Monday, June 17, 2024

Oscar Voting Begins Today: Spotlight (Substance) vs. Big Short (Style) vs. Beauty (Revenant)


Friday morning, Academy voters can start their engines, er, ballots. Oscar prognosticators are running around like chickens without heads. Who’s in the lead? Who dropped out? Everyone is certain of nothing.

The BEST PICTURE race seems like it’s somewhere between “Spotlight,” “The Revenant,” and “The Big Short.” They are each terrific films. “The Revenant” is beautiful, and daring. It’s also a little pointless. I think it’s great that Leonardo DiCaprio will finally get an Oscar. He’s worked damn hard for it; he’s no slouch. Frankly, his “Wolf of Wall Street” performance was better. But in “The Revenant” Leo slept in a horse carcass and was mauled by a bear. What else can he do? Give it to him now.

“The Big Short” is beautifully constructed, sage and prescient. Adam McKay managed to put a financial crisis into layman’s terms, and he made us care about a disparate group of people. Once again, Steve Carell surprised us. Christian Bale is remarkable. In a few months we may be looking at “The Big Short” ruefully as this economy craters. (Please god, no.) “The Big Short”is stylish and savvy.

But to me “Spotlight” is the Big Idea movie of 2016. The screenplay is a winner. The direction is superb. There’s a reason “Spotlight” won the SAG Award and Critics Choice: that ensemble swings like a big band. There isn’t a false note. And you just keep waiting for that moment when someone asks “Robbie” (Michael Keaton) why no one acted on the pedophilia story years ago. And we know the answer. Still, it’s just one of many little cherry bombs that reveals “Spotlight” as a human endeavor. No one is perfect. But at least they got it together at last. “Spotlight” is going to resonate for years to come.

So Leo is Best Actor. Brie Larson seems like she’s sweeping in for Best Actress from “Room.” None of the others have run a campaign. Jennifer Lawrence and Cate Blanchett have Oscars. Charlotte Rampling made some mistakes in her interviews. Saorise Ronan is alm0st-there but not quite. Brie was exceptional in an exquisite jewel box of a movie.

Sylvester Stallone– what can I say? Give it to him already. Mark Ruffalo’s chances were sort of blown because “Spotlight” needed a lead actor. Without it, there’s not as much momentum. Mark Rylance is just happy to be there. He’s the best stage actor in the world.  It’s Stallone’s year, after forty of them.

Best Supporting Actress is a hard category. Alicia Vikander is in the lead, from “The Danish Girl.” I thought Kate Winslet was so good in “Steve Jobs,” and Jennifer Jason Leigh had the comeback of the year in “The Hateful Eight.” I’m so glad Rachel McAdams finally got some acknowledgment, from “Spotlight.” She’s also worked really hard and is always top notch. Frankly, I thought Rooney Mara would be the winner. I still kind of think that now. This is the worst category. Can’t they all win?

Original screenplay– “Spotlight.” Adapted screenplay– “The Big Short.” My only caveat is that “Bridge of Spies” is a sleeper. It’s also got a Big Idea. And it may outlast all of these movies.

Direct0r– Seems like it’s George Miller vs. Alejandro Innaritu. The latter just won, Miller’s been waiting a long time. I would actually choose Steven Spielberg, who makes everything look easy. Ridley Scott should have been nominated, ditto F. Gary Gray. The winner? Hard to say. Innaritu may prevail simply because he went somewhere no one would go, and did a damn fine job. But Miller did, too, if you think about it.

Best Song– I’m crazy about Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You.” Diane Warren wrote the song primarily, and this is her 8th nomination. I think the timing is good all the way around.

Let the voting begin, kids.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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