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.

BEST PICTURE
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

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.

BEST DIRECTOR
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.

BEST ACTOR
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?

BEST ACTRESS
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…

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
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.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
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…

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Spotlight
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.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
The Martian
Room

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.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“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.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Inside Out

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Sanjays Super Team

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Revenant

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Amy

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of Shoah

BEST EDITING
Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Son of Saul

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
Shok

BEST MAKEUP/HAIRSTYLING
Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
The Hateful Eight

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST SOUND EDITING
The Revenant

BEST SOUND MIXING
The Revenant

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
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.

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