Final predictions for the 88th Academy Awards

The most exhaustive and confusing Oscar season finally comes to an end today. We’ve had frontrunners come and go (remember when it was finally going to be Johnny Depp’s year?). We’ve had the precursor awards be even more unreliable than usual. We’ve had shocks, snubs and surprises. We’ve had the Academy facing the worst (and deserved) press it’s ever received. And going into the ceremony, we still have no solid prediction as to what will walk away with Best Picture and a handful of other categories. You may think this is exciting, but as someone that likes to boast they know how these things will turn out, it’s frustrating as hell. Still, I guess it will at least make watching the ceremony interesting.

As I always say, these predictions are just basically reading tea leaves, so take them with a grain of salt. After watching these awards for 20-odd years, one thinks they know a thing or two…and then they go and give Best Picture to Crash, so you really never know. Alas, one must try, so here are my final predictions for the 88th Academy Awards.

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Will win: The Big Short
Should win: Brooklyn
Possible shocker: Mad Max: Fury Road

It’s no understatement to call this the most wide-open Best Picture race we’ve seen in a long time. Predicting this one is practically impossible. Despite the new frontrunner status of The Revenant, you have to remember this category is decided by a preferential ballot. I can’t shake the feeling The Revenant is too divisive to capture enough the second and third votes of those that don’t place it at #1. Then again, I said the same thing of Birdman, so maybe I’m way off. What cannot be ignored is the fact there is only one other awards show with a preferential voting ballot – the Producers Guild of America. The Big Short was able to win there, so I’m going against the crowd and predicting the same will happen here. I was one of the few to predict The Big Short would take PGA when no one would listen, so maybe you should listen to me this time. Then again, it’s entirely plausible for Spotlight to still take it. That SAG win could mean more than we’re giving it. It’s also entirely plausible for Mad Max, Room or even The Martian to surprise us all. Honestly, no one has a clue with this one. If you’re placing predictions, just flip a damn coin or go with the safe option, The Revenant. It should be Brooklyn, but don’t get me started.

Adam McKay – The Big Short
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro González Iñárritu – The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson – Room
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

Will win: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Should win: George Miller
Possible shocker: Adam McKay

For only the third time in history, it looks like we’re getting back-to-back victories for the same director. It wasn’t that long ago that another win for Iñárritu seemed entirely implausible, but that all changed when he took out his second consecutive DGA prize. While I may not be predicting The Revenant to win Picture, I can’t deny its director will take this one. Personal preference aside, The Revenant is a stunning directorial achievement, and for Iñárritu to deliver cinema like this for the second year in a row is really something to admire. Yes, I would personally prefer it went to Miller (or the shamefully not-nomimated Ridley Scott), but that was always a pipe dream.

Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
Matt Damon – The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

Will win: Leonardo DiCaprio
Should win: Michael Fassbender
Possible shocker: Bryan Cranston

After Leonardo DiCaprio lost to Matthew McConaughey in 2014,  I remember declaring he would win for whatever he does next…and here we are with perhaps the biggest lock of the night. No one is beating DiCaprio. The man of a thousand memes will finally take home an Oscar, after four losses over 22 years. Expect the internet to completely meltdown. In my opinion, it’s not the performance he should be winning for. Don’t get me wrong. He’s wonderful in The Revenant, but this feels like more of a career-type Oscar (like Julianne Moore’s last year). There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just a shame a performance like Michael Fassbender’s misses out. I don’t care what anyone says. Fassbender was the best of the year. Maybe next time?

