Friday, February 26, 2016

Who'll win and who already has lost

A brief look at Oscar in the year in which Hollywood looked in the mirror and (gasp!) realized it was white -- and not a woman.

Here's my only surefire prediction in an unusually uncertain Oscar year: Every actor who wins an Academy Award Sunday night will be white.

Of course, you already know that because this has been the year in which the Academy's all-white list of nominees in the acting categories has become one of the season's hottest pop-cultural topics. Once again, we've been reminded that Oscar, Hollywood's symbol of excellence, is also an emblem of an industry dominated by white males.

I'm not going to reiterate all the analysis that already has been done. Google "Oscars and diversity" and you can spend the rest of the day (or even week) reading the statistical evidence that proves Hollywood's lack of diversity and inclusion. I'm assuming that you -- like me -- need no convincing.

Institutional whiteness has been part of Hollywood's DNA since the beginning, and it continues to dominate Hollywood's commercial calculations even today.

In the wake of controversy over another white year, the Academy has pledged to double its minority membership by 2020; maybe that will help as far as awards are concerned, but the underlying question of who's empowered to give the go-ahead for a studio project -- the much desired green light -- remains problematic.

But don't assume that if we suddenly found blacks, women, Latinos or Asians in some of those positions that we'd see a wholesale change in the way Hollywood does business. We might and we might not see a difference in the kind of movies that are available to us. Why is change uncertain? There still will be shareholders to please, as well as an industry in which commercial considerations -- including the proclivities of the global marketplace -- often trump (if you'll pardon the word) artistic considerations. It's rare that the two come together, although that sometimes happens.

Whatever the future holds, I think we all can agree that the most electric moment of the evening will occur when Rock takes the stage for his opening monologue.

I won't belabor the diversity issue, but do want to pose one question that might be as important as which black stars (Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith, for example) won't be attending.

In this regard, it's important to realize that Hollywood doesn't have a minority problem, whether we're talking about blacks, Latinos, Asians, gays or any other under-represented group. It has a majority problem.

That's why it would have been meaningful if Leonardo DiCaprio, for example, had declined to attend because he didn't want to accept an award from a system that was rigged -- if that's what he believes. White stars can help make change happen, too.p>
So what about those predictions? Had this not been a year of #Oscars So White -- the on-line protest movement that started last year -- we'd be concentrating on a race that promises more than the usual suspense, particularly in the best-picture category.

Why is that? Because although 2015 was a very good year for movies, it did not produce the usual stand-out nominee. I can't say I'd consider it an outrage if any of the eight best-picture nominees were to win.

Put another way: This year's nominees tend toward a general and fairly equal level of quality.

So here -- without enthusiasm or blather -- are my predictions in the major categories; an asterisk appears next to the movie or person I deem the likely winner.

I'm betting against The Revenant for best picture because The Big Short offers entertainment along with an important statement about financial flimflammery on an epic scale. It's also difficult for me to imagine the Academy getting behind a movie many may admire, but which doesn't exactly generate affection. The Revenant, after all, is a bit of an ordeal.

Maybe that's wishful thinking on my part, though. All the smart Hollywood money is on The Revenant, which probably tells you something about me and money. If I were voting, I'd vote for Spotlight, but that movie seems to have lost its Oscar luster.

As for who already has lost? That's an easy one. We all have because we've not heard voices that should be heard and too often are ignored.

Best Picture
*The Big Short
The Revenant (regarded as the favorite at time of this writing)
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Brooklyn (upset possibility)
Best Director
*Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road (upset possibility)
Lenny Abrahamsson, Room
Adam McKay, The Big Shot
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight (upset possibility)
Best Actor
*Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs (upset possibility)
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Matt Damon, The Martian
Best Actress
*Brie Larson, The Room
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn (upset possibility)
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Best Supporting Actor
*Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies (upset possibility)
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Best supporting actress
*Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs (upset possibility)
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Best Original Screenplay
Inside/Out (upset possibility)
Ex Machina
Straight Outta Compton
Bridge of Spies
Best Adapted Screenplay
*The Big Short
The Martian
Brooklyn (upset possibility)
The Martian
Best Animated Feature
*Inside Out
Boy and the World
When Marnie Was There
Shaun the Sheep
Best Foreign Language Film
*Son of Saul, Hungary
Theeb, Jordan
Embrace the Serpent, Colombia
A War, Denmark
Mustang, France (upset possibility)
Best Documentary
Cartel Land (upset possibility)
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom

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