The ad above pretty much sums up the schizophrenic nature of the Academy Awards, which airs live on ABC this Sunday. It’s a spot that wants to be young and cool, with a smart-mouthed Chris Rock. That stands in contrast with the nominations this year that largely snubbed worthy performances by African-American actors. We’re used to that (remember the Selma controversy last year?), but the nominations sparked a fierce debate that made the Academy, under Cheryl Boone Isaacs, change rules in order to create greater diversity among academy members. The new rules faced heavy resistance from many members who will not get to vote in the future, even though they are exactly the kind of member the Academy would like to promote – women and minorities.
In other words, not a simple discussion. Time will tell what the new rules will do for the Oscars. Meantime, we need to make predictions. First of all, allow me to rank the Best Picture nominees according to my humble taste:
3) The Martian
1) The Revenant
And now the nominations:
* Live Action Short – Ave Maria. A film about Israeli settlers who end up stranded in the West Bank and get help from nuns; in other words, a meeting between religions.
* Animated Short – Sanjay’s Super Team. If Disney or Pixar are nominated, bet on that film. This one was made by Pixar animator Sanjay Patel and was inspired by his childhood in India.
* Documentary Short – Body Team 12. The film follows Red Cross workers as they collect bodies during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa that began in 2013.
* Sound Editing – Mad Max: Fury Road.
* Sound Mixing – Mad Max: Fury Road. The film dominates both sound categories because of how brilliantly sounds were created for the action and how they were mixed with Junkie XL’s music score.
* Makeup and Hairstyling – Mad Max: Fury Road wasn’t only about audio. Part of what makes the film visually dazzling is how the look of its characters were designed.
* Visual Effects – This is a tough category. Mad Max: Fury Road or Star Wars: The Force Awakens? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the latter will take the Oscar, even if the former currently enjoys better odds.
* Song – “Til It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga and Diane Warren from The Hunting Ground.
* Original Score – Ennio Morricone has been nominated for many Oscars, and it looks certain that The Hateful Eight will finally give him one for an individual score; he has previously been awarded an honorary Oscar.
* Production Design – Mad Max: Fury Road.
* Foreign Language Film – Hungary’s Holocaust drama Son of Saul.
* Documentary Feature – Amy, the story of Amy Winehouse.
* Animated Feature – Inside Out.
* Film Editing – Margaret Sixel’s editing is a key component that propels Mad Max: Fury Road forward.
* Cinematography – It may seem incredible, but Emmanuel Lubezki looks certain to pick up his third Oscar in a row for his amazing work on The Revenant.
* Adapted Screenplay – The Big Short. There’s no question that Charles Randolph and Adam McKay deserve Oscars for having turned Michael Lewis’s book into an entertaining and relatable script.
* Original Screenplay – Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy for Spotlight.
* Supporting Actor – By no means an obvious category. Yes, Sylvester Stallone will likely win for Creed, and that’s what I’m betting, but Mark Rylance could still pull off a surprise with Bridge of Spies.
* Supporting Actress – Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl.
* Actress – Brie Larson, Room.
* Actor – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant. Not even a charging bear could stop him.
* Picture – This should be a battle between the two masterpieces of the category, Room and The Revenant. Experts and bookies view it more as a fight between the latter and The Big Short. The winner? The Revenant.