Ed predicts the Oscars 2016


The Hollywood Employee Recognition Awards are this Sunday night on ABC. “But wait,” you say, “hasn't the filmmaking community already been rewarded with the Golden Globes, the Critics Choice Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the British Academy Film Awards, along with several others that weren't televised?”

Here's the thing: In an industry built on hype, excess and self-congratulation, the Academy Awards remains the King Kong of movie prizes. You win this one and the title will be attached to your name forevermore.

As usual, we're listing all the nominees. I shall offer commentary for a while, then I'll start getting tired of it all and I'll write less and less. Usually, my growing disinterest in writing about all the categories coincides nicely with your growing disinterest in reading about them.

Let's see how that works with this year's nominees.


The Big Short

Bridge of Spies


Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant


Of the eight nominated films, the one that will be remembered the most 20 years from now is Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller's action extravaganza that avoids CGI as much as possible in favor of a staged-by-real-people-using-real-things stunts. The film is a mega car chase that starts here, goes over there, then comes back here again. Within that minimalist framework, the script deftly weaves plot lines and character detail, including a hell of a starring performance by Charlize Theron. Oh, did I mention that Miller puts Mad Max in a supporting role in favor of a powerful female lead? Fury Road is a smart, starling thrill ride that reminds us of the power of cinema.

Alas, it doesn't have a chance in hell of winning (too crazy). Neither does Brooklyn (too ordinary), The Room (too small), or Bridge of Spies (too old-fashioned). You can forget about The Martian, as well. Matt Damon's wonderful performance as a stranded astronaut who never loses his sense of humor and can-do attitude is so good that the movie isn't being taken seriously enough.

The Revenant is grim and gross, but its leading man suffers all over the place, and the direction is very showy. It's going to win a number of awards, and could possibly be the dark horse in this category.

Spotlight has already been named Best Picture by some other organizations. It's serious, important, very well done and boasts a great ensemble cast. The film's liability is its popularity. It's been hot on the awards circuit so long that voters are taking a second look at the other titles, and they're noticing that The Big Short also has a swell ensemble cast, and it takes a difficult to understand subject (economics – ouch!) and makes it entertaining.

Should Win: I'd love a Mad Max: Fury Road surprise, but I'll be happy if Spotlight or The Big Short wins.

Will Win: Spotlight. Unless The Big Short steals the prize, or The Revenant creeps up and rips it out of everybody's hands.


Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Matt Damon, The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Leonardo DiCaprio will win his first Oscar for his work here. He's spot-on in the role, but I question how many acting choices there are to make when your task is primarily to suffer convincingly. I have great respect for DiCaprio, but all of the other actors in this category had far more difficult roles.

Should Win: Matt Damon was outstanding as an astronaut who keeps his bearings and sense of humor even in the face of death. It would be a treat to see this particular nice guy finish first.

Will Win: DiCaprio. Surest pick of the night.


Cate Blanchett, Carol

Brie Larson, Room

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Jennifer Lawrence is a delightful person, but her role in Joy isn't a good fit. Saoirse Ronan's quietly complex work in Brooklyn isn't showy enough, while Cate Blanchett's performance in Carol isn't exciting enough. Charlotte Rampling is exceptional in 45 Years, but there doesn't seem to be much buzz around the film. In the harrowing Room, Brie Larson has a great deal demanded of her character and she delivers.

Should Win: Either Charlotte Rampling or Brie Larson

Will Win: Brie Larson


Christian Bale, The Big Short

Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Christian Bale and Mark Ruffalo won't win. They were both part of great ensemble casts and the voters won't reward them over their castmates. Count Tom Hardy out – he's done better work elsewhere. I'm still wondering why he was even nominated for this film. In a normal year, Mark Rylance would be a shoo-in for his sly performance in Bridge of Spies, but the film just isn't getting the respect it deserves. Besides, Sylvester Stallone is nominated for playing Rocky Balboa in Creed! Who doesn't want to see Sly walking up the stairs, beaming at the audience giving him a standing ovation, and delivering an acceptance speech guaranteed to make us choke up?

Should Win: Mark Rylance … oh hell, Sylvester Stallone!

Will Win: Sylvester Stallone. USA! USA!


Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara, Carol

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

I'll keep this one short and sweet. Rooney Mara was memorable in Carol - who would have dreamed that the girl in the dragon tattoo could also be … THAT GIRL! But Alicia Vikander is white hot right now and she's already won this award from a couple of other organizations.

Should Win: Rooney Mara

Will Win: Alicia Vikander


Adam McKay, The Big Short

George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant

Lenny Abrahamson, Room

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Alejandro Inarritu won last year for showing off like crazy in Birdman. His work in The Revenant is impressive, preposterous and excessive. I thought the last hour was more of an endurance test for the audience than the lead character. Mine is a minority opinion, however. The Academy will overlook George Miller's amazing work in Mad Max: Fury Road and reward Inarritu instead. I'm grumbling just thinking about it.

Should Win: George Miller, damn it!

