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Oscar Guide: 2016

Below are some predictions for who will win and could win at the 2016 Academy Awards this Monday (Australian time). I’ve also provided my take on who should win and who missed out for categories in which I’ve seen all films. In summary, I’m expecting a lot of technical support for The Revenant, but still unconvinced (possibly foolishly) that it can take home the big prize, proving its current frontrunner status. My head and gut are telling me Spotlight, so I’ve decided to stick with it in the off chance I’m right. It will come down to a clash of the titans for the top two nominated films Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant – each other’s biggest competition in the technical categories – and I’m presuming that The Revenant will come out on top, even though I’m firmly in favour of Mad Max.

Am I underestimating The Revenant‘s chances for Best Picture? Probably.
Am I underestimating technical support for Mad Max: Fury Road in the sound and visual effects categories? Possibly.
Am I overthinking all of this? Definitely.

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BEST PICTURE

Difficulty level: Hard

Will Win:           Spotlight
Could win:        The Revenant
Should win:      Mad Max: Fury Road
Overlooked:      Inside Out

Your guess is as good as mine here. If you look at the major guilds, PGA win for The Big Short should be your best indicator, followed by BAFTA win for The Revenant, followed by a SAG ensemble win for Spotlight. But here’s the thing, The Big Short feels like it has lost momentum (or has it) and The Revenant might not survive a preferential ballot with divisive initial reactions and an onslaught of negative pieces arriving online before voting closed. On the other hand, Spotlight has the acting support (the Academy’s largest branch) and with 96% on rotten tomatoes, it’s a film that will likely score a lot of #1s & #2s on a preferential ballot. I’m going out on a limb here, everyone’s predicting The Revenant, but Spotlight should take the big prize. Now watch The Big Short win…

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BEST DIRECTOR

Difficulty level: Easy

Will Win:            Alejandro Gonzaléz Iñárritu
Could Win:        George Miller
Should win:       George Miller
Overlooked:      Pete Docter

Iñárritu’s epic achievement is certainly worthy of attention and he will likely go back-to-back after winning last year, but this belongs to George Miller’s visionary, uncompromising masterstroke. Animated film directors are constantly overlooked in this category and Pete Docter should’ve been in consideration for the brilliantly conceived Inside Out.

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BEST ACTOR

Difficulty level: Easy

Will Win:            Leonardo DiCaprio
Could Win:        haha
Should win:       Leonardo DiCaprio
Overlooked:      Samuel L. Jackson

Safest bet of the night. Leo literally shed blood, sweat and tears to win an Oscar. Jokes aside, Leo actually earned this one for what he did in The Revenant, haunting stuff. If you don’t agree, let’s pretend it’s for The Aviator or The Wolf of Wall Street. Years from now, we will look back on all the times the Academy should’ve nominated Samuel L. Jackson and shake our heads in disbelief.

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BEST ACTRESS

Difficulty level: Easy

Will Win:            Brie Larson
Could Win:        Saoirse Ronan
Should win:       Brie Larson
Overlooked:      Alicia Vikander (category fraud)

Brie Larson is another very safe bet here for her stirring performance in Room and I would be happy with any actress in this category winning. Although two of this year’s performances should’ve been in this category, but we will get to that in a minute.

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Difficulty level: Medium

Will Win:            Sylvester Stallone
Could Win:        Mark Rylance
Should win:       Sylvester Stallone
Overlooked:      Idris Elba

An interesting one. The frontrunner is definitely Sly Stallone – based purely on hype – who gave an unexpectedly nuanced and moving performance in Creed, but he’s missing some crucial precursors here with only Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice wins. The SAG went to Idris Elba, shamefully snubbed here, and the BAFTA was picked up by Mark Rylance, who could be primed for an upset win on the night. Alternatively, the votes between these two could split and Mark Ruffalo could take to the podium.

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Difficulty level: Easy

Will Win:            Alicia Vikander
Could Win:        Kate Winslet
Should win:       Jennifer Jason Leigh
Overlooked:      Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)

Alicia Vikander has momentum in this category when she’s been nominated, though she belongs in Lead Actress, joined by the superb Rooney Mara for Carol. A case of category fraud in order to have a better shot at awards attention. Kate Winslet who gives an impressive performance in Steve Jobs has a couple of key precursors so keep an eye on her. But it was Jennifer Jason Leigh’s possessed performance in The Hateful Eight that impressed me most in this category.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Difficulty level: Easy

Will Win:            The Big Short
Could Win:        Room
Should win:       The Martian
Overlooked:      Beasts of No Nation

The Big Short’s biggest lock for the ceremony which will make the writer of Anchorman and Step Brothers an Oscar winner (not complaining). Room’s novelist-turned-screenwriter could theoretically win, but The Martian truly deserves the trophy for making a film about nerdy science accessible, funny and touching.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Difficulty level: Easy

Will Win:            Spotlight
Could Win:        Inside Out
Should win:       Inside Out
Overlooked:      Sicario

The investigatory work that went into Spotlight’s screenplay is overwhelmingly worthy, but the imagination, complexity and originality of Inside Out should be acknowledged here.

