Hello! Jennifer and Désirée here with our Oscar™ picks for the above-the-line awards (i.e., the “Big 6”). We’ve also included Cinematography because it’s a category we both love. Do you agree with our picks? Let us know who you think should win in the comments!
Actress in a Supporting Role
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Jennifer: The two best performances in the Best Supporting Actress category are Rooney Mara for Carol and Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl, which are both clearly leading roles, but that apparently doesn’t matter. The award will go to Alicia Vikander, who owns The Danish Girl, outshining Eddie Redmayne and showing considerable talent. I’m a big fan of Vikander; she starred in a lot of films in 2015 and made a big impact in them all despite sometimes only having a small amount of screen time. There’s a subtlety to her performance in The Danish Girl that is quite brilliant. Rooney Mara put in a great performance in Carol, with an amazing use of her eyes and facial expressions to convey emotions rather than words. The role doesn’t really have the peaks and troughs of Vikander’s and I think that will prove the difference. Rachel McAdams and Kate Winslet put in brilliant supporting work, but it’s tough to beat the impact of a lead (I’m yet to see The Hateful Eight so cannot comment on Jennifer Jason Leigh, but I’ve heard only good things about her).
Désirée: I know what you mean about leading roles, but sometimes, people will submit in categories where they think they have a better chance of winning. Although this can backfire (see: True Detective submitting in Best Drama Series for the Emmys—instead of miniseries, where it should have been—and getting trounced in the big categories by Breaking Bad), in this case, I think Vikander made the right choice and will walk away with the win. I’d prefer it went to Jennifer Jason Leigh, who was superb in The Hateful Eight as the gleefully confident villain, Daisy “The Prisoner” Domergue. She managed to make Daisy formidable without going over the top with her performance. I’d also like to see Rachel McAdams win for her role as a compassionate, dedicated reporter in Spotlight, but Vikander has the heat.
Picks: We both pick Alicia Vikander.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Jennifer: The Best Supporting Actor award should go to Jacob Tremblay for Room, but sadly he’s not even nominated. Generally, I’m not a fan of child actors, but every once in a while, a kid comes along who can really put it together. At only nine-years-old, Tremblay put in an incredible performance. As he’s not nominated, I would give the award to Michael Keaton for Spotlight…who is also not nominated. Who votes for these?!
Out of the people actually nominated, it’s between Mark Ruffalo for Spotlight and Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies. This is really the only one of the main categories that appears difficult to predict. Rylance was the best thing about Bridge of Spies, but it is an incredibly understated performance and I think that makes him easy to overlook. Mark Ruffalo is pretty much always great and Spotlight gives him another chance to shine. I give him the edge to win the trophy; the subject matter has a huge emotional impact and Spotlight handled it well. It helps Ruffalo that no one else from the ensemble is nominated in the category to split the votes. This is his third nomination and I think it will give him his first win.
Désirée: Bridge of Spies never interested me, so I can’t speak to Rylance’s work, which I hear was quite good. I absolutely loved Spotlight and The Big Short, which are my #1 and #2 best picture picks in that order. I agree with you that Keaton should have been nominated and Ruffalo is deserving, and I’d love to see him win for his impassioned-but-controlled performance, but I’d give the edge here to Christian Bale in The Big Short, who basically convinced me he was on the spectrum (and that he did have a glass eye!). Tom Hardy probably should get it for carrying The Revenant on his cowardly villain’s back—he stole the film from everyone except possibly the bear—but all signs are pointing to a win for Sylvester Stallone in Creed. Not only does he have nostalgia on his side, but his return to the role of Rocky Balboa was met with more-than-positive critical response.
Picks: Jennifer goes with Mark Ruffalo for Spotlight, while Désirée predicts Stallone knocks out the competition.
Actress in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Jennifer: Brie Larson has all but got the award sewn up. Cate Blanchett looked like she would provide stiff competition, but it has not materialised. Blanchett’s performance in Carol is exquisite, as her performances tend to be, but it is not as raw and gut-wrenching as Larson’s in Room. Brie Larson’s performance is perfectly judged, showing a range of emotions in a film focussing on an extremely tough subject matter. She has amazing chemistry with Jacob Tremblay; they combine to give some surprisingly uplifting moments. Larson has won a lot of awards so far this year and this will no doubt be another to add to the pile.
