Oscar Race Begins: Nomination Predictions

By Christian Haitz and Nathan Legger

The season of summer blockbusters has come to an end and the Oscars race has begun. It’s time for movies to trade in their high-action car chases and PG-13 nudity for more thought-provoking plots and character-driven performances.

With stories ranging from gender reassignment to isolation on Mars, this Oscar season is sure to keep audiences guessing which film will earn the title of Best Picture.

To aid in your prediction, here are a few films that will be frontrunners by the time the nominations are released on Jan. 14.

Christian’s Picks

Spotlight (Nov. 2015)

In early 2002, Boston was stunned by the allegations brought upon one of their Roman-Catholic priests. John Geoghan was accused of molesting more than 100 young boys while assigned within the Archdiocese of Boston. What happened after this is the main focus of Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight. Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Billy Crudup and Stanley Tucci all star as the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” investigative team. Through their published report, they exposed the horrors within the Archdiocese and shocked the world.

Spotlight has the opportunity to win Best Picture because of the praise it received from various film festivals leading up to the Oscars, it’s star-studded cast and sordidly-true plot. The film’s writing by the impeccable McCarthy and Josh Singer (West Wing) will aid Spotlight in its race to Oscar gold. Coming to theaters Nov. 6th, Spotlight is definitely a film to watch out for in the coming months.

Joy (Dec. 2015)

Joy, written and directed by David O. Russell, stars Jennifer Lawrence as a struggling single mother who becomes the founder and matriarch of a powerful family business dynasty. Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Édgar Ramírez round out this eclectic cast to prove how betrayal, treachery and the scars of love pave the road to this emotional and human story.

David O. Russell is no spring chicken in this race for Best Picture. Having directed films like American Hustle (2013) and Silver Linings Playbook (2012), he knows what it takes to be nominated for that little golden man. Hopefully this year he will finally be able to know what it feels like to win.

Steve Jobs (Oct. 2015)

Plagued by big-studio greed and dropouts from heavy-hitters like Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale, Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs is finally hitting theaters Oct. 23. The film covers 16 years of the innovative Apple CEO’s life, with several scenes taking place backstage at a major product launch (the Macintosh in 1984, NeXT in 1988, and the iMac in 1998) and flashbacks depicting key moments of Job’s life woven throughout the narrative. Michael Fassbender stars as the titular character with Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet and Jeff Daniels supporting.

Based on the bestselling book by Walter Isaacson and with a screenplay by the illustrious Aaron Sorkin (1992’s A Few Good Men and 2010’s The Social Network), Steve Jobs is sure to be filled with fast-paced dialogue and an uncanny attention to detail. This film is already starting to make waves among audiences and critics alike. Its director, Danny Boyle, was the mastermind behind the sleeper-hit Slumdog Millionaire (2008), which earned him an Oscar for both Director and Best Picture. With a director like Boyle and a screenplay by Sorkin, I would not be surprised if Steve Jobs won more than just Best Picture.

Nathan’s Picks

The Revenant (Jan. 2016)

After taking the Oscars by storm in 2015 with Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárittu follows his cinematic endeavours with this new western thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Based on Michael Punke’s novel of the same name, this movie follows the adventures of famous fur trapper Hugh Glass in the 1800s. After having been mauled by a bear during a hunting trip, Glass’ companions rob him, kill his son and leave him to die. But, as any great hero would, Glass survives and sets out on a 200 mile trek to get revenge on those who’ve done him wrong.

Iñárritu has already been one of the Academy’s underdogs ever since he directed the Mexican film Amores Perros (2000).Since all of his films have received a nod at the Oscars, it’s safe to say that The Revenant will too. Not only that, but he brings a real powerhouse to the table by taking in Emmanuel Lubezki as the cinematographer for this film. This is the same man who did the cinematography for critically acclaimed films such as Birdman (2014), The Tree of Life (2011), Children of Men (2006) and Gravity (2013). Can this finally finally be Leonardo DiCaprio’s first win at the Oscars? Or will we be waiting for attempt number seven?

The Hateful Eight (Jan. 2016)

This is the eighth instalment in the 10-part legacy that is Quentin Tarantino. As The Hangman and his prisoner are on their way to Red Rock, they come across two bounty hunters. During this encounter, the four are caught by a blizzard and are forced to take shelter in a cabin, where they meet four more strangers. As betrayal and deception grows and spreads throughout the cabin, everyone is forced to take care of themselves and survive the cold, winter nights as best they can. Will everyone make it alive before the end of the storm, or may the bounty hunter and his prisoner not make Red Rock at all?

Quentin Tarantino is not a stranger to the Oscar battlefield. Almost every movie of his has been categorised as an immediate cult classic and has received a nomination at the Oscars. The Hateful Eight deserves the award for best picture not just because of the script and cast, or the cinematography on beautiful 70mm, but because it is long overdue.

The Martian (Oct. 2015)

Based on the critically acclaimed novel by Andy Weir, The Martian follows a NASA crew on their ARES-III mission to Mars. After their base camp is hit by a monstrous storm, the crew is forced to evacuate. During the evacuation Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is hit, and taken for dead. Little does everyone know that Mark is still alive. Now he must find a way to live on an uninhabited, hostile planet for four years and make contact with earth before their next mission to Mars.

This movie has most definitely become one of the major blockbusters of the year, and will most likely be getting some major nods at the Oscar’s. I believe that Ridley Scott has finally regained momentum with this new film. This movie is definitely a front-runner for visual effects, adapted screenplay and sound editing and mixing. I think these elements are gonna be the ones to carry the movie (just like when Interstellar (2014) got a nod) far enough to be nominated for best picture.

Christian Haitz can be reached at christain.hatiz@spartans.ut.edu.

Nathan Legger can be reached at nathan.legger@spartans.ut.edu.

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