2016 Academy Awards-Who Will Win and Who Should Win

People like Will Smith and Spike Lee have made a big deal about the fact that there were no non-white actors nominated for Academy Awards this year (just like last year).

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

I have felt that if they are so passionate on the subject they should point to a performance that was left out (I’m guessing for Will Smith it would be his own in “Concussion”) and then argue which nominated performance should not be there. They need to put their money where their mouth is. But they won’t do that because of politics. Imagine the drama if Will Smith said Matt Damon shouldn’t have been nominated for his performance in “The Martian”, I point that out because Damon’s spot was the only one that people weren’t sure about before the nominations came out.

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However, I don’t have to play that political game. Below are the six biggest categories, the four acting categories, Best Director and Best Picture. I, like I always do, will rank each from the least to the most deserving and I have no problem being brave enough to point out who should have taken the place of somebody if I don’t feel their nomination was warranted.

Next to each category I will first note how many of the nominees I’ve seen, after that I will predict who will win and then I’ll rank from the nominees in order. Links to my reviews of all the nominated films will be available just by clicking on each films name

Best Supporting Actor-5/5

Will Win-Sylvester Stallone in Creed

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5th-Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies-There is nothing wrong with this performance. Just like there is nothing wrong with the film itself. It’s just that it isn’t a performance, or a film for that matter, that truly grabs you and pulls you in. I would argue that Emory Cohen in “Brooklyn” or Jacob Tremblay in “Room” were more deserving of this spot.

4th-Tom Hardy in The Revenant-There is no doubt in my mind that this is a career best performance from Tom Hardy. His performance and character are very important for the film. However, I still wasn’t wowed by it. I would argue that Michael Keaton in “Spotlight”, Jason Segal in “The End of the Tour” or Idris Elba in “Beast of No Nation” were more deserving of this spot.

3rd-Christian Bale in The Big Short-To be honest I wasn’t quite sure where to rank this performance. On the surface it is another tour de force from Christian Bale. However, the movie lets him down and he’s not given the chance to give the character as much depth as I would have like to see. On the other hand the fact that the movie came alive when he was on screen speaks volumes to how much he was on another level above the film itself. Since he already has an Oscar I wouldn’t argue for a win here. However, it was a well-deserved nomination that is right up there with my top two.

Before I reveal my number two pick I must preface it by saying that this is an incredibly difficult decision for me. On one hand you have Mark Ruffalo who not only is incredibly hot but has been turning in solid performance after solid performance going all the way back to 2000’s “You Can Count on Me” and on the other hand you have Sylvester Stallone….Let’s be honest here Sly is a bad actor  playing  a beloved character that he knows inside and out. But I have to look at the performance itself and not the actor’s body of work as a whole. So…

2nd-Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight-He is the passion behind this movie. He stands out the most amongst a cast of very talented actors. He gives a really good performance. However, as much as I want Mark Ruffalo to have an Oscar (and wouldn’t be upset if he wins) this wasn’t his best. There was something that was just the tiniest bit off about it. It’s still better than Bale and way ahead of Hardy and Rylance but because it’s missing just a touch it falls just short of being my number one pick in this category.

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1st-Sylvester Stallone in Creed-I NEVER EVER thought I’d write these words but Sylvester Stallone deserves an Oscar. I almost want to apologize for it but he does. Even if you forget the fact that he’s played this character six times before it is an excellent performance. It is a performance that only comes with age and heart. It’s like once Rocky got old he got more interesting. With both this and 2006’s “Rocky Balboa” Sly adds multiple layers of heartbreak, sorrow and perseverance to a character we only thought we knew. There is depth and soul behind this performance. With Ruffalo being slightly off Sly should be able to sneak in there and become what nobody would have imagined, an Oscar winner.

Best Supporting Actress-4/5

Will Win-Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl

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5th-Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight-Let me begin by saying that I love, Love, LOVE that fact that Jennifer Jason Leigh is finally, FINALLY, an Oscar nominee. She deserves to have that recognition for being such a fearless performer over the years. However, since I have not seen this movie, and I suspect it will be the first Tarantino movie I won’t see, I have to put this performance last. And since I haven’t seen the performance I must point out some other performances that are worth recognition in this category. Julie Walters in “Brooklyn”, Diane Lane and Helen Mirren in “Trumbo” and Tessa Thompson in “Creed” all gave excellent performances that were deserving of an Oscar Nomination.

4th-Rachel McAdams in Spolight-Much like Jennifer Jason Leigh I LOVE that Rachel McAdams is an Oscar nominee. Take that Lindsay Lohan. But the fact is she’s nominated for the wrong movie. She should have been nominated for her much better performance in “Southpaw”. Had she been nominated for that movie I’d have her higher on the list. It’s that simple Rachel McAdams was robbed by…Rachel McAdams.

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3rd-Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs-I adore Kate Winslet. I’m glad that she has now scored seven Oscar nominations. And other than her on-again, off-again accent there is nothing wrong with her performance. The problem is the movie itself. The movie doesn’t have a heart and try as she may not even Kate Winslet is able to inject passion into this too cerebral quasi bio-pic. Sorry Kate but I wouldn’t have been upset if this spot had gone to Joan Allen in “Room”, Ellen Page in “Freeheld” or Kristin Wiig in “Diary of a Teenage Girl”.

