First, let me clarify. Regretfully, I was not able to watch every single film nominated for a 2016 Oscar. As a movie fan, it’s been a feat I’ve been trying to accomplish for a couple of years now, and this year I got daringly close. I watched every English-speaking movie nominated for an Oscar that was not a documentary or a short. So the only films I did not watch were those nominated in the following categories: Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short Subject, and Best Live Action Short (I did watch the animated shorts).
For a refresher on this year’s nominees, check them out here.
Best Motion Picture of the Year:
Who Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Who Will Win: The Revenant
Potential Spoiler: Spotlight
Snubs: Creed, Straight Outta Compton
Best Picture isn’t usually this up in the air this close to Oscar time. But it comes down to three films: The Revenant, Spotlight, and The Big Short. All came away with big awards season wins, but it seems like The Revenant is going to come out on top in this one. Voters love the nitty gritty gruesome production, survivalist story, with an all-star cast. Spotlight is your classic Best Picture and an absolutely amazing film that is very well deserving. The Big Short could come out of left field, but I’m thinking The Revenant will come out on top, making Alejandro G. Iñárritu only the second director in history to win Best Picture two years in a row.
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:
Who Should and Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, ‘The Revenant’
Snubs: Michael B. Jordan, ‘Creed’
Jacob Tremblay, ‘Room’
Leo is the obvious shoe-in this year for the first time ever, and we can all finally get over the whole “Leo has no Oscar” thing. The bigger story with this category is the nominees and the snubs. Bryan Cranston is a bit of an iffy choice, compared to the standout performances by Jordan and Tremblay this year. Tremblay was snubbed because he’s only 9, but delivered one of the best performances of the year. Jordan and his movie Creed got no Oscars love either, besides Sylvester Stallone’s nom for Supporting Actor. There were tons of great performances this year, and Michael Keaton in Spotlight could also be considered a snub, Tom Hardy in Mad Max, if I’m really stretching Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies (a performance which I think was entirely underrated). Michael Fassbender’s performance in Steve Jobs should not be overlooked, but Leonardo DiCaprio will certainly come away with the win.
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role:
Who Should and Will Win: Brie Larson, ‘Room’
Snubs: Emily Blunt, ‘Sicario’
It’s no question that Brie Larson is deserving of Best Actress this year. Her performance in Room is heartbreaking, moving, and just outstanding. If you’re thinking “Oh, is she really a shoe-in?” let’s just remember that she’s competing in the same category as Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in Joy, a total wreck of a movie if I do say so myself. Charlotte Rampling’s nod for 45 Years was nice to see. Her performance made the entire movie worthwhile, and if that isn’t Oscar-worthy, then I don’t know what is. It’s no argument that Jennifer Lawrence’s nomination was a “surprise” to put it lightly. Meanwhile, outstanding performances such as Emily Blunt’s in Sicario were left out.
Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role:
Who Should Win: Mark Ruffalo, ‘Spotlight’
Who Will Win: Sylvester Stallone, ‘Creed’
Snubs: Idris Elba, ‘Beasts of No Nation’
Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, ‘Straight Outta Compton’
Jeff Daniels, ‘Steve Jobs’
Benicio Del Toro, ‘Sicario’
This category is usually one of the toughest every year, and this is no exception. This just might be the toughest of the night. For me, it’s not tough to decide who will win. I’m pretty positive that they will give it to Stallone, who gave a good performance in Creed and who has never won an Oscar. Technically speaking, I think Mark Rylance gave the best performance in Bridge of Spies and is probably the most deserving when it comes down to it. But, my favorite performance of the year was Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight. Everything about it was amazing, passionate, and just outstanding. Too many snubs in this category to count, but two that are not brought up often are Benicio Del Toro who I thought stole the show in Sicario, and Jeff Daniels who I also thought stole the show midway through Steve Jobs. But anyways: Ruffalo, my heart is with you on Oscars night.
Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:
Who Should & Win: Alicia Vikander, ‘The Danish Girl’
Snubs: Charlize Theron, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’
Alicia Vikander brought life to what was supposed to be an Oscars hit with The Danish Girl. She outshone a dull script and last year’s Best Actor Eddie Redmayne, and will scoop up Best Actress. She gave an equally outstanding performance in Ex Machina, but a double nomination would never happen, and the choice between the two went with the more classic choice, the one where she didn’t play artificial intelligence. There’s been some talk about Kate Winslet, I’m not sure it’s enough to get her the Oscar, but look out for a potential spoiler. Charlize Theron should have been nominated in this category for Mad Furiosa...sorry….Mad Max: Fury Road, but Vikander was fantastic.
Achievement in Directing:
Who Should Win: George Miller, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’
Who Will Win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, ‘The Revenant’
Snubs: Ridley Scott, ‘The Martian’
Don’t get me wrong, Iñárritu accomplished an amazing feat with The Revenant. It was filmmaking at its best. But, how fun would it be if George Miller won? Both The Revenant and Mad Max were extremely difficult to film, and both directors did a superb job, but I would love to see Miller win. In the end, Iñárritu will come out on top, but George: just know I was rooting for you.
