Friday, August 14, 2015

First Oscar Predictions for 2015!

With Straight Outta Compton and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. hitting theaters this weekend, the summer movie season has pretty much come to a close. And if you're familiar with the traditional seasonal movie calendar, you know that means Oscar season is coming up next. The Venice, Telluride and Toronto International Film Festivals are fast approaching and the movie business is primed and ready for a full six months of predictions, awards and great films. There have been a few Oscar-worthy films to debut in theaters already, but they've been few and far between this year. So with that said, here are my Oscar predictions for the main categories of Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Actress. Check out my predictions and analysis below.

BEST PICTURE

The Front-Runners

1. The Revenant
2. Joy
3. Bridge of Spies
4. Inside Out
5. Steve Jobs
6. Black Mass
7. The Hateful Eight
8. In the Heart of the Sea
9. The Danish Girl
10. Carol

The Second Wave

11. Mad Max: Fury Road
12. The Martian
13. The Walk
14. Brooklyn
15. Trumbo
16. Suffragette
17. The End of the Tour
18. Snowden
19. By the Sea
20. Burnt

The Longshots

21. Sicario
22. Pawn Sacrifice
23. Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens
24. Concussion
25. Youth
26. I Saw the Light
27. The Secret in Their Eyes
28. Legend
29. The 33
30. Our Brand is Crisis
31. Ex Machina
32. Beasts of No Nation
33. Spectre
34. Creed
35. Stonewall
36. Everest
37. The Good Dinosaur
38. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
39. Ricki and the Flash

As you can probably tell from this list, there are a lot of films in 2015 that have a chance to contend for a Best Picture berth. I separated the three into basic categories of front-runners, second wave and longshots just to give an idea of where I think that most of these films stand.

The longshots are films that will need some serious buzz to crack the final eight. Films like Sicario, Beasts of No Nation, Stonewall and Legend seem too indie or difficult for the Academy to crack. Ex Machina was buzzy, but it won't have the staying power of some of the best films of the year so far. The 33 and Concussion sound like Oscar films that will try way too hard and will end up failing. Other films listed in the longshot category include big populist films like Star Wars and Spectre. Of all of the films on this list, Star Wars and Creed are the films with the best shot to move into the top ten. With a mix of voter nostalgia and (hopefully) quality, these films might have a chance (I Saw the Light and Pawn Sacrifice could be big as well).

Moving up to the next tier of films, for me, The Walk and The Martian are the two big question marks. Both are special effects driven films from beloved directors, and they're both playing at festivals. Whether they'll be any good or even Oscar-worthy is another story, but I have a feeling that they could creep into the top ten. Suffragette, Trumbo, The End of the Tour and Brooklyn are very Oscar-y films that could fly to the top if they play well. And I was very intrigued by the trailer for Burnt, which could be another great showcase for Bradley Cooper. Finally, we have Mad Max: Fury Road, seemingly everyone's favorite film of the year. Whether it'll be an Oscar contender is up for grabs, but as of now, it's up there.

Now we're onto the top ten, which features an incredibly competitive lineup of films. Carol received rave reviews at Cannes and will likely be a big favorite with voters. The Danish Girl has a popular star and an acclaimed director, as well as a very topical subject that could prove to be a major talking point this fall. And I can't imagine that In the Heart of the Sea moved to December just to open one week before Star Wars.

The Hateful Eight will prove to be another successful Tarantino entry, Steve Jobs will play to the same crowd that loved Moneyball and The Social Network, Inside Out will bring Pixar back into the Oscar race and Black Mass will be playing at every festival under the sun, which is hopefully a good sign. My top 3 are Bridge of Spies, Joy and The Revenant. Bridge of Spies is Steven Spielberg's first film in three years, and it looks like another good one. It plays into the Academy wheelhouse and it's playing as the centerpiece at the New York Film Festival, which is a good move. Joy is David O. Russell's follow-up to three Academy Award-nominated films and Joy looks like another masterpiece. And finally, I have The Revenant at my number one spot. The troubled production is slowly becoming the stuff of legend, but that trailer, and the fact that Alejandro G. Inarritu recently won for Birdman makes this DiCaprio vehicle an early favorite.

