Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Useless Clatter...2016 Best Picture- Whys and Why Nots

As the Oscar date fast approaches, our Best Picture prediction is growing foggier by the day. Golden Globes and Guild Awards have been spread out amongst the contenders. With no single frontrunner, 2016’s Best Picture race is one of the closest in recent memory. A few weeks ago, Las Vegas released their odds for all of the nominees in the major Oscar categories. With the likes of Leo and Brie Larson dominating the awards season, it seems that most of the categories will offer few surprises. But the granddaddy of them all will be a photo finish.

Posted below are the potential winning odds for each of the eight Best Picture nominees, along with some thoughts as to why they could win and why they might not.

Spotlight 4 to 5
Why: If any film has a lead, no matter how small, Spotlight might claim it- at least according to Vegas. This delicately paced yet unnerving thriller has received nothing but praise since its release, picking up top prizes from the LA Film Critics and the Critics’ Choice. A –listers abound, Spotlight boasts an excellent ensemble cast and a wickedly tight-knit screenplay, two of the Academy’s favorite ingredients. Underdogs searching for truth against the immoralities of an this not the very reason we tell stories and go to movies?

Why Not: Said story deals with sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Accolades aside, it’s hard to predict how the conservative Academy voters will react to such abhorrent material. Also, from a purely cinematic standpoint, Spotlight does not exactly dazzle. One critic cleverly compared the movie’s simple and muted style to that of Michael Keaton’s khakis. In the celebration of filmmaking, and with such a dynamic movie like The Revenant hot on its heels, can Spotlight’s substance trump The Revenant’s style?

Notable Victories thus far: Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Critic’s Choice Awards

The Revenant 6 to 5
Why: Leading the pack with twelve total nominations, The Revenant is a powerhouse of a film. Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu’s frontier epic portrays violence and brutality with unlimited elegance and beauty. Sweeping landscapes coaxed in natural light, riveting action sequences and one heck of a bear attack, The Revenant offers, without a doubt, the most visceral cinematic experience of the year. While the film speaks to the eternal strength of the human spirit, it does the same for filmmaking. With The Revenant, Innaritu proves there is truly no limit to what we can be brought to the screen.

Why Not: Despite its relentless force, The Revenant has two Achilles heels as it vies for a victorious finish. First, not present in those twelve nominations is one for Best Screenplay. In the long history of the Oscars, only Titanic (1998) and The Sound of Music (1965) have managed to pull off a Best Picture win without a screenplay nomination.  Second, while the great John Ford managed back to back Best Directors in 1943 and 1944, not even he, or anyone else for that matter, has earned two consecutive Best Picture awards. Are we poised for Oscar history?

Notable Victories thus far: Golden Globe- Drama, Directors Guild of America

The Big Short 8 to 1
Why: Hands down the nuttiest film of the bunch, The Big Short was a splendid and refreshing comedic take on the utterly disastrous 2008 financial crisis, expertly crafted and truly hilarious. A strong screenplay that balanced foul-mouthed wit and deadpan drama (with the occasional celebrity cameo), The Big Short earns points for originality. Oscar’s top prize doesn’t go to comedies too often, but how often does a movie like this land of the ballot.

Why Not: The Academy does have its ideal suitor: a sweeping 3.5 hour drama with an ensemble and this is not it. Every once in a while, the Academy throws a curveball, but after losing out to The Martian at the Golden Globes, it appears that The Big Short just can't impress. And honestly, amid the #Oscarsowhite trend dominating this year’s lead up, a movie showcasing a bunch of white Wall Street yuppies making bank off the financial crisis might not make for good Oscar PR.

Notable Victories thus far: Producers Guild of America

The Martian 8 to 1
Why: Another critical success and box office hit, The Martian proved itself to be a serious contender by earning the Golden Globe for Best Picture- Comedy/Musical. If The Martian can pull off the upset, many would call this a tremendously progressive step by the Academy to reconnect with its fleeting younger crowd. In that case, maybe they should’ve just nominated Star Wars.

Why Not: Being a great movie is not enough. Also, The Martian has a double-whammy of being science fiction and comedy working against it. No such hybrid has yet to win. To make matters worse, without a Best Director nod for Ridley Scott, The Martian would become only the third movie ever to win Best Picture without a receiving a Best Director nomination. (Statistics usually rule.)

Notable Victories thus far: Golden Globe- Comedy/Musical

Mad Max: Fury Road 20 to 1
Why: Mad Max might be the biggest surprise this Oscar season. The post-apocalypse revival exploded onto the scene early to great critical praise. Despite the acclaim, most assumed the early release would send the movie back to irrelevancy by the time the Oscars came around. This did not happen. Alongside The Revenant, Mad Max led the way with its own twelve nominations. It is a tour de force of a film in every possible way.  

Why Not: For the same reason as The Martian, Mad Max’s sci-fi status hampers its chances. And, in those twelve nominations, one for the screenplay is not present. Despite a wonderfully chaotic hour-plus chase scene, Mad Max’s obscure plot line might be too edgy for the Academy. And with such heavy hitter like The Revenant and Spotlight, it’s really too bad.

Notable Victories thus far: National Board of Review of Motion Pictures

Bridge of Spies 30 to 1
Why: With Spielberg at the helm, his name alone carries enough command to make any film a legitimate contender come Oscar season. Adding Tom Hanks to the equation only strengthens the movie’s chances. Superbly acted and crafted to an astounding accuracy, Bridge of Spies is as delicate a war movie that’s come across in a long time. Spielberg always gives us his best when working in the war department and this movie does not disappoint.

Why Not: Even against his own war filmography (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln) Bridge of Spies falls a bit short, at times being flat and too talky. If Saving Private Ryan didn’t manage to win back in 1999, it’s hard to imagine Bridge of Spies fairing any better.

Room 40 to 1
Why: Lenny Abrahamson could’ve approached this story about mother/son captivity from a number of grieve-seeking agendas. He restrains from easy sympathy and instead delivers a marvelously touching film, one whose virtues and humanity have no bounds. While I merely liked the movie, I am a bit surprised Room has not received more consideration throughout the season. This is their kind of movie.

Why Not: Despite the acclaim, Room has yet to pick up a major Best Picture prize this season. And with such top contenders, it will no doubt be bested.

Brooklyn 50 to 1
Why: Rounding out the last of the pack is Brooklyn.  Hollywood loves a sappy melodrama done right. And Brooklyn swapped the sap for genuine feelings and heart-warming sincerity. It’s easy to see why everyone ate this film up. Once again, you'd think it would have had a better run.

Why Not: See above list

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