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Listen Up, Academy Members: Here's What The Oscar Nominations Should Look Like

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Oscar voting began Wednesday, giving members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences until Jan. 8 to submit their ballots for this year's prizes. We figure they need a little help in deciding which darlings should make the shortlist when nominations are announced on Jan. 14. With studios' campaigns entering the homestretch, The Huffington Post's movie gurus, Matthew Jacobs and Joe Satran, have some suggestions to help the Academy make the tough choices. In an Oscar derby as open-ended as this one, anything could happen. Here are two perspectives on what should.

BEST PICTURE

Joe:

"Bridge of Spies"
"Goodnight Mommy"
"Ex Machina"
"The Hateful Eight"
"Joy"
"Mad Max: Fury Road"
"The Martian"
"Room"
"Spotlight"
"Star Wars: The Force Awakens"           

You wouldn't want to be the protagonist of many of these movies. Most of them suffered tremendously. (And I didn't even include "The Revenant," perhaps the most brutal of them all!) But the skillful filmmaking that went into them -- and it really was very skillful -- transformed their misery into my delight. 

Matt:

"The Big Short"
"Brooklyn"
"Carol"
"Inside Out"
"Mad Max: Fury Road"
"The Martian"
"Room"
"Spotlight"
"Tangerine"

It's hard to know where to stop when this category can include anywhere from five to 10 titles. My list of nine just barely misses "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," but I won't be mad if the Academy is as taken with BB-8 as the rest of the galaxy.


BEST DIRECTOR

Joe:

Alex Garland, "Ex Machina"
Todd Haynes, "Carol"
George Miller, "Mad Max: Fury Road"
David O. Russell, "Joy"
Ridley Scott, "The Martian"

I didn't like "Carol" quite as much as everyone else did -- I found it frosty, even, at times, inert -- but I have to admit that it was one of most beautiful, well-acted movies of the year. Still, I hope the award goes to Miller. 

Matt:

Lenny Abrahamson, "Room"
Sean Baker, "Tangerine"
Todd Haynes, "Carol"
George Miller, "Mad Max: Fury Road"
Ridley Scott, "The Martian"

It's hard to weigh the subtlety of "Carol" against the grandeur of, say, "Mad Max: Fury Road," but each of these five directors gave us the same thing: intimate character studies wrapped in flashy but effortless cinema. As much as I'd love to include a woman on this list (Marielle Heller would be my first pick, for "The Diary of a Teenage Girl"), it's Hollywood's fault that the pickings were so slim.


BEST ACTRESS

Joe:

Cate Blanchett, "Carol"
Brie Larson, "Room"
Jennifer Lawrence, "Joy"
Daisy Ridley, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"
Charlize Theron, "Mad Max: Fury Road"

I'm obsessed, in this category, with Jennifer Lawrence, Charlize Theron and Daisy Ridley: They brought a strength and ferocity to their roles that made them into true icons. But Lawrence and Theron have both won before and Ridley hasn't even been in the conversation. Brie Larson, meanwhile, was amazing, so I have no issue with her as the frontrunner. 

Matt:

Cate Blanchett, "Truth"
Brie Larson, "Room"
Saoirse Ronan, "Brooklyn"
Charlotte Rampling, "45 Years"
Lily Tomlin, "Grandma"

"Carol" will be rightfully seen as the defining Cate Blanchett film of 2015, but I thought she submitted stronger work in the unfairly maligned "Truth." (She was also great in "Cinderella," by the way.) Still, this is Brie Larson's prize, and the rest of us are just Imperator Furiosa rounding up a bushel of ladies who defined the year in film. Others include Teyonah Paris ("Chi-Raq"), Bel Powley ("The Diary of a Teenage Girl"), Melissa McCarthy ("Spy") and, of course, Charlize Theron ("Mad Max: Fury Road"). 


BEST ACTOR

Joe:

Matt Damon, "The Martian"
Paul Dano, "Love & Mercy"
Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Revenant"
Tom Hanks, "Bridge of Spies"
Samuel L. Jackson, "The Hateful Eight"

I'm not wild about any of these performances -- except Paul Dano's. His take on the young Brian Wilson was so uncanny that watching the 1960s parts of "Love and Mercy" felt like time travel. He's being campaigned as a supporting actor, while his co-star John Cusack is in contention for lead, but I think that's a mistake. I hope the Academy agrees.

