The Oscars are TOMORROW! I’ve updated my predictions for the last time. You can see them all on my predictions page over here. Or click on “OSCAR 2016” at the top of the page for more information on the show, including a printable ballot! Below I’ve spelled out my thinking in each of the races.
So let’s start at the top. This may be the most up in-the-air, anything-can-happen year since Gladiator, Traffic, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon duked it out for the top prize at the very turn of the century. The three biggest predictors of the Oscar for Best Picture – the PGA, the DGA, and the SAG ensemble award – all went to 3 different films. That is, respectively, The Big Short, The Revenant, and Spotlight.
All the buzz is surrounding The Revenant right now, because in addition to the DGA, it also won the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. But I don’t think it’s that strong for 3 reasons…
- Birdman, by the same director, won Best Picture and Director last year, and no director in history has ever had 2 Best Picture winners in a row. (The last consecutive Best Director winner was Joseph L. Mankiewicz in the 1940’s.)
- Those wins for the Globes and BAFTA’s? Last year they both went with Boyhood over Birdman, so this year’s awards for The Revenant are likely just making up for that.
- Most importantly, The Oscar for Best Picture (and only this category) now uses a weird “preferential” balloting system. This system is used by only one other group: the PGA. And in the 7 years since the PGA and Oscars have both been using this system, their winners have matched EVERY YEAR.
The reason this balloting system matters it the way winners are selected in multiple steps, which tends to favor movies that are not just #1 but also #2 and #3 in most ballots. So a passionately well-beloved but divisive movie like The Revenant has more of an uphill battle. People either love it or hate it. It may get the most #1 votes, but if everyone else buts it in last place, then it won’t have enough steam to win.
The Big Short won the PGA and that’s why I think it will win Best Picture
Usually Picture and Director match up. It’s dangerous to predict a split. But in the few years since the implementation of that preferential ballot for Best Picture, which isn’t used for Director or any other award, we’ve already had 2 splits. I’m inclined to think the difference in counting can more easily account for a difference in outcome.
One of the biggest hurdles for The Big Short is that director Adam McKay hasn’t won any precursor awards. Those have mostly gone to The Revenant‘s Alejandro Gonzales Iñarrítú (I hope I got all those accents right) and Mad Max‘s George Miller. As much as I want to believe Miller could win, his film missed out on all of those Big 3 main precursors. Meanwhile, Iñarrítú won the DGA (the Director’s Guild). While I still think it’s a tall order for him to win 2 years in a row, it’s much more likely than his film winning Picture. So I’m resigning myself to the probable fact that he will win again on Sunday, while secretly crossing my fingers hoping for a surprise.
These are all pretty much sewn up, though there’s a little wiggle room for surprises in the supporting categories. Don’t count on it though.
Screenplay and Animated Feature
These are the surest awards of the night. There may be some support for Straight Outta Compton‘s screenplay if they want to try to answer the #oscarssowhite scandal. But Spotlight is the only nominee in the Original category to have a chance at winning Best Picture. Same with The Big Short in the Adapted category. And while Anomalisa will have some fervent supporters, Inside Out is the best movie to date from what may be the single most successful (in terms of quality) movie studio ever. The Big Short, Spotlight and Inside Out have this in the bag.
The legendary Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight) has surprisingly never won an Oscar, despite being one of the most influential composers in history. The Academy won’t miss their opportunity to award him. Meanwhile Lady Gaga’s song “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground may have the deepest impact of that bunch. Some pundits are predicting the newest James Bond song, but it’s such an objectively bad piece of music I just can’t imagine it actually winning.
The Tech Categories
Here we’re looking at Editing, Cinematography, Costumes, Makeup & Hair, Production Design, Sound, and Visual Effects. Most of these are down to a two-horse race between Mad Max and The Revenant, which are the only two nominated for every one of them as well as Director and Picture. Some are predicting a sweep by one or the other. It could be my personal bias leading me to believe Mad Max has that edge in most cases, but I actually think they might split votes in many cases, making room for an outsider. For one thing, I have a very strong suspicion that they won’t let the new Star Wars – the biggest and most successful sensation of the year – won’t go home empty-handed. But where to award it?
First off, The Revenant’s Emmanuel Lubezki will win his record breaking 3rd consecutive Cinematography award. It may sound crazy, but there’s no stopping that train at this point. Similarly, I think Mad Max has a pretty safe lead in Makeup and Production Design. But after that it get’s harder to call.
Editing should be Mad Max‘s, as it won the ACE guild. But so did even more likely Best Picture winner The Big Short. And even though it usually goes to a Best Picture nominee, if those two split, and with The Revenant siphoning off it’s fair share, this could be where Star Wars slips through.
Costumes should also be Mad Max‘s but this branch, more than any other, likes to go it’s own way, usually opting for bigger, puffier, gown-ier fare that often has no chance in any other category. Both Mad Max and The Danish Girl won their guild award earlier this week, which leads me to think the latter has the best chance here. But even one-nomination-wonder Cinderella could pull it off on the back of legendary designer Sandy Powell.
The two Sound categories are where I’m banking on Star Wars to prevail. It’s a tough call, but I think this is it’s best chance and the biggest split-vote situation. Could the two categories split different directions? It’s possible, but a dangerous thing to predict. For one, usually when they do split, it’s because one of the winners wasn’t nominated in the other category. But one-off’s Sicario and Bridge of Spies have the least chance I believe. And anyway, even they do split, if you predict the same film for both you’re more likely to get one of them right.
And finally, Visual Effects is shaping up to be one of the toughest calls of the night. For most of the season, most people have felt this was an obvious win for Mad Max, and I still give it the slightest edge. But ever since The Revenant started pulling ahead in the major races, more are predicting it to get more votes. Others feel Star Wars‘ recent BAFTA win might be telling that it could win here. Unfortunately for Star Wars, Best Picture nominated films almost NEVER lose this to a film that isn’t. Still others feel that with such a split-vote situation, this could be the best opportunity for the universally well-loved The Martian to pull through.
Foreign and Documentary
Son of Saul and Amy have a pretty sizable lead. Dark horses are Mustang in Foreign and Cartel Land (which recently won the DGA) in Doc. But What Happened, Miss Simone? also might pull some Doc votes in a way that will probably favor the presumed frontrunner.
My experience is that often my favorites actually do win. If that trend continues, look to Stutterer or Ave Maria to triumph in the Live Action category, and World of Tomorrow in Animation. The latter is by the great Don Hertzfeld; you may know him from a famous short that failed to win a couple decades ago, called Rejected. If voters realize that, in addition to being the clear best film here, World of Tomorrow could also benefit from a bit of “overdue” sentiment. (By the way, Word of Tomorrow is available to stream on Netflix. It’s under 20 minutes and well worth your time!)
I haven’t seen any of the Doc Shorts, so your guess is as good as mine.