The 88th Academy Awards – Predictions & Miscellaneous Musings

The 88th Oscars®, hosted by Chris Rock, will be televised live by the ABC Television Network on Sunday, February 28, at 7:00 pm ET, 4:00 pm PT, from the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood. The presentation will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.
For better or worse, here are my Oscar ballot predictions for the 88th Academy Awards — 

Blue=My ballot choices.
Red=Based on all that I have read, heard, seen, and studied, this is the nominee that I believe will receive the trophy (where this differs from my selection).
Green=I cannot express a strong opinion in this category.  Astute readers of Cultural Weekly, what’s your take?

The Martian
The Revenant
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
Why all 8 Best Picture Nominees Are Winners:
The Big Short – An illustration of the corruption endemic at each and every level of the financial sector that triggered the economic meltdown of 2008, from which a majority of citizens have yet to fully recover. It forces the question: Have we learned from past mistakes and instituted sufficient reforms or will history soon repeat itself?
Bridge of Spies – A corrective for the xenophobia that threatens our national security. Tom Hanks plays a hero, a diplomat and a peacemaker for today. Spielberg at his sophisticated and nuanced best!
Brooklyn – A story that reminds us of who we are. In this time when immigrants are under assault by political aspirants, it’s good to remember that even if we are not immigrants ourselves, most of us are descendants of those who arrived not so very long ago. The film inspires compassion and tolerance for new arrivals and appreciation for the courage and strength of those who risk that journey.
Mad Max: Fury Road – a high octane, futuristic romp on acid.
The Martian – Matt Damon plays a hero for the 21st century — an indefatigable problem-solver with clear vision and balanced ego. The film has generated renewed excitement in, imagination about and commitment to the space program, apparent in the record number of astronaut applications — 18,300 applicants for 14 spaces — received by NASA at the end of 2015, for their 2030s anticipated mission to Mars.
The Revenant – A story of survival and revenge that keeps you relentlessly perched on the edge of your seat. Not for the weak of heart. Hollywood has always revered exquisite “visual storytelling” — which is why, I believe this film will take home the statuette.
Room – Given the dreadful to imagine premise – the captivity of a five year old boy and his mother (reminiscent of the Jaycee Lee Dugard kidnapping) — this film is thankfully not at all what you would expect! Life-affirming performances by Brie Larson and her young co-star, Jacob Tremblay are testament to the power of the imagination, and how love bolsters boundless resilience.
Spotlight – An insightful and meticulously constructed dramatization of why it took so long for news media to expose the endemic problem of pedophilia by priests in the Catholic Church.  Stirring and masterfully told by an outstanding ensemble of A-list actors.
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant – long overdue, it is clearly Leo’s victory and his time
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn – the “it” factor, lovely and stirring to behold
Brie Larson, Room – a break-out performance, in a role that fits like a glove
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Sylvester Stallone, Creed – poignant, aged like a fine port, as Linklater uses time in his films, Ryan Coogler & Michael B. Jordan have presented Stallone with one hell of a gift horse. Let’s just hope that he remembers to thank them, this time out!
Christian Bale, The Big Short – Bale always takes the road less traveled with interesting choices
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies – original, a character unlike anything I have seen before, I am interested to see more from Rylance in the coming year
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl – strength, vulnerability, and depth of feeling
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs – I am hoping that Winslet wins in 2016 for “The Dressmaker”!
Amy – a haunting tribute to the Lady Day of our day and her irresistible siren song
Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom
Anomalisa – poetic, builds to a heart-breaking, unexpected, ordinary, yet extraordinary climax
Inside Out
Boy and the World
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There
Son of Saul – the most immersive and visceral Holocaust film experience that I have ever had, my heart was pounding out of my chest for the entire duration of the film. I felt enraged by the unshakable experience.
Embrace of the Serpent
A War
The Revenant – Alejandro González Iñárritu
The Big Short – Adam McKay
Mad Max: Fury Road
Room – Lenny Abrahamson
Spotlight – Tom McCarthy
The Big Short – makes something abstract comprehensible, formally inventive, particularly in its use of direct address
The Martian
Spotlight – beautifully constructed
Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Straight Outta Compton
The Revenant – the opening sequence is jaw-dropping, nature captured in all her power and glory (stampeding buffalos, the avalanche)
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road
Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
The Martian
The Revenant
The Danish Girl – craftsmanship and beauty, period
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Mad Max: Fury Road
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared
The Revenant
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Mad Max: Fury Road
Bridge of Spies
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Big Short
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – iconic! and nostalgic!
Bridge of Spies
The Hateful Eight
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG) – Have a listen here.
“Earned It,” Fifty Shades of Grey – The Weeknd, Ahmad Balshe, Jason Daheala Quenneville and Stephan Moccio
