My Own 88th Annual Academy Awards – Part I (My Nominees)


by Brian Surber

It’s almost Oscar night and in honor of this year’s awards I have decided to split this year’s My Own 88th Annual Academy Awards post into two. This first part is all about if I had my way. It’s the same as the post last year, but different.

Here we have all of my choices for the nominations and my eventual winners.

*Note: I have to have seen at least three nominees in each category to present nominations. So unfortunately no Foreign, Documentary, or Shorts category (I know, I know, I’m working on it!)



Best Picture
Clouds of Sils Maria
Inside Out
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Steve Jobs

WINNER: Clouds of Sils Maria


– Fascinatingly realized and rich with context, Clouds of Sils Maria is the best and most perplexing film I saw all year. Filled with incredible performances and directed with pulsing patience, Clouds of Sils Maria was unlike anything else I saw in 2015. And I liked that.

RUNNER-UP: Inside Out



Best Director 
Olivier Assayas – Clouds of Sils Maria
Cary Joji Fukunaga – Beasts of No Nation
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
László Nemes – Son of Saul

WINNER: László Nemes – Son of Saul


– No film stayed with me more after seeing it than Son of Saul. With its unorthodox Holocaust story , frustrating lead, and ingenious camera work, it’s a film that cannot help but be discussed. And the bulk of the credit must go to first time director László Nemes. The decision to keep the camera on the shoulders of a man we root for – and at times against – alone would be an incredible achievement but Nemes takes the experience further with haunting performances and even more brutal sound work. The achievement of the year.

RUNNER-UP: Cary Joji Fukunaga – Beasts of No Nation



Best Actor
Abraham Attah – Beasts of No Nation
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Michael B. Jordan – Creed
Geza Rohrig – Son of Saul

WINNER: Abraham Attah – Beasts of No Nation


– Abraham Attah was in his early teens when he was discovered on a soccer field in Ghana playing hooky. He had never acted before and now here he is giving the best performance of the year. Putting his inexperience aside, Attah has crafted a performance that is so detailed, intimate and, most impressive of all, made entirely his own. Agu is his creation, he flourishes, and stands out above anyone else in any other movie this year. When I first tried to ride a bike I fell over.

RUNNER-UP: Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs



Best Actress
Juliette Binoche – Clouds of Sils Maria
Brie Larson – Room
Bel Powley – The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Lily Tomlin – Grandma

WINNER: Brie Larson – Room


– Coming just two years after her astonishing performance in Short Term 12, Brie Larson runs away with Best Actress again this year. Her portrayal of Ma in Room is extraordinary and harrowing. Putting any narrative issues with Room aside, even the most hardened of critics (*cough Noah cough*) has to give it up to Brie who explodes on the screen with compassion, strength, and turmoil. She’s simply riveting.

RUNNER-UP: Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn



Best Supporting Actor
Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation
Sam Elliot – Grandma
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Jacob Tremblay – Room

WINNER: Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies


– From seemingly out of nowhere Mark Rylance commands the screen in possibly the quietest role in any film this year. His work in Bridge of Spies is always captivating and Rylance brings a needed humanity to his performance of a Soviet spy who must gain our sympathy. Not only does he hold his own against Tom Hanks but he elevates his co-star’s performance; because of Rylance we more clearly understand Hanks’ motivation and root for his success that much more. So, yeah, he was the best supporting actor in every sense of the word.

RUNNER-UP: Sam Elliot – Grandma



Best Supporting Actress
Olivia Cooke – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Jennifer Jason Leigh – Anomalisa
Kristen Stewart – Clouds of Sils Maria
Mya Taylor – Tangerine
Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina

WINNER: Jennifer Jason Leigh – Anomalisa


– As the film’s moral center and beating heart, Jennifer Jason Leigh provides the light to not only Anomalisa‘s main character but to the film itself. Her voice swims through you and rings true of her character’s emotions. It’s spellbinding voice work and the very definition of sensitive. Her voices carries the feelings of someone who doesn’t feel loved or deserving of love while immediately showing us why she does.

RUNNER-UP: Kristen Stewart – Clouds of Sils Maria



Best Original Screenplay
Olivier Assayas – Clouds of Sils Maria
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, & Josh Cooley – Inside Out
Taylor Sheridan – Sicario
Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer – Spotlight
Amy Schumer – Trainwreck

WINNER: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, & Josh Cooley – Inside Out


– Inside Out so perfectly captures the wild, exciting, heartbreaking, and inspiring emotional journey that occurs when we all grow up that it really floored me. The film is flush with visual gems and deep insight that we’ve come to expect from a Pixar film, but what elevates Inside Out to reach the heights of their best works is the simplicity of it all. The journey is so stuffed with great honest expression and true, so true, portrayals of human emotion that it’s just a joy to behold.

RUNNER-UP: Olivier Assayas – Clouds of Sils Maria



Best Adapted Screenplay
Cary Joji Fukunaga – Beasts of No Nation
Adam McKay & Charles Randolph – The Big Short
Nick Hornby – Brooklyn
Jesse Andrews – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Aaron Sorkin – Steve Jobs

WINNER: Aaron Sorkin – Steve Jobs


– While any of these nominees had a shot at winning I couldn’t resist rewarding the electric screenplay for Steve Jobs. Aaron Sorkin’s most Aaron Sorkin-y screenplay, Steve Jobs jumps off the screen with expertly crafted scenes embedded in it’s unconventional narrative. Sorkin’s screenplay is pure movie heroin bursting off the screen like a runaway train.

RUNNER-UP: Adam McKay & Charles Randolph – The Big Short



Best Animated Feature
The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
The Peanuts Movie

WINNER: Inside Out


– What a difficult decision this was. Both Inside Out and Anomalisa are animated masterpieces. And both are deserving of this award. In the end it must go to my first love. Rich and detailed with compassion to spare; it’s the most emotional film of the year (pun not intended, actually, you know what, pun intended). Quite simply brilliant.

