So, the Academy Awards are upon us once more and this year’s band of intrepid nominees have been released into the wild to vie for golden-statue-glory on 22nd February. We’ve assembled a crack team of our own writers – Calum Baker, Rachel Brook and Christopher Preston – to debate the nominations and discuss who they think will be taking home the big prizes on Oscar night. Join the debate in the comments below!
Rachel: My initial response is that I’d love to be more surprised by the kinds of things nominated (for all the major awards actually, not just the Oscars). Still, there are a few things that have pleasantly surprised me this time around: I’m really glad to see both When Marnie Was There and Shaun the Sheep nominated for Best Animated Feature. The most surprising thing for me is probably that the Academy seem to have nominated more Brits and British-made films than BAFTA have.
Calum: It’s got to the point where even the pleasant last-minute surprises are pretty predictable. Last year made me smile with the Wes Anderson and Whiplash-for-Best-Picture nods; this year had a neat surprise with Ex_Machina in Screenplay but… if you were following it, you sort of expected it a few days ago.
Rachel: It’s true that there’s not a huge amount of diversity among films recognised by the major awarding bodies. Not just racially, but specifically in the same films cropping up on different lists – Best Actor, for example, matches the BAFTA nominations exactly.
Calum: A lot of female producers this year, though. That’s a real boon. I think Brooklyn is the first Picture nominee to have only women producers.
Christopher: I’m never entirely sure why people are still so surprised when the next batch of platitudinous nominations come off the conveyer belt.
Calum: It’s usually more the omissions that bewilder.
Patrick: OK, so let’s turn to the omissions.
Christopher: Ex_Machina for practically everything. That’s my biggest.
Calum: Not Carol?
Rachel: Agreed, I can’t really praise it enough (more so than Carol).
Christopher: I think Alex Garland should easily have picked up a Best Director nod, and Alicia Vikander deserved one for Best Supporting Actress.
Rachel: Alicia Vikander’s nomination for The Danish Girl is interesting, because although I think she even gave Eddie Redmayne a run for his money, I think she was even better in Ex_Machina.
Calum: It was certainly a more difficult role. I think the wider Academy types prefer her sparky ingénue thing in The Danish Girl.
Patrick: Calum – your reaction to Carol‘s snub?
Calum: That’s hugely irritating for those of us who adored it, but that’s no different to any beloved film with zero chance. Like, I thought The Dance of Reality should’ve been up for a bunch but when was that going to happen? The crazy thing about Carol was how certain it was… until literally today. And they went for Lenny Abrahamson as a Directing nominee?!
Rachel: Yes, that’s a surprise, whereas to not see films like A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night nominated for Best Foreign Language Film is a shame but sadly unsurprising.
Calum: I’m nodding in agreement. And weeping.
Rachel: It’s a little frustrating that the Best Picture category hasn’t been filled to its capacity when it’s so easy for us to name omissions.
Calum: Do we think The Hateful Eight was unjustly left out for original screenplay?
Rachel: I know Tarantino does!
Christopher: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s the weakest of the last trio of films he’s produced, but it’s still sparkly.
Patrick: What do we make of the acting nominations?
Christopher: I’m going to take time to pray, every night from now until the ceremony, for Sly. I’d love to see him go home with a statue (and a kebab).
Calum: It looks to be either him or Rylance. Either way they’d be pretty typical wins. One the ancient vet on a career nod, the other a respected Brit thespian who gets to come on, win, and retreat into the woodwork again.
Rachel: Is anyone else baffled by Kate Winslet’s nomination? I’d say it’s more of a directing problem, but I just can’t understand how she got nominated with that rollercoaster of an accent in Steve Jobs.
Calum: THANK YOU. She seemed the most stilted with Sorkin’s words. Just hadn’t naturalised it…
Rachel: I know attempts have been made to justify it with reference to the real person’s background, but that doesn’t make it a good creative decision.
Christopher: It’s just one of those nominations, isn’t it? When you’re in, you’re in.
Rachel: Yes, that’s a good point. That’s the only way I can explain Jennifer Lawrence‘s nomination too.
Christopher: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close springs to mind. Wasn’t that nominated purely on Tom Hanks’ smile?
Calum: Noooo. I was so pulling for that Joy nomination!
Rachel: Really? I don’t think it’s her fault, I just don’t think it gave as much opportunity to show her skills as almost every other part she’s played.
