Update: 10/24. It’s always the technical categories. Sometimes there’s a sweep, sometimes they spread them around. Oh well. Did not really like Ride of the Valkyries as the play off music- especially since it seemed to have been transposed into a major key??? Much, much too nice.
Finally! Awards season is almost over! At last, we can start to forget about this year’s nominees and turn our attention to next year’s horse race.
But before we get to that, I should address the issues raised by #OscarsSoWhite– that the class of nominees, especially in the acting categories, is remarkably uniform. Plenty has been said, but it bears repeating: This is institutional racism at its most insidious. 
This year, there were several high-profile examples of actors and films which were expected to be nominated- Will Smith in Concussion, Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation, as
well as Straight Outta Compton and Tangerine– and weren’t for some reason. There’s a lot of politics and campaigning involved in awards season, which could explain why the above examples missed out this year. But not entirely.
What’s even worse is that the kinds of movies likely to win awards are almost a genre to themselves. It’s not the Year’s Best Picture, it’s the Year’s Best Picture That The Academy Likes to See. Having a summer action movie like Mad Max: Fury Road on this list is a surprise.
But what’s especially tricky is that all of this isn’t the fault of any one person. Are you a bad person for thinking Brooklyn was a better movie than Tangerine? I don’t think so. But when everyone thinks this way, or doesn’t bother to see Tangerine, or Straight Outta Compton, or writes them off as outside the award-worthy genre, then it’s a problem.
Increasing the diversity of the Academy’s voting pool will probably help, but won’t change that the movies Hollywood makes aren’t that diverse to begin with. You can’t nominate what doesn’t exist. But Hollywood wants to make money more than anything else- even movies. What would you do, if you want to produce a movie calling for a diverse cast (and crew), but your market research says it won’t resonate with audiences?
This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: movies with diverse casts don’t get made because they don’t make money, and don’t make money because they don’t get made.
If the market research isn’t wrong (and it might be), some of the fault lies with the audiences. The entire institution is sick. While an individual can’t be entirely to blame, we as a collective certainly are.
Overt bigotry may be out of fashion today, but that doesn’t mean that racism has gone away. The actions or inactions of people, even those with good intentions, play a role as well. I’m reminded of one of last year’s nominees, Selma, which I wrote about here.
There was a minor controversy over the depiction of President Lyndon Johnson. I thought that by having Johnson in a more antagonistic role, we see a story about Martin Luther King trying to get one of the ostensible “good guys” to do the right thing, and not just confronting a simplistically prejudiced sheriff.
If we want to do something about this, a good place to start is making more movies with diverse casts and crews, even if there’s a risk to their commercial success. The movies are a reflection of how society is, but they also influence it. If we can’t take some risks to change some minds, then what’s the point?
And on that cheery note, here’s who I think will win on Sunday:
Best Picture: This is surprisingly close. My hunch says Spotlight. Dark horse candidate: Mad Max: Fury Road.*
Best Director: I’m slightly skeptical Alejandro Iñárritu will win two years in a row for The Revenant, but it seems likely here. Again, George Miller is the dark horse for Mad Max: Fury Road.*
Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant. Because apparently he should have gotten it years ago, which means we have to skip over someone else this time.*
Best Actress: Brie Larson, Room.*
Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone, Creed. Really? Really.
Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl. But not for Ex Machina.*
Best Original Screenplay: I think Ex Machina gets this. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes to Inside Out or Straight Outta Compton instead.
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short. But I’m not sure why.*
Best Animated Feature: This is Pixar’s year- again, with Inside Out. Although I’ve heard really good things about Anomalisa, which could give it a run for its money.*
Best Foreign Film: I think Holocaust movies might be falling out of fashion, otherwise Son of Saul would be a lock. My gut says Embrace The Serpent.
Best Feature Documentary: I feel like superficial similarities between the nominees might split the vote in weird ways. There’s two popular musician biopics, and three about violence and war in far off places (two of them produced by Netflix.) Let’s say Amy.*
Best Cinematography: This is probably The Revenant. Could be Mad Max, though.*
Best Editing: Here’s where things get tricky. One thing Mad Max was praised for was its editing, which was great, but I also expect Star Wars: The Force Awakens to do well in the technical categories.
Best Production Design: Either The Martian or Mad Max.
Best Costume Design: I’m really torn here. Mmm… The Danish Girl.
Best Original Score: Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight) probably won’t attend. John Williams (Star Wars) never wins. If the Academy really wants to get my goat, they’ll give it to Sicario. But I’m optimistic. John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Best Original Song: “Writing’s On the Wall,” Spectre. No reason.*
Best Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Possible upset from The Martian. Possible bigger upset from Mad Max: Fury Road.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: The Revenant.
Best Sound Mixing: Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Best Sound Editing: Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Best Documentary Short: I’m just going by who has the coolest title for these next few. Chau Behind the Lines.
Best Live Action Short: Everything Will Be Okay. I sure hope so!
Best Animated Short: Sanjay’s Super Team. They fight crime! I assume…
-  This isn’t just an issue about casting, either. The crews behind the camera could also be more diverse. ↩
-  UPDATE: Apparently, there was a piece on NPR the same morning this post was published that makes much the same point. It’s about a report from the Annenberg School of Communication on diversity in the entertainment industry. ↩
-  Certain unmentioned presidential candidates excepted. ↩
-  In the interest of full disclosure, the only nominees I’ve seen this time around are Spotlight, Mad Max, Star Wars, Ex Machina, The Martian, and Inside Out. I’m working on changing that. ↩