Thursday, February 25, 2016

Academy Award Winner Predictions for 2015 Films

                                                    Comments by Ken Burke

 Here’s the 5th annual Oscar-predictions-posting from Two Guys in the Dark, although I’ll (Ken Burke, the “public face” of Two Guys reviews for the present—or “infinity and beyond” as the case may be with my good friend but so-far-silent-partner, Pat Craig) admit that some of my “insightful predictions” are just wild speculations based on industry gossip (or even less than that).  All sorts of people (including me in this posting) have opinions as to who should win these upcoming Oscars—as opposed to predicting who will win (I do both in the lists below)—but one source that continues to be authoritative in the industry over many past decades, thereby earning some consideration for the offerings of their writers (whether I agree with them or not; in almost all cases in this upcoming link I don’t), are the critics at Variety (whose perspectives are of those who’re a part of the business rather than those of us who’re apart from it but care deeply for both the artistic and entertainment aspects of cinema [still, we’re all “whore”s for movies, as you can see from my sentence structure]) so you might be interested in the somewhat-supportive, often-counter opinions of 3 Variety critics—Justin Chang, Peter Debruge, Guy Lodge—in addition to what I have to offer here (better, of course!). You can also find innumerable others with their own levels of justifiable (or not) insights, but these LA guys certainly write like they know what they’re talking about, even though they really don’t know as much as me because they hardly agree with my picks (maybe next year Variety will be offering links to this blog … but don’t bet the farm—or even a single chicken—on it just yet).   

 Beyond who gets the awards, though, the biggest attention this year is on who and what never even got nominated so we’ll see how never-hesitant-to-push-the-envelope-Oscar-host Chris Rock addresses the agitated #OscarSoWhte movement during the actual broadcast this coming Sunday (February 28, 2016; ABC, 5:30 PST, 8:30 EST) but tangible-credence (supporting extensive angry opinion) is now given to the protesters in a recent study by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism which looked at 109 recent films, finding only 3.4% female directors, “Under-represented ethnic or racial groups directed only 12.7% of [these] films,” while “Women made up less than 20% of entertainment companies’ corporate boards, chief executives and executive management teams.”  None of the big film companies got a positive rating on diversity; Sony and Viacom were best with 20%, Time Warner was the worst at zero.  Yet, even the Academy's attempts at increasing diversity with the January 21, 2016 move to add 3 new people to its 51-member Board of Governors violates the organization’s own bylaws; those rules can be changed but only at a meeting either of the entire membership or a Governors’ meeting with a 10-day notice of a proposed change, which is not what happened with the emergency Board gathering held last month.  What will come of the Academy’s pledge to diversify vs. actually being able to do so we'll see in due time, but count on Mr. Rock to rock the house for now with comments intended to draw laughs as well as inspire needed-soul-searching-actions.

 For now, however, here are my predictions and preferences in the 24 competitive categories (with winner notations and further comments to be added soon after the ceremony).  Color coding key: red = my prediction, green = my preference of the nominees (plus a few other greenies that are my real preferences but that didn’t make the final list of the Oscar contenders through some oversight by the Academy, whose members just don’t always see the wisdom of my insights), red + green = prediction and preference, and gold + bold at a later date = WINNER!  In deference to my waning sanity and a desire to not clutter up this posting more than necessary I’ll skip my usual method of identifying directors, year of release, and date of a Two Guys review posting after most titles listed below, but you can see our summary of reviews to find that info if you like—at least for the most of the categories but not so much in Animated Features and Foreign Language, although we do have some additional comments on the Animated and Live Action Shorts, just not actual reviews of those—however, please note that you do have to scroll through the various star clusters (each one alphabetized) in the Summary to find what you're looking for so it does take a little time.

