88th Annual Academy Awards: Predictions And Other Thoughts

There are only a few days left until the 88th Academy Awards. Some categories have obvious picks, others have safe bets, but a lot of this race is largely up in the air. I do my best to keep track of the awards season and what is likely going to take home the big prize, but I do have my own thoughts as well. Here I have laid out all the categories, with some thoughts on what will be happening come Oscar night. For those looking for predictions, I have highlighted what I think will win in each category. (There may be possible updates, but I'm pretty set in stone on my choices.)

Best motion picture of the year:
“The Big Short”
“Bridge of Spies”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”


It is weird to complain, but after a year where my top two films were battling it out, seeing my 7th favorite Best Picture nominee (in my top 30 of the year) turn into the likely winner does sting a bit. It won't be a bad Best Picture winner, but between the importance of Spotlight and the amazing accomplishment that was my favorite 2015 film, Mad Max, The Revenant feels sub-par by comparison. Regardless, despite being the tightest race in some time, The Revenant has taken home enough of the big prizes to push it ahead of its rivals Spotlight and The Big Short. Of course, the game is not set yet and one of these two could pull off the win, but I'm looking towards the wilderness epic as the champ.

Performance by an actor in a leading role:
Bryan Cranston in “Trumbo”
Matt Damon in “The Martian”
Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant”
Michael Fassbender in “Steve Jobs”
Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl”

Leo has this one locked up, no question about it. Michael Fassbender is still one of my favorite actors working today, so I have no doubt he will be here again, but we can all be happy to tell Leo to calm down, now that he has his golden albatross.

Performance by an actress in a leading role:
Cate Blanchett in “Carol”
Brie Larson in “Room”
Jennifer Lawrence in “Joy”
Charlotte Rampling in “45 Years”
Saoirse Ronan in “Brooklyn”

The only acting category where my personal pick and my predicted pick match. Brie Larson basically won this award when the film first debuted, we just finally get to see the ceremony where she picks up the award. As a side-note, Room may not win many other awards, but if it snuck in a Best Picture win out of nowhere, that would be pretty wild.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role:
Christian Bale in “The Big Short”
Tom Hardy in “The Revenant”
Mark Ruffalo in “Spotlight”
Mark Rylance in “Bridge of Spies”
Sylvester Stallone in “Creed”

Nevermind the fact that Creed did not receive any other nominations when it easily deserved them, Stallone has managed to gain all the support needed to earn a career Oscar. He may have played his iconic character better in the first Rocky (where he lost the Oscar to Peter Finch, who had passed away a month before that ceremony) and in Rocky Balboa, but the Italian Stallion is going to show once and for all that he ain't no bum.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role:
Jennifer Jason Leigh in “The Hateful Eight”
Rooney Mara in “Carol”
Rachel McAdams in “Spotlight”
Alicia Vikander in “The Danish Girl”
Kate Winslet in “Steve Jobs”

I guess this is the time to detail how humorous I find it that Kate Winslet has built up so much esteem for her performance. I really like Steve Jobs and she and Fassbender (among others) are great in it but did no one else notice how strong Winslet's accent is in the third act. Do all Polish women develop deeper accents when they get older? This was the question I had since seeing the film. That aside, Alicia Vikander may have deserved more recognition for Ex Machina, but she's had quite a year as a rising star and just might get to go home with an Oscar. It's also nice to see McAdams non-showy work recognized here, but the non-showiness won't help the film win many awards.

Achievement in directing:
“The Big Short” Adam McKay
“Mad Max: Fury Road” George Miller
“The Revenant” Alejandro G. Iñárritu
“Room” Lenny Abrahamson
“Spotlight” Tom McCarthy

There was a while where we all thought Anchorman director Adam McKay would be an Oscar-winning director. Then Inarritu won the DGA (among other awards) and pretty much cemented the fact that he'd be the first director in 50 years to win back-to-back directing Oscars. I was pulling for George Miller for a while, especially after Ridley Scott failed to get a nomination, taking away the 'split vote for the veterans' competition, but I know what to expect here.

Adapted screenplay:
“The Big Short” Screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
“Brooklyn” Screenplay by Nick Hornby
“Carol” Screenplay by Phyllis Nagy
“The Martian” Screenplay by Drew Goddard
“Room” Screenplay by Emma Donoghue

He may not win for Best Director, but Adam McKay and co-writer Charles Randolph will be taking home an Oscar for writing. The WGA win certainly helped seal the deal on this one. That said, how cool would it be if Drew Goddard could call himself an Oscar-winning writer? The Martian's witty script is certainly one of the biggest highlights of the film and accessible enough for everyone (which is why Best Picture talk wasn't so crazy back in October). You also have Room, though we haven't really seen an Oscar awarded to the person who adapted their own novel.

