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Thursday 29 September 2016

Oscars predictions: How will the Irish nominees fare?

Sarah Caden

Published 22/02/2016 | 02:30

Saoirse from the block: Home favourite Ronan is seen by the Oscars as having good speech potential.
Saoirse from the block: Home favourite Ronan is seen by the Oscars as having good speech potential.
Leo the lion: Di Caprio has the surly looks of someone on the brink of being bitter.
Love: Taylor and Burton
Emotional: Sally Field.
Tears: Gwyneth Paltrow
Pledge: New Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs.
Room at the top: Emma Donoghue is nominated.

Because Hollywood loves the idea of making someone's year, there's a strong chance that Leonardo di Caprio's The Revenant will clean up at next week's event. From an Irish point of view, it would be such a wonderful story to see Lenny Abrahamson win Best Director. Now that would be something, not only because he's Irish, and because Room is a marvellous film, but because this is only his fifth feature and, outside of Ireland, few people will be aware of Adam and Paul, Garage and What Richard Did. All of which are remarkable films that might just reach a greater audience. Hopefully they will now, even if Abrahamson doesn't win.

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This side of the Atlantic we'd love an Abrahamson victory, but it would also be the kind of small-film-makes-big story that Tinseltown eats up. There's massive feel-good, heartwarming speech potential there.

But if The Revenant doesn't clean up, it might well be the night of The Big Short, a film that scores on the level that it makes Hollywood feel intelligent. Based on Michael Lewis's book of the same name, and telling of the 2008 financial crisis in the US, the Academy will root for this one in order to feel good about itself intellectually. They're not just about the gowns and the glamour, don't you know?

With comedian Chris Rock at the helm as host, Hollywood should be braced to receive a few close-to-the-bone jibes about its super-white racial profile and the race-row boycott of the event.

The assembled celebs will be at pains to look happy to take their punishment, no matter how hard Rock hits them. And the beauty of Botox is that you can't scowl or appear to sulk.

To avoid it seeming like a night that's all about white men - Rock excluded - there will likely be some fuss made of The Danish Girl, so that the Academy can feel good about its attitude to transgender and minorities in general.

Cynically, you could say that transgender is the issue du jour, and that Hollywood loves to be on trend, but were The Danish Girl to win, it would be churlish to say that was just tokenism. Right?

We are all rooting here for a Saoirse Ronan win and while it might be unlikely, it's not impossible.

Her Saoirse from the Block routine earlier this year and her outing on Ellen, where she explained the pronunciation of her name, set her apart as someone funny and game for a laugh, which the Oscars love. That is to say, she has good-speech potential.

Overall, however, we can pretty much bank on a Leonardo clean sweep. And moist eyes in the crowd as he accepts his statuette after four previous experiences of being overlooked.

He's their little boy, now all grown up. Sure it would melt a stone.

It had better be Leonardo’s year at last

If there’s anything the Oscars enjoys more than someone who’s suffered for their art — for which read put on prosthetic nose or a few pounds — it’s a good old underdog. Now, their idea of an underdog is different to yours or mine, obviously. In this world, suffering is maybe languishing in the doldrums for a few years, or as in the case of Leonardo di Caprio, being passed over four times for an Oscar. This year sees Leonardo nominated for the fifth time, as Best Actor in The Revenant and all the talk is that it’s his year. Like he’s earned, it not for being brilliant in this particular role, but for being that tricky thing: the slighted star.

No one’s arguing that he’s not a great actor, but that’s not what has him tipped to win. Instead, it’s considered the right thing. It’s Leo’s turn. He’s put in the hours, banked the bucks for the industry and grown up in the spotlight. For Christ’s sake, give the man a statuette already, because there’s always the danger, with these overlooked underdogs that if they don’t get their due they turn sour on the industry. And they don’t want that. Leo, who has turned into the new Jack Nicholson, in both looks and reputation, has the surly attitude of someone on the brink of getting bitter.

They need him to feel loved again, and it should be a wonder to all of us that a little award can do that. But it can.