2/29/2016—Now that all of the statues have been placed with their owners I can brag that I predicted 18 of the 24 winners for a 75% correct result, better than usual (about 65%) but also a bit better than the Entertainment Weekly where they were right for 17 of 24 (71%) as well as notably topping my local critical-guru-voice, Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle (and extensive wire service elsewhere), who had 15 of 24 (63%) correct.  As for my true preferences, though, only 12 of 21 (57%) got the awards (still providing a nice consolation for a couple of categories where I predicted something else but my actual favorite won the vote)—there were a couple of areas where I’d seen only a few contenders (or none of them) so I offered no preferences—thus, I’d have preferred to see several different results than the ones I predicted, but, still, a lot of what I thought represented the best achievements of various sorts for films released in 2015 took Oscar gold so all in all I’m quite satisfied with the outcome, except for “Writing’s on the Wall” winning Original Song (I’m in agreement with LaSalle about this being one of the worst James Bond-theme-songs ever) and Idris Elba not even being nominated for Best Supporting Actor (my choice for the win—although he did get that honor from the Independent Spirit awards and the Screen Actors Guild).

Best Picture

The Big Short (producers [they get the award, although sometimes the director’s also a producer]: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner [director {they usually get most of the credit}: Adam McKay])

Bridge Of Spies (Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger [Spielberg])

Brooklyn (Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey [John Crowley])

Mad Max: Fury Road (Doug Mitchell and George Miller [Miller])

The Martian (Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer, Mark Huffam [Scott])

The Revenant (Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Mary Parent, Keith Redmon [Iñárritu])

Room (Ed Guiney [Lenny Abrahamson])

Spotlight (Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin, Blye Pagon Faust [Tom McCarthy]WINNER!

 A strong vote in favor of Spotlight taking Best Picture is that it recently received the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture award from the Screen Actors Guild (that’s essentially their Best Picture prize), with a clear overlap of members in both the SAG-AFTRA organization and the Academy’s Actors Branch (although that can be deceiving in that there are only about 4,000 of the Academy’s roughly 6,000 total members who are actors [including women; the “actress” designation is increasingly being used only to differential male and female performers for awards purposes] while SAG-AFTRA has about 165,000 [but many of those are from the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists side], so who votes, as well as who votes for whom, in SAG-AFTRA considerations may have great relevancy for the Oscars but then again it may not).  I’m quite happy with Spotlight, Bridge of Spies, and Room making it to Oscar’s finals for Best Picture (these in order of how they came out on my 2015 Top 10 list at #’s 1, 3, and 4; please consult the link to see comments on the other 7 of them) but, in rank order and to fill out the option for actually offering the now-fully-allowed-10-contenders (with the Academy taking only 8 this time based on their newly-installed-complex-voting-procedure) I’d have chosen Carol, Ex Machina, The Danish Girl, Love and Mercy, Steve Jobs, Pawn Sacrifice, and Sicario, although I’ll acknowledge that Brooklyn would very likely be in my Top 20 for the year if I’d expanded my list accordingly; as for the other actual Academy nominees, for various reasons I didn’t even put them in my 2015-4-star-collection so maybe I’m giving a “big short” to all of them considering their consistent critical praise, especially if the actual Big Short or The Revenant or Mad Max: Fury Road should win.  Nevertheless, I’m standing by my previous reviews and decisions, hoping that the Academy voters will embrace Spotlight, the consistently flawless conception and execution of a narrative dealing with a topic (child molestation by priests, cover-up of such by church hierarchy) even more controversial and crucial than diversity in these Oscar nominations; it’s truly one of the best I’ve seen in years, but I realize that any of the other 3 contenders I just mentioned could easily come out on top (as I doubt that the Academy listens to me any more than Variety—or anyone else—does).


Lenny Abrahamson, Room

Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu, The Revenant WINNER!

