2016 Oscar Predictions!

With the Academy Awards right around the corner, aiming to honor some of the most prodigious films to come out of Hollywood and beyond in 2015, I couldn't go without tossing in my own opinions about who may ending up stealing away the prized golden statues this year. With some films of the year being unfortunately snubbed -- the small but impacting Beasts of No Nation for example -- and others running under my radar -- such as Spotlight and The Big Short -- there are still a gracious amount of amazing films and their respective cast and crew that deserve these awards. With that being said, here are just a few predictions about how the night may go: 

Best Picture:

The Revenant - Already snatching up a number of honors for its breath-taking exploration of the life of American frontiersman Hugh Glass, Alejandro G. Iñárritu's The Revenant packed in just enough visual stimuli and memorable performances to earn my vote for Best Picture. With harrowing performances from both Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, as well as from the film's other supporting cast, The Revenant was one of the few films that stuck with me as we neared the end of the year. Its powerful cinematography playing a major role in the film as well, this was also one of the most beautiful films of 2015, even with its haunting premise.  

Best Actor:

Leonardo DiCaprio - With a gracious line-up for Best Actor, including some of my favorite actors like Michael Fassbender, Matt Damon, and Eddie Redmayne, I had to give it to one of the most memorable actor of the last decade, Mr. DiCaprio. Already spotlighting the actor last month for his role as the bearded brute who earns for revenge on the American frontier in The Revenant, DiCaprio once again captivated me with another intense and thoroughly-devoted role. Also being one of the many actors numerously nominated for an Oscar, but never once winning, I have a strong feeling this is Leo's year to take home the gold. 

Best Actress:

Jennifer Lawrence - Even though I may have only seen two of the female-led films occupying this list so far, including another worthy film by director David O. Russell in Joy and the beautifully-crafted drama Brooklyn, I still wanted to toss in my opinion on who might still win this year. While all eyes are on Room's Brie Larson to take the cake, I'm going with an easy bet of the always-watchable Jennifer Lawrence. While her portrayal of 'Miracle Mop' inventor Joy Mangano in Joy may not have been the actress' all-time best, I still managed to enjoy the actress' third go-around with the brilliant David O. Russell. Offering up a bad-ass performance as a struggling businesswoman who must overcome her toughest obstacles to prosper, Lawrence is surely at the top of my list for who may take the award.   

Best Supporting Actor:

Sylvester Stallone - Reprising his role as boxer Rocky Balboa in last year's Creed, Sylvester Stallone managed to bring even more heart -- and character development -- to this unexpected spin-off hit, as he shared the spotlight with star Michael B. Jordan. While Jordan may lead the show with his fantastic take as the son of famous Rocky character Apollo Creed, it's Stallone who truly resides at the emotional center of the film. Plagued by cancer, but undeniably strengthened by his task to train Jordan's character, Stallone's Rocky is far from wasted as he served a much more pivotal role in the film than I initially thought. While I may have a soft spot for anything fellow nominee Tom Hardy does, I'm predicting Stallone has this one already lined up for him.    

Best Director:

Alejandro G. Iñárritu - Straight off his win for 2014's acclaimed art-house film Birdman, which ruled the Oscars last year, director Alejandro G. Iñárritu delivers a very different project with the western thriller The Revenant. Packed with an intriguing cast -- including Mr. DiCaprio and Tom Hardy -- and some fantastic cinematography, there was no doubt that The Revenant was one of the year's most beautiful, and grisly, films of the year. Putting his actors through rigorous conditions while filming -- most notably by DiCaprio -- and utilizing specific techniques like the application of only natural light in the film, Iñárritu's direction here was just as memorable as it was in Birdman, his keen eye for intense and lengthy tracking shots making the film stunning to watch.

Best Cinematography:

The Revenant - From Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, the man behind Iñárritu's Birdman and 2013's Gravity, along with The Revenant having brilliant direction and cast, the film also had some of the most interesting camera work of the year. While fellow nominees Mad Max: Fury Road and Sicario may have had interesting ways of shooting -- from fast-paced shots of blazing guns to similar (but much more dreary) tracking shots -- The Revenant was my top choice simply for its unique bleakness. Encompassing a stark yet ultimately investing landscape of brutal weather and little to no forgiveness in each shot of the western thriller, Lubezki and Iñárritu work amazingly together to deliver a film of both beautiful looks and horrid moralities.     

