From silly rumors of a bear “raping” Leonardo DiCaprio, to the critical fervor for a fourth film in a Mad and previously non-prestigious action franchise to the internet rage and ongoing controversy over #OscarsSoWhite this has been an eventful and surprising awards season.
Will Oscar night continue that trend or feel like an anticlimax? Whichever way it goes, it all comes to an end this Sunday night on ABC when the 88th Academy Awards unspool.
The following predictions can be used to inform your Oscar party or office Oscar pool but fair warning: even seasoned Oscar pundits like myself and other Gurus and Experts are confused this year about several categories.
As early as last week, I thought the safest prediction would be that the producers would try and combat perceptions about Hollywood’s lack of diversity in every way they could find. I was wrong, wrong, wrong. They went and made another anti-diversity blunder, axing performances of two of the Original Song nominees, the two that happen to be sung by a famous Asian soprano and a trans woman. It’s like they can’t help themselves!?! They just dig themselves deeper each time. Yet we can’t help ourselves either and continue obsessing over that 13½ inch naked gold man.
Let’s look at all 24 categories quickly after the jump in case your office pool or Oscar party is hardcore. A “Could Win” is only listed if the winner isn’t locked up.
The Nominees: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight.. An unusually tricky field this year. The Producers Guild prize, the Screen Actors Guild Ensemble prize, and the Directors Guild prize are usually strong indicators of what will win the top Oscar category. But, you guessed it, all three guilds honored different films: The Big Short, Spotlight, and The Revenant respectively. The Big Short arguably campaigned the hardest and taps into a very “now” issue with our country’s wealth disparity and gamed system, Spotlight is the classy option that no one dislikes (and that could help since Best Picture is the only category where the winner is determined by preferential ranking rather than a simple vote), but The Revenant has been sucking up all the cultural oxygen (I even heard a woman refer to her friend’s coat as “Revenant chic” two weeks back!) and just won the BAFTA across the Atlantic.
Will Win: The Revenant
Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road or Room. They’re both unique marvels.
Could Win: The Big Short or Spotlight
Nominees: Lenny Abrahamson (Room), Adam McKay (The Big Short), George Miller (Mad Max Fury Road), Alejandro G Iñárritu (The Revenant), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight). The critics have definitely favored George Miller this year for elevating Mad Max Fury Road from mere chase movie / sequel to action masterpiece but Oscar is grouchier about genre films and they’re also in love with a certain Mexican auteur right now who won three Oscars just last year for Birdman.
Will Win: Alejandro G Iñárritu (The Revenant). He would not be the first director to win back-to-back Oscars (it’s happened twice before but not since the 1950s) but he would be the first director to helm back-to-back Best Picture winners if The Revenant takes the top category.
Should Win: George Miller (Mad Max Fury Road) …and by such a margin I may weep if he loses.
Could Win: Anyone whose movie wins Best Picture.
Nominees: Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), and Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl).
Will Win: This is Leo’s long awaited Oscar. Goodbye to all those hilarious memes about Leo’s desperation to win. But for all the griping from fans about how long he’s waited, he’s only 41! Paul Newman had to wait until he was 62! If you haven’t yet played this hilarious video game you should. There’s even an “Act Harder” bonus round lampooning Leo’s familiar brow furrowing. Here’s a interesting essay on why he shouldn’t win.
Should Win: Michael Fassbender if you want complexity; Matt Damon if you want your effortless star charisma.
Nominees: Cate Blanchett (Carol), Brie Larson (Room), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), and Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn). It’s the year’s highest quality acting category.
Will Win: Brie Larson’s fierce but damaged mother in Room makes good on the promise she exhibited on United States of Tara and in the great Short Term 12.
Should Win: Blanchett has the trickiest role and gives the most stylized performance but every beat in Carol, the year’s greatest film no matter what Oscar says, is perfection.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Nominees: Christian Bale (The Big Short), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), and Sylvester Stallone (Creed).
Will & Should Win: Sylvester Stallone
Could Win: Mark Rylance felt like the frontrunner for a few months for his soft spoken spy. Lately there’s been some shapeless buzz that Ruffalo OR Bale could surprise for their showy performances in Best Picture frontrunners. But the safest bet is Stallone for reprising his classic role. (That’s how Paul Newman finally won his Oscar, too, not that their talent is remotely comparable)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Nominees: Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Rooney Mara (Carol), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) and Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs).