Tom McCarthy,  Spotlight

Adam McKay, The Big Short

George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

 I’m making the not-so-risky-prediction for Iñárritu, even though he just won last year in this category for Birdman Two directors have won the Oscar in consecutive years:  John Ford for The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and How Green Was My Valley (1941), Joseph L. Mankiewicz for A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and All About Eve (1950); however, they both split with Best Picture prizes in that each of the latter directorial wins of their pairs also took the top prize while the earlier ones did not, so there’s history on both sides for Iñárritu to get this award and also either win for Best Picture (as he did last year) or lose (as I’m mildly-confident will be the case this year).  Given the heavy critical drumbeats for George Miller there could be some Academy attention for him (Entertainment Weekly showed him about a month ago as the slight favorite), but I think that Iñárritu’s recent capture of this honor from the Directors Guild of America (making him their 1st-ever-back-to-back-winner, although a few others have won it twice with Steven Spielberg getting it for a DGA-record-3-times) will have been the final influence for Academy voters (but only about 6% of them are directors so it may depend on how much their other colleagues listen to whatever buzz is emanating from the Academy’s Directors Branch), with a further argument that 4 of the 5 DGA nominees parallel the Oscar contenders (with Ridley Scott [The Martian] on the DGA list rather than Abrahamson) yet Iñárritu came away with the DGA honor.  It’s always possible that if either Spotlight or The Big Short takes Best Picture there’ll be the connective effect for its helmsman, McCarthy or McKay (only 7 of the DGA winners since 1948 haven’t also been part of the Best Picture celebration), but I still think it’ll be Iñárritu getting directorial Oscar gold (along with DiCaprio) whether The Revenant wins anything else or not.  (Had I picked these nominees, though, I’d have included Todd Haynes for Carol in place of McKay, but it’s a close call that I won’t argue with.)

Actor in a Leading Role

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Matt Damon, The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant WINNER!

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

 Given my Oscar vs. SAG-AFTRA-overlap-considerations voiced just above, I’ll note that another strong possible indicator for DiCaprio for Oscar gold is his win from that huge performers organization, just like his director this year.  However, Variety’s Kristopher Tapley sees an upset-win-possibility here for Bryan Cranston (you might also be interested in his expectation-defying-arguments about Christian Bale or Mark Ruffalo for Best Supporting Actor, The Martian for Best Visual Effects, Mustang for Best Foreign Language Film, and What Happened, Miss Simone? for Best Documentary Feature, all in categories where the winner has supposedly already been decided).  I do think that if DiCaprio wins it’ll be well-deserved, although much as I admired Cranston (overall, the most impactful aspect of Trumbo for me) I’d have replaced him with Tom Hanks for another standout role in Bridge of Spies, but otherwise I’m in agreement with Oscar’s nominee choices (not that the protests lodged by the #OscarSoWhite movement aren’t legitimate overall, but except for the possibility of Will Smith in Concussion, I honestly don’t think there were any other non-White-contenders overlooked in this year’s Best Actor finalists and I do think my top 5, almost mirroring the Academy’s, take precedence over Smith much as I admire him for a splendid body of career work to this point).  Johnny Depp was also quite powerful in Black Mass, as was Mark Ruffalo in Infinitely Polar Bear, but neither of them are in my top 5, nor is Paul Dano (for one of my top 10 films, Love and Mercy), but when you’re essentially co-starring (as he was with John Cusack, both portraying Brian Wilson) you fight the double-whammy of both actors being considered for nomination, then likely cancelling each other out if they both get in, so that leads to Supporting considerations with the stigma that Dano’s is really a lead role so it shouldn’t be in Supporting (a factor I think’s working against Rooney Mara for Carol this year).  Finally, some have dismissed Redmayne just because he won last year, but that’s happened before for actors also, with Spencer Tracy victorious for Captains Courageous (1937) and Boys Town (1938), along with Hanks for Philadelphia (1993) and Forrest Gump (1994).

Actress in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett, Carol

Brie Larson, Room WINNER!