Cate Blanchett – Carol
Brie Larson – Room
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn

Will win: Brie Larson
Should win: Saoirse Ronan
Possible shocker: Cate Blanchett

Besides Leo, this is the other strongest lock of the night. Brie Larson is a sure-thing, having won every major prize along the road to the Oscars. It’s the kind of showy, dramatic performance the Academy falls over itself to award. That’s not to say she doesn’t deserve the win. Larson is a true star on the rise and this will cement that status. Despite picking up the lion’s share of critics awards in this category, Saoirse Ronan’s performance is just a little too understated for an Oscar win. She’ll always be the winner to me. In all honesty, it should be Cate Blanchett, but her win for Blue Jasmine in 2014 is just a little too fresh in people’s minds. As much as I love Jennifer Lawrence, I still have no idea how she ended up here…

Christian Bale – The Big Short
Tom Hardy – The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone – Creed

Will win: Sylvester Stallone
Should win: Jacob Tremblay…oh, wait
Possible shocker: Christian Bale

A tough one to call, given Stallone and Hardy weren’t nominated at SAG or BAFTA. Rylance took BAFTA, but he’s British, so I’m not reading much into that. Idris Elba took SAG, but we all know he’s not nominated here…and the less said about that the better. I can’t help but remember that standing ovation Stallone received when he won at the Golden Globes. The industry loves a comeback and they love to award a comeback performance with a prize. Add to that the fact he never won an Oscar for the original Rocky, and a Stallone victory seems like a no-brainer. If they go bananas for The Big Short, expect a Bale shocker. Likewise with The Revenant/Hardy.

Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara – Carol
Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

Will win: Alicia Vikander
Should win: Rooney Mara
Possible shocker: Kate Winslet

The most open and unpredictable acting category this year, mostly due to the fact Vikander and Mara have been (rightly) considered lead performances at several other awards shows plus Vikander having two performances in contention this year. When Vikander hasn’t been in this category for The Danish Girl but rather for Ex Machina, she’s lost to Winslet. But when she has been in this category for The Danish Girl, she has indeed won. Confused? Yeah, it’s been a mess of a category this year. Despite it being grossly unfair, Vikander’s lead-style performance gives her the edge here. Then again, the temptation to give both Kate and Leo an Oscar on the same night could be too much for some voters to pass up. And she is tremendous in Steve Jobs, so I’d be happy for her to win. Flip a coin on this one. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for someone to tell me just what McAdams did in Spotlight that’s worthy of an Oscar nomination…

Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Straight Outta Compton

Will win: Spotlight
Should win: Ex Machina or Inside Out
Possible shocker: Straight Outta Compton

Generally the Screenplay categories are won by films with a corresponding Best Picture nod too…but as we know, The Revenant failed to secure a screenplay nomination, so it’s likely going to the old frontrunner, Spotlight. If the award truly was for the most ORIGINAL screenplay, nothing was more original this year than Ex Machina or Inside Out. If the #OscarsSoWhite backlash has an effect, it could be here with a surprise Straight Outta Compton win…which would be ironic, given the film’s screenwriters are all white.

The Big Short
The Martian

Will win: The Big Short
Should win: Steve Jobs…oh, wait…
Possible shocker: Room

This is a tough one, given four of the five nominees are Best Picture candidates too. The Writers Guild went with The Big Short, so that seems the likely outcome here too. In saying that, if Room were to win, it would be the first time a female writer has won for adaptating her own work. If that piece of history has been well campaigned into voters, it could easily happen. Aaron Sorkin failing to even be nominated here for Steve Jobs is the biggest travesty this year.

“Earned It” – Fifty Shades of Grey
“Manta Ray” – Racing Extinction
“Simple Song #3” – Youth
“Til It Happens to You” – The Hunting Ground
“Writing’s on the Wall” – Spectre

Will win: “Til It Happens to You”
Should win: “Til It Happens to You”, I guess
Possible shocker: “Writing’s on the Wall”

I’ll be honest and admit I’ve only actually listened to two of these songs. One is the worst Bond song in years. The other is from the second biggest piece of garbage seen in 2015. Clearly I’m hoping it’s neither of them. “Til It Happens to You” is written by seven-time Oscar loser Diane Warren, so the opportunity to finally award her seems too good to pass up. Plus the co-writer is Lady freaking Gaga and the song and film speak out against domestic violence against women. How do you not vote for this song? That being said, their names do not appear on the ballot but rather just the film’s name, so perhaps the Bond song will take it home again by name recognition alone.

