(*homocinematically inclined)

Friday, February 26, 2016

Men on Film: If We Picked the Oscars 2015

Olly Gibbs


Borrowing a page from Siskel and Ebert back in the good ol' days, Movie Dearest's very own Men on Film — Chris Carpenter and Kirby Holt — are presenting our own version of "If We Picked the Oscars". These aren't predictions, but what movies, actors, directors, et al that we would vote for if we were members of the Academy. We're also chiming in with our picks for the "egregiously overlooked" non-nominees as well as the "Worst Nominations of the Year" So without further ado, the envelope please...

The nominees for Best Picture are: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room and Spotlight
And our winners would be:
CC: The year's finest film is also its most painful, and I'm not referring to a scene of Leonardo DiCaprio being mauled by a bear.  Spotlight distills the decades-long cover up of Catholic priests abusing children into a succinct, intense, educational and ultimately inspirational two hours.  I'm hopeful the Academy will agree that the Best Picture of 2015 deals with the most important, still potent subject of any of its fellow nominees.
KH: No other film stuck with ma as much as the visceral, heartbreaking Room.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Carol is one of the best, most positive LGBT studio films to date, so of course the Academy proved it isn't far enough along to have nominated it.  #Oscarssostraight 
KH: Where do I start? Steve Jobs, Carol, Ex Machina...

For their final voting, Academy members are asked to rank the Best Picture nominees from #1 to #8, so here are our rankings:
CC: 1) Spotlight, 2) The Big Short, 3) Brooklyn, 4) Room, 5) The Revenant, 6) Mad Max: Fury Road, 7) The Martian. (I haven't yet seen Bridge of Spies).
KH: 1) Room, 2) Spotlight, 3) Mad Max: Fury Road, 4) The Martian, 5) The Big Short, 6) Brooklyn, 7) Bridge of Spies, 8) The Revenant.

The nominees for Best Actor are: Bryan Cranston in Trumbo, Matt Damon in The Martian, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs and Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl
And our winners would be:
CC: This is a deservedly strong bunch of nominees, and I agree pre-determined winner DiCaprio is long overdue.  That being said and as much as I enjoyed Cranston's performance, I would vote for Eddie Redmayne.  His subtle, exquisite turn as real-life transgender pioneer Lili Elbe impressed me even more than his Oscar-winning triumph last year as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.  It would be cool to anoint the similarly versatile Redmayne as the first back- to-back Best Actor winner since Tom Hanks in the early 1990's too.
KHMichael Fassbender, for making an unlikable protagonist into a nevertheless fascinating subject in Steve Jobs.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Veteran actress Charlotte Rampling is deservedly nominated for 45 Years, but Tom Courtenay was equally effective and deserving as her conflicted husband in the otherwise so-so domestic melodrama. 
KH: From both ends of the age spectrum: Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes and Jacob Tremblay in Room.

The nominees for Best Actress are: Cate Blanchett in Carol, Brie Larson in Room, Jennifer Lawrence in Joy, Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years and Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn
And our winners would be:
CC: Likely winner Larson is excellent in the harrowing Room, but her role is also so well written that I can't help but think any number of younger actresses would have been equally good in it. Saoirse Ronan was more of a revelation for me, and there aren't many young actresses I can think of who could have so convincingly, delicately played her homesick yet America(n)-loving Irish immigrant.
KH: A tough call, I could go with four out of five of these women and be happy... and right. But when push comes to shove: Brie Larson, a true revelation as Room's "Ma".
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: LGBT fave Lily Tomlin had a great year, and her dramedic performance as the title character in Paul Weitz's Grandma was the cherry on top of her cake, yet sadly overlooked by the Academy in favor of now-perennial nominee Lawrence.
KH: This category this year needed less "it girl" (I'm looking at you "J Law") and more "golden girls": Blythe Danner in I'll See You in My Dreams or Lily Tomlin in Grandma.