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

 Brie Larson likely furthers her win chances with getting this same award from the folks at SAG-AFTRA; her competition was slightly different, though, as they chose to nominate Helen Mirren (Woman in Gold) and Sarah Silverman (I Smile Back) rather than Lawrence and Rampling.  If I were making substitutions to the Oscar finalists I’d have dropped Lawrence (although enough poor reviews kept me away from Joy so I can’t say how good she was in that film) in favor of Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in Tangerine (a very independent offering about transgender prostitutes that I’m not sure how many Academy voters were even aware of, although they may have accidently noticed it being shot cinema vérité-style in the streets of LA).  It’s a close call for me for this award but Blanchett’s got a couple of these statues already (Actress for Blue Jasmine [2013], Supporting for The Aviator [2004]) so I think her colleagues feel she’s lauded enough for now, while this is Larson’s 1st Oscar nomination but she’s also picked up the Golden Globe and BAFTA trophies for this role, plus her SAG win, so it seems to be her year, allowing her to possibly join the likes of Shirley Booth (Come Back, Little Sheba [1952]), Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins [1964]), Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl [1968]), and Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God [1986]) in the “First Time’s a Charm” club (as well as the parallel “First Time’s the Only Time” club, for acting, although Streisand did get another Oscar for writing a Best Original Song [“Evergreen” from A Star Is Born, 1976]).  Continuing in a trivia mode, while no actress is up for a consecutive Oscar this time (it took Rampling a bit over 50 years to even get her first nomination), that also has happened twice: Luise Rainer (The Great Ziegfeld [1936]; The Good Earth [1937]) and Katharine Hepburn (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner [1967]; The Lion in Winter [1968]).

Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale, The Big Short

Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies WINNER!

Sylvester Stallone, Creed

 Where this category is concerned the SAG-AFTRA winner doesn’t predict anything because their pick is Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation, a non-nominee (to great consternation, including from me) in the Oscar race.  With his inclusion, he’d have been my preference for the Academy Award so without that consideration I’ll go with my #2 of 2015, Rylance (although I do think that sentimentality will play its frequent-hand with Oscar voters, giving their choice to Stallone; he’s #5 on my list but #3 is Paul Dano for Love and Mercy—although, as I’ve said, he’s really more of a co-lead with John Cusack but that maybe that makes them in “support” of each other, giving credence for Dano’s consideration here—so I’d have to reluctantly eliminate Bale and Hardy from the Oscar list if it were up to me, adding Elba and Dano instead).  And, as far as consecutive winners in this category go, the only one is Jason Robards for All the President’s Men (1976) and Julia (1977).

Actress in a Supporting Role

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara, Carol

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl WINNER!

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

 Vikander is the choice of the SAG-AFTRA voters for this category, with 4 of their 5 finalists matching the Oscar nominees (the only difference being SAG preferring Helen Mirren for Trumbo instead of Leigh, not an easy choice nor could I see eliminating any of the other "fab" 4).  I’m almost parallel with the Oscar contenders as well, although I’d have regretfully sacked McAdams in favor of Emily Blunt’s nuanced work in Sicario.  Just so you know, no Supporting Actress winner has ever gotten 2 in a row; however, there’s a WHOLE LOT MORE of this kind of Oscar trivia to peruse if you like.

Writing—Original Screenplay

Bridge Of Spies, Matt Charman, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

Ex Machina, Alex Garland

Inside Out, Screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; Original story by Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen

Spotlight, Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy 

Straight Outta Compton, screenplay by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff; Story by S. Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus, Andrea Berloff

