places: Cameraperson

Darkest Direction to Take Miss Moneypenny: Moonlight

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Final Oscar Predictions – 2016

In the interest of transparency, I always like to put out my Oscar picks, just for proof when I talk about getting 20/24 categories right (It’s always that number. Every year.) Think you know better? Let’s find out on Sunday.

Best Documentary Short: “Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah”

Best Animated Short: “Sanjay’s Super Team”

Best Live Action Short: “Stutterer”

I haven’t seen any of the shorts except for Don Hertzfeldt’s animated “World of Tomorrow” (available on Netflix!), which is a potential spoiler for Pixar’s favored entry (let’s all take a moment to rejoice that “Lava” wasn’t eligible this year). So yeah, I’m mainly going by descriptions and other people’s predictions here. You know as much as I do. Move along.

Best Documentary Feature

A couple legitimate options here – Netflix has poured crazy campaigning money behind “What Happened, Miss Simone?” and “Winter on Fire,” and the easy streaming availability of those options is not a bad thing. I’ve also heard and read only impressive things about “Cartel Land” from those who make the time. But the high-profile name and critical acclaim behind team “Amy” will probably carry the favorite all the way through here, leaving Joshua Oppenheimer to dry his tears once again with a thousand glowing Sight & Sound reviews.

Will win: “Amy”

Could win: “Cartel Land”

Should’ve been here: “Listen to Me Marlon”

Best Original Song

There’s a slight complication here in that ballots go out with only the name of the song and the movie it’s from – no attached artists names, so it’s possible a good chunk of the voting body is unaware of the Lady Gaga/Diane Warren collaboration (I would beware “Writing’s on the Wall” just because of the name recognition behind Bond films for this reason). But if you bother at all to listen to the songs it’s pretty clear what the best choice is, and I think enough of the Academy will go there.

Will win: “Til It Happens To You,” from “The Hunting Ground”

Could win: “Earned It,” from “Fifty Shades of Grey”

Should’ve been here: “See You Again” from “Furious 7,” and “Feels Like Summer” from “Shaun the Sheep Movie”

Best Sound Editing

The below-the-line categories are going to be an absolute dogfight between “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Revenant.” It’s easy to see pretty much all of the crafts going to one or the other, and it’s hard to call how they’ll split up in the end. In the sound categories, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is also lurking as a spoiler (they’re historically the only categories where the franchise does well), but I think this is one area where the tortuous behind-the-scenes making of “The Revenant” will definitely impress. There’s some dubious ADR on the Native American characters, but overall the sound design of the frontier tale is incredibly immersive.

Will win: “The Revenant”

Could win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Should’ve been here: “Ex Machina”

Best Sound Mixing

See above.

Will win: “The Revenant”

Could win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Should’ve been here: “Sicario”

Best Visual Effects

A highly competitive category this year, with an impressive mix of practical and visual effects as well as in-your-face blockbuster bombast and effective low-key spot use. Will creating a super life-like animal character (the bear scene is memorable, if nothing else) be enough to carry “The Revenant” through? Will the flashier effects of “Mad Max” or “Star Wars” prevail instead? Or will voters be looking for somewhere below the line to express their appreciation of “The Martian?” All legitimate options – this is a close one.

Will win: “The Revenant”

Could win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Should’ve been here: “Crimson Peak”

Best Film Editing

We can probably cross off “Star Wars” here and gravitate towards the four Best Picture nominees in the mix – from there it gets a little trickier. “Spotlight” and “The Big Short” have both been praised for their energy, and the editing has a lot to do with that, particularly the latter with its many intercut interludes and asides. But it’s still likely one of the technical juggernauts here, and I think this is where the adrenaline rush of “Mad Max” starts to win out over “The Revenant.”

Will win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Could win: “The Revenant”

Should’ve been here: “Son of Saul”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Part of me thinks the peculiar inclusion of Swedish film “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” could be a sign for a possible upset (a la “Il Divo” a while back), but the changed rules that have the general Academy body voting on this category probably preclude that outcome now. Flip a coin between the other two contenders instead.

Will win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Could win: “The Revenant”

Should’ve been here: “Crimson Peak”

Best Costume Design

I would limit it again to the two technical steamrollers here, but never ever count out a Sandy Powell joint, of which there are two available this year. “Cinderella” in particular has the flashy goods to be a major spoiler in this category. I’m predicting the “Mad Max” victory train rolls on in the design categories much the same way “The Grand Budapest Hotel” did last year, but I’m definitely keeping an eye on this one.

Will win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Could win: “Cinderella”

Should’ve been here: “Crimson Peak”, “Brooklyn”

Best Production Design

Another category where love for “The Martian” could be a sneaky alternative – but I’ve learned at this point that “spread the wealth” isn’t actually a thing that Oscar voters much care about, especially below the line. Keep ticking off those boxes, it’s all that most of the Academy is doing as well.

Will win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Could win: “The Revenant”

Should’ve been here: “Crimson Peak,” “Ex Machina”

Best Cinematography

After years of being an also-ran, Emmanuel Lubezki has turned into a force of nature at the Oscars. Lock up a record third straight win (“Gravity,” “Birdman”) for Chivo.

Will win: Emmanuel Lubezki, “The Revenant”

Could win: Robert Richardson, “The Hateful Eight”

Should’ve been here: Maryse Alberti, “Creed”

Best Animated Feature

Thanks to GKIDS, the nominees for Animated Feature have gotten delightfully unpredictable (and tasteful!) in recent years, but the winner remains, ultimately, rather predictable.

Will win: Inside Out

Could win: Anomalisa

Should’ve been here: actually i’m pretty much 100% on board with the lineup here

Best Foreign Language Film

“Son of Saul” has been the presumptive favorite since making its impact at Cannes last summer, and there’s little sense that anything’s changed. It’s got the highest profile, the subject matter is right in the Academy’s wheelhouse, and oh, it just happens to be an absolutely shattering and unforgettable film.

Will win: “Son of Saul” (Hungary)

Could win: “Mustang” (France)

Should’ve been here: abstain

Best Original Score

Tarantino may have been wrong about Ennio Morricone never winning a competitive American award (Morricone already had two Golden Globes to his name before claiming a third in absentia for “The Hateful Eight”), he’s right that the Italian master still only has an honorary Oscar as far as the Academy’s concerned. That name value and narrative (besides, you know, the terrific work) should be all that’s needed here this year.

Will win: Ennio Morricone, “The Hateful Eight”

Could win: John Williams, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Should’ve been here: Michael Brook, “Brooklyn”, Tom Holkenberg (Junkie XL), “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Best Original Screenplay

The writing winners have been locked and loaded for a while now. Look for them to line up in step with the Writers Guild Awards, both flashy, in-your-face examples of scripting.

Will win: Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”

Could win: Josh Cooley, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Ronnie Del Carmen, “Inside Out”

Should’ve been here: Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig, “Mistress America”

Best Adapted Screenplay

See above.

Will win: Charles Randolph, Adam McKay, “The Big Short”

Could win: Drew Goddard, “The Martian”

Should’ve been here: Andrew Haigh, “45 Years,” Donald Marguiles, “The End of the Tour”

Best Supporting Actress

There’s narratives to support just about everyone nominated in this category winning – Winslet has the Globe and a BAFTA win behind her (Vikander went lead at the latter), Mara has the screen time of a true co-lead, and Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rachel McAdams are both respected vets who finally got good parts to play to their strengths (Leigh has the favor of flashy Tarantino dialogue behind her). But I’m sticking with Vikander, the breakout star of the year, who again has the screen time of a co-lead and winds up being the emotional core of “The Danish Girl,” a film that will still appeal to many in the Academy.

Will win: Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”

Could win: Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”

Should’ve been here: Alicia Vikander, “Ex Machina,” Tessa Thompson, “Creed”

Best Supporting Actor

It’s kind of odd that so many pundits (including myself) are so convinced that Stallone is going to carry this home, considering he has nothing but a Golden Globe to his name and the HFPA is hardly a reliable precursor for the acting categories. But I think his misses at the SAG and BAFTA awards has more to do with bad timing in the season – screeners of “Creed” hadn’t really gotten to SAG before they voted, and the heat really lit up under the movie after the BAFTAs had voted as well. Mark Rylance and Mark Ruffalo are both looming, but Stallone’s comeback, playing the same character the Academy adored forty years ago, is too good a story for them to pass up.

Will win: Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”

Could win: Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”

Should’ve been here: Oscar Isaac, “Ex Machina”

Best Actress

Such a terrific lineup and such a boring race. For all that we’ve been discussing this as a great year for female leads and for all the possible nominees ultimately left on the sidelines, it hasn’t really been close at any step.

Will win: Brie Larson, “Room”

Could win: Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn” (but not really)

Should’ve been here: Charlize Theron, “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Mya Taylor, “Tangerine,” Lily Tomlin, “Grandma” (if we had like, ten nominees)

Best Actor

Finally a stupid fucking internet meme comes to an end. Are you happy, internet? You won.

Will win: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”

Could win: Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo”

Should’ve been here: Géza Röhrig, “Son of Saul”, Michael B. Jordan, “Creed”

Best Director

There have been two back-to-back Best Director winners before in the history of the Oscars: John Ford and Joseph Mankiewicz. Look for Iñárritu to join that august company after triumphing at the Directors Guild Awards.

Will win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “The Revenant”

Could win: Adam McKay, “The Big Short”

Should’ve been here: László Nemes, “Son of Saul,” Todd Haynes, “Carol,” Andrew Haigh, “45 Years”

Best Picture:

And now, ultimately, the hardest call of the night. Honestly I’m not sure we’ll have any idea what’s in this envelope until the last possible moment, unless “The Revenant” really goes on a below-the-line sweep – and even then I could still see “The Big Short” or even “Spotlight” coming out of the mouth of Tom Hanks (or whoever) at the end of the night. “The Revenant” got the Directors Guild award, which has been the best predictor in recent years – but “The Big Short” triumphed with the Producers Guild, who use the same preferential ballot voting system as the Oscars. Does that mean anything? Nothing? Any way you slice it, some kind of precedent is going to get broken, so you might as well go with your gut. And my gut feels kind of grumbly and unhappy this year.

Will win: “The Revenant”

Could win: “The Big Short”

Should’ve been here: “Son of Saul,” “45 Years,” “Carol”

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