It’s Oscar party time, but you haven’t seen the movies. Why?
You’re busy. Carol sounded boring. And there weren’t many must-see films in 2015, except our favorite Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The problem is, you’ve got a ballot to fill out and only 5 categories feature the new Disney franchise, which you will blindly vote for regardless of Episode VII’s chances. (John Mollo won for Costume Design in 1978 for Episode IV. How cute is young Mark Hamill!)
Here’s a very unofficial Oscar voting guide based on everything we know about this year’s nominees, and having basically seen none of them. Good luck!
The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight
So The Revenant with 12 noms is favored to win the top prize because Leo and Alejandro Inarritu and some crazy scenes with bears. But Brad Pitt produced The Big Short, making the financial caper-com a contender, and people really like Spotlight because it’s an issue pic (abusive priests). The Martian was so boring, don’t even, and Brooklyn? What is that. And some others. Our pick because we actually saw it and it was fantastic: Mad Max: Fury Road. One word: kinetic! Plus Tom Hardy, grrrrr.
Actress in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett, Carol; Brie Larson, Room; Jennifer Lawrence, Joy; Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years; Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
This is a great group of women in a bunch of movies no one ever saw. Where is the nomination for Daisy Ridley, AKA Rey in Star Wars? Seriously, this girl is going places. We like Jennifer Lawrence in everything, Cate Blanchett in everything, and Charlotte Rampling in her twilight years, but Brie Larson has a BAFTA, SAG, Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award for Room so there it is.
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
Leo got the Globe, Leo got the Bafta, Leo gets the Oscar.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight; Rooney Mara, Carol; Rachel McAdams, Spotlight; Alicia Vikande, The Danish Girl; Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Here’s another instance where we literally didn’t see any of the movies. Jennifer Jason Leigh is great, but will probably be punished for abandoning Hollywood for her band. Rooney does a stretch in Carol but we like her more action-y, while Kate Winslet apparently turns in a nuanced performance as Steve Job’s work wife in Steve Jobs, enough to earn both a Golden Globe and BAFTA. That leaves Rachel McAdams in the popular Spotlight, and Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl. Vikander is the much meatier role, and we loved her in Ex Machina, so she gets the nod.
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
Like Donald Trump and the Republicans, Sylvester Stallone muscles over some perfectly competent supporting role candidates to win for Creed, in the reflected glory of not-nominated and black Michael B. Jordan. These are predictions, not judgments.
Animated Feature Film
Anomalisa, Boy and the World, Inside Out, Shaun the Sheep Movie, When Marnie Was There
Once again, you’ve only heard of the big studio ani, this time Disney’s Inside Out, which was super cute and took place incongruously in a crappy flat in San Francisco, and some kid’s brain. It’ll probably win. For purists, though, Anomolisa, in painstaking stop-motion, is this year’s pick and one small, brave swipe at Corporate Entertainment Hegemony and maybe SuperPacs.
Carol, Ed Lachman; The Hateful Eight, Robert Richardson; Mad Max: Fury Road, John Seale; The Revenant, Emmanuel Lubezki; Sicario, Roger Deakins
Dean of DPs Roger Deakins (everything over the last 30 years from Sid & Nancy to Hail, Caesar!) got a sentimental nod for Sicario which nobody saw except those nominating cinematographers, while bear fights and claustrophobia earned nods for The Revenant’s Emmanuel Lubezki and The Hateful Eight’s Robert Richardson. But if voters are looking for both action and stunning desert lock-offs, John Seale earns the Oscar for Mad Max.
Carol, Sandy Powell; Cinderella, Sandy Powell; The Danish Girl, Paco Delgado; Mad Max: Fury Road, Jenny Beavan; The Revenant, Jacqueline West
Three words: man fur coat.
Adam McKay, The Big Short; George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road; Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant; Lenny Abrahamson, Room; Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Did we mention we saw Mad Max? George Miller gets the prize for so creatively resurrecting the dystopian franchise, plus other favorite Inarritu needs a year off after 2015’s Birdman.
Amy, Cartel Land, The Look of Silence, What Happened, Miss Simone?, Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom
Who doesn’t love a tragedy set to popular music? Amy.
Body Team 12; Chau, Beyond the Lines; Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah; A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness; Last Day of Freedom
We like the sound of Body Team 12, but documentary shorts that have anything to do with Judaism, Israel or your summer on the Kibbutz always win. It’s true, it’s true. Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah documents the filmmaker’s epic 12-year production of Holocaust film Shoah.
The Big Short, Hank Corwin; Mad Max: Fury Road, Margaret Sixel; The Revenant, Stephen Mirrione; Spotlight, Tom McArdle; Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey
Edit this, Kylo Ren. (Please note the Christian symbology.)
Embrace of the Serpent, Colombia; Mustang, France; Son of Saul, Hungary; Theeb, Jordan; A War, Denmark
Mustang from France is a teen drama, and we love teen drama.
Makeup and Hairstyling
Mad Max: Fury Road, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared, The Revenant
Does old people makeup ever really work? No. Maybe Amadeus. Let’s go The Revenant.
Music Original Song
“Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey; “Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction; “Simple Song #3” from Youth; “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground; “Writing’s on the Wall” from Spectre
Another bunch of movies you’ve never heard of except Fifty Shades of Grey and Spectre. This one’s between the song for doc The Hunting Ground by Lady Gaga and the song for Spectre by Sam Smith. Yes, you’ve lost the weight, Sam, but our heart belongs to Gaga.
Music Original Score
Bridge of Spies, Thomas Newman; Carol, Carter Burwell; The Hateful Eight, Ennio Morricone; Sicario, Johann Johannsson; Star Wars: The Force Awakens, John Williams
This is an amazing collection of composers, but you’re going with Williams because you read the opening paragraph.
Bridge of Spies, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant
Tricked-out semi’s equal best production design: Mad Max.
Best Short Film – Live Action
Ave Maria , Day One, Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut), Shok, Stutterer
We like the sentiment in the title Everything Will Be Okay, and Germans make good acceptance speeches.
Best Short Film – Animated
Bear Story, Prologue, Sanjay’s Super Team, We Can’t Live Without Cosmos, World of Tomorrow
We love the Sirkian title World of Tomorrow, but likely Bear Story rides The Revenant’s coattails. Yes, this is how voting in the Academy works.
Best Sound Editing
Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Sicario, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Best Sound Mixing
Bridge of Spies, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Ditto. (There’s that cross again.)
Best Visual Effects
Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay
The Big Short, Charles Randolph and Adam McKay; Brooklyn, Nick Hornby; Carol, Phyllis Nagy; The Martian, Drew Goddard; Room, Emma Donoghue
Not the strongest category this year. Since McKay doesn’t get Best Pic or director, Academy voters probably throw the popular Anchorman helmer this bone for a sort of more serious effort.
Best Writing – Original Screenplay
Bridge of Spies, Matt Charman, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen; Ex Machina, Alex Garland; Inside Out, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; Spotlight, Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy; Straight Outta Compton, Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff
Sure, Black Lives Matter = White guilt = Straight Outta Compton, but that script was written by a bunch of white guys, so no easy out there, Hollywood. Important Film Spotlight gets it due here.
The 88th Academy Awards, hosted by Chris Rock, airs Sunday at 8 Eastern on ABC. Bring cash.