Sunday, July 21, 2024


Susan Granger’s Oscar Predictions

By Susan Granger

Special to WestportNow

The red carpet is ready as the 6,200 Oscar voters choose among the 305 films that qualified for the 88th Academy Awards. To be eligible, a film must run more than 40 minutes and open by Dec. 31, 2015, for a minimum of seven-days at a theater in Los Angeles. Image

When Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs read off the 20 acting nominations back in January, she said she was heartbroken and frustrated by the lack of diversity. That ignited many protests.

Yet, in the past, the Academy has honored Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman,  Jamie Foxx, Terence Howard, Forest Whitaker, Eddie Murphy, Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis, Lupita Nyong’o and Don Cheadle – to name only a few. “12 Years a Slave” won three Oscars in 2014; “Selma” was nominated for Best Picture in 2015.

This year, the primary contenders generated by African-Americans were “Concussion,” “Creed,” and “Straight Outta Compton.”  Although I gave CREED a 10-out-of-10, Warner Bros., unfortunately, marketed it to black audiences, not mainstream.  Although I would love to have seen young writer/director Ryan Coogler nominated, Sylvester Stallone did get a Best Supporting Actor nod.

While Will Smith gave a creditable performance in “Concussion,” Sony was plagued by threatened lawsuits from the NFL and watered down the impact of the script. And the profanity-filled music in “Straight Outta Compton” turned off a lot of people, including me.

What many people don’t understand is that those 20 acting nominees were selected by 1,138 members of the Actors branch, which has a larger percentage of African-Americans than other branches and probably skews younger as well.

In my opinion, the real problem lies with the dearth of minority production executives and agents. And that’s difficult to address because, traditionally, these positions are filled by those who spend years, rising through the ranks, often starting in the mailroom.

Perhaps the greatest changes will come from within the industry – people like producer/director/actor Tyler Perry, who has an ownership stake in his comedies and puts people of color on his payroll.

Since its creation, the Academy’s focus has been excellence in motion pictures. Apparently, the new focus is diversity. In the past, Black, Latino and Asian professionals were asked to join because of their work – now, they and others will wonder whether they were chosen to fill an arbitrary quota.

On the bright side, for years, it’s been accepted that science fiction films don’t usually win Oscars. But this year, George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” and Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” are major contenders, while J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” broke box-office records.

LGBT themes were explored in “Carol” and “The Danish Girl.” And Westerns are back: Alejandro Inarritu’s “The Revenant” is all about visuals while – in contrast – Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” is all about words.

BEST PICTURE: Nominees are “The Big Short,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Brooklyn,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant,” “Room” & “Spotlight.” This race is a real nail-biter.

The winner of the Screen Actors Guild’s (SAG) Ensemble Award “Spotlight” is a favorite, although “The Big Short” won at the Producer’s Guild.

At the Golden Globes, “The Revenant” triumphed as Best Drama, while “The Martian” was named Best Comedy (a ludicrous designation, given the subject matter). Over the last 20 years, no film has won Best Picture without winning at least one major Guild award.

But this year is different. In the weeks since the nominations, “The Revenant” has gained traction, as its Mexican director garnered a great deal of publicity, revealing the impressive hardships of filming.

MY PREDICTION: “The Revenant”

BEST DIRECTOR:  Nominees are Adam McKay (“The Big Short”), George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”), Alejandro G. Inarritu (“The Revenant”), Lenny Abrahamson (“Room”) & Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”).

Affable Aussie George Miller won an Oscar for “Happy Feet” (2007) with previous nominations for “Lorenzo’s Oil” (1992) and “Babe” (1995). Over the past 37 years, he’s paid his dues and emerged as a staunch feminist, casting Charlize Theron as the one-armed road warrior, after building previous dystopian “Mad Max” films around Mel Gibson.

His primary competition comes from Alejandro G. Inarritu, who became the first director ever to win successive Directors Guild Award, following last year’s “Birdman.”  His acceptance speech acknowledged that he was making many Mexicans happy, so Inarritu represents diversity. If Inarritu wins, he will be the third director to win back-to-back Oscars, following John Ford and Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

MY PREDICTION: Alejandro G. Inarritu (“The Revenant”)

BEST ACTOR:  Nominees are Bryan Cranston (“Trumbo”), Matt Damon (“The Martian”), Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant”), Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs”) & Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”).

Obviously, voters choose the nominee they deem most worthy, but what influences their judgment? Katharine Hepburn once said, “The right actors win Oscars – but for the wrong roles.”

Meaning that when there’s a popular, oft-nominated actor, who should have won by now, voters often choose him/her. That’s why Elizabeth Taylor won for “Butterfield 8.” That’s why I’m going with Leonardo DiCaprio for Best Actor. DiCaprio’s A-list resume includes “Titanic,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “The Aviator,” “The Departed,” “The Great Gatsby” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

MY PREDICTION: Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant”)

BEST ACTRESS: Nominees are Cate Blanchett (“Carol”), Brie Larson (“Room”), Jennifer Lawrence (“Joy”), Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”) & Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”).