Much like Best Supporting Actor this is a really difficult race to make decision on who should actually win. The top two performances are both excellent. And as luck would have it they are both leading roles that really don’t belong in this category.

2nd- Rooney Mara in Carol-The movie may be named after Cate Blanchett’s character but it really is Mara who has more of a story arc in this beautiful and subtle film. She is so quiet and meek but there is a lot that she says with her eyes. As the events on fold her character grows into, a still fairy quite, but much more self-assured woman navigating a world that is still incredibly unfriendly to who she is. A great performance and well deserved nomination. Although I wouldn’t vote for her to win I won’t be upset if she does.

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1st-Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl-Obviously Eddie Redmayne has the showier role but in a way it is Vikander who has the trickier role. Her character also goes on a journey, not one of self-discovery and self-acceptance but one of loss and unconditional love. There isn’t a single false moment in her performance and you leave the movie heartbroken for her. It a brave and passionate performance that deserves an Oscar…even if it is in the wrong category.

Best Actor-5/5

Will Win-Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant

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5th-Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs-It’s a good performance but it is one of those good performances where you really feel like the actor is ACTING. Yes, he does seem more Steve Jobs than Michael Fassbender but he doesn’t really bring any heart or soul to his character. I really like Michael Fassbender but I just don’t buy the hype around this movie or his performance. I really was much more impressed with another Michael…Michael B. Jordan in “Creed” or Jesse Eisenberg in “The End of the Tour” or Tom Hanks in “Bridge of Spies” or Jake Gyllenhaal in “Southpaw” or Mark Ruffallo in “Infinity Polar Bear”

4th-Bryan Cranston in Trumbo-One of the most impressive things an actor can do is make you forget a prior performance, especially if it’s a great one or an awful one. Bryan Cranston really makes you forget Walter White as he disappears into the role of Dalton Trumbo. It’s a really good performance but as good as this performance is this spot should have gone to the late Robin Williams for his heartbreaking final film “Boulevard”.

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3rd-Matt Damon in The Martian-It’s a really good performance. Anytime an actor or actress spends most of the time on screen by themselves it is a test to see what they can really do without other actors to bounce energy off of. Damon, like Tom Hanks in “Castaway”, does a really good job. It’s an excellent performance that deserves a nomination but it doesn’t deserve the award.

2nd-Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant-Make no mistake Leonardo DiCaprio deserves to have an Oscar (and I’m sure it’s finally going to happen for this performance) and he is great in this movie. He takes what Damon does but does it ten times better with twenty times more intensity. It is a primal performance that has heart and soul. I will have absolutely no problem when Leonardo DiCaprio finally wins his, long overdue, Academy Award. I just don’t think it’s the best performance.

1st-Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl-Think of how Bryan Cranston makes you forget Walter White, well as impressive as that is Eddie Redmayne makes you forget Stephen Hawking. He once again manages to completely disappear into his character. I don’t care if he is a cis male, I can’t imagine anybody else fully embodying this character the way he does. He takes us a heartbreaking journey and, once again, gives a performance that deserves an Academy Award.

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Best Actress-4/5

Will Win-Brie Larson in Room

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5th-Jennifer Lawrence in Joy-Over the years some of Meryl Streep’s record holding nineteen Academy Award nominations have felt like place holders. It was like the Academy couldn’t find a great nominee so they settled on Streep. Everybody knows she’s always good so nobody can really object when she’s nominated. Jennifer Lawrence’s fourth nomination kind of feels like that. Granted I haven’t seen “Joy” so I have to put this performance last and maybe if I saw the movie I’d be blown away but I just get the sense the Academy was filling up the Best Actress race because Mara and Vikander were put in supporting. I’d argue that Emily Blunt in “Sicario” would have been more deserving of this spot.

4th-Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years-It’s a good performance. It’s a quite subtle performance filled with heart break and regret and questioning. I understand why enough people felt it deserved an Oscar nomination. I am happy for Chrolotte Rampling to get his recognition at the age of 70. However, I just didn’t love the performance, or the movie, as much as I wanted to. Sorry Charlotte I have to go with Julianne Moore in “Freeheld” or Blythe Danner in “See You In my Dreams”.

3rd-Cate Blanchett in Carol-This is a great performance. It is a subtle, nuanced and layered performance. There are times when Blanchett can be a little over the top but not here. Her portrait of the title character of Carol is right on. She was equally deserving for her role in “Truth”. Cate Blanchett’s performance has given her a well-deserved seventh Oscar nomination…She just shouldn’t win her third Oscar for the performance.

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The top two here are pretty close in my book. One performance is quitter in a simple movie; the other is one of survival in a movie with a much darker subject matter. I’d be fine with either performance winning but since I have to pick one here it goes…

2nd-Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn-This is another great performance. Like Blanchett it is subtle, nuanced and layered but there is something more to it. There is a heart and soul that shows you that Ronan full encompassed this character. She has the entire film resting on her shoulders and she slips into the character with incredible ease and takes on a wonderful journey. It is not a big flashy role but a simple one. The story of one woman and her journey in life but it is a performance, like the movie itself, that is perfectly executed.

