Next up in the Gold Rush Gang’s 2016 Oscar predictions are three categories that always come with eligibility stipulations and sometimes controversy. Accusations of cronyism, bake-offs and shortlists rule Original Score, Makeup & Hairstyling and Visual Effects in a way that other categories (save the committees for Foreign Language Film and Documentary Feature, those have even deeper roots of controversy) don’t.
This season, Best Original Score is shaping up to be one of the most competitive and like Best Cinematography has some of the industry heaviest hitters in the running for a nomination. John Williams, who has an astonishing 49 nominations (in the many version of Original Score as well as Original Song) and 5 wins leads our list for his latest Steven Spielberg film composition, Bridge of Spies. Williams is someone who you simply never discount in this category. Whether it’s The Book Thief or The Adventures of Tin Tin or Angela’s Ashes he’s often the sole nominee for a film and almost certainly with every Spielberg effort. Even if Bridge of Spies ends up being a non-starter in the awards race it’s as sure a bet as you can get in the Oscar showdown that he’ll be nominated. Williams also shows up in 3rd with Star Wars: The Force Awakens but it will be interesting to see how much of that film’s composition is original music and if it qualifies under the Academy’s music rules. If it does then Williams is practically assured another double nomination next year, something he’s accomplished in this category five times already.
Oscar winner Michael Giacchino holds up as a pretty close second here with Inside Out. He won for a Pixar film in 2010 (Up) and a snub here would be most shocking. Of the 15 films since Pixar began seven have been nominated in Original Score. This number probably would have been much larger had the Academy not combined Original Dramatic Score & Original Musical or Comedy Score together in 1999.
Carol has a chance to land Carter Burwell his first nomination (first!) in a career that spans memorable scores for all Coen Brothers films including Fargo and No Country for Old Men, as well as Gods and Monsters and Being John Malkovich.
Perhaps the most exciting news in this category was the recent announcement that for The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino had secured prolific Italian composer Ennio Morricone to write his first score for a western in over 40 years. Tarantino has been cribbing Morricone for years now so to have an original piece and from a composer who has never won a competitive Oscar (he was awarded an Honorary one in 2007 after five nominations) could prove to be too much to ignore for the Academy.
The Makeup & Hairstyling category is one of those that requires a small committee to evaluate short submissions from studios to come up with a ‘bake-off’ list from which only those films can be nominated for an Oscar. It’s also the only category that still only has three total nominations up for grabs. This list is often wrought with shocking snubs that come with no discernible reason like this year when Into the Woods didn’t make the list. This category historically goes for two things; old age makeup (even if it’s truly horrible like A Beautiful Mind) and sci-fi/fantasy. Or Rick Baker. Contenders this year can rest easy that the 7-time Oscar winner doesn’t have a film in contention otherwise he’d easily snag one of those precious three nominations (see Norbit). This year finds a healthy combination of what this group looks for in the over the top fantasy of Mad Max: Fury Road, the sci-fi of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the old age makeup in Black Mass. But for us it’s The Danish Girl that leads the group, by a large margin. When the simplicity of the makeup in Dallas Buyers Club won in 2013 (and on a $40 makeup budget, no less) it showed the group was more conscious of minimalism as a strength and not a weakness and that Best Makeup didn’t have to mean Most Makeup.
The other shortlisted category is Visual Effects. When the Board of Governors expanded this category from three to five nominations in 2010 it marked an era of just how many CGI-heavy films are released every year and not just summer tent-poles. Just this year the BoG made another expansion in this category; bumping up the shortlist from 10 to 20. The ever-expanding landscape of visual-effects heavy films grows each year so this at least gives more of these films an equal playing field for the Oscar.
As you can see from the list, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the clear favorite here with #1 votes from every member of The Gold Rush Gang. Deservedly so, as four of the six previous Star Wars films have been nominated for the Visual Effects Oscar. The first film earned a competitive win and in two years where there weren’t competitive nominations in this category, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi earned Special Achievement wins.
Every film to feature Iron Man (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, The Avengers) has been nominated for the Visual Effects Oscar and that puts Avengers: Age of Ultron in a good place. It’s disappointing box office (only by comparison to the first film) might put it at a disadvantage but it doesn’t seem too likely. Mad Max: Fury Road should be able to make the cut if people really watch and see how visual effects amped up this film. Much has been made about the amount of practical effects used on the set but a recent video from RocketJump Film School goes in great detail to show just how much was used (as well as for other films).
The Academy loves films in space here; the last two winners were space dramas (Interstellar and Gravity) so The Martian feels like a strong player. In the Heart of the Sea, based on the event that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick could find a place at the table and the over the top grandeur of Pan’s visual effects could also show up.
The film that will be under the most scrutiny, I think, will be Jurassic World. With a box office take currently at $636M, it sits at #3 of the all-time list. While the film stands a good shot at a Sound Editing nomination it seems like this is an easier bet. Take a look at the All-Time Domestic Gross List; taking out JW and Shrek 2 the top 9 films all received at least one Oscar nomination and of those 9 and all except The Dark Knight Rises received a Visual Effects Oscar nomination. Two of the three previous Jurassic Park films (#1 and #2) received Visual Effects Oscar nominations, with the first film winning. Bet on it.
Don’t forget, you can always get up to the minute Oscar predictions from the Gold Rush Gang on all of our 2016 Oscar Prediction Charts:
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
BEST FILM EDITING
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
BEST SOUND EDITING
BEST SOUND MIXING
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE