May I Have the Envelope Please?

oscars-2016-poster

This Sunday is the 88th annual Academy Awards (also known as the Oscars), which is a big deal with my family.

Ever since I was a little kid, I would see as many of the nominated films as I could, and engage in a friendly competition with my family regarding who would win each and every category. And the competition was fierce!

Some years I won, but I mostly lost. And it has been a number of years since I tasted victory – though last year was a close call between me and my mother – but I have a good feeling about 2016.

But in lieu of writing who I think will win, as that would give my competition an edge until the ballots are cast on Sunday night before the telecast, I will list here who I would like to win based on my own observations.

To be clear: I don’t necessarily think that these nominees will win (though they could). But these choices are for if I controlled the votes, these are who I would pick for Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress and Picture.

Now, why should my opinion carry any weight?

I am an avid movie watcher, as anyone who follows this blog or me on social media can attest, and I love being lost in a story. I love actors who can transform themselves for a role and make me believe that what I’m watching is real, even though I’m sitting in a movie theatre with strangers. I adore the escapism aspect of being engrossed in a movie, and I am endlessly fascinated with acting and the movie making process.

And, of course, I see a lot of movies.

Now – may I have the envelope please?

Best Supporting Actor

The nominees are:

Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Who I think will win: Many in the media are split for who will win between Sylvester Stallone’s triumphant return to the silver screen as Rocky Balboa and Mark Ruffalo’s performance in Spotlight as a reporter who struggles with his faith amid a breaking story of molestation of boys in the Catholic church.

If my vote was the only one that mattered, I would choose Mark Ruffalo to get the award, as it was a fantastic performance in a movie filled with great performances from everyone. But of all the actors in that movie and nominated in this category, Ruffalo’s character of Michael Rezendes genuinely struggled with the revelation about the church and questions not only his career, but his judgment and personal belief systems. It was fantastic.

Best Supporting Actress

The nominees are:

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Who I think will win: This was probably the easiest category for me to decide, as I thought Alicia Vikander’s acting in The Danish Girl was easily the best of the bunch – and its a talented group!

In the movie, she plays Gerda Wegener, who is the wife of Einar Wegener (played by Eddie Redmayne), a man who discovers that he is actually a woman (by the name of Lili Elbe) trapped in a man’s body. However, in becoming the person he should be – Lili – Gerda’s life becomes fragmented, shattered, but then through the lens of Lili, pieced back together. As much as the relationship between Gerta and Einar runs through the film, I believe that the friendship and adoration that arises between Gerda and Lili as the true hero of the film.

Because of each other, Lili is able to embrace herself, and Gerda is able to (after a lot of difficulties) stand by and support her during her trials and tribulations.

Best Actress

The nominees are:

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Who I think will win: For me, this was the most difficult category to choose, as Brie Larson was captivating in Room and deserves to be one of the leading contenders for the prize. But, of every single movie I saw in 2015, one of the best would probably be Brooklyn – and that is due to the incredible performance of Saoirse Ronan (her first name is pronounced as: SUR-sha, like inertia) as Eilis (pronounced AYE-lish) Lacey, a young Irish woman who immigrates to Brooklyn in the 1950s.

The movie is a modest story of Ellis’ travels to America, and her struggles to make a new life in a strange country. And, in so doing, she find love in a young Italian man, Tony, who becomes her boyfriend. But, when her sister is ill, Ellis goes back to Ireland and meets Jim, with whom she has an instant connection with. It is that struggle where Brooklyn and Ronan excel – playing the trope of “stranger in a strange land” twice in the same movie – when she first comes to Brooklyn, and when she goes back to Ireland after becoming comfortable in America.

Ronan’s performance is heartbreaking, honest, and most importantly, touching. Every experience, struggle and decision is acted and displayed with honesty. It was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while, and her performance was the main reason.

Best Actor

The nominees are:

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Who I think will win: This is a hard category to choose, as many people consider Leonardo DiCaprio as a lock to win for his powerhouse performance in The Revenant, which was fantastic. But, if I were in control and had the deciding vote, I would choose Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl.

His performance was hauntingly realistic, as his character, Einar Wegener realizes that he was a woman born in a man’s body, and decides to embrace who he is by transforming into Lili Elbe through one of the first uses of sexual reassignment surgery.

Redmayne’s transformed himself for the role, much like when he won the Oscar in 2015 for The Theory of Everything. You could feel the mixture of shame, excitement, trepidation, fear and confusion as Einar struggled to accept Lili as more than she was initially presented – as a simple joke Einar and his wife played on guests at a party. As Einar said in the movie, “Something’s changed,” and the emotional weight carried by Redmayne, as well as the actress who plays his wife (Alicia Vikander), was a sight to behold.

Best Picture

The nominees are:

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

Who I think will win: Personally, I haven’t liked the Academy’s decision to open up the Best Picture category to more nominees than it used to have – it just becomes a cluttered mess.

Now, based on my picks above, you might think I would pick Brooklyn as the winner in this category, and it was a hard choice. However, I decided to pick Spotlight as the recipient because it was a true ensemble piece that showcased the talents of everyone involved.

It was a difficult story to tell, but they did it with class. And if anyone asks why I decided to go into journalism, even though investigative reporting is not something I have done a lot of, Spotlight is what I’ll refer them to. It is a thrilling movie without big action scenes, a tragedy without simplifying or trivializing emotions, an ensemble piece where everyone gets to shine, and one of the best stories about journalism since All The President’s Men.

However, I would not be upset if Brooklyn won, or even The Revenant or The Big Short, but my pick would be Spotlight.

But, that is just my opinion.
If you could decide – who would you choose and why?

And be sure to watch the 88th Academy Awards at 8:30 pm EST on Sunday, February 28th.

Lastly, I’ll be sure to update this post on Monday, February 29th, so you can see how my picks here and my choices for my Oscar pool differed.

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