2020 Oscar Predictions


Best Picture: Parasite

Best Director: Sam Mendes (1917)

Best Actress: Renée Zellweger (Judy)

Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

Best Supporting Actress: Laura Dern (Marriage Story)

Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)

Best Original Screenplay: Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won (Parasite)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit)

Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins (1917)

Best Editing: Jinmo Yang (Parasite)

Best Production Design: Nancy Haigh and Barbara Ling (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)

Best Costume Design: Jacqueline Durran (Little Women)

Best Hair & Makeup: Bombshell

Best Sound Editing: 1917

Best Sound Mixing: 1917

Best Visual Effects: 1917

Best Original Score: Hildur Guðnadóttir (Joker)

Best Original Song: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” (Rocketman)

Best International Feature Film: Parasite (South Korea)

Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 4

Best Documentary: American Factory

Best Animated Short Film: Hair Love

Best Live Action Short Film: Brotherhood

Best Documentary Short Subject: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)

2020 Oscar Nominations: My Predictions


Here we are once again, on the eve of the Oscar nomination announcement. Tomorrow morning we will discover who has received Hollywood’s most prestigious honors at the 92nd annual ceremony. Some categories, like Best Director, are extremely difficult to guess accurately. A few predictions may seem like dark horses, but I figured I would go with my gut rather than choose some of the more obvious possibilities. (Particular apologies to Zhao Shuzhen from The Farewell, since I don’t expect her to be recognized by the Academy; if she is nominated, I’ll be overjoyed!) Also, FYI: I don’t predict the three short film categories at this stage since I never have any clue about those until after the nominations come out. Here are my picks:

Best Picture: Bombshell; The Irishman; Jojo Rabbit; Joker; Little Women; Marriage Story; 1917; Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood; Parasite

Best Director: Martin Scorsese (The Irishman); Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit); Sam Mendes (1917); Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood); Bong Joon Ho (Parasite)

Best Actress: Charlize Theron (Bombshell); Awkwafina (The Farewell); Renée Zellweger (Judy); Saoirse Ronan (Little Women); Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)

Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker); Adam Driver (Marriage Story); Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood); Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory); Taron Egerton (Rocketman)

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers); Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit); Florence Pugh (Little Women); Laura Dern (Marriage Story); Margot Robbie (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)

Best Supporting Actor: Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood); Al Pacino (The Irishman); Joe Pesci (The Irishman); Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood); Song Kang-ho (Parasite)

Best Original Screenplay: Lulu Wang (The Farewell); Rian Johnson (Knives Out); Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story); Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood); Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won (Parasite)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Steven Zaillian (The Irishman); Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit); Todd Phillips and Scott Silver (Joker); Greta Gerwig (Little Women); Anthony McCarten (The Two Popes)

Best Cinematography: Rodrigo Prieto (The Irishman); Lawrence Sher (Joker); Jarin Blaschke (The Lighthouse); Roger Deakins (1917); Robert Richardson (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)

Best Editing: Andrew Buckland and Michael McCusker (Ford v Ferrari); Thelma Schoonmaker (The Irishman); Lee Smith (1917); Fred Raskin (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood); Yang Jin-mo (Parasite)

Best Production Design: Regina Graves and Bob Shaw (The Irishman); Mark Friedberg and Kris Moran (Joker); Jess Gonchor and Claire Kaufman (Little Women); Nancy Haigh and Barbara Ling (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood); Dennis Gassner and Lee Sandales (1917)

Best Costume Design: Ruth E. Carter (Dolemite Is My Name); Christopher Peterson and Sandy Powell (The Irishman); Jacqueline Durran (Little Women); Arianne Phillips (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood); Julian Day (Rocketman)