Original screenplay:
“Bridge of Spies” Written by Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
“Ex Machina” Written by Alex Garland
“Inside Out” Screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; Original story by Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen
“Spotlight” Written by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy
“Straight Outta Compton” Screenplay by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff; Story by S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff

A lot of potential upset could come here if the category that Spotlight had locked up for a while was won out by the original stories crafted for Ex Machina or Inside Out, but there is little reason to worry. Another WGA win and the kind of important subject matter on display is all good for a film that took a ton of research to properly help build a script.

Best animated feature film of the year:
“Anomalisa” Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson and Rosa Tran
“Boy and the World” Alê Abreu
“Inside Out” Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera
“Shaun the Sheep Movie” Mark Burton and Richard Starzak
“When Marnie Was There” Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura

Pixar's biggest critical and commercial success in some time means it is time for the studio to get back on top with another Oscar for their mantle. Anomalisa certainly stirred things up for a bit, but it is the bright, lovable and very colorful movie about the feels that is winning out in this race.

Best documentary feature:
“Amy” Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees
“Cartel Land” Matthew Heineman and Tom Yellin
“The Look of Silence” Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
“What Happened, Miss Simone?” Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby and Justin Wilkes
“Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” Evgeny Afineevsky and Den Tolmor

I have still not seen The Look of Silence, which is a follow-up to the brilliant Act of Killing, but it matters little as far as Oscar is concerned. While these categories can offer surprises sometimes and Netflix has done a ton to push their docs, Amy is the most widely seen of the bunch and has some interesting ways of balancing the tragic story of this musician with the price/cost of fame.

Best foreign language film of the year:
“Embrace of the Serpent” Colombia
“Mustang” France
“Son of Saul” Hungary
“Theeb” Jordan
“A War” Denmark

Another category that could have an upset, but the unanimous critical praise and recognition from Cannes for Son of Saul certainly does a lot for a film. It doesn't hurt that films about the holocaust generally receive a lot of attention. However, voters may have taken on sunnier projects, such as Mustang, which has slowly risen in the ranks as far as competition goes. By the way, Victoria apparently had too much English in it to qualify, but it's excellent.

Achievement in cinematography:
“Carol” Ed Lachman
“The Hateful Eight” Robert Richardson
“Mad Max: Fury Road” John Seale
“The Revenant” Emmanuel Lubezki
“Sicario” Roger Deakins

It's a threevo for Chivo. After knocking out wins for Gravity and Birdman, Lubezki is now lined up to be the first cinematographer to win back-to-back-to-back Oscars. As much as I'm pulling for Mad Max in other technical categories, I have no problems rooting for The Revenant here. That said, John Seale did come out of retirement to put Mad Max on screen once again and Roger Deakins continues to miss out on winning, despite over 10 nominations.

Achievement in costume design:
“Carol” Sandy Powell
“Cinderella” Sandy Powell
“The Danish Girl” Paco Delgado
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Jenny Beavan
“The Revenant” Jacqueline West

This is where things get tricky in regards to technical categories. Sandy Powell makes a strong case for herself with two films that are arguably the kinds you expect to see win. That said, perhaps the might of Mad Max will cement a victory here for Jenny Veavan, who has 10 past nominations and only one win. I'm betting on Mad Max, because of how wild and creative it all was and it will compliment another Oscar I'm hoping it wins as well.

Achievement in production design:
“Bridge of Spies” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo and Bernhard Henrich
“The Danish Girl” Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Michael Standish
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Production Design: Colin Gibson; Set Decoration: Lisa Thompson
“The Martian” Production Design: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Celia Bobak
“The Revenant” Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Hamish Purdy

Look at all the cars! Mad Max must be able to take this trophy home. So much is happening in this apocalyptic world and it feels so fresh and alive. Witness this much deserved Oscar and enjoy it. Then again, maybe Spielberg's Bridge of Spies sneaks in a win, much like Lincoln did a few years back in this category. If Rylance pulls a win for Best Supporting Actor, maybe the film will get a second win here as well. ...Or The Revenant just sweeps everything up and despite being out in the wild, it takes this award as well.

Achievement in film editing:
“The Big Short” Hank Corwin
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Margaret Sixel
“The Revenant” Stephen Mirrione
“Spotlight” Tom McArdle
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey

It seems to have come down between The Big Short and Mad Max. You know where I'm putting my money and it's not in the stocks. Margaret Sixel received over 400 hours of footage from her husband George Miller and she turned it into one of the best action movies ever made. Everything is clearly visualized and the film has breathless pacing. There's more to it than that, but don't be surprised by Mad Max, a Best Picture nominee, to join the ranks of other action flick winners like The Bourne Ultimatum and The Matrix.

