Tips on Winning an Academy Award

Written by Nelson Cumming

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People have done various videos and blogs before on how to maximize your chances on winning your very own Academy award. However, most of the videos and blogs that I have seen have these tips that are exclusive to acting.

For my list, I will like to create tips on how to win an Academy from a variety of eligible categories. I will give tips on not only the actors but for writers, editors, cinematographers and other professions in the film industry if acting is not for you.

1. Bear little resemblance to what you look like

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It’s easier for people to look at and say “Wow that is a spectacular performance, they changed their appearance” 

For all three Academy Awards that Daniel Day-Lewis has won, not once did he look like himself. For My Left Foot, he played an unkempt, unshaven man with cerebral palsy. In There Will Be Blood, he played a nineteenth-century mining prospector who fancied a mustache and his face covered in dirt, sweat, and grime. In Lincoln, he played Abraham Lincoln.

Lots of actors and actress undergo physical transformations to fit in with the consistent or setting within a movie. However, the largest physical transformations occur when an actor does a biopic. This ties into the second tip.

2. Be in a True Story

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Here are a couple of biopic winners including the biopic that I think has the best chance of winning Hacksaw Ridge

To any person that is watching a movie, they will notice an actor’s talent in a biopic for two reasons. The first one is that they know the character beforehand and so they have a frame of reference on how the actor should perform. The second reason is that you would have known all the mannerisms and attitudes the character would have had because you also have a frame of reference on the person.

Biopics are also good for directors and studios that are looking for the best picture win. Four of the last six films that have won the best picture category were from biopics.

3. Make sure the Director wins his Academy Award

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If you want to win Best Picture and join the ensemble of cast and crew on that stage together you must make sure the director wins their award. The reason being is that in the last ten years, seven of the directors who won their award for Best Director won Best Picture.

This fact is not surprising considering that the director is the general, guiding the ship to its destination of success. Have a director that has ambition and acts in good faith to everyone involved. The Best Director category is almost a foreshadowing of the awards presentation for the remainder of that night.

4. Make sure that the Movie is Long

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“I think I found a long, long movie”

 

The shortest film nominated for this year’s Best Picture is Moonlight with 111 minutes and the longest film is Hacksaw Ridge at 139 minutes in length. If you are making a 90-minute film you are almost doomed to fail.

The longest film in any set of nominees has won 40% of the time according to Brendan Bettinger from Collider.com. However, the movie length that the winners of the Best Picture category tend to be in the 100-140 minute range, winning nearly 75% of the time.

If you are planning to win best short film this strategy is suicidal and I recommend you don’t try it unless you edit like the editors of Suicide Squad. This fits well into my next point.

5. Edit Smoothly

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I know for a fact that critics love breezy movies. You have to give people the sensation that 120 minutes feels like 90 minutes and not make 150 minutes feel like four hours like Batman vs. Superman.

Personally, I love smooth editing. Love it. It is one of my pet peeves. How you use the length of your film is just as important as how long the movie is. That is why I think there is next to no chance that Lion will win Best Picture because it dragged sporadically throughout.

Can you imagine Suicide Squad being nominated for best editing? In the words of The Joker “Ha Ha Ha”

The ultimate goal for editing is to make the film like one long sequence despite many scenes and location changes. One of the ways you can do that is…

6. Shoot with a consistent tone

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On google images, I typed “Tonal mess” This was one of the first images came. Just research on what not to do by watching Suicide Squad. Unless it’s for make-up 🙂

Shooting with a consistant tone is mainly the cinematographer’s job. From camera movements and angles to lighting, it has to be consistent. It is the equivalent of one coherent thought. It’s easier to sit through as viewers know what realm the movie occupies itself with.

The best films in the world have done this. This year, I believe La La Land had the best use of cinematography. The majority of the movie aimed for being plesent and vibrant. They filmed during twilight (Or magic hour) and the camera was always moving smoothly but briskley, the lighting alwayed glowed and the camera was getting the maximum out of everything that was happening in that movie.

7. Have a Flashy or Eccentric Costumes

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Not that not wearing capes is a rule, but there hasn’t been a winner that had capes as their main costume. Doctor Strange undoubtably gave it a good go. 

For costume design, the common trend that I see for all the winners is you either design costumes that are flashy or eccentric. That cover the extremes on both sides of the spectrum.

When I mean flashy, I mean formal but dazzling. This is the route that finds the most success. Films like Titanic, The Great Gatsby, The Artist and The Grand Budapest Hotel have all won for best costuming and they all have the formal but dazzling feel towards all the costuming in their films.

