The Academy Awards: Previews and Predictions

While criticism of the Academy Awards from Hollywood stars like Spike Lee as well as Will and Jada Pinkett Smith has dominated headlines, the old adage still applies and “The show must go on.” The 88th Academy Awards will honor the best films of 2015 and will be hosted by the legendary comedian, Chris Rock. Rock previously hosted the show in 2005, but in light of the controversy surrounding the nominee selection viewers should expect the host’s provocative humor to toe the line on a number of issues.
Among the significant storylines leading up to the show are Revanant star Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar drought, the dark horse threat of films like Mad Max: Fury Road and Creed for their respective nominations. For actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence and for directors like George Miller and Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the prospect of winning an award this year could bring long sought legitimacy or already precedented success. It is for this reason, despite the controversy, that the 88th Academy Awards will be must-watch television on February 28th when the awards show airs.
The battle for Best Picture and Best Director is a dual narrative featuring a number of key Hollywood players vying for prestigious Academy Awards. Major studio productions like Mad Max, The Martian, and The Revenant (heavy favorite) face off against small/mid-range budget films like The Big Short, Bridge of Spies and Room, which is a potential spoiler. Iñárritu will not repeat his win in the Best Director category, which he received for Birdman. Despite the artistry he demonstrated in directing The Revenant, he will not win. It is for this reason that Best Director will go to George Miller, whose Mad Max installments are legendary to action film history. The risk of Fury Road’s $150 million budget, belied by the film’s critical success suggests that the Academy will award Miller for his role in directing this year’s most aesthetically engaging and heart-pounding action film. Iñárritu’s “The Revenant” will win Best Picture due to its more nuanced storyline, made especially clear when compared to Fury Road’s hedonistic action-film approach.
The media narrative constructed around the contest for Best Actor and Best Actress has placed Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence (Joy) as favorites for the respective awards. DiCaprio’s strongest competition comes from Matt Damon and Michael Fassbender, whose performances in The Martian and Jobs pale in comparison to DiCaprio’s work in The Revenant. Like the publicity that surrounds his lack of an Oscar, the rumblings of Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar success compared to those of Meryl Streep have dominated the discussion for Best Actress. Lawrence goes against her strongest competition in Brie Larson, whose role in Room is part of a captivity narrative about a mother and her son. Larson was undoubtedly impressive, but she was overshadowed by her young co-star Jacob Tremblay. As far as the contest for Best Supporting Actor goes, there is no opposition as Tom Hardy in The Revenant completely outshined his peers Christian Bale (The Big Short) and surprise nominee Sylvester Stallone (Creed). Frankly, Hardy’s performance even outshined his likely Best Actor winner, Leonardo DiCaprio. Previously nominated Rooney Mara (Carol) is currently in a deadlock with Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight) for Best Supporting Actress. I predict that Mara will break this tie as the negative publicity directed towards Tarantino’s Hateful Eight will detract from the Academy’s consideration of her and give credence to Mara’s powerful effort in Carol.
The biggest storylines leading up to the Oscars largely focus on films like The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road, and the legacy of actors like DiCaprio, Hardy and Lawrence. That being said, the amount of perceived snubs goes beyond racial considerations as films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Sicario went largely unnoticed this year. Contenders like Paul Dano, Charlize Theron and Ridley Scott were not nominated for the main awards. Inside Out will undoubtedly win Best Animated Film while viewers should expect to see one or more potential spoilers in the main categories, perhaps Spotlight director Tom McCarthy for Best Director or Saiorse Ronan (Brooklyn) for Best Actress. The fact that this year could be DiCaprio’s chance to end his Oscar drought is alone enough to watch the show, in addition to the fact that Chris Rock is sure to provide hilarious and insightful commentary.

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