Best Hair & Makeup: Bombshell; Dolemite Is My Name; Joker; Judy; Rocketman

Best Sound Editing: Avengers: Endgame; Ford v Ferrari; 1917; Rocketman; Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Best Sound Mixing: Avengers: Endgame; Ford v Ferrari; 1917; Rocketman; Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Best Visual Effects: Avengers: Endgame; The Irishman; The Lion King; 1917; Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Best Original Score: Michael Giacchino (Jojo Rabbit); Hildur Guðnadóttir (Joker); Alexandre Desplat (Little Women); Randy Newman (Marriage Story); Thomas Newman (1917)

Best Original Song: “Into the Unknown” (Frozen II); “Stand Up” (Harriet); “Spirit” (The Lion King); “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” (Rocketman); “Glasgow (No Place Like Home)” (Wild Rose)

Best International Feature Film: Atlantics (Senegal); Beanpole (Russia); Les Misérables (France); Pain and Glory (Spain); Parasite (South Korea)

Best Animated Feature: Frozen II; How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World; I Lost My Body; Missing Link; Toy Story 4

Best Documentary: American Factory; Apollo 11; For Sama; Honeyland; One Child Nation

2019 Oscars: My Predictions


Best Motion Picture of the Year: Roma

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Glenn Close (The Wife)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Mahershala Ali (Green Book)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)

Best Achievement in Directing: Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)

Best Original Screenplay: Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara (The Favourite)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel and Kevin Willmott (BlacKkKlansman)

Best Achievement in Cinematography: Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)

Best Achievement in Film Editing: Hank Corwin (Vice)

Best Achievement in Production Design: Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton (The Favourite)

Best Achievement in Costume Design: Ruth E. Carter (Black Panther)

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling: Kate Biscoe, Greg Cannom and Patricia Dehaney (Vice)

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score): Nicholas Britell (If Beale Street Could Talk)

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song): “Shallow” (A Star Is Born)

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing: John Casali, Tim Cavagin and Paul Massey (Bohemian Rhapsody)

Best Achievement in Sound Editing: Nina Hartstone and John Warhurst (Bohemian Rhapsody)

Best Achievement in Visual Effects: Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Kelly Port and Daniel Sudick (Avengers: Infinity War)

Best Foreign Language Film: Roma

Best Documentary Feature: Free Solo

Best Documentary Short Subject: Period. End of Sentence.

Best Animated Feature Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best Animated Short Film: Bao

Best Live Action Short Film: Marguerite

2019 Oscar Nominations: My Predictions


Here are my predictions for the Oscar nominations that will be announced tomorrow morning. (As always, I didn’t attempt to guess at the three short film categories since I never really know anything about them until after the nominations come out.) Certain categories were particularly difficult for me to decide on, like Best Director, Best Hair & Makeup and the Best Sound Editing/Mixing awards, but I’ve done my best to read the minds of a voting group that is gradually expanding and diversifying.

(P.S. Many pundits anticipate that Ethan Hawke will receive a Best Actor nomination for First Reformed. I would love for that to happen, but Paul Schrader’s drama was ignored by SAG, the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs, so ultimately I don’t envision Hawke for the final five among lead actors. If he is nominated, though, I will be just as pleased as everyone else who has seen his remarkable work in the film, knowing that he deserves the acclaim.)

Best Picture: BlacKkKlansman; Black Panther; Bohemian Rhapsody; The Favourite; First Man; Green Book; If Beale Street Could Talk; Roma; A Star Is Born; Vice

Best Director: Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born); Alfonso Cuarón (Roma); Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite); Spike Lee (BlackKklansman); Adam McKay (Vice)

Best Actress: Yalitza Aparicio (Roma); Glenn Close (The Wife); Olivia Colman (The Favourite); Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born); Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Best Actor: Christian Bale (Vice); Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody); Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born); Viggo Mortensen (Green Book); John David Washington (BlackKklansman)

Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams (Vice); Claire Foy (First Man); Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk); Emma Stone (The Favourite); Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali (Green Book); Timothée Chalamet (Beautiful Boy); Adam Driver (BlackKklansman); Sam Elliott (A Star Is Born); Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Best Adapted Screenplay: BlackKklansman; Black Panther; Can You Ever Forgive Me?; If Beale Street Could Talk; Leave No Trace

