Post Magazine

January 2016

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Page 21 of 53 18 POST JANUARY 2016 O S C A R buzz A few Oscar hopefuls look to be way ahead of the pack — including Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip and The Peanuts Movie. We're joking. A little humor to balance out the intense anxiety sur- rounding most other year-end releases. So will Oscar, as usual, largely turn a blind eye to popular, popcorn hits in fa- vor of the year-end releases? Impossible to tell, but with all that in mind, we now look into our crystal ball and present our annual top picks list of likely nominees. BEST PICTURE/ BEST DIRECTOR These big races are still up in the air, be- cause at press time, some of the highest profile releases of the season, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Joy, and two ultra-violent westerns — The Hateful Eight and The Revenant, still hadn't been fully unwrapped. And the Best Director race is looking particularly murky still, as the highly anticipated Inarritu, Tarantino and David O. Russell releases could blow other likely contenders out of the water. Their directors are all Oscar favorites, and together the trio has been nominat- ed for Best Director five times in just the past six years. Meanwhile, Ridley Scott and The Martian have been surging in the race as of late, and director Tom McCarthy and Spotlight look increasing- ly like sure bets in both categories. One thing's for sure, though; laughs — and a clear Best Picture front-runner — are definitely MIA this year compared with the awards landscape at this point last year, when the giddy, manic Birdman had already conquered the film festival circuit and become the de facto winner in the race. Instead of Michael Keaton running through Times Square in his underwear, the crowded field includes such grim, harrowing subjects as sex abuse and pedophile priests (Spotlight), murderous child soldiers in Africa (Beasts of No Nation), a mother and son imprisoned in a tiny shed (Room), the post-apocalytic collapse of civilization (Mad Max: Fury Road), brain damage in pro sports (Concussion), bear-mauling and rape on the frontier (The Revenant), hanging and more frontier bloodshed (The Hateful Eight), drug violence and darkness on the Mexican border (Sicario), and thorny issues of transgen- der identity (The Danish Girl). Further down the list of less likely but possible nominees comes yet more death and destruction, with a large side serving of doom and gloom; a sadis- tic mob killer in Boston (Black Mass), climbers who never make it back down from the world's highest peak (Everest), starving miners trapped in the dark (The 33), starving whalers adrift in the Pacific (In the Heart of the Sea) and gang violence on the streets of Chicago (Chi-Raq). It speaks volumes about the prevailing mood when the most light-hearted of the bunch — The Martian, Ridley Scott's critical and commercial smash — tells the story of an astronaut left behind for dead on Mars after an aborted mission. The three-time Oscar nominated director expertly balanced suspense, humor and emotional weight, and with his VFX team conjured up an alien world — but this time devoid of aliens. "I think it connect- ed with audiences because we need a bit of relief," says Scott. "When I read the script, I thought, 'What a great metaphor for what we need. It's a bit of a tonic.' I don't like to use the Hollywood term 'feel-good,' but we're here in Hollwood, so fuck it — it's a feel-good movie, and that's alright." Back on Earth — and back in the post-Civil War era — Tarantino's The Hateful Eight 187-minute epic (complete with an intermission) is anything but light-hearted, as it fills the 70mm screen with corpses and gore. But unlike The Revenant, which is set in the same era, it doesn't take itself very seriously, and the film is full of laughs. "It's a western, but it's also a suspense-mystery and a horror film," admits its two-time Oscar-winning director. "You can't trust anyone in it. There's no moral center." Another well-received film that does have a moral center and which looks cer- tain to get Oscar nods for director and actor is Bridge of Spies, which reteamed Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg in a twisty, intense spy drama. It was shot by frequent Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kaminski (both of his Oscars and five of his six nominations have come for Spielberg films), edited by Michael Khan, another frequent Spielberg collaborator and Academy favorite (he won Oscars for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan), and fea- tures impressive VFX courtesy of Double Negative and Pixomondo. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an obvious contender in the Visual Effects category.

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