February 28, 2016

OscarLand: The Day Arrives


Provocative, almost existential questions have circled this year’s Oscars since seconds after the nominations were announced.  Should the awards, and the Motion Picture Academy’s voting membership, mirror the actual state of the film industry, which is overwhelmingly dominated by older white men, or a Platonic ideal embodying a more diverse vision of what the industry should be?  How much should Academy membership put its finger on the scales to make that reality?  Are voting members who haven’t been active in the industry for more of a decade to be discarded as no longer relevant (and presumptively more likely to vote a traditional white male ballot), or retained through their remaining lifetimes for their years of service in the ever-dimming past?

Unfortunately, with the exception of Chris Rock’s monologue (luckily for the Academy, he’d been chosen as host before the controversy hit) and the roll call of presenters, which will include every person of color willing to answer the Academy’s call, little of this will be reflected in tonight’s ceremony, which has the potential to be one of the dullest ever.  10 of the dozen marquee categories appear not just to be settled, but to have been so for weeks:

Best Actor:  Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Best Actress:  Brie Larson, Room

Best Supporting Actor:  Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Best Supporting Actress, Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Best Director:  Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant

Best Original Script:  Spotlight

Best Adapted Script:  The Big Short

Best Animated Film:  Inside Out

Best Feature Documentary:  Amy

Best Song:  “Till It Happens To You,” The Hunting Ground (Diane Warren/Lady Gaga)

The buzz is that in Best Foreign Language Film, Mustang could upset Son of Saul, but that’s a battle of a $723K box office contender against a $1.312M bonanza, so not likely to cause much of a mainstream ripple.

What that leaves, of course, is Best Picture, where The Revenant is widely considered to have a slim lead over Spotlight and The Big Short, the three of them having split the usual pre-Oscar precursors.  A 3-way battle for the biggest category of them all would normally seem to call for some excitement, but hardly anyone appears to care passionately about the result this year.  The shaky bet here is that Spotlight will pull out the victory, beneficiary of the Academy’s preferential ballot, in which a divisive candidate can be overturned by one that garners lots of second- and third-place votes.  (Note, however, that at the Producers Guild, which uses the same kind of ballot, The Big Short had its biggest pre-Oscar win.)

The less flashy categories are likely to be split for the most part between Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road, and may go like this:

Best Cinematography:  The Revenant

Best Film Editing:  Mad Max: Fury Road (The Big Short is the possible upset)

Best Production Design:  Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Original Score:  The Hateful 8

Best Costume Design:  Cinderella (Mad Max: Fury Road may win here too)

Best Visual Effects:  Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Make-Up/Hairstyling:  Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Sound Mixing:  The Revenant

Best Sound Editing:  Mad Max: Fury Road

And for the hell of it, in the anything-can-happen bane of all Oscar pools, the short subject categories:

Best Animated Short:  World of Tomorrow

Best Live-Action Short:  Day One

Best Documentary Short:  Body Team 12

We’ll be live-tweeing some comments, so stay tuned at @showbuzzdaily.  Good luck with all Oscar pools, let’s hope that Chris Rock keeps things interesting (and funny), and settle in for what’s always a long, long night.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."