Warning: if you’re placing your Academy Award bets by any chance, don’t use these as your guide. Most of them are my polite wishes and hopes, so don’t take it as if I actually was good at predicting the Oscar winners in 2016. Plus, I’m still looking forward to seeing Spotlight and The Big Short when it’s released in the UK, so, well, it might change. And these stand against what everybody says, because, duh. But if you missed out on something, it might help you to catch up, if we connect on the spiritual level of the same film taste. Just saying.
Plus, the list below is more than unobjective. Just a personal preference of a person who’s seen outrageously high number of films this year. *coughs* A feuilleton. Just a film feuilleton.
Best Picture – Bridge of Spies
If you know me, you may think I’m too interested in spy stories and history (Cold War especially) to be objective: Bond, then Leo Demidov from Child 44, Mission: Impossible of course, Spy and The Man From U.N.C.L.E on the light side and… Wait, I love crazy journalist investigations too, so I’m looking forward to Spotlight release, after all, Room was devastating, and I was deeply moved by Brooklyn as an immigrant. The Revenant was decent, I think, with its celebration of pain. As much as these films would definitely make my list of the best films of the previous year, I didn’t get such a strong thrill watching any of those (if you don’t count weeping for half of Brooklyn, but more about this below) in comparison to the one that shook, stirred and pushed me back into the seat: Bridge of Spies. The story of a lawyer who gets the task to defend a USSR spy and grows to the role of an “independent diplomat” kept me watching, guessing and anticipating. Tom Hanks’s Donovan is cheeky, witty and makes the most unexpected choices. All hail Spielberg, I was enamoured by this flick.
Leading Actor – Matt Damon, The Martian
I know, the man who has been waiting for this prize seems to have no real competitors this year, plus he ate raw liver on the set of The Revenant (yummy, no?), so who will hold him back?! Well, give Leonardo DiCaprio a general prize for the 25 years in the industry, for I don’t think he cares about Oscars anymore; he doesn’t need to as everybody is convinced about his excellence anyway, and he probably booked himself a massage after the award after-party like his fellow Titanic colleague did before Golden Globes. I adored Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs, where he presented the main character as an unstable visionary because it was inspirational; what’s more, portraying a real person accurately always takes great skills, a lot of imagination, and careful research. Redmayne’s got one, and to be honest, his role in The Danish Girl was outshone by somebody else. Matt Damon has one already, too, but he managed to grasp that funny and determined guy stuck on Mars, and even the lengthy picture didn’t feel tiring to watch with mostly one person on the screen. Performing a monologue and acting without interacting is challenging – Oscar for Damon, please!
Leading Actress – Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Nominated leading ladies didn’t make the choice any easier: each one of them delivered a remarkable performance. Cate Blanchett has a leading actress Oscar for Blue Jasmine, and she excels in bringing eccentric ladies to life on the screen, but did she top her previous award-winning role? Seriously, I think that should be the rule. Then we’ve got Jennifer Lawrence, who played the inventor and entrepreneur Joy; but the rule above shall apply (as much as I adored her strength to inspire and praised her in my Joy review). Brie Larson gave me goosebumps when I went through the story of her character in Room, so she takes the second place in this category, but again, there was a good young competitor alongside her – Jacob Tremblay will get his own Academy Award one day. Let me tell you: that Irish girl crafted by Miss Ronan made me weep for about 70 percent of the projection time. I cried when she cried for being homesick, when she couldn’t utter a word in the shop she was working in, and when she gave a final motto to another girl setting off for America. If you can create a character that is so strongly relatable, you’re winning an Oscar and unlimited free cake. Dear Saoirse Ronan, I hope you get that award, girl.
Supporting Actor – Tom Hardy, The Revenant
As much as Sylvester Stallone is likely to get the award for his new Rocky spin-off, let me cast my own nomination. Tom Hardy seems to have a preference for these crooked violent guys this year, in Legend and London Road a few months ago, and with the exception of utterly human Max from Fury Road. He makes such a believable asshole that you just sit in the cinema and try to fight your inner anger towards the antagonist. Maaan, I never thought I’m gonna need anger management skills in the cinema…
Supporting Actress – Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
I loved Kate Winslet playing a Polish marketing executive (she was trying to do the accent, which was cute and amusing at the same time) who kept Steve Jobs together. Rooney Mara in Carol was delightful, and her ability to express innocence and naivety was superb. However, let’s talk about the girl who can transform and make a bigger impact than a lead character. Alicia Vikander started the year with excellent Ex Machina and the creation of a robot who learned how to manipulate human feelings. Then, in the summer, her British spy girl in The Man From U.N.C.L.E amused and enchanted, sporting ultimately awesome outfits too, but that’s a topic for another discussion. Finally, she topped it with The Danish Girl – and the lady who encourages the creation of her partner’s new incarnation as a joke to suffer profoundly later and support him through his transgender journey ultimately proved her talent. This girl’s acting skills are exquisite, so she deserves to be pulled out of the “underrated” category.
