Who Will Win This Year’s Oscars

It’s that time of year again – time for my predictions of the winners at the annual Academy Awards. Many of the major honors appear fairly clear-cut at this point, but, even with that said, here are my picks for who will take home statues this year:

Best Actor

The Field: Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo”; Matt Damon, “The Martian”; Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”; Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs”; Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl”
Who Will Likely Win: Leonardo DiCaprio. This appears to finally be DiCaprio’s year after numerous previous nominations. He has won virtually every major award leading up to this year’s Oscars, including the Golden Globe Award, the Critics Choice Award, the Screen Actors Guild Award and the BAFTA Award. I see no reason for this trend not to hold on Oscar night. Unfortunately, however, while DiCaprio’s portrayal here is indeed capable, I don’t believe it’s his best work nor the best lead actor performance this year. Rather, this is one of those “oversight Oscars” being bestowed upon someone who has been summarily overlooked many times before. I would much rather have seen DiCaprio win for several of his other previous efforts, including “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013), “Blood Diamond” (2006) and “The Aviator” (2004).
Who Should Win: Bryan Cranston. In “Trumbo,” Cranston really upped his game, delivering a breakthrough performance far better than anything he has ever done, and he truly deserves to be honored for his effort. Regrettably, he’s up against the Academy’s overarching sentiment to recognize an overlooked favorite son – an unfortunate circumstance considering Cranston’s work in this film. A strong case could also be made for Eddie Redmayne, though, given his win just last year for “The Theory of Everything,” it’s highly unlikely he would take home top honors again so soon.
Possible Dark Horse: The dark horse here is so dark as to be virtually unrecognizable, given the momentum behind DiCaprio. However, if I had to pick someone to assume this role it would be Matt Damon, another Hollywood favorite son who has been long overlooked for winning an acting Oscar (though he previously won a screenplay award for “Good Will Hunting” (1997)). Nevertheless, despite whatever sentimentality might accompany Damon’s nomination, I doubt it’s enough to overcome the DiCaprio juggernaut.
Also-Rans: Anyone who isn’t Leonardo DiCaprio. The others should be thankful for their nominations.
Who Should Have Been Left Out: Matt Damon and Michael Fassbender. Damon’s performance, though capable and a sentimental favorite, really isn’t worthy of a nomination in light of some of the other unrecognized choices out there. And Fassbender’s cloying, mugging for the camera portrayal became so annoying with each passing minute of his film that it became difficult to sit through; this nomination never should have materialized.
Who Else Should Have Been Considered: There were many lead actor performances that easily could have made the cut and should have been considered. Among my favorites were Will Smith (“Concussion”), Tom Hanks (“Bridge of Spies”), Kurt Russell (“The Hateful Eight”), Peter Sarsgaard (“Experimenter”), Tobey Maguire (“Pawn Sacrifice”), Harvey Keitel (“Youth”), Jason Segel (“The End of the Tour”), Ian McKellan (“Mr. Holmes”), Christopher Abbott (“James White”), Michael B. Jordan (“Creed”), Géza Röhrig (“Son of Saul”), Johnny Depp (“Black Mass”) and Abraham Attah (“Beasts of No Nation”). Several of these performances, such as those turned in by Smith and Depp, were honored in other contests and should have been considered here.

