6 Oscar Predictions for 2016

The Academy Awards, commonly referred to as the Oscars, are sort of dumb. By design, they reward the best films of the year according to the tastes of an elitist focus group composed mostly of old white men, while giving Hollywood stars and hangers-on an excuse to spend copious amounts of money on opulent dresses to wear while a nervous host tries to make the most of the tired jokes they’ve been instructed to say.

On the other hand, the Oscars are pretty fun, provided you don’t take them too seriously. It’s fun, after all, to engage in the pre-Oscar speculation and guessing pools. We’re starting our speculation with the following list of our predictions for the winners and nominees within six of the Academy Awards’ most high-profile categories, beginning with the big one.

1. Best Picture

In a somewhat weak year for obvious Oscar frontrunners, the almost universally-beloved journalistic drama Spotlight has emerged as the frontrunner for Best Picture. Right now, that’s the safest pick for the award, but it’s still not a sure thing. Likely competitors include Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, provided the positive early buzz holds true, crowd-pleasing sci-fi The Martian, DiCaprio-led The Revenant, Todd Haynes’s Carol, the claustrophobic Room, acclaimed Rocky sequel Creed and Spielberg’s Cold War thriller Bridge of Spies. The category may include anywhere between five to 10 nominees, so it’s difficult to say if dark-horse candidates like Pixar’s animated Inside Out and the post-apocalyptic car chase that is Mad Max: Fury Road will make it into the running, despite being outside the genres usually preferred by Academy members. [Update, 2/24/16: Here is the list of this year’s Best Picture nominees: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, and Spotlight.]

2. Best Director

Ridley Scott of The Martian has a shot at this award due to his long-standing status and lack of any other Oscars, but we’re giving the edge to Spotlight‘s Tom McCarthy for his more prestige-friendly filmmaking style, in a varied repeat of last year, when Birdman took home awards for best picture and director. Birdman’s Alejandro González Iñárritu will almost certainly be nominated for The Revenant, but the Academy will avoid giving him another statuette so soon. The category will most likely be rounded out by a couple old favorites of the Academy, including Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino. The fifth spot is up for grabs, between a few unlikely contenders that wouldn’t be up for consideration in other high-profile categories. These include Mad Maxs George Miller and Son of Sauls László Nemes[Update, 2/24/16: Here is the list of this year’s Best Director nominees: Adam McKay, George Miller, Alejandro G. Innaritu, Tom McCarthy, and Lenny Abrahmson.]

3. Best Actor

The Internet has long whined about Leonardo DiCaprio being snubbed out of an Oscar time and time again, but this may finally be his year, thanks to his reportedly intense performance in The Revenant. There are quite a few other worthy contenders in the race, many of them playing real life personalities, but none can quite compete with DiCaprio’s star power and the general feeling that he’s due for an award. Other actors getting the nod will most likely include Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs, Johnny Depp for his ruthless turn as Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, Eddie Redmayne in drag for Danish Girl, and Matt Damon for anchoring The Martian[Update, 2/24/16: Here is the list of this year’s Best Actor nominees: Bryan Cranston, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Fassbender, and Eddie Redmayne.]

4. Best Supporting Actor

This one is trickier to call, at least at the moment, as there are a number of strong contenders but no actor with any clear edge over the others. Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton may both get nods for their work in Spotlight, but while both are respected actors deserving of an award at this point in their careers, neither will probably take the award. Tom Hardy and Benicio Del Toro may also be nominated for their respective work in The Revenant and Sicario, but the potential frontrunners for the category may very well be the unlikely pair of Mark Rylance and Sylvester Stallone. Rylance was commanding but simple in his Bridge of Spies performance, while Stallone proved he could still play his greatest screen role without missing a beat in Creed. We’ll give the edge to Stallone, primarily because of name recognition and nostalgia on the part of the Academy. [Update, 2/24/16: Here is the list of this year’s Best Supporting Actor nominees: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy,
Mark Ruffalo, Mark Rylance, and Sylvester Stallone.]

5. Best Actress

While the astounding psychological drama of Room might not get the recognition it deserves at the Oscars, its star Brie Larson is almost certain to walk away with this year’s award for her work as an kidnapped woman raising the child of her captor. Some of her competitors may pick up steam while Room fades from memory, however, so candidates like Brooklyn‘s Saoirse Ronan and Carol‘s Cate Blanchett may pose a threat as well. Jennifer Lawrence may get yet another nod this year for her work in Joy, as will Charlotte Rampling for 45 Years[Update, 2/24/16: Here is the list of this year’s Best Actress nominees: Cate Blanchett, Brie Larson, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlotte Rampling, and Saoirse Ronan.]

6. Best Supporting Actress

Both Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander are frontrunners here for their respective performances in Carol and Danish Girl, but both may be eligible for the lead actress race instead, depending on where the Academy comes down on the issue. If they’re lost in the crowded best lead actress race, the category will be a toss up between a few candidates, including The Hateful Eight’s Jennifer Jason Leigh, Steve Jobs‘s Kate Winslet, Youth‘s Jane Fonda, Love & Mercy‘s Elizabeth Banks, and Clouds of Sils Maria‘s Kristen Stewart. Those last two may be long shots, however. [Update, 2/24/16: Here is the list of this year’s Best Supporting Actress nominees: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rooney Mara, Rachel McAdams, Alicia Vikander, and Kate Winslet.]

Follow Jeff Rindskopf on Twitter @jrindskopf

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