I’m not going to bother going into great detail with the other awards, so I’ll just run through the rest of my predictions without notes.

Inside Out

Sanjays Super Team

The Revenant

Mad Max: Fury Road


Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of Shoah

Mad Max: Fury Road

Son of Saul


Mad Max: Fury Road

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I’m not even confident with all the above tech categories either. For every spot I’ve picked Mad Max: Fury Road, it could just as easily be The Revenant and vice-versa. One of them is likely going to sweep. I’m just not entirely sure how wide that sweep will be. We’re all flying blind yet again this year, so bring on the ceremony.


The case for ‘Spotlight’

It sucks to be the early frontrunner. Just ask BoyhoodLincoln or The Social Network. Taking the lead early in awards season often means that film will ultimately lose. So does that mean it’s all over for Spotlight? Hold your horses. There’s still light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s take a look at why it still may win and why it’s destined to lose.


The actor vote. If nothing else, Spotlight is a true ensemble film and a true actor’s piece. Even though Ruffalo and McAdams have been singled out, it is the finest example of ensemble acting this year. That means it will likely capture a big chunk of the actor vote, given they are the most likely to respect this achievement. Actors make up the largest group of voters in the Academy. Win their vote and you’re well on your way to winning Best Picture. It’s a big reason why Birdman won last year. It’s also why Spotlight won at SAG and why it could win at the Oscars.

It’s been the frontrunner for the longest for a reason. While it’s true there are many examples of the early frontrunner ultimately losing, there are just as many examples of the early favourite maintaining dominance and ultimately winning. The simple fact is to be the frontrunner at any point in the race, the film has to be good. Really good. Losing the status of frontrunner to another film can’t change that fact. All it takes is a smart campaign to remind voters just why Spotlight won so many precursor awards and it can claw its way back to glory.

The most powerful film in the running. While it can be said all films nominated for Best Picture are powerful in some way, none are as powerful overall as Spotlight. Its story is the most emotionally charged and moving of any film in contention. Basically it’s the one nominee that gives all the feels. We know from past experience this is the type of film the Academy just loves to award with Best Picture. It’s a film voters can be proud to say they rallied behind. We’re talking about a piece of cinema recounting the true story of journalists exposing rampant paedophilia in the Catholic Church. Who wouldn’t want to say they voted for such a film to win Best Picture?


The tide has turned. While all the early critics awards were all about Spotlight, it hasn’t won anything lately, and that’s a serious issue. Even its Ensemble victory at the SAG Awards seems like an eternity ago. That SAG victory is also relatively meaningless, due to the fact this award often doesn’t even match the eventual Best Picture winner (American Hustle and The Help are recent proof of this). Add to that its failure to win at the Globes, DGA and BAFTA, and there’s just no heat about the film anymore. Sadly, Spotlight is simply yesterday’s news, pardon the irony.

Journalism films never win. We’ve had several journalism-related films in genuine contention for Best Picture. All the President’s Men, Network, Good Night and Good Luck, Frost/Nixon, to name a few. And they’ve all ultimately failed to win. It’s a bizarre precedent, and one I personally cannot explain, but it’s there and it’s a problem for Spotlight. For whatever reason, Oscar voters are happy to nominate a film about journalism, but they refuse to award it the top prize. It’s a strange hurdle Spotlight needs to overcome if it wants to take it home.

It simply isn’t flashy enough. There’s no denying Spotlight is a terrifically made film. It’s nominated for five awards for a reason. But unfortunately it just isn’t showy enough to win Best Picture. It’s a very subtle and understated film. It’s beige when compared to the insane cinematography of The Revenant or the frenetic style of The Big Short. While the film deals with some incredibly powerful and moving plot points, it’s surprisingly devoid of any big cinematic moments. Much like subtle acting performances rarely score actors an Oscar, subtle films rarely score the Best Picture prize. You need to dazzle voters and there just isn’t much dazzle to Spotlight.