What I mean by eccentric is to go batshit crazy with costume design. In other words, be the alternate chick on the block. I am referring to winners such as Jenny Beavan for Mad Max Fury Road and Colleen Atwood for Alice in Wonderland. Their costumes were out of left field to say the least.

8. Keep Your Finger on the Pulse

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If you cover hot butten issues you will have a better chace of winning. Just look at the documentry nominations this year ever since The Academy had been accused of whitewashing

The Best Documentary category is a hard one to give advice to given that is has been marred by controversy over the years. For the documentaries of recent years, they generally deal with hot-button topics that will endure for years to come.

This year it definitely shows. With people complaining about the lack of racial diversity in film, boy those people who complained got their wish, 3 of the five nominated films this year were about racial tensions. Another film called Fire at Sea deals with the tragedy of the European migrant crisis.

As long as it is trending on Facebook or Twitter you have a chance. It gives the Academy the image that they are progressives. I beg to differ, but that is another topic for another time.

9a. Premiere or Show your Film at a Film Festival

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The Venice Film Festival (pictured) and the Toronto International Film Festival generally kick-start the Oscar campaign

The films that are going for Oscar nominations are ones that are premiering at a film festival. That is because the filmmakers are quietly confident that their films will be reviewed positively by cinephiles (movie-lovers) that frequently attend these events.

Some of those people are also members of the academy who expect to be enthralled by the art of cinema. Hell, some of them go their to campaign to promote the films they have done. Those are the reasons why those who campaign for the Oscars go to the festivals. That is because that is where all the voters are.

Out of the nine movies nominated this year, seven of them premiered at a film festival. The other two tried the alternate route which is…

10. Open the Film in December

The one street that December films don’t want you to enter.

If a studio doesn’t think it can compete to the same level as ones that premise or show at a festival, they will release the film in December to theaters. This is so the film will be fresher in the voter’s minds. Fresher than the nomated films that premired at film festival (theoretically speaking)

It is next to impossible for a film released January or February to win. This is because people are unlikely to remember movies from eleven months ago. That’s why Deadpool never got a nomination. I knew Marvel didn’t want Deadpool to be nominated because of its February release date.

Now go on and grab that Oscar.

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Now all you have to do is become a member of the film industry, get hired to do a job in a movie, work extra long hours to beat the intese competition, pray that your fellow comrades love it and campaign for several months, follow all these steps and boom, you have gotten a goldern stature that represents a pay rise for future projects.

I chose Jamie Foxx for this picture because I don’t want to be accused of whitewashing by hypersensitives. Why has none ever accuse the Academy’s of goldwashing their statue? It’s been covered in gold for over 70 years. I think it’s unfair for the red minority statues and I feel they are underepresented by The Academy #OscarsSoGold

 

The Ten Best Films of 2016

What makes a film great? Quite simply, it resonates with you. What makes a film one of the best of the year? It resonates with you in ways you have never seen before. The film is original in storytelling and film making and it grabs your more than any other film.

Also, I haven’t been able to see fantastic films this year such as La La Land or Moonlight. This is either because they have not been released until very late 2016 to early 2017. But if I end up thinking that these films are absolutely fantastic. I will certainly put them up next year.

Now without further ado, let’s begin with number 10.

10. Zootopia.

Zootopia had everything you want in a kids film. It had fun, heart and characters you believed in and felt for. In a year of political divide, this movie showed, in its own way, the pitfalls of discrimination and separation. I just loved how despite being vibrant and fun, it desired to make a statement and be meaningful.

9. Nocturnal Animals/ The Revenant
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These two films have so much in common I decided to put them together. Both were well acted, had lush cinematography and focused on the theme of revenge. The Revenant explored the brooding nature of revenge and survival. Nocturnal Animals did it in a one-punch knockout moment.

I like to note that Michal Shannon gave my favorite supporting role this year as the police detective in Nocturnal Animals. That is because I think he may go unnoticed by various award ceremonies.

8. Eye in the Sky

Eye in the Sky that gives you a bit of everything in a war film. It is a blend of political prowess and on-the-ground tension. This was a cast of great actors that blur the lines on whether of not to stage a missile strike on a terrorist safe house with an innocent life residing in the blast. This was also a great live action swan song for the great Alan Rickman

7. The Big Short

I love this movie even more than when I watched it the first time. It is alongside with Zootopia as the most relevant films of the year. That is because both are making sociopolitical statements of our world today. The Big Short is a story that communicates to the average moviegoer the corruption of the banks that were exploiting their system hidden under a cacophony of jargon.

From a filmmaking perspective, The Big Short is also so fun. There are four different stories in this film. All four were interesting. The movie was such a smooth, well-written ride and tried to educate us at the same time. That is rare for any movie, rarer still, to succeed on that level.