Best Original Screenplay: The Favourite; First Reformed; Green Book; Roma; Vice

Best Cinematography: Cold War; The Favourite; First Man; Roma; A Star Is Born

Best Editing: Black Panther; First Man; Roma; A Star Is Born; Vice

Best Production Design: Black Panther; The Favourite; First Man; Mary Poppins Returns; Roma

Best Costume Design: Black Panther; Bohemian Rhapsody; The Favourite; Mary Poppins Returns; Mary Queen of Scots

Best Hair & Makeup: Border; Mary Queen of Scots; Vice

Best Sound Editing: Black Panther; Bohemian Rhapsody; First Man; A Quiet Place; A Star Is Born

Best Sound Mixing: Bohemian Rhapsody; First Man; A Quiet Place; Roma; A Star Is Born

Best Visual Effects: Avengers: Infinity War; Black Panther; First Man; Ready Player One; Solo: A Star Wars Story

Best Original Score: BlackKklansman; First Man; If Beale Street Could Talk; Isle of Dogs; Mary Poppins Returns

Best Original Song: “All the Stars” (Black Panther); “Girl in the Movies” (Dumplin’); “The Place Where Lost Things Go” (Mary Poppins Returns); “I’ll Fight” (RBG); “Shallow” (A Star Is Born)

Best Foreign Language Film: Burning; Capernaum; Cold War; Roma; Shoplifters

Best Animated Feature: Incredibles 2; Isle of Dogs; Mirai; Ralph Breaks the Internet; Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best Documentary: Free Solo; Minding the Gap; Of Fathers and Sons; RBG; Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

2018 Oscar Predictions!


Best Picture: The Shape of Water

Best Director: Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)

Best Actor: Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)

Best Actress: Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney (I, Tonya)

Best Original Screenplay: Jordan Peele (Get Out)

Best Adapted Screenplay: James Ivory (Call Me by Your Name)

Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049)

Best Film Editing: Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss (Baby Driver)

Best Production Design: Paul D. Austerberry (The Shape of Water)

Best Costume Design: Mark Bridges (Phantom Thread)

Best Hair & Makeup: Darkest Hour

Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk

Best Sound Mixing: Baby Driver

Best Visual Effects: War for the Planet of the Apes

Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat (The Shape of Water)

Best Original Song: “Remember Me” (Coco)

Best Foreign Language Film: A Fantastic Woman (Chile)

Best Animated Feature: Coco

Best Documentary Feature: Faces Places

Best Documentary Short: Heroin(e)

Best Animated Short: Dear Basketball

Best Live-Action Short: DeKalb Elementary

2018 Oscar Nomination Predictions!


It’s that time of year again: tomorrow morning, the Oscar nominations will be announced. Some of my predictions were particularly difficult to make, like Best Picture (the Academy can pick up to ten candidates but the final number is more likely to be eight or nine), Best Actress (I consider Sally Hawkins, Frances McDormand, Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan to be the locks but there’s a fight between Jessica Chastain and Meryl Streep for the fifth spot) and Best Supporting Actor (I suspect that Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg will cancel each other out and make room for Christopher Plummer), as well as the many technical categories. Darkest Hour, for example, is now a stronger contender for many awards than I initially thought it would be just a few months ago.

I struggled with figuring out whether Wonder Woman would be able to make it into the Sound Editing/Mixing and Visual Effects competitions. Various films in the sci-fi, fantasy and superhero genres could elbow their way into the conversation. It would also be wonderful if I, Tonya scores in the Best Original Screenplay field, and if Variety’s predictions about The Florida Project earning surprise nods for Best Picture and Best Director come true.

(Incidentally, I have not predicted the short film categories because I have not read enough about them yet.)