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1st-Brie Larson in Room-This is a performance that could have easy devolved into melodrama but it never does. In the first part of the film it is a story of survival. The story of a woman who simply has lived one day to the next and one day reaches a point where she realizes her son deserves a shot at an actual life. The second half of the story is even more heartbreaking. How do you readjust to a world that has moved on without you? Larson is amazing. It is a performance that should, and will, in an Oscar. I hope this is the beginning of many great performances from her.

Best Director-5/5

Will Win-Alejandro G. Inarritu for The Revenant

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5th-Adam McKay for The Big Short-This movie is a hot, Hot, HOT mess. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a drama or a comedy. It doesn’t know if it wants to entertain or educate. In not picking an identity if fails at all of these things. The direction and the editing are all over the place. This nomination does not make sense in any way shape or form. This spot should have gone to the long overdue Ridley Scott for “The Martain” or Todd Haynes for “Carol” or even J.J. Abrahams for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

4th-George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road-Like The Big Short this movie is a little bit of a mess, the difference is this movie is supposed to be over the top and kind of a mess. I guess in that respect George Miller succeeded. Even he has admitted the movie turned out better than it should have. He did not deserve this nomination. It should have gone to Tom Hooper for “The Danish Girl”, John Crowly for “Brooklyn” or Steven Spielberg for “Bridge of Spies”.

3rd-Tom McCarthy for Spotlight-It is a quiet, thoughtful, powerful movie for grown-ups. It is subtle with excellent performances all around. A well-deserved nomination.

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Once again this is a tough call. The last two movies are very different and what it took to direct them are very different. It’s like comparing a pineapple to a mini carrot. They just aren’t the same but since I have to pick one…

2nd-Lenny Abrahamson for Room-This movie is incredible. Half of the movie takes place in a single room and to create an entire world out of that and make is believable in a remarkable achievement. He doesn’t falter in the second half either when the space of the whole wide world is almost too much. A fantastic job by Lenny Abrahamson.

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1st-Alejandro G. Inarritu for The Revenant-I can’t deny how visually stunning this film is or what it takes to direct in only natural light. What he did last year with “Birdman (or the unexpected virtue of ignorance)” was the opposite of this but both are incredibly impressive. You feel the cold in this movie. You feel the pain. It is almost too intense but isn’t that what great filmmaking does? I draws you into its world whether you like it or not.

Best Picture-8/8

Will Win-The Revenant

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8th-The Big Short-Why the hell is this movie here? It is an over blown piece of garbage that doesn’t know what it wants to be. I don’t know how it won the Producers Guild award because there is NO WAY is should have been nominated for any award other than a Razzie. This spot should have gone to “Carol” or “The Danish Girl”.

7th-Max Max: Fury Road-I suppose it’s good for what it is but what it is really isn’t anything special. This spot should have gone to “Southpaw”.

6th-Bridge of Spies-This movie is well made. Nobody is going to question the talent of Steven Spielberg or Tom Hanks but this movie is missing something. It’s like a cake where you forgot to add the sugar. It just didn’t make me feel anything. I hate to say this but I just don’t know if Spielberg’s smaltzy sentimentality is relevant for a movie released in 2015. As well made as this movie is I’d argue this spot should have gone to “Creed” or “Freeheld”.

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5th-The Maritain-Not too long ago they academy would only nominate five movie for best picture and this year it’s pretty clear that my 1-5 picks are well above the 6-8 movie. The Maritain is Hollywood big studio filmmaking at its best. It a big movie with good acting and special effects that add to the story rather than detract from it. Although I don’t think it should be the conversation to win I get why it was nominated. It’s a solid distant but solid 5th place.

4th-The Revenant-It takes everything that is well made about “Bridge of Spies” and “The Martian” and takes it to the next level. It is an intense film the sucks you into its story and world. I absolutely admire everybody involved for what it took to make this film. It deserves its nomination but at the end of the day it didn’t make me feel things the way my top three did.

3rd-Spotlight-It is a classic story of reporting done right. It is the story of a corrupt system and the people that expose it. It does a great job of showing us both the lives of the reporters and the lives of the victims. An excellent movie.

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This is a heart breaking call for me. I LOVE the top two movies and I LOVE that the two best movies of the year are about two strong women. I would tie them if I would but I can’t so…

2nd-Brooklyn-For everybody that has been homesick this movie is for you. For everyone who loves a simple story perfectly told this is for you. For everyone that loves a strong female character this movie is for you. I adored this move. This movie touched my heart and soul. This is head and shoulders above any other movie this year except my first pick.

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1st- Room-On the surface it my just sound like a movie about a woman and her son being held captive but it is so much more than that. It’s about love, lost time, resentment, healing, family, friends, how our media turns victims into the bad guys and space. It is about how we can survive and become used to even the worse situations. It is filled with great acting. This film is everything that I love about film. It won’t win but it should.

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