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Spotlight on the 2016 Oscars

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By Dr. David C. Simmons


The Academy Awards will be presented Sunday, Feb. 28, at 7:30 p.m. on ABC. Here are my predictions in some of the top categories.



The Big Short

Bridge of Spies


Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant




Will Win: The Revenant. In this unusual year, it’s the category of Best Picture that is the most difficult to predict. The top contenders seem to be Spotlight and The Big Short, with The Revenant having a last-minute surge. A month ago, everyone thought Spotlight had this wrapped up, but it seems like, in the last week, The Revenant may sneak in like a returning ghost (the meaning of the word “revenant”) to win the top award.


Should Win: Spotlight. Two of my favorite films of the year, The Danish Girl and Carol, weren’t even nominated. In their absence, my vote is for Spotlight, a gripping depiction of the Boston Globe’s uncovering of the Catholic child abuse scandal and the people and systems that enabled it through their loyalty and silence.


Adam McKay (The Big Short)

George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Alejandro G. Inarritu (The Revenant)

Lenny Abrahamson (Room)

Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)


Will Win: Innaritu. What an amazing list of directors! Any of them are deserving of this award, but the one who will receive it, for the second year in a row (after last year’s Birdman), is Inarritu. Close behind is 70-year-old George Miller for the highly energetic Mad Max: Fury Road, which awed the students in my film class this semester. Should Miller win, he would be the second-oldest director ever to win this award, behind 74-year-old Clint Eastwood for 2003’s Million Dollar Baby.


Should Win: Inarritu. There are few directors who can tell a story with as much sublime beauty and cinematic wonder. The Revenant’s mythic power came not only from its story, but its jaw-dropping long takes, which place the spectator in a wretchedly barren wilderness with little relief.


Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)

Matt Damon (The Martian)

Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)

Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)


Will Win: DiCaprio. This is one sure thing of the night. DiCaprio not only braved devastatingly harsh location shooting in Canada and Argentina, he also constructed a mythic masterpiece in the character of frontiersman Hugh Glass.


Should Win: Redmayne. Although Redmayne won this award last year for The Theory of Everything, his portrayal of Lili Elbe was filled with the deep waters of surprise, terror, confusion, relief, joy and, ultimately, heartbreak. No performance this year moved me as deeply as this one did.


Cate Blanchett (Carol)

Brie Larson (Room)

Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)

Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)

Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)


Will Win: Larson. After her SAG win, Larson is destined to win this, too. And I will cheer her on. Room was mesmerizing, not only in Larson’s depiction of Ma, but also its inescapable link to seven-year-old Jacob Tremblay’s portrayal of Jack (for which he won a Critic’s Choice Award with a very gracious acceptance speech). Larson’s performance will haunt you for days.


Should Win: Blanchett. Blanchett (who won this award two years ago for Blue Jasmine) claimed the screen in her portrayal of Carol. Her performance was like peering down through the different layers of a hazy lake. Carol had a layer of sheer elegance, masking a level of rabid insecurity, on top of a sandy bottom of eager longing for love.


Christian Bale (The Big Short)

Tom Hardy (The Revenant)

Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)

Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)

Sylvester Stallone (Creed)


Will Win: Stallone. 69-year-old Stallone is the sentimental favorite for his archetypal wise-old-man figure in Creed.


Should Win: Rylance. British stage actor Rylance eclipsed Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies. His portrayal of Rudolf Abel, the outsider who is the victim of American xenophobia and fear-mongering, was quietly and nobly poised.


Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)

Rooney Mara (Carol)

Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)

Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)

Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)


Will Win: Vikander. Alicia Vikander will win for her complicated, poignant portrayal of Gerde Wegener, a woman who struggles alongside her husband, Einer Wegener (Eddie Redmayne), one of the first to attempt sex-reassignment surgery. Gerde exemplifies what true love really is. Right behind Alicia Vikander is Kate Winslet—surprising, since Winslet’s accent wandered almost as much as the plot of Steve Jobs.


Should Win: Vikander. The only thing that would be better than Vikander’s win would be if Redmanye could also win, since their performances were almost an organic unity, just like their characters.



Boy and the World

Inside Out

Shaun the Sheep Movie

When Marnie Was There


Will Win/Should Win: Inside Out. Although Anomalisa charmed critics, count on Pixar’s Inside Out to win, using all the emotions.



Cartel Land

The Look of Silence

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom


Will Win: Amy. Watch for the documentary on Amy Winehouse to sing a victory song on Oscar night. In second place is The Look of Silence, the follow-up documentary to 2012’s haunting The Act of Killing.


Thomas Newman (Bridge of Spies)

Carter Burwell (Carol)

Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight)

Johann Johannsson (Sicario)

John Williams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)


Will Win: Morricone. At 87, Ennio Morricone will finally win his first non-honorary Oscar, beating 83-year-old John Williams, who has five Oscars and 31 nominations.


Should Win: Burwell. I prefer Burwell’s Philip Glass-infused score for Carol.


The Weeknd/Ahmad Balshe/Jason “Daheala” Quenneville/Stephan Moccio/Abel Tesfaye, “Earned It” (Fifty Shades of Grey)

J. Ralph/Antony Hegarty, “Manta Ray” (Racing Extinction)

David Lang, “Simple Song #3” (Youth)

Jimmy Napes/Sam Smith, “Writing’s On the Wall” (Spectre)

Diane Warren/Lady Gaga, “Til It Happens to You” (The Hunting Ground)


Will Win/Should Win: “Til It Happens to You.” A devastating reminder and call to action against the horrific reality of college sexual assault.

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