Best Actress

The Field: Cate Blanchett, “Carol”; Brie Larson, “Room”; Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy”; Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years”; Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”
Who Will Likely Win: Brie Larson. Even though this is Larson’s first Oscar nomination, she’s clearly the class of the field, and, like DiCaprio, she has won every major award to date, including the Golden Globe Award, the Critics Choice Award, the Screen Actors Guild Award and the BAFTA Award. Once again, I see no reason for this trend not to hold on Oscar night.
Who Should Win: Brie Larson. This is clearly a case of the right actress deservingly taking home top honors in her category.
Possible Dark Horses: Just like the lead actor race, the dark horse here is so dark as to be virtually unrecognizable, given the momentum behind Larson. However, if I had to pick someone to assume this role it would be either Charlotte Rampling or Saoirse Ronan. Rampling, a veteran performer who has just now received her first nomination, might be able to play on the sentimentality vote. As for Ronan, she’s a Hollywood darling who the Academy seems to adore and has a long-shot chance at pulling an upset. Nevertheless, I doubt these advantages are sufficiently potent enough to overcome the Larson juggernaut at this juncture.
Also-Rans: Anyone who isn’t Brie Larson. I believe this is especially true for previous winners Jennifer Lawrence (for “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012)) and Cate Blanchett (for “The Aviator” (2004) and “Blue Jasmine” (2013)), both of whom are unlikely to take home another statue so recently after their previous victories. In addition, for Blanchett in particular, she’s been nominated for the weaker of her two 2015 on-screen performances, having delivered far better work in her other film, “Truth,” a picture in which her outstanding portrayal was overshadowed by major criticism of the overall production.
Who Should Have Been Left Out: Saoirse Ronan. Though her meek, often-weepy portrayal was capable, it was far from outstanding and, in my opinion, not worthy of an Oscar nod.
Who Else Should Have Been Considered: As in the lead actor category, there were many performances that easily could have made the cut and should have been considered, including Carey Mulligan (“Suffragette” and “Far From the Madding Crowd”), Lily Tomlin (“Grandma”), Juliette Binoche (“The Clouds of Sils Maria”), Cate Blanchett (“Truth”), Julianne Moore (“Freeheld”), Gong Li (“Coming Home”), Alicia Vikander (“Testament of Youth”), Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (“Tangerine”), Blythe Danner (“I’ll See You in My Dreams”), Kristen Wiig (“Welcome to Me”), Helen Mirren (“Woman in Gold”), Maggie Smith (“The Lady in the Van”) and Emily Blunt (“Sicario”). Tomlin, Mirren and Smith were recognized for their efforts in other contests and certainly merited consideration here.

Best Supporting Actor

The Field: Christian Bale, “The Big Short”; Tom Hardy, “The Revenant”; Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”; Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”; Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”
Who Will Likely Win: Sylvester Stallone. Like Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead actor category, this appears to finally be Stallone’s year. He has won several major awards leading up to the Oscars, including the Golden Globe Award and the Critics Choice Award (though, somewhat surprisingly, he wasn’t even nominated in the Screen Actors Guild Award and BAFTA Award competitions). I think this trend will hold on Oscar night, though, like DiCaprio, I also believe this is another case of an “oversight Oscar,” one being bestowed more for Stallone’s overall body of work (and all the box office cash he has generated for Hollywood through the years) than for his efforts in this particular performance.
Who Should Win: Tom Hardy. I was so pleased to see this performance finally honored with a nomination, having been inexplicably overlooked in all of this year’s other competitions. I’m not usually a huge fan of Hardy’s work, though I thought he really delivered the goods here and should be recognized accordingly. I could also make very strong cases in favor of Mark Rylance and Christian Bale (though, with his win for “The Fighter” (2011), it’s unlikely he would take home another statue again quite so soon).
Possible Dark Horse: Once again, the dark horse here is so dark as to be virtually unrecognizable, given the sentimentality backing Stallone. However, if I had to pick someone to assume this role it would be Mark Rylance, who took home the BAFTA Award, a contest in which he was not up against Stallone for top honors. Nevertheless, I doubt Rylance has enough clout here to take home the statue.
Also-Rans: Anyone who isn’t Sylvester Stallone. This is especially true for Mark Ruffalo, whose performance was capable but not especially noteworthy.
Who Should Have Been Left Out: Sylvester Stallone and Mark Ruffalo. While Stallone’s performance in “Creed” is undoubtedly the best work he’s done in years, it’s simply not awards caliber. As for Ruffalo, as noted above, his portrayal was capable, but I don’t believe it was strong enough to capture an Oscar nod.
Who Else Should Have Been Considered: 2015 was an especially strong year for supporting actor performances, and there are many that should have been considered. Among my favorites were Steve Carell (“The Big Short” and “Freeheld”), Ryan Gosling (“The Big Short”), Paul Dano (“Love & Mercy”), John Cusack (“Love & Mercy” and “Chi-Raq”), Paul Giamatti (“Love & Mercy”), Robert Redford (“Truth”), Jacob Tremblay (“Room”), John Goodman (“Trumbo”), Louis C.K. (“Trumbo”), Jeff Daniels (“Steve Jobs”), Domhnall Gleeson (“The Revenant”), Dakin Matthews (“Bridge of Spies”), Jim Broadbent (“Brooklyn”), Michael Shannon (“Freeheld” and “99 Homes”), Michael Sheen (“Far From the Madding Crowd”), Oscar Isaac (“Ex Machina”), Kyle Chandler (“Carol”), David Morse (“Concussion”), Albert Brooks (“Concussion”), Benicio del Toro (“Sicario”) and Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”). A number of these performances, such as those by Carell, Dano, Tremblay, Shannon and Elba, were honored in other competitions and should have been recognized here.