Best Picture: Call Me by Your Name; Darkest Hour; Dunkirk; Get Out; I, Tonya; Lady Bird; The Post; The Shape of Water; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Director: Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water); Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird); Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri); Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk); Jordan Peele (Get Out)

Best Actor: Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name); Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread); James Franco (The Disaster Artist); Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out); Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)

Best Actress: Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water); Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri); Margot Robbie (I, Tonya); Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird); Meryl Streep (The Post)

Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project); Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri); Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water); Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World); Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Supporting Actress: Mary J. Blige (Mudbound); Hong Chau (Downsizing); Holly Hunter (The Big Sick); Allison Janney (I, Tonya); Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)

Best Original Screenplay: Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick); Jordan Peele (Get Out); Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird); Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor (The Shape of Water); Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Adapted Screenplay: James Ivory (Call Me by Your Name); Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (The Disaster Artist); Scott Frank, Michael Green and James Mangold (Logan); Aaron Sorkin (Molly’s Game); Dee Rees and Virgil Williams (Mudbound)

Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049); Bruno Delbonnel (Darkest Hour); Hoyte van Hoytema (Dunkirk); Rachel Morrison (Mudbound); Dan Laustsen (The Shape of Water)

Best Film Editing: Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss (Baby Driver); Lee Smith (Dunkirk); Tatiana S. Riegel (I, Tonya); Sidney Wolinsky (The Shape of Water); Jon Gregory (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Production Design: Sarah Greenwood (Beauty and the Beast); Dennis Gassner and Alessandora Querzola (Blade Runner 2049); Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer (Darkest Hour); Nathan Crowley and Gary Fettis (Dunkirk); Paul D. Austerberry (The Shape of Water)

Best Costume Design: Jacqueline Durran (Beauty and the Beast); Jacqueline Durran (Darkest Hour); Jennifer Johnson (I, Tonya); Mark Bridges (Phantom Thread); Luis Sequeira (The Shape of Water)

Best Hair & Makeup: Darkest Hour; I, Tonya; Wonder

Best Sound Editing: Baby Driver; Blade Runner 2049; Dunkirk; The Shape of Water; Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Best Sound Mixing: Baby Driver; Blade Runner 2049; Dunkirk; The Shape of Water; Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049; Dunkirk; The Shape of Water; War for the Planet of the Apes; Wonder Woman

Best Original Score: Dario Marianelli (Darkest Hour); Hans Zimmer (Dunkirk); Jonny Greenwood (Phantom Thread); John Williams (The Post); Alexandre Desplat (The Shape of Water)

Best Original Song: “Mystery of Love” (Call Me by Your Name); “Remember Me” (Coco); “This Is Me” (The Greatest Showman); “Stand Up for Something” (Marshall); “Mighty River” (Mudbound)

Best Foreign Language Film: A Fantastic Woman (Chile); Foxtrot (Israel); In the Fade (Germany); Loveless (Russia); The Square (Sweden)

Best Animated Feature: The Boss Baby; The Breadwinner; Coco; The LEGO Batman Movie; Loving Vincent

Best Documentary Feature: City of Ghosts; Faces Places; Icarus; Jane; Strong Island

The 2017 Oscars: A 10-Image Summary

These GIFs and still images capture what I consider some of the most memorable moments from last night’s Academy Awards ceremony. It was an interesting night, for sure, and one that won’t soon be forgotten by viewers. From messages of political protest and diversity/inclusivity to the shocking ending that would have fit just as easily in a Hollywood thriller, on several counts the 2017 Oscars earned its unique place in the history books.


Michael Shannon trying to stop the feeling during Justin Timberlake’s show-opening performance


Best Supporting Actor, the first award of the night: Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali (the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar)


Viola Davis’s Best Supporting Actress speech – award-worthy in its own right


Taraji P. Henson’s unbridled joy at receiving one of the snack packages that floated down from the rafters


98-year-old Katherine Johnson, onstage with Hidden Figures stars Janelle Monáe, Taraji P. Henson (who plays Johnson in the film) and Octavia Spencer for the Best Documentary Feature category


The Lion stars, in toto


While presenting animated film categories with Hailee Steinfeld, Gael García Bernal speaks out against Trump


Anousheh Ansari (the first Iranian astronaut to go into space, as well as the first Muslim woman) reads director Asghar Farhadi’s statement after The Salesman won for Best Foreign Language Film


Twist ending!