Will Win: Alicia Vikander. Even if no one truly loves The Danish Girl, she was 2015’s breakout “It Girl” with several films in theaters and continually strong reviews. (I spoke to her about her big year)
Should Win: Kate Winslet’s dodgy accent aside, she works wonders as Fassbender’s frumpy foil in Steve Jobs. She’s actually the only good option here really since Rooney and Alicia are both leading ladies in their films and shouldn’t have been allowed in this category
Could Win: Kate Winslet
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Nominees: Bridge of Spies, Ex Machina, Inside Out, Spotlight and Straight Outta Compton
Will Win: Spotlight. This is the newspaper drama’s one sure Oscar though it could win more.
Should Win: Inside Out
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Nominees: Brooklyn, Carol, The Big Short, The Martian, and Room
Will Win: The Big Short. Its one sure Oscar though it could win more.
Should Win: Carol. (Note to classic movie lovers: Carol‘s Sunset Blvd shout out is very purposeful)
Could Win: It’s an extremely long shot but Room has loud and devoted fans.
Nominees: Carol, The Hateful Eight, Mad Max Fury Road, The Revenant, and Sicario
Will Win: The Revenant will make Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki (Gravity, Birdman) the first person to win three consecutive Oscars in decades. Check out his instagram for beautiful portraits and landscapes. The all natural light gimmick used on The Revenant isn’t new — Chivo did the same thing to even greater results in The New World (2005) but this is where the smart money is since it feels new to people.
Should Win: Carol. Impeccably beautiful and conceptually smart, too.
Could Win: Sicario… if voters realize that Roger Deakins is now on his 13th nomination. He’s a legend in his field but he’s never won.
BEST FILM EDITING
Nominees: The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Will Win: The Big Short. Sometimes they vote for “Most” rather than “Best”
Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. Most pundits are predicting it to win this contest but I fear the worst.
Could Win: The Revenant …but only if it’s a sweeper and takes home several Oscars.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Nominees: Carol, Cinderella, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Revenant. This is a very difficult category to guess this year and not just because all the nominees are very well designed. If they vote “Most” they’ll go with Danish Girl or Cinderella. If enough voters are angry that Carol missed in Best Picture they could rally here. If they’re just checking all their craft category boxes for Mad Max or The Revenant either of them could pull it off. In short, this is basically your only true five-way race of the night.
Will & Should Win: Sandy Powell, Carol. I’m risking wishful thinking on this one. Sandy Powell already has three Oscars but she’s legit amazing every time out.
Could Win: Any of them, really. But if Cinderella wins, Sandy Powell will repeat history. The last time she was competing against herself she won for a royal theatrical movie (Shakespeare in Love then, Cinderella now) while her losing entry was a beautiful Todd Haynes film (Velvet Goldmine then, Carol now)
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Nominees: Bridge of Spies, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, and The Revenant. It’s another tough call but these are all handsome films.
Will & Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. They have to give it something. And this category feels Most Likely To even if it doesn’t collect multiple Oscars as many expect. That Citadel is the year’s most memorable set.
Could Win: The Revenant. If Jack Fisk wins for his work on those old forts and boats and amazing location choices, keep your eye out for “Carrie” herself, Sissy Spacek, in reaction shots. Fisk is her husband.
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIR
Nominees: Mad Max Fury Road, The Revenant, and The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
Will & Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road.
Could Win: The Revenant. Usually when movie stars like Leonardo DiCaprio look this bedraggled they chalk it up to A-C-T-I-N-G.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Nominees: Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. An unusual group this year since there are two films (Ex Machina and The Revenant) where the visual effects play supporting roles and there’s far less CGI here too since Mad Max and Star Wars both famously used old school practical effects when they could.
Will Win: Mad Max Fury Road
Should Win: Ex Machina
Could Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (it’s probably a very tight race between this and Mad Max)
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Nominees: Bridge of Spies, Carol, The Hateful Eight, Sicario, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Will Win: The Hateful Eight. Ennio Morricone is a legend and the film opens with a long overture of his score so even if they don’t finish that hateful movie (Tarantino overindulging his sadism for three hours. Blech) they’ve heard the score.
Should Win: Sicario… a truly haunting score from a tough meticulously crafted movie.