Matt:

Christopher Abbott, "James White"
Matt Damon, "The Martian"
Paul Dano, "Love & Mercy"
Andrew Garfield, "99 Homes"
Michael B. Jordan, "Creed"

Imagine a calendar where male leads couldn't hold a candle to the year's female stars. That was 2015. Most of the A-list Oscar players -- Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Revenant"), Johnny Depp ("Black Mass"), Eddie Redmayne ("The Danish Girl"), Will Smith ("Concussion") -- turned in work that felt removed and performative. I'll echo Joe by saying that Paul Dano, in one of the year's best screen achievements, should be the lead contender to beat.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS 

Joe:

Joan Allen, "Room"
Jennifer Jason Leigh, "The Hateful Eight"
Rooney Mara, "Carol"
Kristen Stewart, "Clouds of Sils Maria"
Alicia Vikander, "Ex Machina"

I guess it's a foregone conclusion that Vogue cover girl Alicia Vikander will be nominated for "The Danish Girl," but I still prefer her in "Ex Machina." She captured the uncanny and seductive power of artificial intelligence as well as any actor ever has. 

Matt:

Jennifer Jason Leigh, "The Hateful Eight"
Rooney Mara, "Carol"
Cynthia Nixon, "James White"
Kristen Stewart, "Clouds of Sils Maria"
Kristen Wiig, "The Diary of a Teenage Girl"

This category is loaded, and it's a shame to omit Alicia Vikander ("The Danish Girl"), Elizabeth Banks ("Love & Mercy"), Tessa Thompson ("Creed"), Mya Taylor ("Tangerine") and a host of others. But the supporting-actress hardware begins and ends with Rooney Mara, even if she's arguably a co-lead in "Carol."


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Joe:

Walton Goggins, "The Hateful Eight"
Oscar Isaac, "Ex Machina"
Michael Keaton, "Spotlight"
Mark Rylance, "Bridge of Spies"
Jacob Tremblay, "Room"

Walton Goggins completely blew me away in "The Hateful Eight." There was something unhinged and committed about his performance as a Confederate sympathizer that made him seem alive in a way that few Quentin Tarantino characters do. 

Matt:

Joel Edgerton, "Black Mass"
Idris Elba, "Beasts of No Nation"
Jason Mitchell, "Straight Outta Compton"
Mark Rylance, "Bridge of Spies"
Jason Segel, "The End of the Tour"

If Johnny Depp and Tom Hanks were forgettable in "Black Mass" and "Bridge of Spies," respectively, their supporting counterparts certainly were not. Hats off to Joel Edgerton and Mark Rylance for besting their upperclass screen partners. Really, any of these five men deserve this accolade. 


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Joe:

Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley, "Inside Out"
Alex Garland, "Ex Machina"
Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, "Spotlight"
David O. Russell, "Joy"
Quentin Tarantino, "The Hateful Eight"

I think everyone is wrong about "Joy." People say that its plot was confused, bizarre and implausible -- but my take is that David O. Russell was intentionally playing with our expectations about how a plot should work. Indeed, I think the whole movie was a brilliant commentary on the art of screenwriting. There's not enough room to explain why here, but I might revisit the topic in an essay soon.

Matt:

Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch, "Tangerine"
Patrick Brice, "The Overnight"
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley, "Inside Out"
Alex Garland, "Ex Machina"
Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, "Spotlight"

"Spotlight" accomplished so much with so few flourishes, but I maintain that "The Overnight" is the year's most under-appreciated comedic script. Regardless, this victory belongs to the "Inside Out" scribes. Imagine conceptualizing something half as eye-opening and original as that Pixar gem.


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Joe:

J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"
Emma Donoghue, "Room"
Drew Goddard, "The Martian"
Nick Hornby, "Brooklyn"
Adam McKay and Charles Randolph, "The Big Short"

It initially seemed strange to me that "The Force Awakens" was competing in this category, but then I saw the genius of it: If you think about it as an adaptation of "A New Hope," it's a near-perfect script.

Matt:

Drew Goddard, "The Martian"
Marielle Heller, "The Diary of a Teenage Girl"
Nick Hornby, "Brooklyn"
Adam McKay and Charles Randolph, "The Big Short"
Phyllis Nagy, "Carol"

Each of these movies faced challenges in their source material, whether too esoteric ("The Big Short," "The Martian") or too intimate ("Carol," the also deserving "Room" and "45 Years"). They all overcame it, but it was Nick Hornby who penned the year's most graceful adaptation: "Brooklyn" is cinematic storytelling at its smoothest.

 

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