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The Oscar goes to Creed
And other things you won’t be hearing at the Oscars on Sunday

02/25/16
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



Actually, you will likely hear “Creed” and “the Oscar goes to” together in the context of Sylvester Stallone at the Academy Awards this Sunday, Feb. 28, on ABC. 

Even though Rocky was a supporting character in this latest Rocky movie and Stallone neither wrote nor directed the reboot of his underdog-cheering franchise, he’s likely to be the guy walking away with the statue for the movie. He is one of this year’s “it’s his time” nominees and, disappointingly, he is the only person/part of the movie nominated.
This year’s Oscars have been most commented on for who and what isn’t nominated — and I agree, it is way easier to grump about what isn’t here than to be delighted at what is. This was a solid B year for prestige dramas with more to really cheer for in the mainstream comedy/action/sci-fi categories that seldom receive any Oscar respect.
But you go to the Oscars with the movies that were nominated, not the fantasy collection of comedies, small movies and action fare that would get mixed in with the serious movies if this were called the Amy Academy Awards. So, with some grousing about the folks that should be on this list and a lot of guessing (with help from Internet prediction sites, including GoldDerby.com and EW.com), here are my predictions, likely to be about 60 percent accurate if previous years’ trends hold, as to who will win as well as my picks for who should win. See how right — or wrong — I am on Sunday, Feb. 28, at 8:30 p.m. (red carpet coverage starts at 7 p.m.) when ABC broadcasts the 88th Annual Academy Awards. 
 
• Best picture
Nominees: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight.
Who should win: Spotlight. I’m totally biased when it comes to this movie — it is so spot-on about working at newspapers in 2001 that I started to worry I was missing a deadline. But it is also a really solid movie telling a well-constructed, well-paced story filled with people turning in really great performances. It is the least showy of the movies in this category that I’ve seen (I haven’t seen Brooklyn or Room) but it is also the most finely crafted. This movie’s chances seemed better closer to Christmas, but Gold Derby still has it listed in third place.
Who will win: The Revenant. The more I think about this movie and its indulgent two-hour-and-36-minute length, the less I like it. But it features some very lovely cinematography and it has scooped up enough of the season’s awards (including the Golden Globe for best drama) that its late-in-the-year high seems likely to continue.
Dark horse: The Big Short. I feel like this movie seems to be gaining favor in the past month or so (it has the No. 2 spot in Gold Derby’s list) and EW picked the movie to win. If something that isn’t Spotlight is going to win, I’m OK with it being The Big Short, a movie that conveys complicated financial information as well as very pointed anger with humor and energy.
Shoulda been a contender: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Creed and Spy. Creed and Star Wars: The Force Awakens are two different but strong examples of expanding storytelling beyond a well-known franchise and bringing not just new life but new depth. Spy was simply a hilarious movie. Why even allow for 10 movies if a few of them can’t have different tones and be from different genres? While I generally applaud the inclusion of Fury Road in this list, one non-prestige-drama occasionally is not enough. (Which, of course, could be said about all different kinds of much-needed diversity in award season.)
 
• Best director
Nominees: Adam McKay for The Big Short; George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road; Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu for The Revenant; Lenny Abrahamson for Room; Tom McCarthy for Spotlight.
Who should win: Adam McKay. The Big Short pulls together a lot of different kinds of elements — broad humor, such as in the celebrity cameos; dark humor; genuine anger — and makes them work together in a movie that has a bazillion actors, many of whom never interact. McKay keeps the movie going, makes it feel like one complete work and adds life to a subject that could have been bleak or boring.  
Who will win: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu. Occasionally (2013 with Ang Lee winning for Life of Pi but Argo taking the big prize; 2014 with Alfonso Cuaron winning for Gravity but 12 Years a Slave taking best picture) the directing award goes to a different movie than the best picture award but it still seems most likely that if The Revenant wins, Iñarritu wins.
Dark horse: George Miller. If voters just can’t bring themselves to vote for Fury Road as best picture but still want to give it a big prize, this might be the spot. 
Shoulda been a contender: Ryan Coogler for Creed. It was a good movie, it was a fun movie, it was a Rocky movie but also not just a Rocky movie and it was at least as good at Fury Road, I’d argue better than The Revenant. Also, just because Steven Spielberg engaged in old-fashioned movie-making with Bridge of Spies doesn’t mean it wasn’t really good old-fashioned movie-making.
 
• Best cinematography
Nominees: Carol, The Hateful Eight, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Sicario.
Who should win: Mad Max: Fury Road. I felt this movie was rather thin — drive the truck this way, turn around and go that way — but it was beautiful to look at. 
Who will win: The Revenant. This movie is, like, 95 percent its cinematography. This is the most justified of its big awards.
Dark horse: The Hateful Eight. Another slow trek through someone’s over-indulged vision, Quentin Tarantino’s latest is nonetheless very pretty.
Shoulda been a contender: The Martian. Because it made Mars look exciting, bleak and real.
 
