Monday, February 29, 2016


Leo or Eddie? Brie or Cate? The Revenant or Spotlight? My Picks and the Odds-On Favourites

By Anna MM Vetticad

The world’s most sought-after awards for cinematic achievement are once again up for grabs. The race this year is tough. Will the spotlight fix itself on Spotlight or The Revenant? Will the day belong to a small film about paedophilia, religion and good old-fashioned investigative journalism or to a gory, big-budget extravaganza about a clash between humans and nature, between settlers and the original inhabitants of a vast, challenging land?

The answers will come on the night of Sunday, February 28 in Los Angeles, that is Monday, February 29, morning here in India.

The Academy Awards a.k.a. the Oscars are given away by the US’ Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences each year. Winners are picked by Academy members’ votes, with the final results already lying secured in well-guarded envelopes.

Before their secrets are unwrapped by some of Hollywood’s most glamorous hands (remember, our very own Priyanka Chopra is a presenter this year), arguments will continue worldwide about who will walk away with the honours.

Until then, here are my predictions for the four most-watched trophies of Oscars 2016:


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

The Best Picture race this year appears to be a three-way fight between Spotlight, The Big Short and The Revenant.

Spotlight – a perfectly paced newsroom drama about The Boston Globe’s series of exposés on sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the United States – was an early favourite in this category. The film was even praised by the RC Church whose failings it sought to highlight.

Its toughest initial competition was from The Revenant, a film that is almost seven times more expensive and infinitely larger in terms of spectacle.

However, the tide turned as the film awards season rolled on, with The Big Short winning the highly predictive Producers Guild of America (PGA) Award. The Big Short is a comedy drama, an unlikely genre considering that its setting is the US financial crisis of 2007-08. Going by certain trends, now this is the film to beat on awards night.

From 1990 till date, only seven times has the Best Picture Oscar not gone to a film that won the year’s PGA Award.

Here is an even more convincing statistic: since 2008, the PGA winner has gone on to collect the Best Picture statuette every time, with 2014 being an unusual year only because there was a tie at the PGA between Gravity and 12 Years A Slave. Then too, 12 Years went on to win the numero uno spot at the Oscars.

Before you think this means the deal is sealed though, keep in mind that Spotlight has picked up the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award for its entire cast, widely viewed by commentators as another Oscar indicator.

And as if that is not enough to confuse the hell out of bookies, The Revenant – a late release compared to the other two – appears to be picking up momentum, riding high on its rising earnings. It won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama in early January, scooped up the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award in early February and the Best Picture BAFTA just two weeks back, which suggests that the buzz around it is peaking at the right time.

Let me place this on the record: two out of my three least favourite films in this category are poised to win the Best Picture gong. The Big Short, to my mind, lacked the clarity it was aiming for, both The Revenant and Mad Max lacked soul. Spotlight is a better film by a mile, followed by Room. Ah well, c’est la vie.

Likely winner: The Revenant

Possible spoilers, and very close: The Big Short, Spotlight

My personal favourite: Spotlight

Should definitely have been nominated: Inside Out, Pixar’s delightful 3D animation flick about the inner workings of a little girl’s mind that has even received salaams from psychiatrists and child psychologists in the West

Should have been in the reckoning: Carol, Beasts of No Nation (FYI the rules permit 10 Best Picture noms)


Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu for The Revenant
Adam McKay for The Big Short
George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road
Lenny Abrahamson for Room
Tom McCarthy for Spotlight

This one appears to be a foregone conclusion in favour of Alejandro, considering that he has already swept the major awards so far: a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for Best Director, and – the clincher in this slot – the DGA Award. According to the Directors Guild website, “Only seven times since the DGA Award’s inception has the DGA Award winner not won the Academy Award.” That would be only seven times since 1948.

Since 2004, there has been only one occasion when the DGA winner did not go on to get a Best Director Oscar. That solo exception came in 2013 because Ben Affleck was not even nominated for helming Argo, though his film did win the year’s Best Picture Oscar. 