Cinematography – The Revenant
I haven’t seen such a gory film in ages – yet what really caught me and became my main point after leaving the cinema was that such an ugly topic was so beautifully shot. Nature is captured with attention to detail, and that allows for showing its importance in the storytelling. Also, the daylight through the tree branches, the afternoon on the snow – in one on the interviews, Innaritu revealed that they used just the natural light. And it’s a delight for the eye. Even such warm colours and vintage feeling from non-digitally shot Carol, my second runner-up, lost by a tiny bit.
Costume Design – The Danish Girl, or Carol (this is the point where I can’t decide)
There are a few strong competitors here. Cinderella was sweet and enchanting with a baby blue dress and crystal heels, too, or the costumes for Blanchett – and makes the second nomination after Carol for Sara Powell this year. Carol was absolutely stunning in terms of clothing choice (Powell’s choices seem to work for Cate – the actress always looks like a style icon, it seems), and it did have its importance in the story – well, if it wasn’t for these gloves, nothing would have happened. Mad Max was creative, fiddling with imagination, inventing the surreal landscapes and creatures – these warriors in weird masks especially – but I need to ask for recognition for The Danish Girl. Period-accurate, and nota bene essential for the entire “personality” and “gender” storytelling, it recreated the Dutch bohemia and served as an expression device, too. If I could make two movies win, and I can, because I’m not the American Academy and I can imagine I can reward literally anybody, that would be The Dutch Girl and Carol.
Documentary Feature – Amy
Okay, I will make the exception from the “I’m not sure or haven’t seen the most of the nominated films in the category” statement here. I saw just two of the nominated documentaries, so I can’t be fully helpful in terms of comparison, but I think Amy absolutely deserves an Oscar. The unknown facts and footage shown to the world for the first time unleashed the environment that had such an impact on the vulnerable artist, and the lack of right people in right places which contributed to the loss of a talent who semi-voluntarily dragged herself to the bottom.
Sound Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road
As much as I omitted any other sound and music-related category, I need to come back to this one. After watching Mad Max: Fury Road back in May I was awed with the storytelling medium, both visual (so the composition of acting, filming, effects) and completed with sounds and music. Without uttering much verbally, especially within the first minutes of the film, the story didn’t lose a bit of its richness. The beginning of the film carried little dialogue and much more of body language and exceptional sound design, so I hope to see an Oscar winner for those who worked on this remake. Star Wars comes just after, with its sound design, with all the robotic beeps (I have a strong admiration for BB-8, don’t judge) and ear-shattering explosions polished to bits, as always.
Writing: Adapted Screenplay: Brooklyn by Nick Hornby
I read (some) of those books. I watched the films. The Martian did pick up on the most important and cinematic moments, so it’s definitely award-worthy. Room is a shattering story, and drills in your mind just by suggesting the idea of the freaky Fritzl (although everybody related either to the book or the motion picture say that it’s a comparison that is far too strong). Nevertheless, I need to see that an accurate adaptation of such a positive emigration story, crafted with the cheerful vibe and uplifting motto, deserves an Oscar for a screenplay.
Writing: Original Screenplay: Ex-Machina by Alex Garland
I praised Inside Out for entwined storytelling on two levels earlier this year, but I really hope it gets the general award for Best Animated Feature Film. Bridge of Spies is my second runner-up: as I said before, the twists in the story, strong lead character and his reactions create something truly electrifying. But when I saw Ex-Machina among the nominations, I knew it had to be my Oscar bet. It was love from the first scene, that story: the experiment on developing artificial intelligence gone wrong, the thoughts on machines and feelings and future predictions. Yeah, it does make you think that the humanity is doomed and people do not think the consequences of their inventions over thoroughly, but it makes for an engaging story which you follow with a handful of options for the finish, and what happens at the end will surprise you anyway.