 The Writers Guild of America joins me in backing Spotlight, although Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy probably appreciate the WGA more because their support comes with an actual piece of hardware.  This win should likely provide some significant Oscar influence but the picture’s a little muddy in that the WGA put Sicario and Trainwreck among their contenders (rather than Ex Machina and Inside Out), although I still think Spotlight is the likely choice of Oscar voters (who also offer a statue to go with their decision; I guess I’d better visit a trophy shop before next year).  My only change from the Oscar nominees would be to substitute Bridge of Spies for Straight Outta Compton—even though that would completely “whitewash” the major category contenders, leading to even more “#OscarSoWhite” consternation (which I do strongly agree with in principle, although I’m not boycotting the ceremony nor its winners) if that had happened (although, as the protesters of this year’s nominees point out, even this lone minority-themed-finalist was written by a couple of Whities, although I don’t know the ethnicity of the others involved).  Of course, this category and the next one are further complicated by possible contenders not being allowed for WGA consideration (including the 2 exclusions noted above, plus The Hateful Eight [exquisitely written, even though not among my final 5]) so, again, the voting options aren’t clearly the same as they’ll be for the Oscars, along with the Academy’s Writers Branch making up only about 6% of total membership, but the WGA winners in this category has gotten the Oscar in 13 of the last 21 years so the folks involved with Spotlight at least have reason to be hopeful of another honor to add to their collection.

Writing—Adapted Screenplay
Carol, Phyllis Nagy

The Martian, Drew Goddard

Room, Emma Donoghue

The Big Short, Charles Randolph and Adam McKay WINNER!

Brooklyn, Nick Hornby

 Adapted screenplay will always remain a mystery to me in terms of what the voters are choosing—including the members of the Academy’s Writers Branch, in that they’re the ones picking the initial 5 contenders although everyone votes on the ultimate choice—because I don’t know if they’re simply picking the best script that happens to be adapted from another source or, more difficultly, weighting out the quality of the adaptation process in transforming a narrative from one medium to another.  This is an area I’ve spent quite a bit of time researching in principle (not in terms of Academy voters, although that’s still an area I’d like to explore more) and teaching about at Mills College (Oakland, CA), so based on what I see in terms of past winners, along with any commentary I’ve heard on the subject, I’d say that the vast majority of the Oscar-choosers are going with the impact of what’s on screen, not how it came to be from its original incarnation.  The WGA winner is The Big Short, further increasing its Oscar chances, but they also considered Steve Jobs and Trumbo because Academy nominees Brooklyn and Room were WGA-ineligible due to their writers not being members of that guild (for whatever reason; if you’d like to know more about this situation please go here).  In 15 of the last 21 years this DGA award parallels the Oscar so look for a repeat this year, with this either being one of the few options for The Big Short to shine or an added bonus if it gets Best Picture.  It wasn’t even on my top 5 list, though (given all its adulation, I’m wondering if I was holding its content of a few sharks making a huge killing off the financial crisis of 2008 against it when I offered only 3½ stars, but I’ll just have to stick with my original decision or I’d be second-guessing myself about every other rating I’ve ever given), where I’d have bumped it and The Martian in favor of Love and Mercy and Steve Jobs.

Foreign Language Film                    Documentary Feature

Embrace Of The Serpent, Colombia                   Amy WINNER!
Mustang, France                                             Cartel Land  
Son Of Saul, Hungary WINNER!                       The Look Of Silence  
Theeb, Jordan                                                 What Happened, Miss Simone?  
A War, Denmark                                              Winter On Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom  
 I’m totally flying blind where these 2 areas are concerned because I haven’t seen (nor even had a chance to see) any of them except Mustang (excellent!), but as far as predictions go (I’ll make one for every category, whether I have any idea why or not) both Son of Saul and Amy look like almost-sure-winners (although that Tapley link back in the Best Actor discussion does offer alternatives for both).  However, the Documentary Feature category now has its own complaints as publicized-tabulations have shown only 13 female-feature-documentary-directors have been Oscar-nominated in the last 10 years (out of 50 options) while there have been just 11 women as Oscar-feature-doc-winners in the Academy’s history with a mere 2 of them in the past 20 years, so it’s not just White actors dominating aspects of the cinema world, with problems again traced back to executives but in this case not so much ones at movie studios not providing approval of proposed product but with financing-honchos who’re reluctant to help get female-run-projects off the ground to begin with.  (By the way, none of those winners were Germany’s Leni Riefenstahl, whose Triumph of the Will [1935] and Olympia [1938—referenced quite a bit in the current film Race] are often considered among the finest examples of this mode of filmmaking, but there are 2 reasonable reasons for that: [1] This Oscar category didn’t begin until 1941 releases, [2] It’s hard to imagine that Riefenstahl‘s Nazi associations—despite her later claims of non-collaboration, just dedicated filmmaking—wouldn’t have worked against her even if this category had been available in the 1930s.)

