THE WHITE AL­BUM

Pasatiempo - - OSCARS 2016 - Jonathan Richards

Chris Rock hosts this year’s Academy Awards show, and his may be one of the few black faces you’ll see if you watch the tele­cast. For the se­cond year run­ning, no per­sons of color are among the nom­i­nees in any of the ma­jor cat­e­gories; the only in­truder on this year’s arc­tic white- out is pop singer The Weeknd, nom­i­nated for Best Song for “Earned It,” from Fifty Shades of Grey, and read into that what­ever irony you like. High-pro­file African-Amer­i­cans like Spike Lee and Will and Jada Pin­kett Smith are sit­ting this one out, and the bad pub­lic­ity has forced the Academy into a scram­ble to shake up the mem­ber­ship and try to en­sure that this kind of over­sight never hap­pens again. Should race be a fac­tor in de­ter­min­ing awards nom­i­nees and win­ners? More to the point, is the whole sys­tem at fault for its ob­vi­ous tilt in op­por­tu­nity to­ward white males? I will go ahead and an­swer no to the first ques­tion, and yes to the se­cond. But Hol­ly­wood is driven by the bot­tom line, and that’s where you’ll find the im­pe­tus to change. For a pos­i­tive ex­am­ple, the re­cent Grammy Awards tele­cast gave us an au­di­ence and a slate of nom­i­nees that looked like gen­der and race had been tossed into a shred­der and scat­tered like con­fetti through the cav­ernous Sta­ples Cen­ter.

Chris Rock will have his work cut out for him. Mean­while, the few will win and the many will lose. There are pro­hib­i­tive fa­vorites, and lurk­ing up­sets. Here’s how it looks go­ing in.

BEST PIC­TURE

Some years, this cat­e­gory is clear as a bell. This year, it’s clear as mud. The Academy nom­i­nated eight films, two below its quota (leav­ing plenty of room for Straight Outta Comp­ton and Chi-Raq), and five of them are well out of the run­ning ( Bridge of Spies, Brook­lyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Mar­tian, Room). Still breath­ing is The Big Short, but just barely. Spot­light was the early fa­vorite, but The Revenant has been com­ing on strong, and as it’s about a man who drags him­self hun­dreds of miles af­ter be­ing mauled by a bear in the wilder­ness, you have to take it se­ri­ously.

CHOICE: Spot­light

PRE­DIC­TION: The Revenant

BEST DI­REC­TOR

Lenny Abra­ham­son ( Room) is barely in the room. The other four nom­i­nees have a shot, but the 800-pound go­rilla is Ale­jan­dro González Iñár­ritu, look­ing to make back-to-back wins in the cat­e­gory ( he won for Bird­man last year). On pure lo­gis­tics and de­gree of dif­fi­culty, he prob­a­bly de­serves it. By that mea­sure, though, Ge­orge Miller ( Mad Max: Fury Road) could also have a say. Adam McKay ( The Big Short) de­fied ex­pec­ta­tions and turned the eco­nomic crash into in­for­ma­tive en­ter­tain­ment. If you’re look­ing for nu­ance, Tom McCarthy’s riv­et­ing Spot­light is the clear win­ner. But who cares about nu­ance?

CHOICE: Tom McCarthy

PRE­DIC­TION: Ale­jan­dro González Iñár­ritu

BEST AC­TOR

This is Leonardo DiCaprio’s fourth time on the is­land (plus once for Sup­port­ing), this time for The Revenant, and he’s been booted off the pre­vi­ous three. Ed­die Red­mayne ( The Dan­ish Girl) has a win; Matt Da­mon ( The Mar­tian) has a writ­ing Os­car. Michael ( Steve Jobs) Fass­ben­der’s still a brides­maid, with one un­re­quited Sup­port­ing nod. Bryan Cranston ( Trumbo) is the new­bie, but even he has a slew of Em­mys and a Tony. None but Leo need work up a speech.

CHOICE: Matt Da­mon

PRE­DIC­TION: Leonardo DiCaprio

BEST AC­TRESS

Here too the die feels pretty well cast, with Brie Lar­son over­shad­ow­ing the oth­ers in the room for her break­out per­for­mance as a kid­napped young mother in Room. If there’s an up­set brew­ing, it will come from Saoirse Ro­nan for Brook­lyn. Jen­nifer Lawrence ( Joy) and Char­lotte Ram­pling ( 45 Years) are just along for the ride, and even the great Cate Blanchett ( Carol) must know it’s not her year.