RUNNER-UP: Anomalisa



Best Original Score
The Hateful Eight
It Follows
Inside Out

WINNER: The Hateful Eight


– While admittedly not a giant fan of Quentin Tarantino’s 8th film, even I can’t deny the enormous score by legendary composer Ennio Morricone. The vividly cinematic score is haunting and looming. Totally consuming and larger than life it’s easily the best part of the film and it would be for most films.

RUNNER-UP: Spotlight



Best Original Song
“It’s My Turn” – Dope
“Earned It” – Fifty Shades of Grey
“See You Again” – Furious 7
“Feels Like Summer” – Shaun the Sheep
“Simple Song #3” – Youth

WINNER: “Earned It” – Fifty Shades of Grey


– Calm, cool, and collected. The Weeknd’s powerhouse ballad is as romantic as it is sexy, which is what you want in your Fifty Shades of Grey film. Infectious beat and flawless production help create the most atmospheric song on this list. The epitome of love and steam it’s the song most likely to get under your skin just the way you like.

RUNNER-UP: “It’s My Turn” – Dope



Best Sound Editing
Inside Out
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

WINNER: Star Wars: The Force Awakens 


– Lightsabers pop like never before. The Millennium Falcon roars to life for the first time in 30 years. And battles in space are coordinated like operas.  The sound choices and sound creations in Star Wars: The Force Awakens help bring the magic back to millions and millions of fans. That has to count for something.




Best Sound Mixing
Mad Max: Fury Road
Son of Saul
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Steve Jobs

WINNER: Son of Saul 


– No film used sound better this year than Son of Saul. Taking place entirely on the shoulders of one man, the film follows him through his time spent in a concentration camp. The noises coming from around him haunt you throughout the film to powerful effect. We don’t see where the noises are coming from or what they represent but we know they are there and it fills you with dread for the horrors occurring just off screen. The combination of noises and the choice to highlight them when the film chooses is expertly done in the most effective mix of the year.

RUNNER-UP: Mad Max: Fury Road



Best Production Design
Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

WINNER: Star Wars: The Force Awakens


– Star Wars has always been the franchise to take us to new worlds and part of its success is its real world sets. Practical sets that look and feel tangible. Star Wars: The Force Awakens feels lived in and feels real and the reason is the actual sets they built. From Rey’s home planet of Jakku to Maz’s Cantina each scene is improved by the brilliant production design that helped make a galaxy far, far away feel so close.

RUNNER-UP: Mad Max: Fury Road



Best Cinematography
Beasts of No Nation
The Revenant
Son of Saul

WINNER: Son of Saul


– The Revenant wasn’t the only to film use natural light. Son of Saul not only used natural light while filming their outdoor scenes but the camera work is at once elegant and hectic. Because our point of view is so limited there are moments where it’s clear what is happening but also moments where we aren’t sure. As Saul moves frenetically so does our camera. Unsure of direction or location we are at the mercy of the cinematography. It’s a stunning and frustrating accomplishment.

RUNNER-UP: Beasts of No Nation



Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road


– Dirt covered, dry, and full of calcium the characters in Mad Max: Fury Road are the most physically memorable of the year. From Immortan Joe, Nux, and Furiosa herself each character is layered with years of backstory covering their bodies. Each is a creation that is notable and remarkable.

RUNNER-UP: The Revenant



Best Costume Design
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road

WINNER: Cinderella


– Generic period piece resemblances aside the costumes in Cinderella truly seem to come straight off the pages of a fairly tale. Specific, detailed, and colorful they add to the majesty of the story being told.




Best Film Editing
Beasts of No Nation
The Big Short
Clouds of Sils Maria
Steve Jobs

WINNER: Spotlight


– The brilliance of the editing of Spotlight is the ability to take what could have been a slow, mundane story and make it fly off the screen. Crafted like a slow burning thriller Spotlight is one of the most exciting films of the year. Tense and fast paced while taking its time to make sure the audience understands what exactly what went into the incredible story, it’s a masterful combination of pace and patience.

RUNNER-UP: The Big Short



Best Visual Effects
Furious 7
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road


– If the category were called Best Computer Generated Effects this would be a different story (Star Wars would win, btw) but because we are dealing with every effect in the film the winner is fairly obvious. The amount of practical effects alone in Mad Max: Fury Road vs those created by a computer would play heavily in it’s favor (it’s always more impressive and we’re more appreciative).  But the amount of awe-inspiring, head-shaking, how-in-the-fuck-did-they-do-that visual effects make this an open and shut case.

RUNNER-UP: Star Wars: The Force Awakens



Awards Tally:

Son of Saul – 3
Inside Out – 2
Mad Max: Fury Road – 2
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – 2
Anomalisa – 1
Beasts of No Nation – 1
Bridge of Spies – 1
Cinderella – 1
Clouds of Sils Maria
Fifty Shades of Grey – 1
The Hateful Eight – 1
Room – 1
Spotlight – 1
Steve Jobs – 1

Those are the categories with my nominees and my winners. If you have any questions, thoughts, comments, money to give please let me know in the comments below.

Soon I will post Part II which will be all of the actual nominees ranked in order of how I would vote. But I think we can all be honest, this list here is clearly better than what the Academy gave us.

Stay tuned!







One thought on “My Own 88th Annual Academy Awards – Part I (My Nominees)

  1. Pam February 18, 2016 / 2:26 pm

    Brian, this is my favorite piece of the many fine pieces you have written. You have succinctly managed to take the reader on a trip with you, sharing your insight and knowledge in an encapsulated version. Bravo!


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