This year I decided to embark on a challenge to see as many Oscar-nominated movies in the top categories as possible before the awards ceremony. One of my employees suggested we do this last year, but being in the midst of my MBA, I didn't have the bandwidth to binge on movies. I told him, "next year, I'm in." And boy was I.
You may want to carve out some time and grab a beverage because this blog post will most likely be a long one. I'll start by saying I had a similar experience that I had when I joined a book club seven years ago. I watched movies I'd never have chosen on my own, but was so glad I saw them. It'll change the way I watch movies going forward. Read: I'll be more adventurous. I'll only be picking Best Picture and the Best Actor/Actresses (and Supporting), though I have a printout to predict all the categories so I can enjoy the Oscars from start to finish. If I'd started sooner, I would have gone on a social media campaign to go as Michael Keaton's date, but finding an outfit now would be less than optimal. So, without further ado, here we go!
Best Supporting Actress:
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
I've only seen two of these nominees, which doesn't give me a full view of the competition. I have seen Rachel McAdams and Kate Winslet's performances and though both did a great job, Kate is the clear winner. Rachel did an amazing job but her character, along with the rest of the ensemble, moved as one actor, so it's hard to separate her performance from the others. Kate was almost unrecognizable in her role and was a constant in Steve Jobs' life during the years covered in the film. Kate isn't recognized for the acting work she's done.
My Pick: Kate Winslet
Long Shot Pick: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Best Supporting Actor:
Christian Bale, The Big Short Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
I've seen every performance in this category which makes me feel very informed in my choice. As mentioned in the last category, Mark Ruffalo was great, but as a part of the ensemble, not as an individual actor. Tom Hardy as the evil Fitzgerald is a formidable contender, but I don't think he'll be the winner. Mark Rylance's performance, much like Spotlight's ensemble, was enhanced due to this connection to the lead actor, Tom Hanks, and his role in the film. Sylvester Stallone did a great job rekindling his role as Rocky. What stood out to me was his ability to take a role that has been around for 30+ years and let that character age properly into Rocky of old. His performance with the cast and alone were both well done. His strongest competition is Christian Bale. His role in The Big Short was quite opposite of anything he's done and although I knew it was him, I didn't think about him being Christian Bale at all. He was Michael Burry.
My Pick: Sylvester Stallone
Long shot Pick: Christian Bale
Cate Blanchett, Carol Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy Charlotte Rampling, 45 years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
In this category, I've only seen two performances - Brie Larson and Saoirse Ronan. Cate Blanchett predictably did well, but the movie isn't getting the hype that normally follows with an Oscar. I'd say something similar for Charlotte Rampling - not enough hype. I've heard mixed reviews on Jennifer Lawrence's performance, but she could have an outside chance. I love Saoirse in Brooklyn, but the role wasn't a strong performance to gain attention. I read the book, so my love of everything Brooklyn runs deep. That leaves Brie Larson. I have to admit I wasn't extremely impressed with her performance. Or the movie, for that matter. I thought it was well done, given the tough content matter, but I really didn't see anything extreme in her performance. She played the role well, but not award-winning. But, she'll most likely win.
My Pick: Brie Larson
Long shot Pick: Jennifer Lawrence
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
The only movie I haven't seen in this category is The Danish Girl. This is a great year for Best Actor performances! I'm sorry Eddie, dressing up as a woman doesn't qualify you for Best Actor. Plus you won last year. Matt Damon did a good job in his role, but I wouldn't consider it Best Actor worthy. I was impressed with Michael Fassbender. His portrayal of Steve Jobs was a very worthy performance. Bryan Cranston was excellent in his role as Dalton Trumbo, blacklisted screenplay writer in the 1940s/50s. This is his first Oscar nomination, and it is well deserved. Leo is the winner of this category, hands down. And not because he's been overlooked before. He deserves this win merely on this amazing performance. I'd love to see he and Kate win. Two performers who have been overlooked and deserve recognition...and a little tribute to Titanic.
My Pick: Leonardo DiCaprio
Long Shot Pick: Bryan Cranston
The Big Short Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian The Revenant
I've seen every picture in this category, fulfilling the biggest part of my challenge. Mad Max is a visually artistic creation, but far from a Best Picture. How it made it there over some others is amazing to me. Brooklyn was a beautiful film to watch and a lovely story based on an even better book. The backdrop of Ireland and Brooklyn in the 1950s made this film exquisite. But I don't think it has the steam to win. The Martian is much like Interstellar meets Castaway and it's seems a bit "already done that." Enjoyable movie, but not original enough for Best Picture. Room was a bit of a disappointment since I heard great reviews. It was a good movie, but nothing earth shattering. A few levels above a Lifetime Original Movie. The last four were my favorites. Bridge of Spies was excellent and Tom Hanks is so good that he didn't get nominated for actor given he has a bar so high he'd have to knock it out of the park to get noticed. The Big Short was wonderfully made taking a crushing topic - the housing crash of 2008 - and making it understandable, and somewhat enjoyable to watch on the screen. The ensemble cast didn't hurt. Spotlight was another great movie. Subtle in its presentation of a very difficult topic, I felt the screenplay and acting was so well done and focused on the topic. It didn't veer off into the lives of the writers for the Boston Globe, giving the perspective that their lives were swallowed up in this coverage. I was moved by this movie. When I saw The Revenant, I had just been through a horrible day at work and wasn't all that keen on watching this movie. But I did. And was pleasantly surprised. From the first scene to the last I was enthralled. The story on the screen and that which was implied was strong. And Leo's performance was outstanding. After watching Leo fight a bear, my day at work didn't seem so bad. I'd be shocked if this one doesn't take a lot of Oscars.
My Pick: The Revenant
Long shot Pick: Spotlight
So there you have it. My picks. I'm keeping a scorecard with all my picks (even Best Sound Mixing) so I can see how I fare. Roll out the Red Carpet, I'm ready for my close up!