Creed for Best Picture
I was actually saving this FYC for Sicario, but after a strong guild showing thus far, I figure I should send my wishes to a more needy but equally deserving contender. This is one of the most satisfying mainstream entertainments of the year, and for it to have been overlooked by the Globes, BFCA, and PGA (where I had harboured hope for it) is disappointing to say the least. But it's not too late for the Academy to do right!
Denis Villeneuve for Best Director
As with 2013's Prisoners, so much of Sicario's effect is owed to the direction, elevating a screenplay that, taken on its own, is no great shakes (though still good; no offense to Taylor Sheridan). Villeneuve's command of sight and sound rivals the suspense masters of old. His thriller has had a great week with the guilds so far, but if he squeaks into the DGA next week... The thought of it is too tantalizing to entertain!
Jacob Tremblay for Best Actor
There are those who would argue Tremblay is less of a fringe contender than he appears, having scooped a SAG nod in the highly nebulous Supporting Actor race. But I would almost prefer he didn't get nominated at all than take up a spot there. How anybody could deem him anything less than the co-lead of Room is beyond me. And what a staggering, revelatory lead performance it is. By similar extension, I could stump for Paul Dano to be nominated here as well.
Sarah Paulson for Best Supporting Actress
Speaking of co-leads masquerading as supporting players, the biggest victim of Rooney Mara's campaign has been Carol's stealth MVP Sarah Paulson. This is a lesson in illuminating a full-bodied character despite the hindrance of having only a handful of scenes, and sharing all but one of them with either of the film's two leading ladies. The tragic thing is, even if AMPAS corrects the Weinstein Co.'s unscrupulous ploy and puts Mara in Best Actress, there hasn't been enough discussion about Paulson so she'd likely be overlooked anyway.
Inside Out for Best Editing
I find it unbelievable (yet also depressingly believable) that animated films never manage to break through into the visaul craft categories. Stop-motion marvel The Nightmare Before Christmas got a visual effects nomination back in '94, but that's it. Cartoons require editors too, and when their timing is as damn-near flawless as Kevin Nolting's work in Inside Out, why shouldn't they be nominated? I'm sure he has the ACE Eddie sewn up (in its own ghetto category), but I wish the editors branch would help kill the stigma surrounding animation. On a related note, I could waste my breath pushing for The Good Dinosaur in Best Visual Effects, but the effects branch long since doused that pipe dream; It didn't even make their final 20.
Ex Machina for Best Production Design
Son of Saul for Best Sound Editing
Honestly, I could write a Son of Saul FYC piece for just about every applicable category (Actor, Screenplay, Cinematography, etc.), but the place it has the least chance of turning up is here, and it's a shame. With the camera following the titular death camp sonderkommando around so closely, many of the horrors of Aushwitz are experienced aurally for the viewer, constantly flowing in and out of earshot as he moves around. It's deeply unsettling but artful work.
As a palette cleanser, I finally took up many a trusted critic on their 'top ten list' recommendations of the Sundance breakout Tangerine; You know, that microbudget transgendered comedy shot entirely on iPhone? I'd recommend giving it your business too, but only because writer-director Sean Baker is a talent who seriously needs a budget. I think I like the idea of this film existing more than the actual film itself.
I tried so hard to get into it, but I just could not do it. It has a good script, and co-stars Mya Taylor and Kiki Rodriguez are something special, but those technical limitations -- in tandem with some editorial/music choices that do not gel with me -- kept pulling me out. I'd love to see what this guy can do in a more polished format.