Best Supporting Actress

The Field: Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”; Rooney Mara, “Carol”; Rachel McAdams, “Spotlight”; Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”; Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”
Who Will Likely Win: This is a two-horse race between Alicia Vikander and Kate Winslet, but I would give the edge to Vikander. Earlier this awards season, Vikander took home the Critics Choice Award and the Screen Actors Guild Award, and she was nominated for this performance in the lead actress category in the Golden Globe and BAFTA competitions (where she was up against Brie Larson and didn’t stand a chance). As for Winslet, she took home the Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards in this category, but she wasn’t up against Vikander for her “Danish Girl” performance (though Vikander was nominated for her role in “Ex Machina” in this category in those contests). All things considered, though, I believe the preponderance of the momentum leans in Vikander’s direction, and I think she’ll emerge victorious on Oscar night.
Who Should Win: Alicia Vikander. This is another case of the right performer taking home a very deserving award.
Possible Dark Horses: Given the less than certain outcome of this race, conceivably any of the other contenders could emerge as dark horses, though I doubt they have enough juice behind them to overcome the momentum carrying Vikander and Winslet at the moment.
Also-Rans: By the same token, given the seemingly unstoppable momentum carrying the two front runners, the other three contenders in this race could just as easily become also-rans as they could be dark horses.
Who Should Have Been Left Out: Rooney Mara and Rachel McAdams. Mara’s snoozy, understated performance was so underwhelming that it’s difficult to understand how anyone could find her portrayal compelling. As for McAdams, this is another case of a capable performance being unduly elevated to an exaggerated level of praise. Both should have been left off the list in favor of other more worthy contenders.
Who Else Should Have Been Considered: 2015 was also an especially strong year for supporting actress performances, and there are many others that should have been considered, including Helen Mirren (“Trumbo”), Julie Walters (“Brooklyn”), Helena Bonham Carter (“Suffragette”), Kristen Stewart (“The Clouds of Sils Maria”), Jane Fonda (“Youth”), Ellen Page (“Freeheld”), Marcia Gay Harden (“Grandma”), Elizabeth Banks (“Love & Mercy”), Cynthia Nixon (“James White”), Jennifer Hudson (“Chi-raq”), Isabella Rossellini (“Joy”), Virginia Madsen (“Joy”), Mya Taylor (“Tangerine”), Melissa Leo (“The Big Short”), Phylicia Rashad (“Creed”), Marion Cotillard (“MacBeth”) and Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina”). A number of these performances, such as those by Mirren, Walters, Fonda and Nixon, were honored in other contests and should have been considered here.

Best Director

The Field: Adam McKay, “The Big Short”; George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”; Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “The Revenant”; Lenny Abrahamson, “Room”; Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”
Who Will Likely Win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu. With hopes of following up his directorial award win for “Birdman” (2014), Iñárritu stands in good stead to take home top honors in this category once again. He has already won a number of other honors, including the Golden Globe Award, the BAFTA Award and the Directors Guild Award, an honor that’s often a strong indicator of who eventually wins the Oscar. At this point, I don’t see the momentum shifting, and I believe he’ll take home the Academy Award on Oscar night.
Who Should Win: Adam McKay. In my opinion, “The Big Short” was a much better and more compelling film than “The Revenant,” and I believe McKay’s the most worthy recipient of this honor. However, I don’t believe he has enough momentum to surpass Iñárritu at this point.
Possible Dark Horse: George Miller. As the only director to have defeated Iñárritu in any of this year’s competitions (as winner of the Critics Choice Award), he might have enough gas in his tank to cause an upset, especially since his film has been widely recognized in so many categories in other contests, including the top award in the prestigious National Board of Review competition. I wouldn’t put money on this option, but it’s not an impossibility, either.
Also-Rans: Adam McKay, Lenny Abrahamson and Tom McCarthy should be thankful for their nominations, since this is all the recognition they’re likely to receive.
Who Should Have Been Left Out: Lenny Abrahamson. While “Room” was an excellent film, it meandered considerably in the second hour, not quite knowing where it wanted to go. I felt that the director lost control of the room, and, because of that, I don’t believe he merited a nomination.
Who Else Should Have Been Considered: There were a number of other directors whose work should have been recognized, including László Nemes (“Son of Saul”), Andrew Haigh (“45 Years”), Steven Spielberg (“Bridge of Spies”), Tom Hooper (“The Danish Girl”), Paolo Sorrentino (“Youth”), Michael Almereyda (“Experimenter”), Jay Roach (“Trumbo”), Yimou Zhang (“Coming Home”) and Alex Garland (“Ex Machina”). For his efforts, Garland received a Directors Guild Award for Best First Feature and was nominated in other contests, as was Spielberg, whose “Bridge of Spies” was the best film he has made in years.

