Oscar Predictions 2016

Amid the #Oscarssowhite controversy, fashion hysteria and shameless self-promotion that comprise the craziness of Oscar season, some intriguing races have emerged.

This column focuses on the “big six” categories, but those in Oscar pools can see my prediction for every category below. But briefly: expect “The Big Short” and “Spotlight” to win the writing awards, “The Revenant” to take cinematography, “Mad Max: Fury Road” to take editing, production design, costume design and makeup, and the legendary Ennio Morricone (“The Man With No Name” trilogy) to win his first Oscar for composing the original score for “The Hateful Eight.”

After six total nominations, Leonardo DiCaprio will finally win a best actor Oscar for his work in “The Revenant,” and rightfully so as he was nothing short of spectacular. His performance is the culmination of 20 years of great work and daring choices, and there’s little doubt among the experts that he’s the man to beat. Also nominated are Bryan Cranston for “Trumbo,” Matt Damon for “The Martian,” Michael Fassbender for “Steve Jobs” and Eddie Redmayne for “The Danish Girl.” Will win: DiCaprio. Should win: DiCaprio.

Best actress is similarly predictable, as Brie Larson has won all the major awards leading up to the Oscars for her work in “Room.” Her performance is emotional, complicated and moving, a real gut punch of heartache and sorrow that’s a legit accomplishment for any actress. Saoirse Ronan gave my favorite performance of the year in “Brooklyn” and is rightfully nominated here, as are Jennifer Lawrence for “Joy,” Cate Blanchett for “Carol” and Charlotte Rampling for “45 Years.” Will win: Larson. Should win: Ronan.

Many feel Sylvester Stallone will take supporting actor for “Creed,” and it certainly was a wonderful performance. Watching it felt like catching up with your uncle who you haven’t seen in years and soaking up his sage advice. It’s also a career highlight for Stallone, coming in a return to the role that made him famous (Rocky Balboa). Hollywood couldn’t write a better story. He faces tough competition, though, in Mark Ruffalo as the heart and soul of “Spotlight,” Mark Rylance for “Bridge of Spies,” Christian Bale in “The Big Short” and Tom Hardy in “The Revenant.” Will win: Stallone. Should win: Ruffalo.

Supporting actress is similarly murky. Early awards have split between nominees Kate Winslet (“Steve Jobs”) and Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl”), which makes this a tough one to call. Add in Rooney Mara’s phenomenal turn opposite Cate Blanchett in “Carol,” Rachel McAdams great work in “Spotlight” and Jennifer Jason Leigh in “The Hateful Eight” and you have an outstanding and competitive category. In the end, though, the emotional power of Vikander as a woman whose husband decides he wants to be a woman should be enough to prevail. Will win: Vikander. Should win: Mara.

If Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu wins best director for “The Revenant” he will become the third director in history to win in consecutive years (John Ford, ’40-’41, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, ’49-’50); you’ll recall Inarritu won last year for “Birdman.” Given the ambition and scope of “The Revenant,” and the fact that he won the Director’s Guild Award, which is a precursor to winning the Oscar, Inarritu is the strong favorite here. However, George Miller did great work in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Adam McKay brought delightful humor and clarity to complicated issues in “The Big Short,” Tom McCarthy made investigative journalism compelling in “Spotlight” and Lenny Abrahamson told a simple story extraordinarily well in “Room.” Will win: Inarritu. Should win: Inarritu.

Only four times in Oscar history has a best picture winner come from a film that did not receive a best director nomination: 1927, 1932, 1989 and 2012. This will not be one of those years, as neither “The Martian,” “Bridge of Spies” nor “Brooklyn” (all of which don’t have directing nominations) has the widespread industry support needed to win. Similarly, “Room” is a nice movie, but it will receive its big award when Brie Larson wins best actress. And a full-fledged action flick has never won best picture, so “Mad Max: Fury Road” will have to rely on technical awards to boost its tally.

Which leaves us with three. Ordinarily we rely on the guild awards to reveal the frontrunner because they’re an indication of what industry professionals think is the year’s best, but this year that’s little help: “The Big Short” won the Producer’s Guild, “Spotlight” won the Screen Actor’s Guild, and “The Revenant” won the Director’s Guild. With the three guilds splitting it becomes anyone’s guess, though it’s worth noting that “The Revenant” has become the trendy pick with the most positive buzz. However, this one statistic is inescapable: the Producer’s Guild has matched the Oscar winner the last eight consecutive years, and its preferential ballot voting system is the only one of the guilds that matches how the Oscars choose best picture. Will win: “The Big Short.” Should win: “The Martian,” which was my number one movie of 2015.

Chris Rock hosts the 88th Academy Awards Sunday night, February 28th on ABC.

Full list of Oscar predictions:

Picture: The Big Short
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant
Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio
Actress: Brie Larson
Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone
Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander
Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short
Original Screenplay: Spotlight
Foreign Language: Son of Saul
Documentary Feature: Amy
Animated Feature: Inside Out
Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road
Song: “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground, because Lady Gaga
Score: The Hateful Eight
Cinematography: The Revenant
Costume: Mad Max: Fury Road
Makeup: Mad Max: Fury Road
Production Design: Mad Max: Fury Road
Sound Editing: The Revenant
Sound Mixing: The Revenant
Visual Effects: Mad Max: Fury Road
Live Action Short: Shok
Animated Short: Sanjay’s Super Team
Documentary Short: Body Team 12

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