Achievement in makeup and hairstyling:
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin
“The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared” Love Larson and Eva von Bahr
“The Revenant” Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini

This one is a tossup between spray paint faces and big scraggly beards. I'm leaning on Mad Max once again. 

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score):
“Bridge of Spies” Thomas Newman
“Carol” Carter Burwell
“The Hateful Eight” Ennio Morricone
“Sicario” Jóhann Jóhannsson
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” John Williams

Harvey Weinstein may not have pulled off getting Carol a Best Picture nomination, but he did do his magic to push Ennio Morricone for his favorite director's film. I loved The Hateful Eight and am shocked at its lack of a Best Screenplay nomination, but the film will at least receive recognition in another well-deserved category. 

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song):
“Earned It” from “Fifty Shades of Grey”
Music and Lyric by Abel Tesfaye, Ahmad Balshe, Jason Daheala Quenneville and Stephan Moccio
“Manta Ray” from “Racing Extinction”
Music by J. Ralph and Lyric by Antony Hegarty
“Simple Song #3” from “Youth”
Music and Lyric by David Lang
“Til It Happens To You” from “The Hunting Ground”
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga
“Writing’s On The Wall” from “Spectre”
Music and Lyric by Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith

Let's be honest, this is one of the weaker years for a Best Song category, but it seems to be coming down to a song by Lady Gaga in a film no one saw and 'Not-Skyfall' by Sam Smith. I'm putting the money on Lady Gaga, with music and lyrics by Diane Warren.

Best documentary short subject:
“Body Team 12” David Darg and Bryn Mooser
“Chau, beyond the Lines” Courtney Marsh and Jerry Franck
“Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah” Adam Benzine
“A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness” Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
“Last Day of Freedom” Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman

I only had a chance to see two of these shorts and neither of them seem to be in contention. It has come down to Body Team 12 and 'Shoah'. It may sound simple, but I'm going with the one about the virus over the Holocaust.

Best animated short film:
“Bear Story” Gabriel Osorio and Pato Escala
“Prologue” Richard Williams and Imogen Sutton
“Sanjay’s Super Team” Sanjay Patel and Nicole Grindle
“We Can’t Live without Cosmos” Konstantin Bronzit
“World of Tomorrow” Don Hertzfeldt

This is incredibly tough, as you are putting something very cool against something very personal (and you can even throw in Bear Story as well). I've watched Don Hertzfeldt's World of Tomorrow multiple times, but while Pixar hasn't won an Oscar for their shorts in some time, they could be due to win one with 'Sanjay'. I'm going to lean on World of Tomorrow, but don't be surprised by it going the other way.

Best live action short film:
“Ave Maria” Basil Khalil and Eric Dupont
“Day One” Henry Hughes
“Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)” Patrick Vollrath
“Shok” Jamie Donoughue
“Stutterer” Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage

Having seen all of these, Everything Will Be Okay easily wins as far as being the most stressful for me to watch, but I believe Shok to be the film with enough going for it to win. Day One and Ave Maria both take on some topical issues that could push it for the win as well. Even Stutterer could take the prize for being simpler and something a lot different than all the drama that could be taking the big win. Still, I won't be shocked if it's a win for Shok.

Achievement in sound editing:
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Mark Mangini and David White
“The Martian” Oliver Tarney
“The Revenant” Martin Hernandez and Lon Bender
“Sicario” Alan Robert Murray
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Matthew Wood and David Acord

These sound awards are easily the toughest, as each film qualifies. That said, i'm going with and gut and saying Mad Max will take it. All these films add the required amount of boom, but it may be the Best Picture nominee with the most boom that takes the honor. Or maybe there's a split (which could happen) and two films win this battle.

Achievement in sound mixing:
“Bridge of Spies” Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Drew Kunin
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo
“The Martian” Paul Massey, Mark Taylor and Mac Ruth
“The Revenant” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom and Chris Duesterdiek
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson

See the above. A lack of musicals this year takes away chances of seeing this award split from the winner for Best Sound Editing.

Achievement in visual effects:
“Ex Machina” Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver and Andy Williams
“The Martian” Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence and Steven Warner
“The Revenant” Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith and Cameron Waldbauer
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould

Unless one of the Best Picture nominees runs away with all the technical awards, which is a strong possibility, it will not be surprising to see Star Wars take away this one prize. It was seen by everyone and it combines lots of CGI with practical effects in ways that satisfied people from all over. Ex Machina would be a pretty awesome win as well, given how much more subtle the effects work is. All that said, we can all agree that the buffalo in The Revenant looked pretty terrible in a way that makes you wonder if they spent all the money on the bear.


And that is it for predictions. We'll see where things end up this coming Sunday and whatever happens, I am still most looking forward to host Chris Rock's monologue.


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