My Oscar Picks

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John Axford, Contributor - The Players' Tribune

John Axford has two claims to fame: 1. He’s a seven-year MLB vet who led the National League in saves in 2011. 2. He was a perfect 18-for-18 in his Oscar picks in 2014. This year, for the second-straight year, ahead of the 2016 Oscars, Axford shared his ballot with The Players’ Tribune. Now that the awards are in the books, check below see how he did.

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Last year, coming off of my perfect 18-for-18 showing, I went big and picked all 24 Oscars categories for The Players’ Tribune.

And I guess I just didn’t have my best stuff that day … because I went 17-for-24. Solid, sure. In baseball, that would probably be a quality start. But I think we can do better than solid.

It’s time for a bounceback season.

Let’s go to the ballot:
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 1. Best Documentary Short: Body Team 12
2. Best Live Action Short: Ave Maria
3. Best Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul

These three are pure guesses, based on keeping my ear to the streets.

 4. Best Animated Short: Sanjay’s Super Team

My kids and I went to see The Good Dinosaur, and Sanjay’s Super Team was the short film that played before it. It was a little intense for something playing before a kids movie — my kids were definitely frightened once or twice — but I liked it a lot, and I think it has a good chance to win.

 5. Best Animated Feature: Inside Out

When you get an animated movie that is also nominated for Best Original Screenplay, that’s usually a pretty good sign that it’s going to be a favorite in this category. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s an amazing piece of work — both for kids and adults. (For the record: My favorite Pixar film is Wall-E.)

 6. Best Sound Mixing: Mad Max: Fury Road
7. Best Sound Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road

I absolutely loved Fury Road, and for me, it was the singular “you have to see this in a theater” movie experience of 2015. I expect it to do very well on Sunday in the technical categories.

 8. Best Original Song: “Til It Happens to You,” The Hunting Ground

I don’t think anyone else stands a chance here, to be honest. Lady Gaga has been hustling — the Super Bowl, the Grammys, the Golden Globes. And the song feels relevant and has been a conversation-starter. I think she’s got this one locked up.

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 9. Best Original Score: The Hateful Eight

For Ennio Morricone to compose this score at 87 years old is remarkable. It’s an incredible score. But he’s also an old favorite of mine, dating all the way back to his work on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (in 1966!), so I have a definite rooting interest in this choice.

 10. Best Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I’m a huge fan of all the movies nominated here. I’m picking The Force Awakens, which goes against my trend of picking Fury Road in most of the technical categories. But I think the Academy will find some way to reward the highest-grossing film of the year … and Visual Effects seems like the ideal place. Especially after the missteps of the previous three Star Wars films, I think it was really great to see the franchise get back to its roots with more practical effects: actually building ships, actually putting together soundstages and actually conceiving of these effects that were tangible — and “there” — and not just created on a computer. And at the end of the day, I think that that’s what most film fans want from the effects world: for CGI to be used to complete the universe, not to build it.

 11. Best Production Design: Mad Max: Fury Road

Knowing what went into the production design on Fury Road — the years and years it took to put together and how it all came together so beautifully — it’s hard to imagine any other film winning in this category.

 12. Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Mad Max: Fury Road
13. Best Costume Design: Mad Max: Fury Road
14. Best Film Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road

Have I told you that I liked Mad Max: Fury Road? (Though keep an eye out for Cinderella as a sleeper in Costume Design.)

 15. Best Documentary Feature: Amy

Amy is fantastic — a truly moving portrait, and a tragic look at the way that artists are often taken advantage of during their lives. I imagine this will be a hard one for the Academy to ignore.

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 16. Best Cinematography: The Revenant

Emmanuel Lubezki will be going for his third-straight Oscar in this category, after winning for Gravity in 2014 and Birdman in 2015. And I think he’s going to do it. Lubezki’s use of natural light in The Revenant really was incredible, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. But his genius went beyond even that: The camera work, the fogging of the lens at times … really, everything about the film’s cinematography just helped to created this powerful unease and this strange sense of motion that felt so real and unique and earned.

 17. Best Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short

I don’t think I knew what to expect going into a film about the mortgage crisis, but I still managed to come out of The Big Short with my expectations fully surpassed. It had the right amount of everything: comedy, seriousness, information. The script was very well balanced.

 18. Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight

I admire the way Spotlight’s screenplay was able to show the audience the details and procedure of how everything happened, with the breaking of this big story, without overplaying it through a bunch of big “movie” moments. It was respectful, natural and smart.

 19. Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

I’m personally hoping for Jennifer Jason Leigh to pull the upset here. I thought she was terrific in The Hateful Eight, and I’m glad to see her back in the Hollywood eye. But Vikander is the pick.

 20. Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

I think this is one of those, you know, Academy Moments — a moment for the Academy to feel good about itself by remembering and rewarding its past. And hey, Stallone did a great job.

 21. Best Actress: Brie Larson, Room

You can really feel every emotion that she is portraying on screen. To say any more would be to tread into spoiler territory, so I’ll stop there. But I think Larson’s position as the favorite in this category is well deserved, for sure. She gives a special performance.

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 22. Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

A lot of people are discussing DiCaprio winning here in terms of it being a “lifetime achievement” award, but I think that’s wrong — and it undersells the amazing work that he does in The Revenant. This, to me, is one of those cases of the Academy getting it exactly right. He’s overdue, yes. But it’s also his best performance, and the one he should win the Oscar for. Lock it in.

 23. Best Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant

He was my choice last year, and he’s my choice this year.

 24. Best Picture: The Revenant

I think Spotlight has an opportunity here, and I think The Big Short also has some dark-horse potential. But ultimately, I’ve got to go with my gut. And my gut says that this is The Revenant’s year.

Thanks for playing along, and tell me what you think @JohnAxford. See you Sunday night.

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