BEST EDITING

Difficulty level: Hard

Will Win:           Mad Max: Fury Road
Could Win:        The Big Short
Should win:       Mad Max: Fury Road
Overlooked:      Creed

Best Editing is usually indicative of the eventual Best Picture winner, but not so much in recent years. This one could go either way. Academy voters like flashy editing and The Big Short exemplifies that, but I’m hoping they like the feverishness of Mad Max: Fury Road’s aesthetic more. A good editor knows when to not cut away and Creed’s careful use of editing for dramatic effect is as good as its punchy cuts during fight sequences.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Difficulty level: Easy

Will Win:            The Hateful Eight
Could Win:        Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Should win:       The Hateful Eight
Overlooked:      Creed

Expect Ennio Morricone to deservedly take this one out. However, there’s potential for Star Wars sentimentality to carry over into this category. Meanwhile, Creed’s score managed to echo the original Rocky theme and carve its own modern track and should’ve been in conversation here.

BEST SOUND MIXING

Difficulty level: Medium

Will Win:            The Revenant
Could Win:        Mad Max: Fury Road
Should win:       The Revenant

Technical love for The Revenant will be strong on the night. Outdoor conditions placed enormous pressure on capturing sound in order to create a visceral experience, so probably well deserved here. But this could easily go to the equally deserving Mad Max: Fury Road.

BEST SOUND EDITING

Difficulty level: Hard

Will Win:            The Revenant
Could Win:        Mad Max: Fury Road
Should win:       Mad Max: Fury Road

The rule is that you don’t split the sound categories unless one of the predicted winners is not nominated in the other category. However, Sound Editing is a different beast entirely – usually reserved for big action films – which involves creating a sound design and aesthetic from scratch a lot of the time. Think about the roaring engines and explosions in Mad Max: Fury Road, arguably the more deserving winner. 

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Difficulty level: Hard

Will Win:            Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Could Win:        Mad Max: Fury Road
Should win:       Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The motion capture technology ‘x-factor’ in Star Wars: The Force Awakens should earn it the trophy here, but expect the striking use of visual effects in the physical effects laden Mad Max: Fury Road to grab the same attention. And then there’s the bear in The Revenant that, shockingly, was not a real bear but rather a CGI creation. The Martian could also shock here. Take your pick.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Difficulty level: Easy

Will win:            The Revenant
Could win:         Sicario
Should win:       The Revenant
Overlooked:      Creed

Emmanuel Lubezki will deservedly pick up his third Oscar in a row for The Revenant, which is an astonishing achievement. Meanwhile Roger Deakins will remain empty handed – but don’t rule out the sentimental vote for his great work in Sicario. Once again, Creed should’ve been in the conversation, just for that one-take fight sequence alone.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Difficulty level: Medium

Will win:            Mad Max: Fury Road
Could win:         The Danish Girl
Should win:       Mad Max: Fury Road

The detail in Mad Max: Fury Road is astounding and should earn the respect of the Academy, but they do love period work here so look out for The Danish Girl.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Difficulty level: Medium

Will win:            Mad Max: Fury Road
Could win:         Cinderella
Should win:       Mad Max: Fury Road

The costumes in Mad Max: Fury Road manifestly defined its characters. Cinderella has pretty dresses so watch out for that.

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Difficulty level: Easy

Will win:            Mad Max: Fury Road
Could win:         The Revenant
Should win:       Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road for the same reason as Costume Design.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Difficulty level: Medium

Will win:            The Hunting Ground
Could win:         Spectre

Expect the Lady Gaga-rmageddon to continue.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Difficulty level: Easy

Will win:            Son of Saul
Could win:         Mustang

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Difficulty level: Easy

Will win:            Inside Out
Could win:         Anomalisa

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Difficulty level: Easy

Will win:             Amy
Could win:         The Look of Silence


5 wins – The Revenant
3 wins – Mad Max: Fury Road
2 wins – Spotlight, The Big Short

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