“Manta Ray,” Racing Extinction – J. Ralph and Antony Hegarty
“Simple Song #3,” Youth – David Lang
“Til It Happens To You,” The Hunting Ground – Diane Warren and Lady Gaga
“Writing’s On The Wall,” Spectre – Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes
The Martian – integrating actual NASA images of the red planet, it may be the closest that any of us in our lifetimes comes to making a trip to Mars! (The Martian VR Experience is pretty far out, as well.)
The Revenant – that gruesome attack of the bear may take the prize?
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Ave Maria
Day One
Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)
Body Team 12
Chau, beyond the Lines
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Last Day of Freedom
World of Tomorrow – playfully thought-provoking
Bear Story
Sanjay’s Super Team
We Can’t Live without Cosmos
For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated only white actors in its top categories and failed to recognize any black directors. In response, Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Will Smith are boycotting the show.
It is significant to note that in the 88 year history of the Academy Awards, a total of 17 black artists total have won an Oscar. To date, no black filmmaker has won the top directing prize for narrative feature.
We have faith that Chris Rock will infuse some much needed perspective — along with some shaming into the star-studded affair. The time is nigh.
Meanwhile, if you have not already done so, please do yourself a favor and get out and see these four films from supreme artists, who happen to be of color.
Creed – Director Ryan Coogler and Actor Michael B. Jordan cooking with fire. A brilliant concept for a fresh take on a tent-pole, franchise classic.
Straight Outta Compton – Director F. Gary Gary, Hip Hop 101 — a must see! With a killer score. Discover how and why it became the highest-grossing music biopic in history.
Dope – Director Rick Famuyiwa’s coming of age film is heartfelt, hilarious, outrageous, and smart. Dope is dope.
Beasts of No Nation – Abraham Attah was named Best Male Lead and Idris Elba won Best Supporting Actor at 2016 Spirit Awards last night. Congratulations Abraham and Idris!
Chi-raq – A modern day adaptation of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes, set against the backdrop of gang violence in Chicago from none other than Spike Lee, the artist himself.
The magnitude of the issue:
The staggering numbers that prove Hollywood has a serious race problem, The Washington Post
Some forms of redress:
I absolutely love …
10 Actors, Directors, and Executives Can Reverse #OscarsSoWhite
Courtney Kemp AgbohShowrunner & Executive Producer
Steven Caple Jr., Director & Screenwriter
Danai Gurira, Actress & Playwright
Corey Hawkins, Actor
Charles King, Founder & CEO, MACRO Ventures
Nneka Onuorah, Documentary Filmmaker
Alana Mayo, VP of Production, Paramount Pictures
Nate Parker, Actor, Screenwriter & Director
Issa Rae, Actress, Screenwriter & Digital Studio Head
Lena Waithe, Actress, Producer & Screenwriter
10 Black Filmakers Who Deserve More Respect,
Oscar Micheaux
Melvin Van Peebles
Gordon Parks
Ousmane Sembéne
Ernest Dickerson
F. Gary Gray
Steve McQueen
Kasi Lemmons
Dee Rees
Richard Ayoade
In the words of Academy member Jennifer Warren, director, actress and founding member of the Alliance of Women Directors (The Washington Post, Thursday, February 25):
“The heart of the problem isn’t who gets nominated. The heart of the problem is how the industry works. The academy is a microcosm of the industry, and it shows benign neglect more than outright prejudice. It’s not that the industry is prejudiced. It’s that they’re disinterested in anything but themselves.”
On A Much Lighter Note:
Some Interesting Tidbits for Your Oscar Viewing Parties
Number of Features Eligible for Best Picture this Year (88th Oscars, 2015): 305
Number of Countries Submitting Foreign Language Films: 80
Number of Voting Members of the Academy: 6,261 (as of 12/14/15)
Estimated Number of Americans Who Watched the 87th Oscar telecast: 37.3 million
Number of Award Categories for the 88th Oscars: 24
Height of Oscar: 13.5 inches
Weight of Oscar: 8.5 pounds
Design: a stylized figure of a knight holding a crusader’s sword, standing on a reel of film, with five spokes, signifying the five original branches of the Academy (actors, directors, producers, technicians, and writers)
Designer: Cedric Gibbons, chief art director at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Sculptor: Los Angeles artist George Stanley
Manufacturer of the “New Statuettes”: Polich Tallix — starting with the 88th Academy Awards®, Polich Tallix Fine Art Foundry, Rock Tavern, New York, will exclusively create its iconic Oscar® statuettes in a process that returns to the Oscar’s fine art roots, the statuettes will now be hand-cast in bronze before receiving its 24-karat gold finish.
Manufacturing Time: 3 months for 50 Oscar statuettes
Person Who Has Hosted the Most Oscar Shows: Bob Hope, 19 host appearances
Longest Oscar telecast: 4 hours, 23 minutes (2002)*
Shortest Oscar telecast: 1 hour, 40 minutes (1959)
* New Policy on Acceptance Speeches: Nominees were asked to submit their “thank you” lists of names in advance of the awards ceremony; scrolling list of these names will be showcased at the bottom of the screen during the winners’ time on stage.
And Best for Last:


99 Homes



Bridge of Spies


Dark Horse

Diary of a Teenage Girl


The Dressmaker

Margarita, With A Straw

The Martian

Spotlight (“The Club” from director Pablo Larraín provides a great counterpoint)


The Lobster

The Wolfpack

 Top Image: Chris Rock, host of the 88th Annual Academy Awards
OSCAR®, OSCARS®, ACADEMY AWARDS®, ACADEMY AWARD®, A.M.P.A.S.® AND “OSCAR NIGHT® are registered trademarks, and the OSCAR statuette is a registered trademark and copyrighted property, of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
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