Can the former frontrunner claw its way back and take out Best Picture? Am I actually predicting Spotlight to win? Find out tomorrow when I unveil my final predictions for the 88th Academy Awards.

The case for ‘The Revenant’

With his follow-up to last year’s Best Picture winner, Birdman, Alejandro Inarritu has done it again. What was at first assumed to just be a vehicle for Leo to finally win an Oscar (and put an end to all those fucking memes) has quickly turned into a serious contender to sweep the whole damn ceremony. But The Revenant still has some obstacles to overcome, if it wants to follow the path of Birdman. Let’s take a closer look.


The last frontrunner takes it. It’s an almost irrefutable fact the film with the most buzz at the end of the exhaustingly-long awards season takes Best Picture. While the Academy will never admit it, a lot of their members don’t pay particularly close attention to the race and the films involved. Many will simply vote for whatever they hear about most at the end of the season. And many will just vote for the film they’ve overheard will win, merely so they can be on the winning team. As we head into Oscar night that film is The Revenant. Its recent wins at DGA and BAFTA have turned the tide and buzz in its favour, and it now seems the most “likely” winner.

Chance to make history. We know the Academy loves to make history. Breaking records or doing something they’ve never done before is always something that appeals to voters. Awarding The Revenant with Best Picture does that. No director has had their film win two years in a row. Ever. We’ve had people win back-to-back for Director, Actor and plenty of the tech categories, but never two films directed by the same person. It’s a huge record to break and an opportunity that may be too good to pass up.

The ballot effect. There’s a strong chance voters will be awarding The Revenant with at least five or six other categories. This can create what I refer to as the “ballot effect” for choosing what film to give Picture too. A voter ticks The Revenant so many times, it can’t help but continue ticking when it comes to choosing their pick for Best Picture. It’s a simple flow-on way of voting. We haven’t seen it for some time (think LOTR: Return of the King or Slumdog Millionaire), and it didn’t work for Gravity, but it seems like it could for The Revenant.


History is against it. As much as the Academy likes to make history, they generally shy away from repeating themselves. It’s why no one gave Eddie Redmayne a chance this year. It’s why Russell Crowe lost to Denzel Washington, amongst other reasons. And it’s why they won’t be too keen to award another Inarritu film with Best Picture, after giving it to Birdman last year. No director has ever achieved this. It seems unfathomable to break this record with a director who is still a relative newcomer compared to legendary directors who have never pulled off a back-to-back victory pike this.

It’s too divisive. Of all the films nominated for Best Picture, The Revenant is the worst reviewed. While there’s a lot of love for it, there’s also a lot of hate. It has more negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes than the other nominees. Plenty of Oscar voters will have the same split reaction. You either love it or you hate it. That’s a massive problem when you’re trying to win on a preferential ballot. You need to at least be universally liked to win. If a voter doesn’t give you their #1 spot, you need to be #2 or #3 to benefit from the preferential style of voting. A divisive film like The Revenant will always struggle to achieve this.

No screenplay nomination. This is a big deal for the pure fact we haven’t had a film win Best Picture without a screenplay nom since Titanic, and that was an exception for obvious reasons. While many will argue this is due to the film lacking substantial dialogue, consider this. The Artist, a film with no dialogue, still managed a screenplay nomination. Remember a screenplay is more than just dialogue. It’s the plot and story as well. How can you say a film is the best of the year when you’re not willing to say it’s one of the best written too?

So does the late-breaking divisive Inarritu film have what it takes to make history and win Best Picture? Am I actually predicting it in my final predictions? Find out tomorrow!

