Hollywood Prom Night (a.k.a. the Academy Awards) is back this Sunday, and Dome Productions will be there for the sixth year in a row, helping CTV bring you all the action and glamour of the red carpet. Who will be there? Who will boycott? Who will trip in their six-inch heels? (Trick question: the answer is always Jennifer Lawrence.)
People you can pretty much count on to be in attendance are the producers of the eight films nominated for Best Picture. If you need last-minute help with your Oscar ballot (or just want to make sense of the clips they’ll play throughout the broadcast), read on for Dome’s guide to the nominees.
The Big Short
Once thought to be an outside shot for the big award, this dark comedy about the 2008 financial crisis turned into a favourite to win after picking up the Producers Guild of America top prize (70 per cent of the PGA’s winners have gone on to win Best Picture). Based on the book by Michael Lewis, it stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt as the guys who saw the housing collapse coming and figured out a way to profit by it. By turns funny and bleak (Adam McKay, who directed it, is probably best known for helming Anchorman), it’s an odd choice for Best Picture, given that it features neither an uplifting message nor sympathetic protagonists. But Hollywood does love to lecture, so it can’t be counted out.
Bridge of Spies
With the pedigree this one has, you’d think it would be a heavy favourite to win Best Picture: directed by Hollywood heavyweight Steven Spielberg, starring everyone’s favourite fun uncle Tom Hanks, beautifully shot by two-time Oscar winner Janusz Kaminski, and written by Joel and Ethan Coen (and Matt Charman). It’s also based on a true story, and stars Hanks as exactly the kind of person you’d think would be right up the Academy’s alley: a patriot who manages to do the right thing in the face of overwhelming odds. Hanks plays James Donovan, an insurance lawyer assigned to defend a Soviet spy (Mark Rylance), and winds up bargaining for the freedom of two captured Americans on the other side of the Iron Curtain. But neither Spielberg, Hanks, nor Kaminski were nominated, and its chances of winning Best Picture are slim. (Mark Rylance, up for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, would have better odds in a year where he wasn’t up against Sylvester Stallone’s comeback.)
Based on the novel by the same name, Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan as an Irish immigrant to New York in the 1950s, and explores the pull between two homes that new settlers always feel. As so often in Hollywood films, Canada’s got a connection to this one: Montreal native Yves Bélanger was the cinematographer, and Mad Men star Jessica Paré has a small role. But despite the presence of British acting heavyweights Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters, as well as a script penned by the always-excellent Nick Hornby, Brooklyn isn’t up for any other major awards, and is therefore highly unlikely to go home with the top prize.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Probably the biggest beneficiary of the “The Dark Knight Shoulda Won!” push to include genre flicks along with the usual Oscar fare, Mad Max: Fury Road returns to the post-apocalyptic wasteland last seen in 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Instead of Mel Gibson and Tina Turner, however, we’ve now got Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron battling against a ferocious cult leader for scarce resources and unlikely freedom. Fury Road wound up on multiple year-end “best of” lists, and will probably fight Star Wars for many of the more technical awards. A Best Picture win is unlikely, but by no means impossible.
This Matt Damon flick oddly won the award for Best Motion Picture: Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes, an honour that startled everyone, including its director, Ridley Scott. At first glance, there doesn’t seem much to laugh at about being stranded on a planet that’s years away from our own. Damon stars as an astronaut left for dead after being caught in a dust storm on Mars. While his crew and the folks at mission control try desperately to get back to him, Damon has to figure out how to feed and hydrate himself. As with all Ridley Scott films, it’s beautifully shot, and Damon is always an appealing presence, but Scott was not nominated for Best Director, and Damon has no chance of picking up the Best Actor trophy either. Going home with a few technical awards wrested from Mad Max and Star Wars is probably the best The Martian can hope for.
Before the PGAs, The Revenant was probably the favourite to win on Sunday, despite the fact that its director, Alejandro Gonzáles Iñàrritu, took home Best Picture and Best Director just last year (for Birdman). Shot under brutal conditions in Canada’s own gorgeous Rockies, it tells the story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a frontiersman who is nearly mauled to death by a bear and abandoned by his fellow fur-trappers, and who must regain his strength to re-unite with them and exact his revenge. Whether or not Iñàrritu manages to pull off back-to-back wins, you can bank on DiCaprio finally going home with a gold statue on Sunday.
Based on the novel of the same name, Room stars Brie Larson and adorable Canadian moppet Jacob Tremblay as a mother and son who are held hostage by the boy’s father for years in a one-room shack. To outline the plot any further would be to give away spoilers, but Larson and Tremblay have been winning acclaim for their performances since the film’s release. A Best Picture win is highly unlikely, but Larson is the odds-on favourite to win the Best Actress trophy.
Another serious contender for Best Picture, Spotlight is the name of the investigative reporting unit at the Boston Globe that uncovered the widespread abuse by Catholic priests that had been hushed up for decades by the church hierarchy. Probably the least showy of the films in contention, Spotlight in many ways is a throwback to the kind of movies from the 70s that barely get made any more: ones where a good script and a great cast do all the heavy lifting, and all the drama is contained in bare, often poorly-lit rooms. Spotlight’s chances may be hurt by its lack of visual verve, but it features one of the strongest ensemble casts of 2015. Given that actors are the largest voting bloc in the Academy, you can’t rule out the possibility that they may choose to reward their fellows with the big prize.