The quality of the female performances this year has been incredible; last year there was a lot of talk about how average the female nominees were, with only Julianne Moore really shining, but that is definitely not the case this year. Roles have been reversed with women nabbing the best parts and there being a lack of amazing roles for men. Saoirse Ronan deserves a mention for her beautiful performance in Brooklyn; she’s a future Oscar winner for sure.
Désirée: I don’t have much to add here, as I didn’t see any of these films, but I do pay attention to the awards circuit and I agree that Larson should win. I liked her breezy Max in last year’s indie picture, Digging For Fire, and she’s definitely been an actress to watch. Saoirse Ronan’s been getting some love for Brooklyn, and there’s been some recent chatter she may pull off an upset. Given that Charlotte Rampling all but took herself out of the running with her ill-informed remarks about the diversity problem in Hollywood (the kind of thing that shouldn’t affect judgement of her performance, but does), and that neither Blanchett nor Jennifer Lawrence have been in the conversation since they got nominated, Larson’s a lock.
Picks: We both pick Brie Larson.
Actor in a Leading role
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Jennifer: The Best Actor will finally go to Leonardo DiCaprio. His performance in The Revenant is not his best, but he did put his body through a lot to make the film and Oscar™ voters love that. It also helps that he has very little competition. DiCaprio is an incredible actor and he has been unlucky not to win an Oscar before. It is long overdue and will hopefully be the first of many. Matt Damon is probably in the runner-up position with his performance in The Martian. It’s a good performance in a solid movie, but it’s not the sort of movie that voters tend to go for. Last year’s winner Eddie Redmayne was expected to be a serious contender for his portrayal of Einar Wegener in The Danish Girl. The movie follows Einar’s transition into Lili; sadly, it’s not as good as it could be and Redmayne’s performance is nothing to write home about. Personally, I would have put Michael B. Jordan in there for Creed instead of Redmayne.
Désirée: Part of the problem with these nominations is that, except for The Martian, which I loved, the other four films are rather mediocre. DiCaprio is long overdue, and although I hate when the Academy hands out “make-up” awards, he should have won at least one by now for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator, The Departed, and/or The Wolf of Wall Street, so I can’t really complain. I’m a fan as well; it will be nice seeing him get the glory. However, if I had my druthers, I’d give it to Bryan Cranston in Trumbo. Cranston nailed Dalton Trumbo’s personality and mannerisms effectively and entertainingly, and he’s also well-liked in the industry, so I’m a little surprised he didn’t have more heat in this race. Damon also did a great job keeping The Martian absorbing, and while the film is not a comedy, he was damn funny in it. Unfortunately, being in a good film giving a good performance isn’t enough this year.
Picks: We both pick Leonard DiCaprio.
Adam McKay, The Big Short
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Jennifer: Best Director will go to Alejandro G. Iñárritu for The Revenant, giving him back-to-back Oscars™ following his win last year for Birdman. I absolutely loved Birdman; although I didn’t feel as strongly about The Revenant, it shows his skills as a director. Two very different films in tone, but both requiring a lot from the cast and crew; they needed a director with a strong handle on things and that is Iñárritu. I really can’t see anyone else walking away with the trophy. Lenny Abrahamson did an amazing job on Room, especially working with a young actor and getting that performance out of him. His movies—Room in particular—are very small when compared to The Revenant and although that shouldn’t matter to those voting, I think it does. Mad Max: Fury Road has got everyone excited so perhaps George Miller could win it over Iñárritu, but it’s a long shot. I wasn’t blown away by Fury Road, despite its amazing cinematography and editing. It just didn’t click with me.
Désirée: I didn’t see Room yet, so I can’t comment on Abrahamson’s direction therein, but his name hasn’t been in the conversation, so him winning would be stunning. Iñárritu’s momentum should carry him through to a win, but it bothers the hell out of me that he’s getting so much praise for his “difficult” shoot when Miller’s work on Fury Road was also complex and “difficult.” He had to orchestrate a lot of elements to pull off those action scenes, and the environments he filmed in weren’t all hospitable. I’d also give it to him over Iñárritu because everything in Fury Road works, from Furiosa’s arc down to the Doof Warrior. While I liked most of The Revenant, it was too long and the parallel plot with the Native American chief looking for his daughter added nothing to the main narrative (not to mention that it was wholly made-up; the historical Hugh Glass didn’t even have a kid), no matter how hard Iñárritu stretched for it.