The nominees for Best Supporting Actor are: Christian Bale in The Big Short, Tom Hardy in The Revenant, Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight, Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies and Sylvester Stallone in Creed
And our winners would be:
CC: Out of an excellent ensemble, Mark Ruffalo proved to be the warm heart beating at the center of Spotlight as abuse victims' most devoted (and hunkiest) advocate.
KH: Forget Leo and that bear, The Revenant was all about Tom Hardy's immoral rascal for me.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Idris Elba is frighteningly impressive in Netflix's Beasts of No Nation, and his nomination would have brought some desperately needed diversity to this year's competition.
KH: Megalomania never looked so good: Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation and Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina.

The nominees for Best Supporting Actress are: Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight, Rooney Mara in Carol, Rachel McAdams in Spotlight, Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl and Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs
And our winners would be:
CC: Hmmm, this may be the toughest category for me this year (and I haven't even seen The Hateful Eight).  The four nominees I have seen are all exquisite but I think I would give Kate Winslet the vote for playing a character both so unlike herself and so unlike any character she has previously played.
KH: Alicia Vikander, not just for her earthy passion in Danish Girl, but also for her cold automaton in Ex Machina.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: It would have been sadly too bold a move this year for the Academy to nominate an actress who is both black and transgender, but either Kitana Kiki Rodriguez or Mya Taylor are deserving for the spicy, gritty Tangerine.
KH: I was very impressed with usual-funny ladies Elizabeth Banks' and Kristen Wiig's dramatic turns in, respectively, Love & Mercy and The Diary of a Teenage Girl.

The nominees for Best Director are: Lenny Abrahamson for Room, Alejandro G. Iñárritu for The Revenant, Adam McKay for The Big Short, Tom McCarthy for Spotlight and George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road
And our winners would be:
CC: I think this is one of the few batch of nominees ever where I would vote for a sentimental but deserved favorite (and I think Academy voters will do the same): George Miller. His first nomination in this category caps an incredible career that has included Lorenzo's Oil and Babe in addition to his post-apocalyptic oeuvre.
KH: The subtle, intimate work of Lenny Abrahamson in Room gets my vote over the big casts/epic spectacle of the other nominees.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Previous Oscar winner Tom Hooper handled the tricky subject of transgender identity sensitively and skillfully in The Danish Girl. The film is visually ravishing to boot. Hooper definitely should have been nominated over Abrahamson.
KH: Ridley Scott really should be in this mix for The Martian, his most crowd-pleasing work, as well as Danny Boyle for the brilliant Steve Jobs.

The nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay are: The Big Short, Brooklyn, Carol, Room and The Martian
And our winners would be:
CC: The Big Short is a shrewd, unexpectedly entertaining and intelligible saga about the tragic housing market collapse.
KH: With Emma Donoghue's transfer of her novel to the screen, it's four for four for Room from me.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Mr. Holmes, Bill Condon's crafty rumination on the fictional detective adapted from Mitch Cullin's novel, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. How did this fine, Sundance-acclaimed indie get completely shut out of the Oscar nominations?
KH: I'm not usually an Aaron Sorkin fan, but his three-act structure for Steve Jobs was genius. I also loved the teen indies Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and The Diary of a Teenage Girl.

The nominees for Best Original Screenplay are: Bridge of Spies, Ex Machina, Inside Out, Spotlight and Straight Outta Compton
And our winners would be:
CC: As strong as Spotlight's true story and screenplay are, Inside Out was more genuinely touching.
KH: Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer's Spotlight was simply the best written film of the year.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Amy Schumer's sour yet sweet screenplay for Trainwreck.
KH: Goodnight Mommy and It Follows used classic horror movie tropes in fresh ways, creating the two scariest movies of 2015.

The nominees for Best Cinematography are: Carol, The Hateful Eight, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant and Sicario
And our winners would be:
CC: I would join the likely majority and give Emmanuel Lubezki his third Oscar in a row for his visually stunning, naturalist work on The Revenant.
KH: Edward Lachman's lush lensing on Carol, the least showy (and, in some cases, show off-y) of the nominees.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: The Danish Girl
KH: Alwin H. Küchler craftily used three different film formats to create the distinct looks of the three time periods depicted in Steve Jobs.

The nominees for Best Production Design are: Bridge of Spies, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian and The Revenant
And our winners would be:
CC: The Danish Girl more often than not looked like a beautiful impressionistic painting come to life.
KH: The future never looked so (not) good as in Mad Max: Fury Road.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: The sexually-repressed period piece Carol.
KH: Room is a master class in the use of set design to complement story and character.

