Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Reel Opinion: Oscar Picks, Part 1

The Academy Awards aren’t just about golden statues and red carpets, or who wins and who loses (although that’s a big part of it, of course), it’s also about a celebration of the past year in film, and a celebration of the art of filmmaking overall. The 24 categories represent the best in the many elements that are required to make a film, and a study in the nominees and why a winner should win is a study into the art itself.

Making selections is easy, but making the correct selections is not. Looking back at history helps, with the key being why a selection should win. In this first part of Reel Speak’s Oscar picks for the upcoming 88th Academy Awards, this Blogger will make selections in the most visible aspect of filmmaking, the Actors and Actresses.

This year’s categories are all alike in that they are a one-or-two horse race, while also hinting towards which film will take home Best Picture. Here are Reel Speak’s picks.

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh was a huge surprise in THE HATEFUL EIGHT, but her performance was a bit on the cartoonish side (a new trademark for Quentin Tarantino), and that may work against her. Rooney Mara turned in an excellent performance in CAROL, but doesn’t show anything we haven’t seen from her before. Rachel McAdams was very good in SPOTLIGHT and could act as a spoiler. The real contenders seem to be Alicia Vikander in THE DANISH GIRL and Kate Winslet in STEVE JOBS. Winslet has the Golden Globe win in this very category, and the situation is very similar to Tilda Swinton’s Oscar win in 2007 for MICHAEL CLAYTON. Vikander however, had the meatier, more emotional role as a wife whose husband had turned into a woman. Actors who have to work harder are usually rewarded, and in the grand picture, this is likely the only award THE DANISH GIRL will take home…and the film is too good to go home empty-handed. Vikander for the gold, but don’t be surprised to see Winslet glide across that stage.  

WINNER: Alicia Vikander

Best Supporting Actor

Sylvester Stallone, fresh off of his emotional win in this category at the Golden Globes this year, is the sentimental favorite to win. Stallone did not receive a nomination for a Screen Actors Guild award, which could open the door for Christian Bale (THE BIG SHORT) and Mark Rylance (BRIDGE OF SPIES). Tom Hardy was magnificent in THE REVENANT, and Mark Ruffalo turned in an expected good performance in SPOTLIGHT. The field is wide-open, but similar to Alicia Vikander, Stallone is the one who had the meatiest material to work with; his character was nearing the end of his life and had to display all of the emotional power that comes with such a situation. Stallone handled it perfectly in what may be the surprise performance of the year.

WINNER: Sylvester Stallone

Best Actress

This year’s Best Actress winner may signal a passing of the torch in this category. The frontrunners seem to be young rising stars Brie Larson (ROOM) and Saoirse Ronan (BROOKLYN), who gave the most emotional performances out their fellow nominees. Past-winner Cate Blanchett was her standard great self in CAROL, and Jennifer Lawrence, who has won an Oscar before, could be a smart bet…but her film JOY was not very good and it’s rare to see a winner come out of a so-so film.  And unfortunately, not enough people have seen Charlotte Rampling in 45 YEARS to make much of an impression. Larson has won the Golden Globe in this category, and ROOM seems to have connected with a lot of people. Larson wins her first.

WINNER: Brie Larson

Best Actor

Perhaps the most coveted prize of Oscar Night, the title of Hollywood’s top leading man, has a juggernaut leading the way. Leonardo DiCaprio’s outstanding performance in the brutal conditions of THE REVENANT offered the world several things never before seen on film. His closest competition is previous Best Actor winner Eddie Redmayne, who vanished into the role of a transgendered woman in THE DANISH GIRL. Matt Damon (THE MARTIAN) and Michael Fassbender (STEVE JOBS) were effective but not mind-blowing, and Bryan Cranston’s performance in TRUMBO was fine, but his film was so-so. It comes down to DiCaprio vs. Redmayne, and while Redmayne was mesmerizing, its DiCaprio’s deeply committed physical performance that gives him the lead…and the win.

WINNER: Leonardo DiCaprio


Read Reel Speak's picks in the elemental categories leading to Best Picture HERE

The Oscars will be awarded February 28th.

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