David Edelstein’s 2016 Oscars Preview

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Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Let me open this 2016 Oscars evening by (1) welcoming you Folks at Home, and (2) laying out a plan for the live blog that I'll be conducting during the ceremonies. I’ve read quite a few live blogs of the presidential debates and am struck by how rare it is that bloggers orient readers from moment to moment. We’ll aim not only to supply deep insights and gratuitous insults but a context for them. That means you can read back over the live blog in case you need to go to the bathroom or decide to pay more attention to the actual show. I’d love to incorporate readers' comments when possible, so by all means send pithy observations our way.

As you can see in the Oscars commentary I provided earlier today on CBS Sunday Morning, I agree with the masses regarding Leo and Brie as locks for Best Actor and Actress. In fact, I have a 3,000-word career retrospective on Leo set to run this evening after he wins. (Meaning that if he doesn't win, I'll have to do a fast rewrite.) His performance in The Revenant is among his least interesting, but I don’t think the other four Best Actor nominee performances are worth going to the mat for. Let Leo have it already.

Given that several months ago in my best of 2015 list I said that Brie Larson gave the best performance of the year, I’m going to be pleased as punch to see her win. She was equally good in Short Term 12.

Twenty nine years ago, Rocky won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, but its driving force — Sylvester Stallone — lost Best Actor to Peter Finch (who had died several months earlier) and Best Screenplay to Paddy Chayefsky, both for Network. I think the Academy will honor him tonight in part to compensate for that. Oscar voters are very good at correcting for past omissions.

If both The Revenant and Son of Saul win, it will be really strange. Two assaultive, grueling, single-camera-ish melodramas will have bullied their way onto voters’ ballots.  

One other awards entity is worth mentioning — the Razzies. No one’s going to argue with the group dumping on the Fantastic Four and Fifty Shades of Grey, although I thought Dakota Johnson gave a real performance in the latter and didn’t need further humiliation. Mila Kunis was much, much worse in Jupiter Ascending. Acting standards are high these days and it’s weird to come across an A-lister so obviously lacking. Unmagnetic as Razzie “winner” Jamie Dornan was, the worst male performance of the year was Jonah Hill’s attempt to impersonate an investigative journalist in the little-seen (and truly terrible) True Story. The problem with Razzie voters is that they don’t go after risible “serious” films. It’s always low-hanging fruit.

Finally: I’ll be blogging tonight with Bilge Ebiri, who has been at Vulture since its inception and affiliated with New York for longer than I have been — and I became the magazine’s film critic in January 2006. In two days, he’ll begin his stint as a staff critic at The Village Voice, where I spent five years several decades ago.

As I’ve said many times, there are four things that make Bilge just about the worst colleague ever. (1) He’s frighteningly smart. (2) He has seen way more movies than I have. (3) He’s an inhumanly fast writer. (4) He’s a total mensch — or its Turkish equivalent. Frankly, he has made me look bad and I’m overjoyed that he’s leaving. In the meantime, I shall treasure this opportunity to go mano a mano with him one more time.