The case for ‘The Big Short’

A few months before awards season began, The Big Short wasn’t even on anyone’s radar. But due to Paramount’s shrewd decision to surprise us all and give the film a December release, it has come from nowhere to be a serious awards contender. Does it have the power to continue to surprise and take the big prize of Best Picture? Let’s take a look at the case for and against The Big Short.


That “surprise” PGA win. I put surprise in inverted commas because it wasn’t a surprise to yours truly. Yeah, I’m bragging, but I was one of the few people who correctly predicted the Producers Guild going with The Big Short so I get to gloat, okay? It shocked pretty much every Oscar expert and is one of the few times I’ve gone out on a limb and been correct. But why is it such a big deal? Well, for the last EIGHT years in a row, the PGA winner has gone on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Eight years is a streak that’s difficult to ignore. Winning PGA signaled the start of the successful Oscar campaigns for The King’s Speech (after it had been all about The Social Network) and Birdman (after it had been all about Boyhood), so in an awards season dominated by Spotlight, why shouldn’t the PGA win signal the rise of The Big Short?

The preferential ballot. If you’ve been following my Oscar ramblings for the last few years, you should know about the unique preferential style of voting the Academy uses for Best Picture. If not, maybe give it a Google. It’s too complicated for me to explain, but it ultimately works best for a film universally liked. The Big Short is such a film. Whether you fully understand its complicated plot, you’re still highly likely to enjoy the film. It’s fun and slick and intelligent. Even those who don’t give it their #1 spot will very likely still rank it in their top 3 and that’s precisely how you win Best Picture. Plus there’s only one other awards ceremony that employs a preferential style of voting – the PGA. It won there so why wouldn’t it win again on another preferential ballot?

The most relevant film in the running. As the recently released (and expertly crafted) The Big Short TV spot points out, we are starting to see the same financial mistakes that caused the 2008 GFC being repeated right now. This makes the message of The Big Short even more powerful than it already is. That kind of relevance can be the turning point at convincing Oscar voters. Awarding a socially relevant film sends a message of the Academy also being socially relevant. This is coupled with it being an election year in the US where the economy is a hot topic, particularly with Bernie Sanders and his numerous Hollywood supporters.


Comedies don’t win Best Picture. Drama is easy. Comedy is hard. But nobody in the Academy seems to care for that notion. We haven’t seen a true comedy win the top prize at the Oscars since 1977’s Annie Hall. While Birdman and American Beauty could be called comedies, they’re far blacker and more dramatic than The Big Short. It does have its serious moments, particularly towards the climax, but for the most part, we’re dealing with a comedy here. Plus it’s directed by a man famous for goofball comedies like Anchorman and Talladega Nights. Hardly the ingredients the Academy usually goes for.

It hasn’t won the precursor awards. While the PGA win is obviously significant, it’s literally the only major prize the film has taken this awards season. It’s been in the running at the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, DGA and the BAFTAs, but failed to win at all of them. It would be somewhat unprecedented to see a film win Best Picture with such little precursor awards love. If the PGA win was the start of its run to take Picture, you would likely have seen it win at some of these other ceremonies. Instead, The Revenant has dominated these late awards shows. That doesn’t bode well for The Big Short, given Oscar voting didn’t commence until long after the glow of the PGA win had disappeared.

It’s just too damn confusing. If you know nothing about the GFC, Wall Street or finance in general, this probably isn’t the film for you. While it does go to great lengths to explain the intricacies of just how the financial world collapsed (with those genius celebrity cameos), it’s still a very complicated and confusing plot for non-financially minded folks. The Academy generally likes to keep things simple. Films that don’t instantly make sense to a wide audience don’t usually win Best Picture. They’ll nominate it and award its screenplay, but that’s as far as they’ll go.

So, will the late-charger take it home on Oscar night? Am I actually predicting The Big Short to win Best Picture? Find out on Sunday when I unveil my final predictions.