CHOICE: Brie Lar­son

PRE­DIC­TION: Brie Lar­son

BEST SUP­PORT­ING AC­TOR

Creed is the sev­enth Rocky movie, and it has in­jected sur­pris­ing vigor into what seemed a punched- out fran­chise. Creed’s African-Amer­i­can di­rec­tor, Ryan Coogler, and star Michael B. Jor­dan got lost in the Os­car white-out, but Sylvester Stal­lone, the god­fa­ther of the se­ries, is the lead­ing con­tender in this al­ways-in­ter­est­ing cat­e­gory. To th­ese eyes, Mark Ry­lance ( Bridge of Spies) wins on merit, and the rest of the pack, con­sist­ing of Chris­tian Bale ( The Big Short), Tom Hardy ( The Revenant), and Mark Ruf­falo ( Spot­light), con­tains no stiffs. No­body’s quite ready to throw in the towel on this fight, but it’s mov­ing in Rocky Bal­boa’s di­rec­tion. CHOICE: Mark Ry­lance

PRE­DIC­TION: Sylvester Stal­lone

BEST SUP­PORT­ING AC­TRESS

This one is too close to call. Jen­nifer Ja­son Leigh was re­mark­able in The Hate­ful Eight, but out­rage over a smashed gui­tar (a price­less 1870 in­stru­ment on loan from the Martin com­pany was de­stroyed in a scene) may have sunk any faint hope for Tarantino’s crew. Kate Winslet ( Steve Jobs) and Rachel McA­dams ( Spot­light) won’t make it. Rooney Mara was bril­liant in the les­bian drama Carol, but this was the year of Ali­cia Vikan­der ( The Dan­ish Girl), who could have filled a mul­ti­plex with her star­ring roles and is likely to fill the podium when the en­ve­lope is opened.

CHOICE: Ali­cia Vikan­der

PRE­DIC­TION: Ali­cia Vikan­der

BEST ORIG­I­NAL SCREEN­PLAY

Spot­light.

CHOICE: Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy, Spot­light

PRE­DIC­TION: Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy, Spot­light

BEST ADAPTED SCREEN­PLAY

A small ray of hope pen­e­trates Room, and a can­dle flick­ers for Brook­lyn, but the big light shines on The Big Short.

CHOICE: Charles Ran­dolph, Adam McKay, The Big Short

PRE­DIC­TION: Charles Ran­dolph, Adam McKay, The Big Short

BONUS ROUND

Best For­eign Lan­guage Film looks like a fore­gone con­clu­sion for the Hun­gar­ian holo­caust drama Son of Saul. Amy, ex­plor­ing the sad fate of singer Amy Wine­house, seems poised to win Doc­u­men­tary Fea­ture. A cou­ple of en­tries from doc­u­men­taries crop up in the Best Song cat­e­gory, and “Til It Hap­pens to You” ( The Hunt­ing Ground) is fa­vored, but guilt-rid­den Academy mem­bers could push “Earned It” into the win­ner’s cir­cle for a show of racial di­ver­sity. Vet­eran En­nio Mor­ri­cone may break the curse of the Martin gui­tar and win Best Score for The Hate­ful Eight. Best An­i­mated Fea­ture be­longs to In­side Out.

NO RE­SPECT

African-Amer­i­cans. Straight Outta Comp­ton straight outta com­pe­ti­tion? No way! And his movie may have been un­even, but Spike Lee’s stun­ning orig­i­nal­ity of vi­sion in Chi-Raq de­served a place at the ta­ble. Fi­nally, Idris Elba’s act­ing ex­clu­sion for Beasts of No Na­tion showed up Os­car as a Beast With No No­tion.

Top left, Spot­light; right, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ale­jan­dro González Iñár­ritu film­ing The Revenant; below, host Chris Rock

Below left, Matt Da­mon, The Mar­tian; right, Brie Lar­son, Room; bot­tom left, Sylvester Stal­lone,

Creed; right, Amy Wine­house, Amy

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