Best Production Design:

Mad Max: Fury Road - While The Revenant may deserve this one a bit as well, there's no denying that George Miller's fantastically intense Mad Max: Fury Road packed in as much gripping action as it could in its 2-hour car chase. With that action came a plethora of dynamic stunts that elevated the film to new heights. From the many suicidal "war boys" to the barrage of car-on-car action, the way this post-apocalyptic tale was brought to screen visually in the end was like nothing I'd ever seen before. Visceral and pretty damn convincing in its brutal destruction, and how it was all filmed, the production design of this film was stellar.   

Best Animated Film:

Inside Out - While the mysterious Anomalisa, a drama made entirely out of stop-motion animation, is quickly becoming a sleeper hit among fans of the genre, the one animated film I loved more than any this year had to be Pixar's Inside Out. Imaginative and clever in its design and execution, the first of the two Pixar films of the year (along with The Good Dinosaur, which I sadly haven't yet seen), was both refreshing and quite enjoyable to see in theaters -- as ill-fated cash-grabs like Minions were set to occupy the screens just the month after. Offering up just as witty a plot as Toy Story or Finding Nemo (but this time focusing on the humans...mostly), Inside Out definitely delivered the best animated animated film of the year for me.   

Best Costume Design:

Cinderella - While I may not remember much of this film -- which I rented months after its release -- the retooled live-action Cinderella film did manage to deliver a worthy (and loyal) adaptation of the popular Disney story. Along with that, another memorable aspect of the film had to be its flamboyant costume design. From costume designer Sandy Powell -- who has won previously for films like Shakespeare in Love, The Aviator, and The Young Victoria -- the elegant and colorful dresses and suits made for this film was one thing I truly loved about the adaptation. From Cate Blanchett's evil stepmother and her ever-changing attire to Lily James' signature Cinderella ball gown, the film's Disney-esque look made its design elements stand out very well, even in a reboot such as this.    

Best Visual Effects:

Mad Max: Fury Road - While the mesmerizing sci-fi thriller Ex Machina had one keen eye for female androids, and The Martian was able to put Matt Damon on Mars (well, almost), I had to give this one to Mad Max. Surely one of the most beautifully-shot films of the year, fast-paced and unrelenting, the effects of this film -- practical or otherwise -- were expertly crafted. With blazing flames and roaring cars throughout, as well as one scene that will forever stick with me as one of the coolest night-time-fights-in-the-desert-with-deadly-bandits-on-your-ass scenes in film history, this retconned post-apocalyptic thriller made a strong case as it became one of the most visually-pleasing films that I've seen in a long while.   

Best Original Score:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - If Star Wars didn't get either Best Picture or Best Visual Effects, I had to give it something. And the best thing to give it would have to be Best Original Score. From musical mastermind John Williams (who just recently celebrated his 84th birthday), The Force Awakens managed to not only bring back the original characters and themes from the 1977 classic film, but also the famed musical score that makes Star Wars, well, Star Wars. Evoking similar yet new sensations with his new score, Williams remains one of my favorite film composers in film, bringing a sense of joyfulness and excitement to the seventh film in the continually-growing saga.  

Best Original Song:

"Earned It" - While Sam Smith's "Writing's On The Wall" theme from Spectre may be a given in this final category -- as the artist seems to always come out on top with his harmonic voice captivating both women, and men like me, all over the world -- I wanted to throw a bit of a curveball here, and go rather with The Weeknd's "Earned It". While it may be associated with the god-awful Fifty Shades of Grey film, the song nevertheless shows off the R/B songwriter's wicked talents. Picking up his newest album just recently, a guy like The Weeknd should be honored with much more than just a Grammy for his unique (and often dark) melodies. While Sam Smith may still get it because he's equally as awesome, I'd love to see "Earned It" get the spotlight.

Well, I may not have mentioned all the categories the Academy Awards have to offer (specifically Best Supporting Actress, because I sadly just haven't seen any of the films in the category), but there are just a few predictions I have for the big night. While some of my top choices may have not made it to the final cut, there's still plenty surprises left to unfold come February 28th.  

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