Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Reel Opinion: Oscar Picks, Part 2

Movies. We love the best of them and care enough about the art to hate the worst of them. The moving picture gives us stories that inspire us, characters that move us, and worlds that exist only in dreams. To see a dream on the big screen in all of its moving glory…that is where the magic of cinema begins.

It takes many elements to make a movie, and each year since 1929 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honors the achievements in the grand wide world of film. The path to Best Picture is a twisty and windy one, and in this second and final part of Oscar Picks, Reel Speak takes a look at the elemental categories leading to the grand prize. Here are Reel Speak’s picks:

Best Adapted Screenplay

Every movie begins with the written word, and this year’s nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay all did great work in adapting their source material for the screen while still forging their own identity as a film. This year’s clear frontrunner is Adam McKay for THE BIG SHORT. Tackling the dense layers of the financial world is no easy task, and although THE BIG SHORT was often like trying to understand drunken ancient pig-Latin, it presented itself in a way where we could at least understand what was happening in broad strokes. McKay, who is mostly known as a comedy writer and director, stepped way outside of his comfort zone in taking on this film, and that alone is a good reason to give him the gold.

Winner:  Adam McKay for THE BIG SHORT

Best Original Screenplay

Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer’s script which would become SPOTLIGHT is getting a lot of attention, not only because the film was very high-profile, but because it made the usually mundane world of print journalism exciting and dramatic to watch. SPOTLIGHT centered on the now infamous Catholic Church sex scandal in Boston in 2001, but it was less about the cover-up and more about the reveal, and it made watching reporters dig through files and basements a thrill. SPOTLIGHT is the favorite, but Pixar’s brilliant INSIDE OUT could very well be a spoiler.

Winner: Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer for SPOTLIGHT

Best Editing

If filmmaking begins with the written word, then it ends with the cutting. For 33 consecutive years, from 1981 to 2013, every Best Picture winner had also been nominated in this category, with two-thirds of the Best Picture winners also winning for editing. This year’s nominees are in a tight race. THE BIG SHORT had a lot of snappy cuts with high energy and some creative ways to present its information, while thrillers like MAD MAX: FURY ROAD and STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS always had that all-important feeling of forward momentum going on at all times. THE REVENANT had some amazing single-camera one-take shots, but that points more towards the on-set directing than editing, and SPOTLIGHT was a very straight-forward effort. THE BIG SHORT had the most creative presentation, but it was very derivative of many films from the past (coughScorsesecough). The incredible visceral experience of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD should be the winner here, and one of many technical wins for George Miller’s cinematic thunder.


Best Director

Similar to Best Editing, this category and Best Picture are closely linked. Of the 87 films that have won Best Picture, 63 have been awarded for Best Directing. And speaking of history, Alejandro G. Inarritu has a chance to make some…a win this year for THE REVENANT would make him the first director to win back-to-back Best Director awards since Joseph L. Mankiewicz won in 1949 and 1950, and only the third in history. But Inarritu has stiff competition. George Miller has already picked up many awards for MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, and Adam McKay is also getting a lot of attention for THE BIG SHORT. This seems to be a case of THE REVENANT vs. MAD MAX, and both directors are very-much deserving. It’s not unlike the Academy to split Best Director and Picture, which means Miller has an excellent shot. But Inarritu has the all-important Director’s Guild win, which is a strong indicator of which way the tide is turning. On the screen, both films accomplished some amazing things, with THE REVENANT doing just a little bit more. Al should win this, but don’t be surprised to see George thunder up that stage.

WINNER: Alejandro G. Inarritu for THE REVENANT

Best Picture

This year it’s a four-horse race for Best Picture. Starting with the off-screen factors, THE BIG SHORT recently had a surprise win at the Producer’s Guild Awards, which have correctly predicted the Oscars’ Best Picture eight years in a row. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD has also picked up some awards, and SPOTLIGHT has important wins from the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild. THE REVENANT cleaned house at the Golden Globes, and won Innaritu the all-important Directors Guild Award. Back on the screen, THE BIG SHORT can be painful to understand, and is full of characters no one would like to hang out with. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is a legit contender, but its status as a genre film (sci-fi/fantasy), means it doesn’t speak to a lot of people. SPOTLIGHT is the sleeper as it’s unlikely to win any of the flashy and sexy categories (acting, directing), but has enough nominations in all the vital categories (editing, screenplay, directing), to sneak out the big win; similar to ARGO in 2012, it’s the quiet guy in the corner at the party who always goes home with the girl. But SPOTLIGHT is very much straightforward…maybe too much, and that’s why this Blogger leans towards the ambition and boundary-pushing done by THE REVENANT. A Best Picture, as a good friend of Reel Speak has said, should move the industry forward, and this is the kind of film which should inspire younger filmmakers to be different and bold. It's a film which puts most of lazy mainstream Hollywood to shame, and everything about it seems ten times more than everything else; ten-times the idea, the effort, and the on-screen result.



Read Reel Speak's picks for the acting categories HERE

The Oscars will be awarded February 28th.


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