Could Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. John Williams, the most famous film composer ever, hasn’t won an Oscar since Schindler’s List (1993). He’s mostly retired and he’s 84 years old so they might feel like it’s now or never for his sixth Oscar.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Nominees: “Earned it” (Fifty Shades of Gray), “Manta Ray” (Facing Extinction), “Til It Happens to You” (The Hunting Ground), “Writings on the Wall” (Spectre), “Simple Song. No 3” (Youth). A dubious record setting group this year. It’s the first time all 5 song nominees are the sole nomination for their film.
Will Win: “Til It Happens to You” Lady Gaga and Diane Warren have been campaigning hard for their song, even performing it (see clip above) at the Producers Guild Awards
Should Win: “Simple Song No. 3” the entire movie (Youth) builds to this operatic performance and it doesn’t disappoint.
Could Win: “Writings on the Wall”. Supposedly no one likes this Sam Smith penned James Bond theme. But if no one likes it, how did it get Oscar nominated?
BEST SOUND MIXING
Nominees: Bridge of Spies, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If you don’t know the difference between the two sound categories don’t worry, most Oscar voters don’t either. It’s basically this: “mixing” refers to the balance and combinations of the overall soundscape (dialogue, score, sound effects) whereas “editing” refers to the creation of those same sound elements.
Will Win: The Revenant
Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Could Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Star Wars has historically done well in sound categories
BEST SOUND EDITING
Nominees: Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Sicario, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Will Win: The Revenant
Should Win: Sicario. This drug war drama’s sound is sinister and spectacular. It’s utterly confusing that it missed in Sound Mixing.
Could Win: Mad Max or Star Wars
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Nominees: Anomalisa, Boy and the World, Inside Out, Shaun the Sheep, When Marnie was There. This category is kind of silly (you only need 16 releases to have a 5 wide field. That’s nearly a 33% chance of getting nominated if you even exist!) but they tend to choose well mixing strong foreign entries with the best of American and British animation.
Will & Should Win: Inside Out
Nominees: Amy, Cartel Land, Look of Silence, What Happened Miss Simone?, and Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom
Will Win: Amy has swept documentary prizes this year.
Should Win: I’ll have to abstain as I haven’t seen them all but people I trust think Look of Silence is a masterpiece
Could Win: Cartel Land is well loved within the Academy and Netflix has been pushing hard for their nominees which you can obviously watch at home: What Happened Miss Simone and Winter of Fire). So a surprise could happen if Oscar starts feeling self-conscious about their recent run of music-themed winners (see: 20 Feet From Stardom and Searching for Sugar Man).
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Nominees: Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia), A War (Denmark), Mustang (France), Son of Saul (Hungary), and Theeb (Jordan)
Will Win: Son of Saul has been the frontrunner since Cannes. It’s formally impressive and Oscar loves WW II Holocaust pictures. Hungary hasn’t won this category since Mephisto (1981) which was also, you guessed it, a WW II picture.
Should Win: I’m currently obsessed with Embrace of the Serpent, a mesmerizing black and white trip along the Amazon to find a hallucinogenic plant. It’s so visual and deserves to be seen in theaters and it just opened so, go see it!
Could Win: Mustang, a great movie about Turkish sisters imprisoned in their home by conservative relatives and being married off, is the most traditionally moving of the nominees here. France hasn’t won this category since the Catherine Deneuve epic Indochine (1992).
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
Nominees: Ave Maria, Day One, Shok, Stutterer, and Everything Will Be Okay.
Will Win: Stutterer
Could Win: Shok or Ave Maria
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Nominees: Body Team 12, Chau -Beyond the Lines, Last Day of Freedom, Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of Shoah.
Will Win: A Girl in the River.
Could Win: Claude Lanzman: Spectres of Shoah.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Nominees: Bear Story, Prologue, Sanjay’s Super Team, We Can’t Live Without Cosmos, and World of Tomorrow
Will Win: Bear Story. I like to take chances in my shorts predictions but this is more of a spoiler than a safe bet.
Should Win: World of Tomorrow. Don Hertzfeld is a one of a kind talent and this film is available on Netflix so go watch it!
Could Win: Sanjay’s Super Team. Pixar films are frequently nominated in this category but they’ve only won it 3 times. Will Sanjay (a clip above) add a fourth?
Got any of your own predictions for the big night?