Final Oscar Predictions – 2016

In the interest of transparency, I always like to put out my Oscar picks, just for proof when I talk about getting 20/24 categories right (It’s always that number. Every year.) Think you know better? Let’s find out on Sunday.

Best Documentary Short: “Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah”

Best Animated Short: “Sanjay’s Super Team”

Best Live Action Short: “Stutterer”

I haven’t seen any of the shorts except for Don Hertzfeldt’s animated “World of Tomorrow” (available on Netflix!), which is a potential spoiler for Pixar’s favored entry (let’s all take a moment to rejoice that “Lava” wasn’t eligible this year). So yeah, I’m mainly going by descriptions and other people’s predictions here. You know as much as I do. Move along.

Best Documentary Feature

A couple legitimate options here – Netflix has poured crazy campaigning money behind “What Happened, Miss Simone?” and “Winter on Fire,” and the easy streaming availability of those options is not a bad thing. I’ve also heard and read only impressive things about “Cartel Land” from those who make the time. But the high-profile name and critical acclaim behind team “Amy” will probably carry the favorite all the way through here, leaving Joshua Oppenheimer to dry his tears once again with a thousand glowing Sight & Sound reviews.

Will win: “Amy”

Could win: “Cartel Land”

Should’ve been here: “Listen to Me Marlon”

Best Original Song

There’s a slight complication here in that ballots go out with only the name of the song and the movie it’s from – no attached artists names, so it’s possible a good chunk of the voting body is unaware of the Lady Gaga/Diane Warren collaboration (I would beware “Writing’s on the Wall” just because of the name recognition behind Bond films for this reason). But if you bother at all to listen to the songs it’s pretty clear what the best choice is, and I think enough of the Academy will go there.

Will win: “Til It Happens To You,” from “The Hunting Ground”

Could win: “Earned It,” from “Fifty Shades of Grey”

Should’ve been here: “See You Again” from “Furious 7,” and “Feels Like Summer” from “Shaun the Sheep Movie”

Best Sound Editing

The below-the-line categories are going to be an absolute dogfight between “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Revenant.” It’s easy to see pretty much all of the crafts going to one or the other, and it’s hard to call how they’ll split up in the end. In the sound categories, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is also lurking as a spoiler (they’re historically the only categories where the franchise does well), but I think this is one area where the tortuous behind-the-scenes making of “The Revenant” will definitely impress. There’s some dubious ADR on the Native American characters, but overall the sound design of the frontier tale is incredibly immersive.

Will win: “The Revenant”

Could win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Should’ve been here: “Ex Machina”

Best Sound Mixing

See above.

Will win: “The Revenant”

Could win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Should’ve been here: “Sicario”

Best Visual Effects

A highly competitive category this year, with an impressive mix of practical and visual effects as well as in-your-face blockbuster bombast and effective low-key spot use. Will creating a super life-like animal character (the bear scene is memorable, if nothing else) be enough to carry “The Revenant” through? Will the flashier effects of “Mad Max” or “Star Wars” prevail instead? Or will voters be looking for somewhere below the line to express their appreciation of “The Martian?” All legitimate options – this is a close one.

Will win: “The Revenant”

Could win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Should’ve been here: “Crimson Peak”

Best Film Editing

We can probably cross off “Star Wars” here and gravitate towards the four Best Picture nominees in the mix – from there it gets a little trickier. “Spotlight” and “The Big Short” have both been praised for their energy, and the editing has a lot to do with that, particularly the latter with its many intercut interludes and asides. But it’s still likely one of the technical juggernauts here, and I think this is where the adrenaline rush of “Mad Max” starts to win out over “The Revenant.”

Will win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Could win: “The Revenant”

Should’ve been here: “Son of Saul”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Part of me thinks the peculiar inclusion of Swedish film “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” could be a sign for a possible upset (a la “Il Divo” a while back), but the changed rules that have the general Academy body voting on this category probably preclude that outcome now. Flip a coin between the other two contenders instead.

Will win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Could win: “The Revenant”

Should’ve been here: “Crimson Peak”

Best Costume Design

I would limit it again to the two technical steamrollers here, but never ever count out a Sandy Powell joint, of which there are two available this year. “Cinderella” in particular has the flashy goods to be a major spoiler in this category. I’m predicting the “Mad Max” victory train rolls on in the design categories much the same way “The Grand Budapest Hotel” did last year, but I’m definitely keeping an eye on this one.

Will win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Could win: “Cinderella”

Should’ve been here: “Crimson Peak”, “Brooklyn”

Best Production Design

Another category where love for “The Martian” could be a sneaky alternative – but I’ve learned at this point that “spread the wealth” isn’t actually a thing that Oscar voters much care about, especially below the line. Keep ticking off those boxes, it’s all that most of the Academy is doing as well.

Will win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Could win: “The Revenant”

Should’ve been here: “Crimson Peak,” “Ex Machina”

Best Cinematography

After years of being an also-ran, Emmanuel Lubezki has turned into a force of nature at the Oscars. Lock up a record third straight win (“Gravity,” “Birdman”) for Chivo.