Leo makes Hollywood feel good about itself. So they need to repay him. His ‘single and ready to mingle’ reputation reminds them of days gone by, when Tinseltown was a little more exciting, and the fact that he has bona fide talent to boot is a bonus. He’s one of their own and the ovation will be of the standing variety.

Hollywood heat is in short supply

A Hollywood love story is always a boon to the Oscars and, for years, Brad and Angelina fulfilled that role. Now that they’re highly respectable mom-and-dad serious people, however, there is no one to fill that gap. No Taylor and Burton these days, that’s for sure.

It’s tipped to be Leonardo di Caprio’s night from a win point of view, but all eyes will be on him from a love angle, also. Though he’s no young fella at 41, Leo is very much the classic Hollywood playboy, who has never settled down and shows no signs of wanting to. The constant “who did Leo bring to his hotel room?” speculation clearly irks him, and his date on Oscar night is most likely to be his mother.

From an Irish point of view, we were pathetically excited last week when he had a conversation with Bray-born Laura Whitmore at the Baftas, but it’s a safe bet she won’t be on this red carpet.

Sobbing is always a good idea

If there’s one word to be avoided in an acceptance speech it’s “humble”. That’s the word that makes our hearts turn to stone, because in order to feel humble, you had to be feeling pretty high and mighty about yourself previously. Look, we all know the “I can’t believe it” business is fairly phony when they stand there gripping their statuette, but they can at least make it entertaining. Which is why a turning on of the waterworks is always a good idea. Even if all it does is give us a laugh.

We might laugh in the face of some celebrity’s tears, but the speeches we remember are those of the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Sally Field, who made complete emotional exhibitions of themselves as they accepted their Oscars.

Given the race row this year, however, the speeches are likely to tend towards the political. No one is going to want to look uncaring or, God forbid, self-involved, so expect a great show of compassion and solidarity. Both of which may prove a little cringe-making, but less so than the faux humility.

With nine nominations, we’ll celebrate something

The way things are this year, we can be fairly certain of celebrating something the morning after next Sunday’s Oscars. When I say “we”, I mean we as a great little nation of filmmakers, obviously.

A nation where we greet success as if we’ve all been on board with projects such as Room and Brooklyn from the get-go. Hell, if the Oscar winner turns out to be director Benjamin Cleary’s short, Stutterer, we’ll even manage to feel we had a hand in that. 

There are nine Irish nominations this year. John Crowley for Brooklyn and Lenny Abrahamson for Room take two places on the shortlist of five Best Director nominees, which is undeniably impressive. Emma O’Donoghue is nominated for adapting her novel Room; Michael Fassbender is nominated for his performance as the late Steve Jobs, and Saoirse Ronan is up for Best Actress in Brooklyn.

We’re happy to see off-camera talent rewarded, but as a nation we love the big-ticket, glamour awards and we’re rooting hard for Saoirse Ronan.

 However, if she loses out to Brie Larson, nominated in the same category for Room, we’ll have no trouble interpreting that as an utterly Irish win, despite Larson being an American whose first name is not an abbreviation of Breda.

With nine nominations, though, surely we can’t go home empty-handed.

Get the open-topped bus ready.

Race row threatens to dominate the celebrations

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Cheryl Boone Isaacs (above), is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences first black president and, by 2020, she has pledged to transform the make-up of the Academy to accurately reflects American society. In essence, she has pledged make it less white and less male.

She has, by all accounts, effectively set this in motion, but not in time to save this year's Oscars from a race dispute and boycotting by some of Hollywood's big hitters, most prominently Will Smith and Spike Lee.

Neither of those big names will be at next week's event and many more have joined their boycott, in protest at the fact that no black or minority actors appear in this year's four acting categories.

Yes, Smith has a big film this year, Concussion. It has received good, but not brilliant, reviews - due to its slightly slow, over-wordy pace and tone. It has been argued that Smith isn't on the list because he doesn't deserve to be this year.

The bigger picture is that there is a pattern of no nominations for black actors in this very white Academy.

So, while the Academy pats itself on the back for embracing transgender issues via The Danish Girl, it will inevitably face some acceptances speeches that shout out to the race row boycotters. And simply having Chris Rock as the host just won't fix it.

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