BEST ACTOR

1. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
2. Johnny Depp, Black Mass
3. Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
4. Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
5. Jason Segel, The End of the Tour

DiCaprio and Depp. Two of the most famous actors on the planet. And neither has won an Oscar. In my humble opinion, this is a dogfight between DiCaprio and Depp until the finish. Both seem to have delivered impressive performances and there's definitely a sense that both are deserving of an award. Eddie Redmayne is starring in the most Oscar-y role, but he just won last year and I don't think anybody can stomach seeing him win two years in a row. Fassbender has a chance, yet there have been some concerns about how well he's channeling Steve Jobs. To conclude things, Jason Segel could sneak in for his well-received portrayal of David Foster Wallace. Once again, this is a very crowded field and we could see a wide range of actors sneak in.

BEST ACTRESS

1. Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
2. Cate Blanchett, Carol
3. Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
4. Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
5. Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road

The Best Actress category is relatively weak this year, and the two favorites are actresses who won awards very recently. Jennifer Lawrence and Cate Blanchett won in 2013 and 2014, respectively, but they're both back in it this year. Blanchett was highly praised for her performance in Carol and Lawrence looks terrific in Joy. Both have a good shot, but don't underestimate some of the other contenders in this category. Although Saoirse Ronan is young, I can see her getting some love for what looks like a complicated role. Charlize Theron has a chance for her heavily lauded work in the critical darling, Mad Max: Fury Road, but it's truly Alicia Vikander that we need to look out for. She's had a terrific year and The Danish Girl could be a big role for her. That being said, Lawrence and Blanchett will be the favorites going into the year.

BEST DIRECTOR

1. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant
2. Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies
3. David O. Russell, Joy
4. Scott Cooper, Black Mass
5. George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Although Inarritu won last year for Birdman, the pure filmmaking charms behind The Revenant should shoot him straight to the top of most prognosticator lists. Perennial favorites Spielberg and O. Russell should follow closely behind, while some outside favorites could sneak into the final category. Scott Cooper's chances at a nomination will be dependent on the early reception for Black Mass, but I'm betting that this film will be the big hit at the fall festivals. And to round things out, I have George Miller for his fantastic work on Mad Max. There seems to be a general sentiment that this film will be snubbed at the Academy, but Miller has never been honored and this is the time for him to get his due.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

1. Bradley Cooper, Joy
2. Tom Hardy, The Revenant
3. Seth Rogen, Steve Jobs
4. Harvey Keitel, Youth
5. Joel Edgerton, Black Mass

The Supporting Actor category is another tough one, but after years of fantastic performances, I can see Bradley Cooper finally getting his due here for his performance in Joy. Tom Hardy has a shot for his gritty turn in The Revenant and it's likely that Seth Rogen will pull a Jonah Hill and snag a nomination for Steve Jobs. The final two spots are up for grabs, but I can see Harvey Keitel getting another nomination for Youth, as well as Joel Edgerton, for what looks like a very critical part in Black Mass.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

1. Rooney Mara, Carol
2. Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
3. Meryl Streep, Suffragette
4. Shailene Woodley, Snowden
5. Helen Mirren, Trumbo

Rooney Mara trumped Cate Blanchett to win the Best Actress award at Cannes, and I can see her playing the field in that category. But as of now, most people seem to have her in Supporting Actress so I have her as the favorite here. Kate Winslet should have a decent shot for her role in Steve Jobs and if Mara goes into the lead category, Winslet will be the clear front-runner. Meryl Streep gets nominated for everything, so a nomination for Suffragette is nearly a no-brainer. Shailene Woodley has turned in consistently solid work, and with Snowden playing directly to many branches of the Oscar crowd, I can see her getting a nod. And finally, I have a feeling that Trumbo will get some love in many corners of the Academy, and with a competitive Best Actor field, I have a feeling that Helen Mirren might be the film's best shot.

Well, those are just my preliminary Oscar picks. It's a crowded field and it's already tough to predict where this race is headed. I'll be back after the Venice and Telluride Film Festivals with a report on the status of the race after more of the major players premiere.

Image Credits: Movie Pilot, IFC, Newsday, Hitfix, Telegraph, Indiewire

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