6. Son of Saul

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The most harrowing of all the entries on my list, more so than The Revenant. Son of Saul is a holocaust movie that I can assure you is unique. It is not going for sentimentality nor graphic exploitation. You create the picture for yourself.

How so? Well, Son of Saul is shot in extreme close-ups of Saul the protagonist. Only his face is clearly visible. Graphic events are represented almost exclusively in sound and Saul’s reactions to the events that occur. The thing that kept me watching was the glimmer of hope that resided in Saul and that was enough.

5. The Lobster

Now we are into the top 5 with the most unusual entry. A film that would frustrate a lot of people without a sense of humor. The Lobster is the driest and most odd film about of a man who enters an apartment for 45 days and has to find a significant other in that time. Otherwise, he gets turned into a lobster.

The Lobster is not as fun as it initially sounds. It is a deadpan comedy that is so subtle that you can easily miss all the jokes. Also if you are not into weird, unconventional comedy it may come off as too absurd. If you are like deadpan, left-of-centre comedies, The Lobster is a fantastic treat. It is my favorite comedy of the year.

4. Mustang

Mustang was the first film this year that I loved in the deepest sense of the word. It was a life-affirming film about these five girls who are isolated in their home by their ultra-conservative father to be married off. It was a deepening moving film that made be feel calm but elated by the end.

Mustang was the first foreign film that I reviewed and it made such a positive impression on me. Mustang does not hold back on the harsh reality it sets, not is it restricted on the bright and wonderful moments that were interwoven so seamlessly. This makes Mustang one of the most beautiful films of 2016

 

3. Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge is one of the exceptionally rare films where nothing was wasted. It was the only movie I saw where the audience was applauding. If there is a film in the Australian film industry should be holding as a benchmark, this is it. Hacksaw Ridge had the greatest use of dialogue that I have heard this year. It is funny, touching and dramatic. It has also given new life to the actor’s careers.

2. Room

Room is just heartbreaking. It’s about a mother and her 5 year old son adjusting to the real world. There is a mountain of despair alongside a mountain of hope accentuated by the perfect chemistry between Bree Larson and Jacob Tremblay. They were the best screen duo of the year bar none.

1. Embrace of the Serpent

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f things all over the wall and it all stuck. The story about an Amazonian native in the middle of European settlers exploiting resources in the land.

This film had more thematic ideas than any other film I saw this year.

Ciro Guerra brings a daring piece of work in Embrace of the Serpent. He threw a ton of ideas in this film in which the visual imagery of the Amazonian rivers and rainforest help draw you into the journey that is undertaken. It is one of those stories like Apocalypse Now or Django Unchained where the protagonists experience deeper levels of hell the further they travel and each layer of hell has a statement to make.

Embrace of the Serpent also showed ideas like the thorns of survivor’s guilt and handing over you final spark to faith to someone you need to trust to keep it alive. It isn’t a poignant film but it draws you in with its themes, it’s black and white visuals and it’s addiction for ambition and execution.

So that’s my list of the ten best films of 2016. Honorable mentions (alphabetically) include:

Captain America: Civil War for creating a blockbuster film that exceeded it’s high expectations. One of the rare movies where I cannot wait for the sequel.

Deadpool: Crngrats on making the funnest superhero movie Marvel and one of the funnest movies of the year. The meta humor with a authentic romantic angle give the movie a great edge. It more than makes up for it’s lack of multi million dollar set pieces.

Dr. Strange: The best visual effects from any film this year. Cumberbatch delivers a great performance as Steven Strange.

Green Room: For producing the best thriller film of the year that went for a less-is-more approach. Patrick Stewart makes the situation of 4 young adults trapped in a room of killer neo-nazis even more morbid and engaging.

Ouija: Origin of Evil: A movie that scared the crap out of me and gave me an adrenaline rush hours after seeing the movie.

Pete’s Dragon: It created a kids film which walking though the fine line between entertaining little kids without feeling condescending to adults. Illumination Entertainment has not been able to do that for years. 2016 was a (mostly) great year for Disney

Sing Street: For being the only feel-good movie that I saw. Great original songs and a better soundtrack than Suicide Squad. The prom sequence was absolutely spectacular

Sunset Song: An incredible story about a troubling family in Scotland during the First World War. It is about a woman who gains and loses many things on her roller coaster ride. The cameraman makes it feel like you are watching the story unfold your very eyes.

The Jungle Book: The best remake this year. Neel Sethi was the second best child actor this year (After Jacob Trembly in Room). That kid had to do so much. I was surprised that the director is the same man who fought in the Mixed Martial  Arts in Friends before it was cool.

So that is the list the best films of 2016. Coming up is the rotting end that comprises of the worst of 2016.