And the Oscar Goes to…

Film and theatre professors predicted who would take home golden statues from the Academy Awards.

February 28, 2016
By Julyssa Lopez
Leading up to the biggest night in the U.S. film industry, George Washington Today asked GW's professors in film and theatre to think like members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, cast their ballots and predict winners. Now that the procession of designer-draped celebrities strutting on the red carpet is over, find out how close their guesses were to the real ceremony. 
Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Revenant” 
The five men nominated in the Best Actor category each did outstanding—and often unexpected—work this year, such as Eddie Redmayne’s “Danish Girl.” Bryan Cranston has already won Emmys for his role in television’s “Breaking Bad” and a Tony for his stage performance as Lyndon Johnson on Broadway, so adding an Oscar to his shelf would round things out nicely. But Leonardo DiCaprio has demonstrated remarkable versatility in a wide range of screen characters since he was 14 years old. I think the artistic courage he shows in continually challenging himself as an actor will be rewarded this year with an Oscar for his unflinching performance in “The Revenant.”
-Professor of Theatre Leslie Jacobson 
Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Revenant” 
Best Actress: Brie Larson for “Room”
While Brie Larson and Saoirse Ronan both created fully realized, vulnerable yet strong women on screen, Ms. Larson’s performance in “Room” seems all the more remarkable given the darkness of the story being told in that film. So I think she will get the Oscar, although personally I would love to see Charlotte Rampling win for “45 Years.” Ms. Rampling’s work as an actor is so honest and unadorned—as it has been throughout her career—that it would be wonderful to see it recognized this year. She is a kind of female Spencer Tracy—someone who just seems to inhabit her role, without actually “acting.” The ability to hide one’s technique completely is a very great skill, indeed.
-Professor of Theatre Leslie Jacobson 
Winner: Best Actress: Brie Larson for “Room”
Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone for “Creed”
I’m going with Academy sentiment, and some sense of the nostalgia for my youth, and selecting Sylvester Stallone as best supporting actor. This brings him rather “full circle” with his series of Rocky Balboa films in that he won the Oscar for best screenplay with the first Rocky movie, and this will surely be his last one. His performance here is quite emotionally affecting after years of understandable typecasting as the buff military hero. That said, Christian Bale is really quite good in “The Big Short,” creating, as he has done so many times, a richly etched physical characterization much removed from his own persona. Absent my youthful nostalgia, I would probably cast my vote for him—and Tom Hardy is a close second (or third depending on how you’ve read my justifications).
-Professor of Theatre Alan Wade
Winner: Mark Rylance for "Bridge of Spies"
Best Supporting Actress: Rooney Mara for “Carol”
For supporting actress I’m going with Rooney Mara (Kate Winslet and Alicia Vikander as possibilities, too).  Ms. Mara’s performance is richly understated, relying often on the communication to us of what she’s thinking and not what she’s saying.  And, she’s playing opposite someone who is arguably probably the actress of her generation in Cate Blanchett. Ms. Mara holds her own.
The bottom line: This is wonderful work from everyone nominated, which is why the Oscar is “received” and not “won.”
-Professor of Theatre Alan Wade
Winner: Alicia Vikander for "The Danish Girl"
Best Costume: “MadMax: Fury Road”
The choice for me was between “Cinderella,” designed by Sandy Powell, and “Mad Max:Fury Road,” designed by Jenny Beavan.
These movies are polar extremes. “Cinderella’s” stunning and beautiful costumes create a dream fantasy of beauty, while the ones in “Mad Max: Fury Road” capture, with terrifying success, a dystopian nightmare.
I predict the vote is going to go for “MadMax:Fury Road.” The film's costumes, while seemingly ragtag, are stunning uniforms of character depicting a surprising range of good and evil. 
-Professor of Costume Design Sigridur Johannesdottir
Winner: "MadMax: Fury Road"
Best Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu for “The Revenant” 
As a documentary filmmaker, I think “Big Short” director Adam McKay should win. He did something that most documentary (and narrative) filmmakers almost never do: manage to convey highly complicated, incredibly intellectually difficult, economic principles in a way that is not only entertaining and engaging but is actually exciting.
But in terms of who will win, I think it will be Alejandro González Iñárritu. The physical and emotional task that Mr. Iñárritu set for his cast and crew was extraordinary. In the tradition of John Sayles and other realists, “The Revenant” was a masterwork of grit and naturalism.  In an industry replete with large egos that need elaborately decked-out trailers and lush craft services, this was a production that embraced the rawness and ferocity of the wilderness as an actual character in the film.  
-Research Professor of History and Media and Public Affairs and Documentary Center Director Nina Seavey
Winner: Alejandro González Iñárritu for “The Revenant” 
Best Picture: "Spotlight"
It's a tough choice, but I'm going out on a limb and say that the Academy will go for "Spotlight." It's well-acted and directed, superbly casted, and, in some ways, combines many of the social issues and persistent deep-seated problems that surface in all the other nominees, but with one crucial difference: People trowelling their way through a conflicted, complicated, sometimes senseless political climate can all get behind the idea of who is the "bad guy" in a film like this. Every one feels the same about pedophilia of heterosexual as well as homosexual nature. And they feel the same about systematic cover-ups by people in any organization who could stop that kind of suffering but choose not to and become a kind of accessory to depredations by turning them into a kind of "cottage industry" for their own financial gain, as one character in the film says.  
There's very little moral ambiguity about first, second and third-hand rapine, and "Spotlight" is a film that confronts these with the nuances of a psychological "indie" but the robustness of a political action thriller. It's "Philomena" meets "All the Presidents Men," and if I had to bet, this would be my pick.
-Associate Professor of Media and Public Affairs Kerric Harvey
Winner: "Spotlight"