Most likely winner: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Possible spoiler, by a long shot: George Miller who won the Critics Choice Award for Best Director  

My personal favourite: Tom McCarthy for his phenomenally controlled direction of Spotlight

My second choice: Lenny Abrahamson for Room

Should have been nominated: Pete Doctor and Ronnie del Carmen for Inside Out, Todd Haynes for Carol. If you’ve read my Best Picture notes, you know whom I would have liked to drop.


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

The top contender in this category is 26-year-old Brie with her restrained performance as a young woman kept hostage by her rapist in a tiny shed for seven years. It was an exacting role, especially since she had to share that space and its demands with a prodigious livewire by the name of Jacob Tremblay, playing her child from the rapist.

She has already got the year’s Golden Globe, Critics Choice, SAG and BAFTA Awards. A win by anyone else, wonderfully gifted though they all are, will come as a shocker.

Most likely winner: Brie Larson

Closest competitor: Saoirse Ronan 

My personal favourite: Brie Larson

Should have been nominated: Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl (she has received a Best Supporting Actress nom instead)

Should not have been nominated: Jennifer Lawrence who ought to have got minus marks for her inexplicably deadpan concluding scene in the unremarkable and joyless Joy

Most probably talked her way out of the reckoning: British veteran Charlotte Rampling with her comment that this year’s diversity row at the Oscars is “racist to white people”. An artist’s stupidity should ideally not affect her chances, but the already beleaguered Academy may avoid her considering the tongue-lashing it is already getting for ignoring non-white actors for a second year in a row. 


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

Will this be the year Leo finally makes it? The Titanic star has been nominated in this category a total of four times including this year, the other nods he has received so far being for Aviator, Blood Diamond and The Wolf of Wall Street. He was earlier a Best Supporting Actor nominee for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

Take it from me – his disadvantage all this time has been that he is too pretty for Academy voters. This lot seems to prefer rugged or pared-down looks, best exemplified by how gorgeous women greatly up their chances of winning when they tone down their glamour quotient. Cases in point: Nicole Kidman, Hillary Swank, Halle Berry, Charlize Theron.

This is not to say that Leonardo is not compelling in The Revenant. He is. He must be particularly lauded for rising above the limitations of the script to deliver such a heartfelt performance (there I go again, grimacing at this emotionally empty film). Good for him then that he has improved his odds by uglifying himself for this demanding role of a fur hunter in early 1800s America, battling the elements and his own people. His face is covered with muck, blood or gashes through most of The Revenant, he ate raw bison liver for one scene and went naked into the belly of a horse carcass in one of the film’s most unsettling moments. If that does not do it for our boy Leo, nothing will.

It will be a huge upset if one of his tremendously talented competitors pips him to the post.

Likely winner: Leonardo DiCaprio

Possible spoiler, by a long shot: Michael Fassbender 

My personal favourites: Leonardo DiCaprio and Eddie Redmayne

Should have been considered: Jacob Tremblay for Room, Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation, Tom Courtenay for 45 Years

One of them could have replaced: Matt Damon perhaps? I mean, Matt’s likeable as always in The Martian, but he has done more onerous roles in the past.

(This article was published on Firstpost on February 28, 2016)

Original link:

Related article by Anna MM Vetticad: Who’s Afraid of a Homosexual Woman

Photo caption: (1) The Revenant (2) Spotlight (3) Room

Posters courtesy:

Sunday, February 28, 2016



Carol’s exclusion from this year’s Best Picture Oscar nominations is a reminder of a continuing Academy discomfort with LGBT-themed films

By Anna MM Vetticad

The Academy Awards are upon us, and not surprisingly, the #OscarsSoWhite campaign has risen to a crescendo. The blistering condemnation this year of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters’ apparent racial bias though, threatens to overshadow criticism of another of their persistent prejudices evident in the nominations: homophobia.

Director Todd Haynes’ Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as women who fall in love with each other in 1950s New York, has received nods in six categories: Best Actress (Blanchett), Supporting Actress (Mara), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Original Score and Costume Design. It has not, however, been nominated for Best Director or the all-important Best Picture Oscar.