Larson’s gritty performance as the kidnapped mom gives her the edge she needs.

MY PREDICTION: Brie Larson (“Room”)

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Nominees are Christian Bale (“The Big Short”), Tom Hardy (“The Revenant”), Mark Ruffalo (“Spotlight”), Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”) & Sylvester Stallone (“Creed”).

While the SAG Award winner has gone on to grab the Oscar for the past 7 out of 10 years, Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”) didn’t get a nomination, so Sylvester Stallone should prevail.

MY PREDICTION: Sylvester Stallone in “Creed”

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Nominees are Jennifer Jason Leigh (“The Hateful Eight”), Rooney Mara (“Carol”), Rachel McAdams (“Spotlight”), Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl”) & Kate Winslet (“Steve Jobs”).

Alicia Vikander not only brought a beguiling android to life in “Ex Machina” but also provided a perfect foil for Eddie Redmayne’s tortured, transgender artist in “The Danish Girl.” This is Vikander’s year.

MY PREDICTION: Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl”)

BEST ADAPTED SCFREENPLAY:  Nominees are “The Big Short,” “Brooklyn,” “Carol,” “The Martian” & “Room.” Based on Michael Lewis’ complicated hook about the complex Ponzi-scheme of the American mortgage system, Adam McKay and Charles Randolph crafted a screenplay that turned the financial collapse into a comic-thriller. It’s amazing when screenwriters can turn education into entertainment.

MY PREDICTION: “The Big Short”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Nominees are “Bridge of Spies,” “Ex Machina,” “Inside Out,” “Spotlight” & “Straight Outta Compton.”

My choice would be Alex Garland’s low-budget sci-fi thriller “Ex Machina,” but I voters will choose between acknowledging diversity with “Straight Outta Compton” or the inventiveness of “Spotlight.”

MY PREDICTION: “Spotlight”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Nominees are Colombia’s “Embrace the Serpent,” France’s “Mustang,” Hungary’s “Son of Saul,” Jordan’s “Theeb” & Denmark’s “A War.”

MY PREDICTION:  Hungary’s “Son of Saul”

BEST EDITING: Nominees are “The Big Short,” “Mad Max Fury Road,” “The Revenant,” “Spotlight” & “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Since “Mad Max: Fury Road” is essentially one long desert chase with 75 vehicles and 300 stunts, utilizing the new Edge camera rig, its editing is pivotal.

MY PREDICTION: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Nominees are “Carol,” “The Hateful Eight,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Revenant” & “Sicario.”

MY PREDICTION:  Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki for “The Revenant”

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nominees are “Bridge of Spies,” “The Danish Girl,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian” & “The Revenant.”

MY PREDICTION: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Nominees are “Ex Machina,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant” & “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

MY PREDICTION: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING: Nominees are “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The 100 Year-old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” & “The Revenant.”

MY PREDICTION: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Nominees are “Carol,” “Cinderella,” “The Danish Girl,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” & “The Revenant.”

MY PREDICTION: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Nominees are “Anomlisa,” “Boy and the World,” “Inside Out,” “Shaun the Sheep Movie” & “When Marnie Was There.”

MY PREDICTION:  Disney/Pixar’s “Inside Out”

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM: Nominees are “Bear Story,” “Prologue,” “Sanjay’s Super Team,” “We Can’t Live Without Cosmos” & “World of Tomorrow.”

MY PREDICTION: “World of Tomorrow”

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM: Nominees are “Ave Maria,” “Day One,” “Everything Will Be Okay,” “Shok” & “Stutterer.”


BEST DOCUMENTARY:  Nominees are “Amy,” Cartel Land,” “The Look of Silence,” “What Happened, Miss Simone?” and “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.”


BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT: Nominees are “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.”

Whether or not Obaid-Chinoy’s “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness” wins, it’s already focused world attention on honor killings in Pakistan, ending impunity for those involved.

MY PREDICTION: “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Nominees are “Bridge of Spies,” “Carol,” “The Hateful Eight,” “Sicario” & “Star Wars: the Force Awakens.”

MY PREDICTION:  “The Hateful Eight”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: Nominees are “Earned It” from “Fifth Shades of Grey,” “Manta Ray” from “Racing Extinction,” “Simple Song No. 3” from “Youth,” “’Til It Happens To You” from “The Hunting Ground” & “Writing’s on the Wall” from “Spectre.”

MY PREDICTION: “’Til It Happens To You” from “The Hunting Ground”

BEST SOUND MIXING: Nominees are “Bridge of Spies,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant” & “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Sound mixing is one of the final stages of post-production. The mixer takes all the sound elements, plus the music score, and determines the right levels, prioritizing what the audience hears.

MY PREDICTION: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

BEST SOUND EDITING: Nominees are “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant,” “Sicario” & “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

The sound editor records and assembles everything you hear on the screen, making individual audio choices and often creating unique effects.

MY PREDICTION: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

My final prediction: next year’s Oscars will feature writer/director/actor Nate Parker’s Sundance breakout/prize-winner “The Birth of a Nation” about Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion. Mark my words! Image

( Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at

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