While I’d love to see Miller win, I’d be just as happy with McCarthy and McKay, who both pulled off amazing feats of their own, even if their actors and crew had it cushy by not being in the snow or the desert. Yes, I’m a little bitter over this whole “It was such a hard shoot!” crap.
Picks: Jennifer picks Iñárritu. Désirée grudgingly thinks he’ll win, but prefers Miller, McCarthy, and McKay, but definitely Miller.
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
Jennifer: Room is my favourite of the nominated films but it has very little chance of winning best picture. The Revenant and Spotlight appear to be the frontrunners going by awards given out so far this year. My money is on The Revenant, which is not a perfect film but it is an exceptionally well-made film. Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Emmanuel Lubezki team up again (following last year’s winner Birdman) to make a stunning film in difficult circumstances. The decision to only shoot in natural light made it tough to film, but in doing so they have captured the beauty of the surroundings in the best possible way. To make a brutish film look so beautiful is a feat of filmmaking and it will be awarded with the top prize.
Désirée: The use of natural light is impressive, but again, it’s in service to a film that is at best mediocre (to borrow from Immortan Joe) overall. As I said above, my top two picks as best picture of the year are Spotlight and The Big Short, with the former edging out the latter based on its emotional resonance. It’s so well-done that it made editorial meetings fascinating, and I’ve been in enough of those to know they’re, at best, simply boring. Where Spotlight excels over The Revenant is in performances and tightness of plot, not to mention the catharsis it can produce (I got to my car after seeing it and started shaking because of the emotion I felt, whereas The Revenant ended and I just shrugged). Spotlight boasts a great ensemble cast, each doing top-notch work, whereas The Revenant has one outstanding performance (Hardy’s), a few good ones, and the rest not notable. Nothing’s wasted in the plot of Spotlight, whereas I could have done without the entire made-up Native American plotline in The Revenant (Glass’ story is interesting enough without making up a murdered son as his motivation).
The Big Short is another film that beats out The Revenant in performances and plot. Again, we’ve got an all-around solid cast (besides Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, and Brad Pitt all gave best supporting actor-worthy performances), and a plot that doesn’t waste time meandering around (when we cut away from the main action, it’s to clarify terms that affect our understanding of what’s going on). I’d also edge it out emotionally over The Revenant; despite the fact that I was laughing through a great deal of The Big Short, I’ve never been so angry at a group of fictional characters before.
Anyway, I’m bucking for a Spotlight win, and not just because it’s in the grand tradition of All the President’s Men in showing just how important the Fourth Estate can and should be.
Picks: Jennifer picks The Revenant; Désirée picks Spotlight.
Best Achievement in Cinematography
Ed Lachman, Carol
Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight
John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road
Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant
Roger Deakins, Sicario
Jennifer: I would love the Best Cinematography award to go to Roger Deakins for Sicario, but it’s unlikely to happen. This is Deakins’ thirteenth nomination; he has yet to win one, making DiCaprio’s 0-5 record look good. Emmanuel Lubezki will likely win his third in a row for The Revenant (his prior wins being Gravity and Birdman). Critics who have been quite negative about The Revenant point out that if you put perhaps the best living cinematographer in an incredibly beautiful place, you’re going to end up with a beautiful film. That seems pretty logical. I prefer Deakins’ work in Sicario as it is more inventive; the scene showing the protagonists going into the caves, first in silhouette against an amazing sunset, and then using night vision and infrared thermal systems when underground, works with the tense atmosphere of the film, not to mention that it looks incredible. His choice of camera angles for the rest of the movie is inventive without being off-putting by trying too hard. Don’t get me wrong; Lubezki did beautiful work, but Deakins was working with much less and still produced a striking film.
Désirée: Deakins is one of my favorite living cinematographers; that he hasn’t won an Oscar™ yet is a crime. You want to see beautiful vistas of harsh, unforgiving snow? Try Fargo (1996). He also should have won for 2012’s Skyfall, which looked magnificent. But Lubezki’s been getting all the awards love and will most likely win this year, too. I don’t know about Ed Lachman’s work in Carol, but Robert Richardson and John Seale also did great work this year. The Hateful Eight made me feel physically cold in several scenes, while Mad Max: Fury Road was a pure visual treat. Really, I’d be happy with any of them winning, but I would probably cry harder than Deakins’ family if he won this year.
Picks: We both pick Emmanuel Lubezki to win.
*Photos Courtesy of IMDB.com