The nominees for Best Costume Design are: Carol, Cinderella, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant
And our winners would be:
CC: Cate Blanchett's wicked gowns alone deserve an Oscar in Disney's smart, live action Cinderella.
KH: The intricate, quirky costumes of Mad Max: Fury Road immediately, excellently clued audiences in on each character.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Jurassic World, if only for Bryce Dallas Howard's retro yet stylish but decidedly jungle-unfriendly outfits (and heels).
KH: The colorful period stylings of Brooklyn should been in this mix, especially over the rags and furs of The Revenant.

The nominees for Best Original Score are: Bridge of Spies, Carol, The Hateful Eight, Sicario and Star Wars: The Force Awakens
And our winners would be:
CC: Well, I haven't yet seen/heard The Hateful Eight and its acclaimed score by maestro Ennio Morricone and I found Carol's score a little too reminiscent of Carter Burwell's previous score for Gods and Monsters. Therefore, I would vote for octogenarian's John Williams' typically rousing Force Awakens score.
KH: The legendary Ennio Morricone returned to the genre he does best with The Hateful Eight.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Ryuichi Sakamoto's spare yet memorable score for The Revenant was the most interesting of the year, in my opinion.
KH: Howard Shore's subtle score added greatly to Spotlight.

The nominees for Best Original Song are: "Earned It" from Fifty Shades of Grey, "Manta Ray" from Racing Extinction, "Simple Song #3" from Youth, "Til It Happens to You" from The Hunting Ground and "Writings on the Wall" from Spectre
And our winners would be:
CC: In a toss up between pop stars turned theme song chanteuses Lady Gaga and Sam Smith, I would vote for Smith's unexpectedly gorgeous James Bond confessional "Writings on the Wall". However, Gaga and her never-won collaborator Diane Warren likely have the Academy's vote.
KH: Out of this quintet consisting of documentary dirges, falsetto-ed pop noise and an endless aria, I'd have to say finally give it to Diane Warren for "Til It Happens to You". (Plus, when Lady Gaga wins it will really piss off Madonna.)
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Wiz Khalifa's ubiquitous yet genuinely heartfelt "See You Again" from Furious 7.
KH: Hey music branch, how about some happy songs? Like "Feels Like Summer" from Shaun the Sheep Movie or the title song from I'll See You in My Dreams.

The nominees for Best Film Editing are: The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Spotlight and Star Wars: The Force Awakens
And our winners would be:
CC: The complex yet sassy and snappy Big Short.
KH: The editing of The Big Short helped create the comedic rhythm that made it so unique and enjoyable.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Furious 7, believe it or not.
KH: They should have made room for Room.

The nominees for Best Sound Mixing are: Bridge of Spies, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant and Star Wars: The Force Awakens
And our winners would be:
CC: The Revenant and Star Wars are pretty interchangeable for me in this category and the following.
KH: Mostly solid work here, so I'll give this one to The Martian.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: It was good to see and hear the resurrected dinosaurs of Jurassic World again.
KH: Love & Mercy let the viewer listen in on the sounds of insanity.

The nominees for Best Sound Editing are: Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Sicario and Star Wars: The Force Awakens
And our winners would be:
CC: See above.
KH: The Star Wars: The Force Awakens crew gave voice to BB-8, and that's enough for me to give them my vote.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: See above.
KH: James Bond always gives good sound effects, so Spectre.

The nominees for Best Visual Effects are: Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant and Star Wars: The Force Awakens
And our winners would be:
CC: The Force Awakens proved that old Star Wars visual magic lives on.
KH: The subtle yet eye-popping creation of Ava in Ex Machina outshines for me all the spaceships and bears and more spaceships, oh my.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: As ridiculous as Jupiter Ascending often is, its visual effects were nothing to laugh at.
KH: Ant-Man had some crazy fun effects sequences and made you mourn the fall of a (digitally-created) ant named Antony.

