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Who's going to win Oscars

By JOE OSTER/ VN FILM CRITIC
On February 23, 2016

BY JOE OSTER

VN FILM CRITIC

 

I opened last year’s Academy Awards preview with overconfident gems such as: “Oscar night is one of the more underrated gambling nights of the year.”

Or my personal favorite: “Find the quirk, bet the other favorites and that’s easy cash in your pocket.”

Funny enough, I lost a hefty sum of cold hard cash on last year’s awards ceremony.

Only a fool, like myself, would be idiotic enough to gamble on an awards show. I bet with my heart. Needless to say, I am not fit for the ruthless underworld of high-stakes gambling.

I have learned from my sins and have repented.

This year, I’m taking the favorites.

Once again, here are my hopefuls (my heart) and my predictions (my head).

 

BEST ACTRESS

For the second year in a row, this race has been locked up since mid-November. With the precursors of a Golden Globe, BAFTA Award and Screen Actors Guild Award already under her belt, Brie Larson is a lock to take home the Oscar for “Room.”

Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”) had the potential to play spoiler for her first Oscar nom at the age of 70, but her recent comments on #OscarsSoWhite being a form a reverse-racism have all but killed her chances.

Cate Blanchett (“Carol”) and Jennifer Lawerence (“Joy”) are both in the same boat, as winners in 2014 and 2013, respectively.

With assumed major contenders “Joy” and “Carol” being shut out of other major categories, these nominations are seen as merely placeholders. Lawrence, at age 24, is entering Meryl Streep territory, where she will be nominated for nearly everything she’s in.

Saoirse Ronan is seen as the clear-cut number two candidate for her portrayal of a 1950s Irish immigrant in “Brooklyn.”

The film rests solely on Ronan’s shoulders almost as much as “Room” rests on Larson’s. It’s a moving performance, but unfortunately Ronan has no major hardware to show for it, as Larson has dominated the awards circuit.

l My Heart: Saoirse Ronan

n My Head: Brie Larson, lock

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

This category is a bit trickier with no pecking order surfacing.

While there is a possibility of “Spotlight” dominating the night and propelling Rachel McAdams to victory, that still seems impossible. With a mundane performance, she’s lucky to be nominated.

Rooney Mara was nominated as a Lead Actress at the Golden Globes, and that is how most voters view her work in “Carol.” Regardless, she is an afterthought for the Academy.

It’s shaping up to be a three-dog race with Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl”) taking a slight lead over Kate Winslet (“Steve Jobs”) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (“The Hateful Eight”).

Jennifer Jason Leigh has narrative on her side. As the only female character of any significance, she took a beating on screen from her male counterparts for a majority of film’s runtime. Her victory could be seen as somewhat of a political stand, and that could play to voters.

Vikander has had an overall breakout year with “Ex Machina” and “Testament of Youth.” Her praise from those two films could leak into votes for “The Danish Girl.”

If Vikander is 1A, then Winslet is 1B.

Sporting a part-Armenian, part-Russian, part-Polish accent, Winslet goes toe-to-toe with Michael Fassbender in “Steve Jobs.” She is the only actor in the film who is not only able to withstand Fassbender’s tour-de-force, but to overcome it. They push each other to greatness.

With “Steve Jobs” being shut out of Best Adapted Screenplay, Picture and Director, the Academy only has two possibilities to reward Danny Boyle’s masterpiece, and Winslet may be the only reliable option.

l n My Heart and My Head: Kate Winslet, cautiously

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

When I look at the five nominees, I see a wide-open race.

Mark Ruffalo, like McAdams, has potential to ride the momentum in a “Spotlight”-centric night.

Tom Hardy could ride the coattails of Leo’s all-but-certain win for “The Revenant.”

Christian Bale (“The Big Short”) and Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”) are the only two of the five to receive recognition from the SAG Awards, a major Oscar indicator.

Only when I take a step back do I come to an obvious conclusion.

Sly Stallone will win this award.

With #OscarsSoWhite lingering in voters’ minds, I can see the Academy desperately attempting to honor a film directed by an African-American, such as “Creed.”

Director Ryan Coogler’s hand is so clearly present in Stallone’s performance that it is baffling that he isn’t also up for an award on Sunday. That’s not a knock on Stallone; it’s just a testament to Coogler’s mastery.

Stallone is so damn effective in “Creed.” He is subtle and somber and allows a natural progression of his classic Rocky character. Stallone’s only other Oscar nom was for the original “Rocky” in 1976.  

Winning an Oscar for a character he originally wrote 40 years prior seems a narrative too good for the Academy to pass.

l n My Heart and My Head: Sylvester Stallone, lock

 

 

BEST ACTOR

Matt Damon will not upset for his “comedic” (cough, cough) performance in “The Martian.”

Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”) will not go back-to-back for another average performance in a mediocre film.

Bryan Cranston (“Trumbo”) will not ride the waves of Walter White to victory.

This one has been over since production began on “The Revenant.”

So much has been said about Leo DiCaprio’s aggressive desire for an Oscar.

An eight-bit video game has even been circling the Internet chronicling his trials for the golden statue.

Knowing that the Academy loves to reward physicality, he pulled out all the stops and went all out while shooting “The Revenant.” He hasn’t refrained from vocalizing the physical difficulty of the shoot and production.

The film as whole could even be viewed as Leo trudging through the bitter cold and snow, seeking revenge on the Academy for not awarding him his beloved Oscar sooner.

Before the film was even released, Leo DiCaprio’s coronation began.

And this is a shame.

This award should be Michael Fassbender’s for his lively, dominating performance as Steve Jobs.

While Leo relies on physicality, Fassbender controls and destroys everyone and everything on screen with charisma, a quick tongue and ice-cold eyes. He injects “Steve Jobs” with an energy and momentum that drive the film, but he will go overlooked.

l My Heart: Michael Fassbender

n My Head: Leo DiCaprio, the lock to end all locks

 

BEST DIRECTOR

This race is more finished than one would think. Although the director award has been surprising in recent years, this should belong to Alejandro González Iñárritu (“The Revenant”). His general scope, use of all natural light and emphasis on practical effects are wonders to behold. The mere difficulty of creating this film could win him the award.

Adam McKay (“The Big Short”), Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”) and George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”) are well within striking distance, but Lenny Abrahamson is just happy to be nominated for “Room.”

McCarthy and “Spotlight” have been losing some steam, even though they were favorites in major categories for most of the season.

McKay is primarily a comedic filmmaker, which doesn’t bode well for his chances of a statue, even with “The Big Short” being expertly directed.

The Academy could view this as the final opportunity to reward George Miller, one of the more creative directors of all time who is going on 71 years old.

But Miller and “Mad Max” will likely be rewarded solely for the film’s visual effects.

Nonetheless, for the second straight year, this is Iñárritu’s.

l My Heart: Adam McKay or George Miller

n My Head: Alejandro González Iñárritu, a lock but with the key in sight

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