What Should & Will Win: The Big Short - Randolph, McKay
Snubs: Steve Jobs - Sorkin
Not much of a competition here, The Big Short has flown through awards season taking almost all adapted screenplay prizes. The Big Short screenplay is incredibly intelligent, viewer-based, and garnered the film a Best Picture nod. It’s easy to see why this film is in contention to beat Leonardo DiCaprio’s bear-fighting, wilderness survival epic for the best movie of the year.
What Should Win: Straight Outta Compton - Herman, Berloff; Savidge, Wenkus
What Will Win: Spotlight - Singer, McCarthy
Spotlight and Straight Outta Compton are two films that were able to take real events and create captivating films out of each of their extremely different subjects. I think Straight Outta Compton has become extremely undervalued as a film because of its subject matter of NWA and street rap, as compared to Spotlight’s journalistic approach to a sex abuse scandal. But Straight Outta Compton's story and screenplay should be recognized for the fantastic storytelling that it brought to the screen. That being said, Spotlight will most likely scoop up this one.
Best Animated Feature Film of the Year:
What Should & Will Win: Inside Out
I think Inside Out’s win in this category is about the strongest shoe-in right after Leonardo DiCaprio’s Best Actor award. There is strong argument that Inside Out should have been nominated for Best Picture, and good argument that Phyllis Smith should have been nominated for supporting actress. I can get behind both of those. Inside Out is an absolutely extraordinary movie, and one of the year’s best, animated or otherwise.
Achievement in Cinematography:
Who Should & Will Win: Emmanuel Lubezki, ‘The Revenant’
The Revenant was shot chronologically over a nine month time period, but they only shot for a couple of hours each day for 80 of those days. Why? Because Lubezki used only natural light throughout the entire movie, and they could only use hours of the day with the best light to shoot. The Revenant is a stunningly beautiful movie, and Lubezki is well-deserving of this award.
Achievement in Costume Design:
What Should & Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
If you’ve seen Mad Max: Fury Road, you should know just how great the costumes in this film is. Compared to the films it’s competing against, it shouldn’t have any real struggle.
Achievement in Film Editing:
What Should & Will Win: The Big Short
The energy that The Big Short’s editing brought to the movie was fantastic, but don’t discount Mad Max for a potential spoiler.
Achievement in Makeup & Hairstyling:
What Should & Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max is up against only two other films in this category: The Revenant and The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, with its only nomination of the night. While The Revenant does offer tough competition for Mad Max, I think in the end Mad Max will pull through. Those guys (and gals) just looked too badass driving through the desert.
Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score):
Who Should Win: Ennio Morricone, ‘The Hateful Eight’ & John Williams, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’
Who Will Win: Ennio Morricone, ‘The Hateful Eight’
Morricone’s score for The Hateful Eight was a masterpiece. But let’s not discount John Williams absolutely amazing work with The Force Awakens score. Just because it’s the score of a Star Wars movie doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be equally respected, and based on score alone I think both are deserving. That being said, Morricone will finally win his well-deserved first Oscar at the age of 87.
Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song):
What Should & Will Win: “Til it Happens to You” from ‘The Hunting Ground’ by Diane Warren & Lady Gaga
Golden Globe winning “Writings on the Wall” from Spectre might swoop in here and be the potential spoiler, but in the end I think Warren and Gaga’s anthem from sexual assault documentary The Hunting Ground will pull through.
Achievement in Production Design:
What Should & Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Take it from my Costume Design and Makeup & Hairstyling commentary: if you’ve seen Mad Max, you know it should win. Mad Max’s production design versus The Danish Girl’s? Come on, now.
Best Animated Short Film:
What Should & Will Win: The World of Tomorrow
Don Hertzfelt’s The World of Tomorrow is one of the most thought-provoking movies I saw all of last year, and yes it was both animated and only 16 minutes long. While not as light hearted and fun as the other entries, I think it’s the most deserving of the award.
Achievement in Sound Editing:
What Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
I’m not going to pretend like I know anything about sound editing, but based on everything I’ve watched and read, it seems like sound editing and sound mixing are a toss up between Mad Max and The Revenant, so I’m going to go with Mad Max on the post-production side of sound, and The Revenant with the on-location stuff.
Achievement in Sound Mixing:
What Will Win: The Revenant
Once again, my knowledge base on sound mixing is basically zero, so I split the sound categories even between Mad Max and The Revenant.
Achievement in Visual Effects:
What Should & Will Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Academy will likely throw the Star Wars franchise a bone. I mean, come on, The Force Awakens did break just about every box office and ticket sales record that formally exists. And while ticket sales are no indication on movie quality, The Force Awakens still got terrific reviews and did a great job in many areas, and visual effects is just a small recognition.