The nominees for Best Makeup & Hairstyling are: Mad Max: Fury Road, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared and The Revenant
And our winners would be:
CC: This is the strangest set of nominees this year.  The Revenant?
KH: Like its costumes, the wild makeup and hair designs of Mad Max: Fury Road were wildly over-the-top yet spot on for this apocalyptic adventure.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: The lovely period 'dos of both Carol and Cinderella.
KH: The team behind Mr. Holmes did beautiful age work on Ian McKellen.

The nominees for Best Animated Feature are: Anomalisa, Boy and the World, Inside Out, Shaun the Sheep Movie and When Marnie Was There
And our winners would be:
CC: I loved Shaun the Sheep but the emotional power and design mastery of Inside Out make it my winner.
KH: I'm in the minority, but I found Inside Out underwhelming, while Shaun the Sheep Movie was an absolute delight, the most effortlessly entertaining movie of the year.

The nominees for Best Foreign Language Film are: Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia), Mustang (France), Son of Saul (Hungary), Theeb (Jordan) and A War (Denmark)
And our winners would be:
CC: I'm disappointed in myself to admit I haven't yet seen the near-universally acclaimed Holocaust drama Son of Saul, so the black & white existential adventure Embrace of the Serpent gets my vote.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: François Ozon's startling The New Girlfriend.
KH: The unflinching horror of Germany's Goodnight Mommy is hauntingly unforgettable.

The nominees for Best Documentary Feature are: Amy, Cartel Land, The Look of Silence, What Happened, Miss Simone? and Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom
And our winners would be:
CC: This is another tough category of equally-worthy contenders.  I would give The Look of Silence my vote based on its important subject matter.
KH: The Look of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer's powerful, disturbing companion piece to his previously nominated, equally disturbing The Act of Killing.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Best of Enemies and Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine, two powerful gay-themed docs about critical 20th century figures.
KH: The shocking, blistering exposé that is Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief was likely too close to home for some in the Academy.

The nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject are: Body Team 12, Chau, Beyond the Lines, Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness and Last Day of Freedom
And our winners would be:
CC: Short though they may be, I'm sorry to say I haven't had time to watch any of this year's short film nominees.
KH: In a field filled with grim subjects, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (about barbaric "honor" killings in Pakistan) is the most immediate and emotionally-charged.

The nominees for Best Animated Short Film are: Bear Story, Prologue, Sanjay’s Super Team, We Can’t Live Without Cosmos and World of Tomorrow
And our winners would be:
CC: See above.
KH: The delightful, slightly deranged world of Emily² in the World of Tomorrow is easily my favorite here.

The nominees for Best Live Action Short Film are: Ave Maria, Day One, Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut), Shok and Stutterer
And our winners would be:
CC: See above.
KH: The strongest line up of contenders of all of this year's nominees, any of these would be a worthy winner. But if I could only vote for one, it would be the devastating Shok.
Egregiously Overlooked:
KH: Who knows if it was even eligible, but how about the insane and insanely entertaining 80's action homage Kung Fury?

And now for our own special category of dishonorable mention, the Worst Nomination of the Year:
CC: This year's nominees are by and large a consistently deserving bunch. I have to say though that — despite their occasional artistic and dramatic merits — The Martian, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant are all highly overrated; this is especially true of their inclusion in the Best Picture category.
KH: There's a lot of head scratchers among this year's finalist, from the bafflingly bad Original Song contenders to the excessive haul of The Revenant (at least its script was passed over), but I have to single out the knee-jerk nomination of Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress in Joy. Lawrence has increasingly worn out her welcome for me, and David O. Russell's insistence on casting her in roles she's too young for only exacerbates the problem. It's doubly frustrating that her default nod this year shut out fine performances from acting legends Blythe Danner, Lily Tomlin and Maggie Smith (The Lady in the Van), not to mention younger, newer talent like Bel Powley (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) and Karidja Toure (Girlhood). Let's hope that this year will mark the end of the Academy's blind adoration of her.

And so the final march to Oscar glory begins. Tune in to the Big Show, hosted by Chris Rock, on ABC this Sunday to see who wins, as well as which nominees are rocking the best (and worst) gowns, most attractive escorts and most heartfelt acceptance speeches.

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine, and Kirby Holt, creator and editor of Movie Dearest, The QuOD: A Who's Who of Who's Out and the Out Movie Guide.

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