Will Win: Alejandro Inarritu


The Big Short

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant


Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The editing for The Big Short was zippy and effective. But Mad Max: Fury Road was more electric, and the editing was a key part of its ferocity. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a dark horse, but it doesn't loom as large with the industry as it does with the general public.

Should Win/Will Win: Mad Max


Colombia, Embrace of the Serpent

France, Mustang

Hungary, Son of Saul

Jordan, Theeb

Denmark, A War

Son of Saul is a devastating experience. It has played more widely across America, which increases its visibility to voters giving their ballot a quick scan. Plus it deals with the Holocaust, and foreign films dealing with the Holocaust generally win.

Should Win/Will Win: Son of Saul


Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies

Carter Burwell, Carol

Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight

Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sicario

John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

John Williams could feel the love for his work on Star Wars, but Ennio Morricone has never won an Oscar, and his score for The Hateful Eight has drawn well-deserved praise.

Should Win/Will Win: Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight


Bridge of Spies

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Voters lean towards period pieces in this category, which would bode well for Bridge of Spies and The Revenant, but Mad Max: Fury Road manages to dazzle while remaining grounded (visually).

Should Win/Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road


Ex Machina

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars seems the logical choice, but most of the way-cool visuals look like variations of way-cool visuals we saw in the other six episodes. The Revenant has a chance, primarily for that remarkably well-operated bear suit. I think Mad Max will drive away with this one; a reward for its imaginative practical effects.

Should Win/Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road


The Big Short



The Martian


Best screenplay awards often serve as consolation prizes for deserving Best Picture nominees that don't win. That would apply to The Big Short, but there's more. The screenplay took a book on economics and made it entertaining without sacrificing accuracy (mostly). Very impressive!

Should Win/Will Win: The Big Short


Bridge of Spies

Ex Machina

Inside Out


Straight Outta Compton

After all the criticism the Academy received for its lack of diversity, will they try to make amends by voting for Straight Outta Compton, a celebrated film that didn't get the Best Picture nomination many thought it deserved? Of course not. Spotlight will win – because it's excellent, and because those that aren't voting for it in the Best Picture category will opt to reward it here.

Should Win/Will Win: Spotlight



Boy and the World

Inside Out

Shaun the Sheep Movie

When Marnie Was There

Will Charlie Kaufman's adult drama Anomalisa, which includes a puppet sex scene, be the surprise winner over the heavily-favored, and equally deserving Pixar hit, Inside Out? No it won't.

Should Win: Anomalisa

Will Win: Inside Out



The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant


Emmanuel Lubezki won this category last year for his showy camera work on Birdman. He will collect another trophy this year for his work on The Revenant. Heck, he'd win for the horse-rides-over-a-cliff scene alone.

Should Win/Will Win: The Revenant




The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

The Academy likes nicely dressed people in the '30s – the '50s more than fantasies and the frontier. The love story Carol fits the bill.

Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Will Win: Carol



Cartel Land

The Look of Silence

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom

Joshua Oppenheimer's powerhouse followup to The Act of War - both films deal with the bizarre aftermath of the slaughter of more than a half-million people in mid-1960s Indonesia – could be the surprise winner. But more likely the insightful biography of singer Amy Winehouse will receive the trophy.

Should Win: Either The Look of Silence or Amy

Will Win: 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

I haven't seen any of the nominees. From what I've read, the front-runners are Body Team 12, a 13-minute feature about the fight to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus; and Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah, a 40-minute look at the French director. I'm opting for the latter because I suspect the voters will lean towards a film dealing with film making.

Will Win: Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah


Mad Max: Fury Road

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

The Revenant

Should Win/Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road


"Earned It," Fifty Shades of Grey, Abel Tesfaye, Ahmad Balshe, Jason Daheala Quenneville and Stephan Moccio

"Manta Ray," Racing Extinction, J. Ralph and Antony Hegarty

"Simple Song #3," Youth, David Lang

"'Til It Happens to You," The Haunting Ground, Diane Warren and Lady Gaga

"Writings on the Wall," Spectre, Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith

Will Win: Til It Happens to You because Lady Gaga sings it and the strings sell it.


Bear Story


Sanjay's Super Team

We Can't Live Without Cosmos

World of Tomorrow

My favorite is We Can't Live Without Cosmos, a sweet tale of friendship, but I don't think it will win. Sanjay's Super Team is the favorite. It's Pixar, natch. The dark horse is World of Tomorrow, an edgy futuristic piece.

Should Win: We Can't Live Without Cosmos

Will Win: Sanjay's Super Team


Ave Maria

Day One

Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)



I liked Stutterer best, but it won't win. Too conventional. Ave Maria, an abrasive comedy set on the West Bank, may take the prize, but it will more likely go the Shok, a tough tale of boyhood friendship in war-torn Kosovo in 1998.

Should Win: Stutterer

Will Win: Shok


Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant


Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road


Bridge of Spies

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road


Ed Johnson-Ott has been NUVO's lead film critic for more than 20 years.

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