Now, it could well be argued that perhaps Academy voters genuinely did not consider Carol worthy. After all, our response to films is subjective and I may love a film (I did love Carol) that you may not like at all, without either of us being right or wrong. That being said, it is equally valid to ask these voters how it is possible that a film they deem well written, well acted, good looking and pleasing to the ear, is not good enough? They did not even need to drop any of the pictures in the present lot to acknowledge Carol. Academy rules permit 10 nominees for the Best Picture race, yet they chose to go with only eight picks this year.

Admittedly, it is possible for a film to have all its elements in place and yet not quite add up. In any cinematic venture, the director is the adder-uper (yes, grammar Nazis, I know that is not a word), the person who provides the glue that binds it all together, and it is no doubt possible that Academy voters genuinely believe Haynes’ cinematic mathematics was not right.


The greater likelihood though, if we are honest about it, is that an Academy which is 94 per cent white, 76 per cent male and an average of 63 years old (source: was simply uncomfortable with Carol. I mean, c’mon! What did you expect in response to two lesbian women who are not dead or broken at the end of the film, who shrug off the men in their lives, yet are not callous, and who – spoiler alert – prioritise happiness, peace of mind and being true to who they are above even that perceived Holy Grail of womanhood: maternity?

Over the years, many films on LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual transgender) themes and/or with primary or important supporting LGBT characters have earned Oscar nominations. The tendency though has been to award actors who performed these roles (Tom Hanks for Philadelphia in 1994, Philip Seymour Hoffman for Capote in 2006, Sean Penn for Milk in 2009, Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club in 2014) rather than the production in its entirety. Beautiful as these films are, it is important to point out that most possess features which might make them more acceptable and reassuring to an ultra-conservative viewer: an all-pervading sense of sadness and/or (supposed) degeneracy and in some cases, death for the LGBT character.

The Academy’s extreme aversion to homosexuality was never more evident than in 2006 when the eloquently heart-rending Brokeback Mountain was nominated for Best Picture but lost to the less deserving Crash. High-profile Academy member and veteran actor Tony Curtis said with undisguised disdain at the time: “This picture is not as important as we make it. It’s nothing unique. The only thing unique about it is they put it on the screen. And they make ’em (male gay lovers) cowboys… Howard Hughes and John Wayne wouldn’t like it.” Ernest Borgnine was too disgusted to even watch Brokeback. “I didn’t see it and I don’t care to see it,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “I know they say it’s a good picture, but I don’t care to see it. If John Wayne were alive, he’d be rolling over in his grave!”

Five years on, the lines had edged forward marginally when The Kids Are All Right received four nominations including for Best Picture at the 83rd Academy Awards in 2011. The film’s protagonists were not gay men, they were lesbian women. Theirs was not a closeted relationship; they were married – to each other. It was not a depressing story; it was a comedy drama. The Annette Bening-Julianne Moore- starrer did not win in any category, but even its nominations were a baby step ahead.

You might expect the hesitation over LGBT themes to have diminished half a decade later, that too in the year after the legalisation of same-sex marriages across all American states by the US Supreme Court. It has not. Carol, as several American commentators have pointed out, is perhaps just too female, too positive and too life affirming for the notoriously conformist Academy to go all the way with it.

The film’s central characters, Carol Aird and Therese Belivet, could be disturbing to traditionalists who continue to see LGBT persons as “the other”. They are not filled with self-doubt, they are not ashamed about their sexual orientation despite encountering social opprobrium and confusion, and their parting shot to the viewer is optimistic.

Now if only they’d had the courtesy to be miserable, they might have had a shot at a Best Picture nomination. To be female and homosexual and sure of yourself, that too half a century back – now that’s going a bit too far, no?

(Anna MM Vetticad is the author of The Adventures Of An Intrepid Film Critic. Twitter: @annavetticad)

(This column was published in The Hindu Businessline on February 27, 2016)

Original link:

Previous instalment of Film Fatale: The Right To Offend

Anna MM Vetticad’s Oscar Predictions for 2016

Photo caption: Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in a poster of Carol