Puts it all in perspective, no?

2017 Oscar Predictions


Best Picture: La La Land

Best Actor: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Actress: Emma Stone (La La Land)

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (Fences)

Best Director: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Best Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Barry Jenkins (screenplay) and Tarell Alvin McCraney (play/story) (Moonlight)

Best Animated Feature Film: Zootopia

Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman (Iran)

Best Cinematography: Linus Sandgren (La La Land)

Best Editing: Tom Cross (La La Land)

Best Production Design: David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco (La La Land)

Best Costume Design: Madeline Fontaine (Jackie)

Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Richard Alonzo and Joel Harlow (Star Trek Beyond)

Best Original Score: Justin Hurwitz (La La Land)

Best Original Song: Justin Hurwitz (music) and Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (lyrics), “City of Stars” (La La Land)

Best Sound Mixing: Ai-Ling Lee, Steve A. Morrow and Andy Nelson (La La Land)

Best Sound Editing: Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright (Hacksaw Ridge)

Best Visual Effects: Andrew R. Jones, Robert Legato, Dan Lemmon and Adam Valdez (The Jungle Book)

Best Documentary, Feature: O.J.: Made in America

Best Documentary, Short Subject: The White Helmets

Best Short Film, Animated: Piper

Best Short Film, Live Action: Ennemis Intérieurs

I’ve Just Seen a Face


Sometimes there are faces that are so incredible in close-ups and extreme close-ups that they are almost painful to witness. Cinema makes these visages become works of art, portraits encased in celluloid (or digital, depending on the director) museums where history is captured and stored at the rate of 24 frames per second. These are faces that transcend any theoretical limitations of the camera, the perceptions of the audience, maybe even the story being told – the character evolves into a new and different beast, in the most positive sense. When an actor displays this level of ability to breathe life and meaning into a role, far beyond whatever was suggested on the pages of the script, you will know without hesitation that you have encountered a transformative creation that is both magnificently constructed for the movie theater experience and is also, in a strange way, even more affecting, thought-provoking and real than reality.


Natalie Portman’s depiction of Jackie Kennedy in the new Pablo Larraín film Jackie is one example of this phenomenon. Close-ups and extreme close-ups allow nowhere for the actor, or the audience, to hide. Portman has to be able to project every ounce of Jackie’s grief, fear, self-loathing and stubborn vanity when her face fills the frame, and moviegoers have to confront those images over and over. Larraín’s film achieves the unbelievable feat of simultaneously getting under the skin of a complex woman, digging into her soul during the most heartbreaking and traumatic week of her life, and also staying at a distance, allowing the character to shape the recollection of events being told to a reporter (Billy Crudup) a week after JFK’s assassination. Jackie reminds me of 20,000 Days on Earth (2014), the scripted documentary in which Nick Cave recounts five decades’ worth of memories and shows us the controlled version of his life that he wants us to see – sleeping, eating, typing lyrics in a house which isn’t his actual house; reciting monologues that explain his innermost emotions via voiceovers recorded in post-production. Objectivity does not exist when people decide how their truths are told and how facts are remembered.

At one point in the film, Portman’s Jackie murmurs, “I lost track somewhere. What was real? What was performance?” Who but Jackie Kennedy herself can say whether Natalie Portman’s performance is psychologically accurate? Perhaps Pablo Larraín and screenwriter Noah Oppenheim provide no concrete answers, either for Jackie (the character or the real person), for Portman as an actress or for us as the onlookers. The only certainty I have that Portman succeeded in her portrayal is a gut feeling, the awareness when the end credits began to roll that she had accomplished something that will continue to resonate with me, long after this Oscar season ends.


Overlooked Performances: 2015

Here are ten performances from 2015 that did not receive nominations at this year’s Academy Awards, but which you should nevertheless check out. I would have included more, but I’m a bit pressed for time (the ceremony starts in less than three hours!) and I couldn’t find enough clips for some performances, like Allan Corduner in Woman in Gold, Blythe Danner in I’ll See You in My Dreams and Olivia Wilde in Meadowland.