Will win: Emmanuel Lubezki, “The Revenant”

Could win: Robert Richardson, “The Hateful Eight”

Should’ve been here: Maryse Alberti, “Creed”

Best Animated Feature

Thanks to GKIDS, the nominees for Animated Feature have gotten delightfully unpredictable (and tasteful!) in recent years, but the winner remains, ultimately, rather predictable.

Will win: Inside Out

Could win: Anomalisa

Should’ve been here: actually i’m pretty much 100% on board with the lineup here

Best Foreign Language Film

“Son of Saul” has been the presumptive favorite since making its impact at Cannes last summer, and there’s little sense that anything’s changed. It’s got the highest profile, the subject matter is right in the Academy’s wheelhouse, and oh, it just happens to be an absolutely shattering and unforgettable film.

Will win: “Son of Saul” (Hungary)

Could win: “Mustang” (France)

Should’ve been here: abstain

Best Original Score

Tarantino may have been wrong about Ennio Morricone never winning a competitive American award (Morricone already had two Golden Globes to his name before claiming a third in absentia for “The Hateful Eight”), he’s right that the Italian master still only has an honorary Oscar as far as the Academy’s concerned. That name value and narrative (besides, you know, the terrific work) should be all that’s needed here this year.

Will win: Ennio Morricone, “The Hateful Eight”

Could win: John Williams, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Should’ve been here: Michael Brook, “Brooklyn”, Tom Holkenberg (Junkie XL), “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Best Original Screenplay

The writing winners have been locked and loaded for a while now. Look for them to line up in step with the Writers Guild Awards, both flashy, in-your-face examples of scripting.

Will win: Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”

Could win: Josh Cooley, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Ronnie Del Carmen, “Inside Out”

Should’ve been here: Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig, “Mistress America”

Best Adapted Screenplay

See above.

Will win: Charles Randolph, Adam McKay, “The Big Short”

Could win: Drew Goddard, “The Martian”

Should’ve been here: Andrew Haigh, “45 Years,” Donald Marguiles, “The End of the Tour”

Best Supporting Actress

There’s narratives to support just about everyone nominated in this category winning – Winslet has the Globe and a BAFTA win behind her (Vikander went lead at the latter), Mara has the screen time of a true co-lead, and Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rachel McAdams are both respected vets who finally got good parts to play to their strengths (Leigh has the favor of flashy Tarantino dialogue behind her). But I’m sticking with Vikander, the breakout star of the year, who again has the screen time of a co-lead and winds up being the emotional core of “The Danish Girl,” a film that will still appeal to many in the Academy.

Will win: Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”

Could win: Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”

Should’ve been here: Alicia Vikander, “Ex Machina,” Tessa Thompson, “Creed”

Best Supporting Actor

It’s kind of odd that so many pundits (including myself) are so convinced that Stallone is going to carry this home, considering he has nothing but a Golden Globe to his name and the HFPA is hardly a reliable precursor for the acting categories. But I think his misses at the SAG and BAFTA awards has more to do with bad timing in the season – screeners of “Creed” hadn’t really gotten to SAG before they voted, and the heat really lit up under the movie after the BAFTAs had voted as well. Mark Rylance and Mark Ruffalo are both looming, but Stallone’s comeback, playing the same character the Academy adored forty years ago, is too good a story for them to pass up.

Will win: Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”

Could win: Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”

Should’ve been here: Oscar Isaac, “Ex Machina”

Best Actress

Such a terrific lineup and such a boring race. For all that we’ve been discussing this as a great year for female leads and for all the possible nominees ultimately left on the sidelines, it hasn’t really been close at any step.

Will win: Brie Larson, “Room”

Could win: Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn” (but not really)

Should’ve been here: Charlize Theron, “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Mya Taylor, “Tangerine,” Lily Tomlin, “Grandma” (if we had like, ten nominees)

Best Actor

Finally a stupid fucking internet meme comes to an end. Are you happy, internet? You won.

Will win: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”

Could win: Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo”

Should’ve been here: Géza Röhrig, “Son of Saul”, Michael B. Jordan, “Creed”

Best Director

There have been two back-to-back Best Director winners before in the history of the Oscars: John Ford and Joseph Mankiewicz. Look for Iñárritu to join that august company after triumphing at the Directors Guild Awards.

Will win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “The Revenant”

Could win: Adam McKay, “The Big Short”

Should’ve been here: László Nemes, “Son of Saul,” Todd Haynes, “Carol,” Andrew Haigh, “45 Years”

Best Picture:

And now, ultimately, the hardest call of the night. Honestly I’m not sure we’ll have any idea what’s in this envelope until the last possible moment, unless “The Revenant” really goes on a below-the-line sweep – and even then I could still see “The Big Short” or even “Spotlight” coming out of the mouth of Tom Hanks (or whoever) at the end of the night. “The Revenant” got the Directors Guild award, which has been the best predictor in recent years – but “The Big Short” triumphed with the Producers Guild, who use the same preferential ballot voting system as the Oscars. Does that mean anything? Nothing? Any way you slice it, some kind of precedent is going to get broken, so you might as well go with your gut. And my gut feels kind of grumbly and unhappy this year.

Will win: “The Revenant”

Could win: “The Big Short”

Should’ve been here: “Son of Saul,” “45 Years,” “Carol”

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