Cinematography                                Film Editing

Carol                                                           The Big Short  
The Hateful Eight                                          Mad Max: Fury Road WINNER!
Mad Max: Fury Road                                      The Revenant    
The Revenant WINNER!                                  Spotlight  
Sicario                                                         Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Animated Feature Film                     Animated Short Film

Anomalisa                                                    Bear Story WINNER!
Boy And The World                                       Prologue
Inside Out WINNER!                                    Sanjay’s Super Team  
Shaun The Sheep Movie                                We Can’t Live Without Cosmos    
When Marnie Was There                                World Of Tomorrow  

Live Action Short Film               Documentary Short Film

Ave Maria                                                          Body Team 12 
Day One                                                            Chau, Beyond The Lines
Everything Will Be Okay                                    Claude Lanzmann: Spectres Of The Shoah 
Shok                                                                  A Girl In The River: The Price Of 
Stutterer WINNER!                                               Forgiveness WINNER!  
                                                                          Last Day Of Freedom

As noted above, you can find more details on the Animated and Live Action Shorts in one of my previous postings.  I have no favorite among the Doc Shorts as I’ve seen none of them.

Production Design                             Visual Effects

Bridge Of Spies                                            Ex Machina WINNER!  
The Danish Girl                                            Mad Max: Fury Road  
Mad Max: Fury Road WINNER!                     The Martian  
The Martian                                                The Revenant  
The Revenant                                               Star Wars: The Force Awakens    

Sound Mixing                                    Sound Editing

Bridge Of Spies                                          Mad Max: Fury Road WINNER! 
Mad Max: Fury Road WINNER!                    The Martian    
The Martian                                               The Revenant  
The Revenant                                             Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens                      Star Wars: The Force Awakens

 I doubt that I'll ever truly understand the difference between these Sound categories (although I know that true audiophiles do); I have to wonder, though, how many Academy voters really have a clue about what's going on with these 2 awards along with what determines their choices.   

Costume Design                               Makeup and Hairstyling

Carol                                                        The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out 
Cinderella                                                      The Window And Disappeared
The Danish Girl                                         Mad Max: Fury Road WINNER! 
Mad Max: Fury Road WINNER!                 The Revenant  
The Revenant  

Original Score                                   Original Song

Bridge Of Spies                                         “Earned It,” Fifty Shades Of Grey
Carol                                                         “Manta Ray,” Racing Extinction
The Hateful Eight WINNER!                         “Simple Song #3,” Youth
Sicario                                                       “Til It Happens To You,” The Hunting Ground
Star Wars: The Force Awakens                     “Writing’s On The Wall,” Spectre WINNER!

 For reasons I’m not yet sure of, 2 of the Original Song nominees won't be performed at the Oscar broadcast; if you’d like to hear them, here are "Manta Ray" and "Simple Song #3" (to learn more about the context of Youth [Paolo Sorrentino], it’s in our January 14, 2016 posting).  Other than that, I don’t have much of anything to add regarding the immediately-above-8-categories, except that I really have no strong preferences in these last 2 regarding Score and Song (except that I hated “Writing’s On The Wall,” one of the worst James Bond-title songs-ever) but I’ll chance predictions in those areas anyway, with the dread that the Song Oscar will go to the Bond theme song (yuck!)