• Best actress
Nominees: Cate Blanchett for Carol, Brie Larson for Room, Jennifer Lawrence for Joy, Charlotte Rampling for 45 Years, Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn.
Who should win: Jennifer Lawrence. I only saw two of the movies in this category — Joy and Carol — and of those I give it to Lawrence. Her beleaguered mom feels far more natural than Blanchett’s umpteenth Lady Movie Star Circa 1950-something performance. 
Who will win: Brie Larson. The Internet has this as an absolute lock. While I haven’t seen the movie yet, it does sound like the performance that required the most heavy lifting.
Dark horse: Cate Blanchett. Movie people like movie stars. 
Shoulda been a contender: Emily Blunt for Sicario. Granted, I haven’t seen three of these performances, but Blunt in Sicario is definitely better than Blanchett in Carol, so how is she not here? And I know actual funny comedies are beneath Academy notice so I won’t even say anything about Melissa McCarthy. 
 
• Best actor
Nominees: Bryan Cranston for Trumbo, Matt Damon for The Martian, Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant, Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs; Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl.
Who should win: Matt Damon. Of the three movies I saw (The Martian, The Revenant and Steve Jobs) I don’t know that any lead performance blew me away, but I’d give it to Damon on the basis that so much of that movie was on his shoulders and his character was an enjoyable person with whom to spend so much time. 
Who will win: Leonardo DiCaprio. For whatever reason, the universe has decided this is Leo’s year.
Dark horse: Eddie Redmayne. To pick someone at random.
Shoulda been a contender: Michael B. Jordan for Creed. Seriously, Oscar, why no Jordan? His performance helped to turn what could have been a franchise-extending cash grab into a story that wins on its own merits.
 
• Best supporting actress
Nominees: Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight; Rooney Mara in Carol; Rachel McAdams in Spotlight; Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl; Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs
Who should win: Rachel McAdams.
Who will win: Alicia Vikander. She was everywhere last year. Internet predictions seem to agree that she has momentum.
Dark horse: Kate Winslet. You know how, like, Meryl Streep is pretty much nominated any time it’s even remotely justified? I kind of feel like that’s the direction Winslet is going. 
Shoulda been a contender: Tessa Thompson for Creed. She elevates her character beyond “girlfriend.” I would also accept any woman in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 and Cate Blanchett in Cinderella.
 
• Best supporting actor
Nominees: Christian Bale in The Big Short; Tom Hardy in The Revenant; Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight; Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies; Sylvester Stallone in Creed.
Who should win: Stallone. Whatever you might think of the objective quality of Rocky movies or Stallone’s performances in general it is impossible not to be charmed by him in Creed. Only Mark Rylance truly deserves the award more in this category and I’ll bet even he would give it to Stallone.
Who will win: da, da dadada da da, dum dum; da, da dadada da da dum dum, da dadada da da da da, DUMMMM DUMMMM ... duh na NAAA, duh na NAAAA... 
Dark horse: Mark Rylance. Because he is a million kinds of awesome including in this way: His acceptance speeches are often just recitations of poems. 
Shoulda been a contender: Benicio Del Toro in Sicario. Michael Peña in Ant-Man. Their films are polar opposites but both performances add something necessary. It would also be perfectly acceptable to throw a dart at a set of cast photos of the men in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2, Spotlight and The Big Short and it’s likely that whomever you landed on would be a decent candidate.
 
• Best screenplay, original
Nominees: Bridge of Spies, Ex Machina, Inside Out, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton.
Who should win: Inside Out. This movie gets so much right — about childhood (both as a kid and as a parent seeing it again) and change and the way we deal with emotions and is so full of fabulous Pixar details.
Who will win: Spotlight. And if that happens it almost definitely won’t win best picture but maybe this will be the category for it to get a little Oscar love.
Dark horse: Straight Outta Compton. Here’s a bracing bit of information: Straight Outta Compton opens in 1986, 30 years ago. This movie is about the music of the childhood/teen years/young adulthood of not just Gen-Xers but older millennials. That’s right, Straight Outta Compton has nostalgia on its side. Feel old yet?
Shoulda been a contender: Spy. Could we give comedy a little love here?
 
• Best screenplay, adapted
Nominees: The Big Short, Brooklyn, Carol, The Martian, Room.
Who should win: The Martian. Of the three I saw, I’d give the nod to this space adventure in large part because of how fun and cool and exciting it made math and science, even when it consisted of just people in a room talking. 
Who will win: The Big Short. Same principle as Spotlight — this might be a bit of a consolation prize if The Revenant is indeed going to walk away with the big award.
Dark horse: Room. On Gold Derby, the No. 2 slot seems to go to Room a fair amount, which suggests that this is another movie that could get this in lieu of best picture.
Shoulda been a contender: I assume this is where Creed and Star Wars: The Force Awakens would go.
 
• Best animated movie
Nominees: Anomalisa, Boy and the World, Inside out, Shaun the Sheep Movie, When Marnie Was There.
Who should win: Inside Out. Yes, I cried. Shut up, so did you. And, yes, this is the only one of the animated movies I saw but I think we can agree it’s the only one you really need to see (though my general love of Aardman Animations will probably lead me to check out Shaun the Sheep Movie eventually).
Who will win: Inside Out. Pixar isn’t always a sure thing (its other movie this year, The Good Dinosaur, proves that) but when it lands a punch it’s a knock-out.
Dark horse: Anomalisa. This stop-motion animated movie from Charlie Kaufman is doing a thing — which is unlikely to push it in front of Inside Out but...
Shoulda been a contender: The Peanuts Movie. This movie shocked me with how gentle and charming and true to the spirit of Charlie Brown and the gang it was. 

 






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