Calum: I think the big achievement here is literally being, not just a “Lead Actress”, but the performance that everything else hinges on – right down to the editing and music choices. It’s very hard to find a comparison in that regard.
Patrick: There’s been a lot of talk about the lack of diversity among the nominees. What’s your take on this?
Calum: To be fair to Michael B. Jordan, he just wasn’t white enough to manage the same feat of tic-based overacting of, say, a Redmayne.
Christopher: Well, someone put a bag over Idris Elba’s nomination. I’m also saddened that Beasts of No Nation received absolutely nothing. It’s just another example of how dusty the Academy is.
Patrick: And what about Sir Ridley?
Calum: Yes, Ridley [being left out] may be the biggest and strangest surprise of the whole thing, all considered.
Patrick: Has anyone seen The Big Short?
Rachel: I have. I am completely baffled. It’s an absolute mess. Just an onslaught of style and technique, overburdened with underdeveloped characters, and with the most horrifically patronising tone directed at the audience through Ryan Gosling’s narrator. Christian Bale though, who I don’t usually rate that highly, did really impressive work with a totally clichéd eccentric-type character.
Christopher: It’s been very successful in the US. People were gushing about it when I was there. If you think it was up against a Tarantino movie and Star Wars, and still pulled people in…
Rachel: I think it might be going over well with a lot of the people that loved Birdman last year; serious topic in a comedic film, ensemble cast, prestige actors, MORE IS MORE.
Patrick: So, what would you like to see win Best Picture?
Calum: Spotlight, if only because I’m a very longtime Tom McCarthy fan and I don’t think he’s had the right recognition before.
Christopher: Mad Max: Fury Road.
Patrick: And what will win?
Christopher: I’d love to say Mad Max: Fury Road. It blew my eyeballs out when I first saw it. It was just incredible to be caught up in that world for a couple of hours. But, I imagine Spotlight will win. It already feels Best Picture-y.
Calum: Spotlight currently; but The Revenant may have caught up and there’s still a huge argument for The Martian. Especially after Scott’s snub – could go into Argo territory, which sort of won because people felt bad for Affleck when he wasn’t nominated for Best Director.
BEST PICTURE VERDICT: SPOTLIGHT
Christopher: Is it going to be Leo’s year? I don’t think there’s anything that could topple him.
Calum: A bear?
Christopher: Definitely not.
Patrick: What about Best Actress? Why no Charlize first of all?
Calum: Well, when was the last time they nominated a one-armed actor Pat? When? I can’t name the time.
Rachel: Brie Larson all the way.
Calum: Yeah, pulling for Brie. But Saoirse Ronan was pretty extraordinary.
Rachel: Yes, this is always a tough category for me. I think the competition’s higher than for actor this time around.
Christopher: I always thought Brie Larson should have won for Short Term 12, so it would be a nice ‘right-that-wrong’ Oscar if she won.
Rachel: Yes Yes Yes.
Christopher: Cate Blanchett is extraordinary in Carol though. I mean… extraordinary.
BEST ACTOR VERDICT: LEONARDO DiCAPRIO
BEST ACTRESS VERDICT: BRIE LARSON
Patrick: What about the Best Supporting categories?
Rachel: Rooney Mara.
Calum: Actually, Rylance. Best Coen dialogue delivery in a while. So wry, so controlled. And then yes, Rooney Mara.
Christopher: Sly Stallone for Creed. Rooney Mara for Carol.
Rachel: I second Rylance as well – I could see it happening too.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR VERDICT: MARK RYLANCE
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS VERDICT: ROONEY MARA
Patrick: Best Director?
Rachel: I can live with anyone but McKay
Christopher: George Miller, for sure. But that could easily change after I’ve got my eyeballs’ mitts on The Revenant.
Calum: No, Miller did easily the best job of the five; incredibly creative, and built from the ground up. Built, in fact, with the perspective of a pure director rather than written first – remember how he storyboarded first? Astoundingly raw, clever stuff.
Rachel: Despite the valid complaints about its bare bones plot, Mad Max was an undeniable visual (and sonic) feast.
Christopher: I remember ‘visual opera’ being banded around by the choo-choo of the hype train, and scoffing at how pretentious that sounded. Then I went to see the film, and promptly poured custard over humble pie.
BEST DIRECTOR VERDICT: GEORGE MILLER
What do you make of this year’s Oscar nominations? Join the debate in the comments section below or throw some tweets at us. We can take it.