 Overall, I’ve predicted a win for Mad Max: Fury Road in a good number of technical categories because with all of these nominations (10 of the 16 that it could have been eligible for) I just think that there’ll be a feeling that it deserves to take home everything it can (which I hope doesn’t include any of the very top prizes because I just didn’t like it that much despite its well-deserved-accolades for technical virtuosity where I do think that Oscars would be appropriate), but if critical consensus is any influence on Academy voters (see the 4th link in the next section of this posting) George Miller could be giving at least a couple of acceptance speeches toward the end of the night.

 That’s all from me now, but I’ll update this with Oscar winners soon then be back after that with reviews of current films, so I hope you enjoy at least some of what the Academy chooses this year.
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AND … at least until the Oscars for 2015’s releases have been awarded on Sunday, February 28, 2016 we’re also going to include reminders in each posting of very informative links where you can get updated tallies of which 2015 films made various individual critic’s Top 10 lists and which ones have been nominated for and/or received various awards.  You may find the diversity among the various critics and the various awards competitions hard to reconcile at times—not to mention the often-significant-gap between critics’ choices and competition-award-winners (which usually pales in comparison to the even-more-noticeable-gap between box-office-success that you might want to monitor here, and the actual award-winners)—but as that less-than-enthusiastic-patron-of-the-arts, Plato, noted in The Symposium (385-380 BC)—roughly translated, depending on how accurate you wish the actual quote to be—“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder,” so your choices are as valid as any of these others, especially if you can offer some rationale for your decisions (unlike many of the awards voters who simply fill out ballots, sometimes for films they’ve never seen).

To save you a little scrolling through the “various awards” list above, here are the Golden Globe winners for films and TV from 2015 and the Oscar nominees for 2015 film releases.  And, in last-minute-consideration for your Oscar-pool-picks I’ll remind you that I’ve previously noted in this section of my postings the award winners from the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild of America, and the Writers Guild of America, as their choices might have impact on the Oscar winners given the overlap of memberships among these various cinema-industry-organizations.

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By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.


  1. Good choices and predictions on the actual winners. I like Bridge Of Spies for Best Picture (hard to beat Spielberg and the Coen Brothers), Bryan Cranston (Trumbo) in an upset for Best Actor and The Hateful Eight for Cinematography primarily for their 70mm and Roadshow efforts. Somehow I think Chris Rock will go light on the diversity controversy but he may double down on the Presidential candidates.

    1. Well I was 0 for 4 on the above but Spies received best Supporting Actor, Cranston (Trumbo) looked happy to be there with perhaps a better seat than Spielberg and Eight received Best Original Score. The fourth "miss" was Chris Rock going light on diversity. I did like Amy winning for Best Documentary, that was a strong film. The Academy has to reduce their show's length significantly and clearly improve the nomination and voting process.

  2. Hi rj, Thanks as always for your feedback. Bridge of Spies was quite strong for me as well (#3 on my Top 10 of the year); however, I was really taken by Spotlight (possibly my Catholic upbringing is connected there or maybe it's just because the film deals with a very lurid situation without becoming sensationalistic in its approach).

    Cranston's excellent in Trumbo but as a self-surprise as I started getting my top 5 actors list together he got pushed off of it, although you still might appreciate that it was because I felt I had to include that marvelously-understated performance of Tom Hanks in Bridge ....

    Good point on the 70mm cinematography of The Hateful Eight, which would cause me to change my choice for both predicted and preferred IF I could be sure that it's the 70mm version that Academy voters had in consideration; unfortunately, I doubt that enough of them saw it in that format but I do hope there was enough positive response to that Roadshow process for more opportunities for someone else to do it again.

    As for Rock, who knows until Sunday but with all that he could be slamming into I just hope that he doesn't hold back (after all, the snarkier he is the better the ratings will be and that's all that really matters anyway). Ken