While this year’s race has been mired in #OscarsSoWhite controversy and the Academy’s changes in the face of scrutiny, it’s still that time of year when we put our heads together, sift through the films that are nominated, and try to figure out who will win at this year’s Academy Awards. Last year we were 15/24, so here’s hoping we do a bit better this year — although it’s always nice when the Academy throws out a curveball! Watch the video below for a quick rundown of our choices in the bigger categories, or scroll down to read through the full list.
We can see timely films like The Big Short and Spotlight taking this prize, but ultimately it seems the tide is in favor of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s harrowing outdoor epic of survival, endurance, and revenge.
If Iñárritu wins — and we think that’s very likely, given that Best Director generally goes to whoever helmed the Best Picture winner (Argo and 12 Years a Slave are notable recent exceptions) — he’d be the first back-to-back winner of this award since the great Joseph L. Mankiewicz in 1949 and 1950 (for Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve, respectively).
All the talk about Leo being due an Oscar is a bit overwrought, given that none of the following people have ever won an Academy Award: Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, Sigourney Weaver, Brad Pitt, Samuel L Jackson, Will Smith, Harrison Ford, Scarlett Johansson, John Travolta, Glenn Close, Gary Oldman, Robert Downey, Jr., Idris Elba, Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Joseph Cotten, Edward G. Robinson, Rita Hayworth, Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, and dozens more. That said, he’s totally winning this year; the Academy loves onscreen feats of physical prowess featuring glamorous stars de-glammed.
After wowing the critics in smaller films like The Spectacular Now and Short Term 12, Brie Larson solidified her status as one of the best young actors in Hollywood with Room. She’s close to a lock for Best Actress.
The two Marks could potentially steal this one, but we think the Academy is gonna go with Sly, the sentimental favorite.
This looks to us like a “Nobel” Oscar, one that’s given to an actor or actress for his or her body of work rather than the film for which he or she is nominated. Long story short: Alicia Vikander is winning because she had a monster 2015.
What happened to Spotlight? Coming out of the Toronto International Film Festival, it looked like the movie to beat in the Best Picture race. It shouldn’t be counted out as a dark horse contender for the top prize, but at very least it seems like a safe bet here.
Michael Lewis is the king of allegedly unfilmable non-fiction books that are subsequently adapted into wildly popular, critically praised, Oscar-nominated motion pictures: The Blind Side, Moneyball, and now The Big Short are all based on his work. Turning the dense, complex machinations of a group of financial wizzes into a mainstream, crowd-pleasing comedy pretty much ensures The Big Short’s victory in this category.
Although this is a strong year for this category, with two outstanding examples of stop motion and two critically acclaimed foreign entries, Pixar’s Inside Out is one of the surest wins this season. It’s also the only film in this category with a screenwriting nomination, which shows it is a favorite in multiple branches.
While France’s Mustang and Hungary’s Son of Saul have both received strong critical receptions, Saul seems to have the most momentum, as well as eight wins in this category already, including at the Golden Globes.
With eleven wins – including at the Producer’s Guild Awards – Asif Kapadia’s chronicle of the rise and fall of the late Amy Winehouse seems all but unstoppable.
If the award goes to our projected winner Emmanuel Lubezki for his outdoor, natural light work on The Revenant, he will be the first person to win this award three years in a row and we definitely think this year will be one for the history books.
While several films used editing in unique and creative ways, it is the editing in Mad Max: Fury Road that is the glue that keeps its frenetic ride together.
We heard a rumor that an early draft of the script for Brooklyn contained a scene featuring flaming guitars. Unfortunately, since the scene didn’t make it into the finished product, it looks like Mad Max is winning this category by default.
We think Sandy Powell will win this category, just for the wrong movie. A seasoned costume designer is likely to tell you that it’s harder to craft the wardrobe for a period film set in living memory; thus, Powell’s work on Carol probably deserves the Oscar. However, it’s hard to pass up pretty ball gowns, so we think Powell will win for Cinderella.
Sure, Ennio Morricone won an Honorary Oscar in 2007, but he’s never won for an individual film. This is an outrage that the Academy must rectify immediately — and fortunately, the master is in fine form with the score for The Hateful Eight.
It’s not the most egregious of the Academy’s many questionable movies this Oscar season, but the announcement that two of the five Oscar-nominated songs would not be performed during the ceremony is still pretty strange. (But hey, look on the bright side: that means there’s a one-in-three chance we’ll get this one right!) We pick the Weeknd, which would make Fifty Shades of Grey the most critically maligned Oscar-winning film in decades.
In a year with films featuring amazing CGI, Mad Max: Fury Road’s use of practical effects — with the occasional use of CGI — seems as refreshing as it is revolutionary.
It takes a lot of work to make these folks look this busted. From Furiosa’s killer eye-liner, to the faces of the war boys, to the distinct hair of Immortan Joe and his cronies, Mad Max: Fury Road’s use of hair and make-up in its world-building is unlike anything else we saw at the movies this year.
This whole movie was practically one epic car chase through the badlands, with the sound of an entire fleet of unique vehicles recorded on the go.
Adding wicked (flaming) guitar licks, the pounding of the war boys’ drums, flowing water, and a multitude of other sounds to the epic car chase helped build the bombastic world that is Fury Road.
Look, it’s a big year for bears, so Bear Story would seem to be the zeitgeistian pick. However, Sanjay’s Super Team is from Pixar, and you don’t bet against Pixar on Oscar night.
This tale of cross-cultural understanding in the midst of the Kosovo War is sure to tug the heartstrings.
The topical Body Team 12, about the Ebola crisis in Liberia, is both topical and moving, and we think it will resonate the most with Academy voters.