Tom Courtenay (45 Years) – While this awards season’s focus on 45 Years has been centered on Charlotte Rampling’s performance as a wife feeling lost and betrayed by her husband’s long-buried secrets involving another woman, Courtenay deserves his own praise for playing the role of the husband with many strange layers of yearning for the long-ago past, confusion of his own and compartmentalization.

Paul Dano (Love & Mercy) – Playing a music legend can’t be easy, but Paul Dano gets inside the head of Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson, whose musical innovations in the mid-to-late 1960s are interrupted by nervous breakdowns (eventually diagnosed as manic depression and schizoaffective disorder). The world acknowledges Wilson’s brilliance, but in scenes like the one where he previews “God Only Knows” (one of his masterpieces) for his father, the beauty of the song – even in its raw form – is undercut by harsh comments from Dad (“It’s not a love song, it’s a suicide note.”), which Brian takes to heart more forcefully than the words of any other critic.

Benicio Del Toro (Sicario) – FBI and CIA operations in Mexico are observed by young, inexperienced agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), who is accompanied on her trips into the drug-cartel underworld by Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro), a man who works on both sides of the border and does whatever he deems necessary to impose justice. Del Toro glides across the screen, always in control.

James Franco (True Story) – You never know exactly where you stand with Christian Longo, an accused murderer who claims to be protecting the “real” killer of his wife and children. Do you believe the soft-spoken, sad-eyed version of the man, or do you acknowledge the creepiness of the attention he pays to Jill Barker (Felicity Jones), girlfriend of Mike Finkel (Jonah Hill), the reporter who has been interviewing Longo about the story and impending murder trial? Franco keeps you on your toes the whole time.

Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight) – You wouldn’t want to spend much time with any of the bad seeds from Tarantino’s latest revenge flick, but Goggins brings some weird Southern charm to his performance as Sheriff Chris Mannix, a guy who has no idea what he got himself into when he asks to ride into town with bounty hunters (Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson) and a wanted woman being brought to jail (Jennifer Jason Leigh).

Jack Huston (The Longest Ride) – Although the main love story in this sappy drama is portrayed by young lovers in modern times (Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson), the B story concerns two Jewish-American characters living in the 1940s and 50s, Ira and Ruth (Jack Huston and Oona Chaplin respectively, fulfilling some kind of quota-triple for descendants of powerful film-related families – Eastwood, Huston, Chaplin). I don’t expect great acting in any film based on the writings of Nicholas Sparks, but Huston did some very fine work in this multi-generational romance.

Ben Mendelsohn (Mississippi Grind) – You can see the acute desperation in gambler Gerry’s every expression and movement, whether he is quietly considering his next move (the character is essentially an introverted one unless he’s around certain people) or excitedly trying to convince his reluctant pal Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) to take a chance on a crazy bet. There was probably never any likelihood that Ben Mendelsohn would be nominated for an Oscar for such a small, under-seen film, but at least he was able to snag an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Male Lead (he lost to Beasts of No Nation’s Abraham Attah).

Michael Shannon (99 Homes) – Shannon applies both menace and an oddly seductive magnetism to the role of Rick Carver, a shady real estate broker who takes every available pleasure he can from bilking the system and making profits out of homeowners’ pain.

Jason Statham (Spy) – After a long career starring in action movies, Statham plays his role for laughs here as a super-cool, super-tough CIA agent who is comically awful at his job, klutzy beyond belief and, despite what his actions say to the contrary, convinced that he is James Bond incarnate.

Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) – Vikander plays Ava, the ultimate paranoid android, who uses her supreme artificial intelligence to question why she was built, what her life’s purpose is, whether she has the same right to independence as human women and whether she can ever escape the confines of her creator’s laboratory. (Don’t worry for Vikander too much; I’m pretty sure that she will win Best Supporting Actress tonight for The Danish Girl.)