2016 Oscars: Best Picture

Continuing my series of 2016 Oscars posts, which will run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the three weeks leading up to the Academy Awards on Sunday, February 28.

NOMINEES FOR PICTURE

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

Who Will Win: The Big Short
Who Could Win: Spotlight
Who Should Win: Brooklyn
Who Should Be Here: Steve Jobs, Straight Outta Compton, Ex Machina, Inside Out & Z for Zachariah

The big question is who will take home the big price for the biggest picture of the year?

See where I’m going with this?

It’s a real tossup, but ultimately I expect that The Big Short will take home Oscar gold. It could very well be Spotlight, however, and Max Max: Fury Road and The Revenant are both still in the running. It’s a tough year to predict Best Picture, largely because there’s a lot of good films, but no truly great films on the roster, no classics or masterpieces.

It’s likely going to come down between Spotlight and The Big Short, however, and I’ve changed my pick a couple of times in this area. Spotlight is an important film about a highly compelling subject. However, it’s lacking some narrative depth in places (particularly with the characters and their motivations) and in a stronger year, would likely not be in contention. The Big Short, however, also covers a highly important and even more importantly, highly complicated subject. Not only does The Big Short make a complicated subject understandable with its odd mix of voiceover and sideways flashes to random celebrities explaining the harder stuff.

Two of my favorite films of the year – The Martian and Brooklyn – aren’t really in the running, though I wish they were, as they remind us of important aspects of American life. The Martian, though set in the near future, harkens back to an era when people set goals and then set out to accomplish them, rather than constantly complaining about why said goals could never be accomplished. Taking the phrase “work the problem” to an extreme, The Martian is a compelling and uplifting film about what we can do when we put our minds to it. Brooklyn – as I’ve already written in these blogs – comes at a time in America when assclowns talk about building great walls and xenophobia runs rampant. It reminds us about how we all come from immigrants who built this country and made it great.

I don’t understand the hype surrounding Max Max: Fury Road. It’s got some terrific acting and cinematography, but I just don’t see greatness in a two hour car chase with little character development or meaning to it. The Revenant is hanging in there through DiCaprio’s soon-to-be Oscar winning performance, as well as its likely win for Cinematography and potential upset bid for co-star Tom Hardy in the supporting category. Room and The Bridge of Spies aren’t really in contention, but terrific films in their own right.

The big controversy this year surrounds the various snubs, including (but not limited to) those featuring actors of color. Straight Outta Compton is one of these films, which was every bit as good as any on this list, but got very little recognition. But with the Academy’s average age being close to retirement, it’s not entirely surprising that a film featuring gangsta rap group NWA gets overlooked, as well as the animated film Inside Out. The Pixar film, which is one of the most poignant coming-of-age stories made in quite sometime, only received a nomination in the writing category.

Unfortunately, these two films are why the Best Picture category was extended to include up to 10 nominees, and that’s part of the problem. Hopefully the Academy’s new rules for next year will fix this.