Sunday 21 February 2016

Oscar 2016 Predictions: Best Picture


On February 28, 2016, the academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present the 88th Academy Awards for the best films of the year around the globe. 2015 was an year of tremendous highs in film-making, especially for Hollywood and in close conjunction to that, we saw some low-key artistic masterpieces making it big on the international front. While all of the latter may not have received the deserved recognition in the Oscar nominations, you just can't take anything away from them as far as brilliant film-making is concerned.

Frankly, if I were to make a list of MY OWN favourite movies of the year, it would have been a tad different from this one. But then again, it's just me. And when you want to look at the bigger picture, you need to choose the best picture for everyone. While the idea may sound crude at a very individualistic plane, it turns out to be more congenial the more you think about it. Because to be honest, there is no such thing as 'best picture of the year' unless of course there is a 'Godfather' releasing in it. So what do you do? How do you decide as to which film gets the crown? You develop a criteria, like here- a preferential voting criteria that the academy follows to do the impossible Maths of quantifying art and artists. If you do not know about it, here is a video to let you catch up on the same-

Now as much as one may try to do that, you simply can't get into the minds of thousand of voters who carry out the arduous task of deciding on the Oscars. But then, you can always try. And for that, you need your own criteria. Here are five parameters or reasons I am basing my prediction on-

The Parameters:

#1- The Fantastico factor-

“The fantastic breaks the crust of appearance … something grabs us by the shoulders to throw us outside ourselves. I have always known that the big surprises await us where we have learned to be surprised by nothing, that is, where we are not shocked by ruptures in the order.” 
― Julio Cort├ízar

Movies are not just about facts. There is always an emotional appeal, a thwarting catharsis, a beguiling deception, a vivid fantasm that drives the viewer into them. They show you a world and you tread behind them, hoping to find the extraordinary somewhere in the midst. There is a reason why films about great lives are themselves so great- they take you away from the qualms of everyday life, telling you about a world out there quite unlike anything you find in your homes and offices. There is an unsung hero in all such movies and he is not the one the camera lingers about for an entirety. This hero is the fantastico factor in the movie. 
The fantastico factor is what makes you a writer when you are watching it, all the time creating the next scene in your head. This is what makes you cry in joy when your writing matches the movie and this is what leaves you a storyteller when it ends.

#2- The Impact-

“It's not the fall but the impact...” 
― Hiba Fatima Ahmad

When I review movies, I always talk about something I haven't really been able to coin a term for. I try to tell people about it, in a number of sentences- "You watch this movie and when you are done, you have undergone an experience", "You are not the same person after a great movie", "It changes you at a microcosmic level and it gets you to care for it". But most of what I mean when I say that is the impact the movie leaves on you. Does it leave you thinking about what transpired on the screen days and hours after you have seen it? Did it move you to pure sentimentality at a moment? Did it, in anyway influence the way you look at things?

A great film does all this and leave a deep impact on you as a man or woman of Cinema. And so when I talk about movies I love, I tell you about the movies that will do the same to you.

#3- The peppy reasons-

“When did you get so peppy?” she shouted.
“Ever since I assumed I was dead, then I suddenly wasn't.”
  - Brandon Sanderson

There are probably a thousand ways a film can leave in you in high spirits. It may do so by killing that optimist in you and then resurrecting him with a renewed faith, it may do so by telling a story you feel like your own, emerging triumphant at the end. Or it may do so by simply letting you know that the world out there isn't all that bad and that you can always make it better. Whatever it does, it should give you hope.

Do you know why 'The Shawshank Redemption' is the top film at IMDB, in spite of not being perfect in anyway? Because it taught this very lesson in life, through the life of Andy and when you realized it, you felt livelier than ever.

#4- The Art, the music

“I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.”
― Tom Waits

I am not necessarily concerned with the score here. But I want the movie to have a rhythm in its art. Sometimes in a movie, you love what the mind likes and at other times, you like what the heart loves. While I may admire those shapes the auteurs put up on the screen, those distinct colour palettes, those slow movements of the camera, I want them to be synchronous like a symphony and not just a whim of the maker. Those minute technicalities are added so that you may tell a particular aspect of the story in a better way and not to show off even if it means compromising the integrity of the movie.

Look at Godfather and look how a film takes up its art as its character. It never leaves it, not in those lights, not in those shadows, not in the merriment, nor on that bed where a bloodied head lies, soaking the sheets in red.

#5- Navigation-

“Watching a coast as it slips by the ship is like thinking about an enigma. There it is before you, smiling, frowning, inviting, grand, mean, insipid, or savage, and always mute with an air of whispering, "Come and find out".”
― Joseph Conrad

When you undergo the navigation of a film, you steer your ship through its waters seeing everything it shows you on the way. At the end of the film, you realize it was never about the destination but about the journey. A film should be a ride, it should begin at a place and end up taking you to a completely different one. It need not be a transition in time or space but in essence. And it should make that ride worthwhile for you.

Think about Schindler's list, Lawrence of Arabia, think about E.T. and while you are doing that, think where those films start and where they take you.

Dissecting the nominations:

Here I am going to provide a brief account of the movie based on my above parameters and on how the Academy works. More detailed analysis would follow soon and I would link them here. Since we are not making any predictions as of yet, hence alphabetically-

#1- The Big Short


I had seen 'Inside Job' a couple of years earlier and I had thought it couldn't get any better. I was so wrong. While it may be crude for me to make this comparison, 'The Big Short' reaches the standards 'Inside Job' had set in explaining the crisis and surpasses 'The Wall Street' in showing the inner twistedness of human nature. The Big Short works not through its characters, but through the people you do not get to see in any frame. They are the inside people, the people who never get caught and the people the camera can never reach to. They are ghosts and they are the inside promulgators.