Best Picture

The Field: “The Big Short,” “Brooklyn,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant,” “Room,” “Spotlight”
Who Will Likely Win: This is the most difficult race to handicap among the top categories, but I believe it to be a three-horse race between “The Big Short,” “The Revenant” and “Spotlight.” As the film with the most nominations and the picture most likely to take home the award for best director (strong indicators of the eventual best picture winner), “The Revenant” would seem to be the logical choice. It has also captured top honors at the Directors Guild Awards (a strong indicator of the eventual Oscar winner), the Golden Globe Awards and the BAFTA Awards. However, in other bellwether competitions, other contenders have emerged. “The Big Short,” for example, took first place in the Producers Guild Awards (another strong indicator of the eventual Oscar winner), while “Spotlight” took the big prizes at the Critics Choice Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards (yet another strong indicator of the Oscar winner).
So which film will win? This is a virtually “pick ʼem” scenario. Since the best director and best picture awards tend to run in tandem, that would give the edge to “The Revenant.” However, since the Academy often favors films based on true stories (especially those that have noble causes behind them), I would, in turn, give the edge to “The Big Short” and “Spotlight” over “The Revenant.” And, of these two pictures, I would be inclined to give the inside track to “Spotlight,” given that its outcome carried more widespread positive impact than the story in “The Big Short” did.
A “Spotlight” win is by no means guaranteed; its two rivals could easily overtake it, especially if the trend of tandem best director/best picture wins holds true again this year. However, if my line of reasoning holds, look for “Spotlight” to come up the big winner on Oscar night.

Photo courtesy of Open Road Films

Who Should Win: “The Big Short.” Even though this film doesn’t appeal to everyone, in my opinion, it was clearly the best picture of 2015. I would like to see it receive the honors it so richly deserves. A strong case could also be made for “Bridge of Spies,” though I don’t believe it quite measures up against “The Big Short.”
Possible Dark Horse: I doubt the other contenders have enough clout to overtake the three front runners. However, if any film has an outside chance, it would be “Mad Max: Fury Road,” again for the same reasons why George Miller could end up an upset winner in the best director category. Does it have enough to pull this off? I don’t think so, but don’t rule it out.
Also-Rans: “Brooklyn,” “Bridge of Spies,” “The Martian” and “Room” should be grateful for their nominations; in all likelihood, they lack what it takes to pull off a win in the big dance.
What Should Have Been Left Out: I was not especially impressed with this year’s crop of nominees and would have left out a number of selections, including “Brooklyn,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant,” “Room” and, especially, “Mad Max: Fury Road.” The first four films in that list were by no means outstanding, and “Mad Max” was an inexplicably overrated release that offered precious little that was new or innovative compared to its predecessors in the franchise. There were other more worthy contenders that easily could have taken their place.
What Else Should Have Been Considered: Nearly all of the films that were left out of the best director category would have made worthy choices here, including “Son of Saul,” “45 Years,” “The Danish Girl,” “Youth,” “Experimenter,” “Trumbo,” “Coming Home” and “Ex Machina,” as well as “Love & Mercy.” Regrettably, though, these offerings were overlooked.

The Oscars will be handed out in televised ceremonies on Sunday February 28. I’ll post my report card on these predictions thereafter. Enjoy the show!

(Oscar® and Academy Award® are registered trademarks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.)

For complete reviews of some of the nominees, follow these links:

“Joy”
“Room”
“Spotlight”
“The Big Short”
“The Danish Girl”
“The Martian”
“Trumbo”

For complete reviews of some of the other films that should have been considered, follow these links:

“Coming Home”
“Concussion”
“Ex Machina”
“Experimenter”
“Freeheld”
“Far From the Madding Crowd”
“Grandma”
“I’ll See You in My Dreams”
“Love & Mercy”
“Pawn Sacrifice”
“Son of Saul”
“Suffragette”
“Testament of Youth”
“Truth”
“Welcome to Me”
“Woman in Gold”
“Youth”

Copyright © 2016, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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