It scores low on the fantastico and peppy parameters but it's high as any on the rest. But let's face it, there is little chance that the Academy would hand over its most prestigious award to a movie the basis of which lies in sheer numbers and intricate Maths. Yes, the characters work and it succeeds in getting the viewer to see the crisis through their eyes but I need to be too optimistic if I call it a true oscar competitor.

#2- Bridge of Spies


Films like these come out of a formula: 
Great Director + Great Actors + War + Period Piece = Oscar favourite. 
What's more is how it turns tight the drama with equally enticing thrill holding you at the edge of your seats all the time. But all that has been done many times in Cinema. What makes it different is how it convinces the audiences to believe that an enemy, intentionally evil as he might be, is after all a human being and as such deserves the same rights that apply to you, to me. It sets a lasting impact in how a country and its countrymen can set an example in humanity by a little act of strict business.

A seasoned director understands how the people want a story told and he probably knows the parameters I will judge them on. As such, the film ranks good on all of them but never too high on any. It is could have been a contender for the glory but as it would turn out later, isn't.

#3- Brooklyn


I have a bittersweet feeling for Brooklyn to be nominated here. While I enjoyed the film and its protagonist's journey towards making a life for herself, it getting nominated just because it's a period drama is something I have qualms with. In fact, I would have loved the movie a little more if instead of it, Carol would have been nominated. Then maybe, I wouldn't have seen it against the titans in this list and would have let it go as a sweet, endearing film.

Brooklyn has lows on all the given parameters except navigation maybe. It does not leave a lasting impact on the mind and fades away easily.

#4- Mad Max: Fury Road

Once a while, there is a high octane blockbuster in the bunch of nominations which is pretty much a crowd favourite. And if you try to strike a balance between good film-making and popular opinion, Mad Max may probably end on the top. But that isn't really what would matter here.

The film has some breath-taking visuals and the practical action sequences are not your run-of-the mill drama. But the story is lacking. As a standalone film, it just throws you in the midst of chaos. While it is pumped up and you love it but you end up asking yourself what just happened. But when the scenery is this good-

Source: YouTube
It's low on peppy and the art-music parameters and is one of those films for which we may cheer all we want, but it wouldn't win.

#5- The Martian


The Martian is one of those films that you watch and wish that it doesn't end. Maybe because while you should feel for the predicament of the protagonist, the fact that he is all too peppy keeps breaking the tension and you do not throw the "Oh God , Please save him" part. Thankfully, they included a limited supplies scenario or we would have wished that Matt Damon never comes back from Mars. Because he is just too much fun.

It scores high on fantastico, navigation, art-music and just okay on peppy but what about impact? Naah, we couldn't care less until Matt Damon started crying and we were like -okay just rope him in. Gravity was able to achieve all of it, with far better visuals and that didn't win. So much for The Martian.

#6- The Revenant


If you show me just the trailers, I would pick The Revenant any day of the week and twice on Sundays as my top bet for the top spot. It got me to remember Dersu Uzala for some reason which is itself a great feat. And the movie has all ingredients of a gritty, shady masterpiece that wants to grab an oscar. Leonardo DiCaprio delivers a performance that will send shivers down your spines and the masses are almost as desperate as he is for a Best Actor Oscar.

It scores high on each and every parameter, almost too high on a few of them like navigation and is a top contender for the spot.

#7- Room

I was so fortunate not to have seen the trailer for this one. When you think about it, you shouldn't do that for any film if you plan on watching it anyway. But for Room, the idea is the cake and the execution is the cherry. You give away the idea in a trailer and all you have left is a cherry. But as a whole, Room is an experience and when you see the world through Jack's eyes, you discover an entirely new way to look into things.

Let's not discuss the parameters here and it should just suffice to say that it making into the nominations, in spite of its popularity, is a great sign for Hollywood movies. There is a delicate yet powerful way how emotions are handled in a movie and this is what makes it this good to watch.

#8- Spotlight


Now here is a movie after all those years of 'All the President's Men' and 'JFK' that aims at making a glorious and a widespread impact on things. The best things about these movies wasn't the fact that they try to resolve a crisis, whether or not they succeed in doing so, NO. What makes them great is the discovery the characters make while doing so. That the film makes its characters look inside themselves, make them feel that it can happen with anyone is what draws the audience. It gets them to connect with the characters, gets them to pat their backs when the character is triumphant and slap their cheeks when the character realizes how wrong he/she always was.

It rates as high on my parameters as The Revenant but seeing how the Academy works, I would have to stay that Spotlight is the picture that would win the big one on the big day. Again, were it a personal choice, I would have picked Spotlight myself.

Hence, At a glance-

My Own Ranking (Starting from the least good down to the best)

6-Bridge of Spies
5-The Martian
4-Mad Max: Fury Road
3-The Revenant
2-The Big Short

Likelihood towards winning a Best Picture Oscar

8- Brooklyn
6- Mad Max: Fury Road
5- Bridge of Spies
4- The Big Short
3- The Martian
2- The Revenant
1- Spotlight

"Predicted Winner: Spotlight"

Lets see how it turns out on the big day. I would be reviewing some other major categories soon. So keep on the look for that.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

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