Predictions for the 88th Academy Awards

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After years of Oscars frustration, Leo's fortunes are golden in 2016
After years of Oscars frustration, Leo’s fortunes are golden in 2016

BY VINCENT DOMINIC ABBATECOLA

As the 88th Academy Awards approach on Sunday, it looks like “The Revenant” has the inside track on many major awards, including the long elusive Best Actor nod for perhaps Hollywood’s biggest star, Leonardo DiCaprio.

In this column I will take a look at the major categories and predict who WILL win, as well as offer my opinion on who SHOULD win. 

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Jason Leigh – “The Hateful Eight,” Rooney Mara – “Carol,” Rachel McAdams – “Spotlight,” Alicia Vikander – “The Danish Girl,” Kate Winslet – “Steve Jobs”

Will Win: Alicia Vikander – “The Danish Girl” – This is one of the hardest categories to predict this year.  On one hand, Winslet won the Golden Globe and BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Award, and on the other hand, Vikander won the Critics Choice Award and Screen Actors Guild Award.  While I do think this category could go either way on Oscar night, I think Vikander will manage to squeak by.  While Winslet was great in “Steve Jobs,” Vikander had the meatier role, and a win at the SAG Awards could give her an extra push to the Dolby Theatre stage.

Should Win: Rooney Mara – “Carol” – As dazzling as Cate Blanchett was in the titular role, Mara actually turned out to play the more interesting of the two leading parts.  As Therese Belivet, a shopgirl and aspiring photographer who falls in love with Blanchett’s character, Mara brought Therese’s coming-of-age story to exquisite life.  With a display of innocence and quiet need to become the person she was meant to be, Mara lit up the screen as she brought viewers on her character’s transformative journey, one that had you completely absorbed in the film to see where Therese’s path would take her.  At this point, it’s unlikely Mara will win; but, with this being one of her best performances to date, it will certainly be a welcome surprise if she does.

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale – “The Big Short,” Tom Hardy – “The Revenant,” Mark Ruffalo – “Spotlight,” Mark Rylance – “Bridge of Spies,” Sylvester Stallone – “Creed”

Will Win and Should Win: Sylvester Stallone – “Creed” – This is another race that’s somewhat difficult to call.  While Stallone won the Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award, Idris Elba won the Screen Actors Guild Award for “Beasts of No Nation” (although he wasn’t nominated for an Oscar), and Rylance won the BAFTA Award.  However, the reason I think the Oscar will go to Stallone is because of how well he transitioned back into the much-beloved character of Rocky Balboa.  This has become one of Stallone’s best performances, and the Academy may want to welcome his glorious return to his iconic and career-defining role.

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett – “Carol,” Brie Larson – “Room,” Jennifer Lawrence – “Joy,” Charlotte Rampling – “45 Years,” Saoirse Ronan – “Brooklyn”

Will Win and Should Win: Brie Larson – “Room” – Honestly, if there could be a tie between Larson and Ronan, I would gladly welcome it.  After all, a tie in this category has occurred in the past.  For me, however, Larson’s performance edges out Ronan’s, but by a small margin, mostly because the former’s performance is centered in a film that has a more complex story, which makes for an equally complex performance.  She perfectly embodies the character that was written so beautifully and realistically in Emma Donoghue’s novel, and having won many honors during the awards circuit up to now, it’s guaranteed Larson will win the Oscar, and deservedly so.

Best Actor: Bryan Cranston – “Trumbo,” Matt Damon – “The Martian,” Leonardo DiCaprio – “The Revenant,” Michael Fassbender – “Steve Jobs,” Eddie Redmayne – “The Danish Girl”

Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio – “The Revenant” – Ever since his win at the Golden Globes, it began to seem more and more likely this would be DiCaprio’s year to win an Oscar, having received five nominations over the course of his career, including this one.  At this point, it looks like it’s going to happen.  As of now, he has received many of the major awards leading up to the Oscars, all of which have further solidified his chance at winning the gold statuette come Sunday night.  Being one of the most celebrated actors of his generation, the Academy will most likely want to give DiCaprio recognition this year.

Should Win: Michael Fassbender – “Steve Jobs” – I know I’m going to receive flack for this, but as wonderful as DiCaprio’s performance was, I think this is one year where he shouldn’t win, simply because when you place his work this year against his other Oscar-nominated performances, it doesn’t quite match up.  Fassbender should be given the Oscar because he had to do a lot more actual acting in his performance, whereas DiCaprio mostly had to do grunts and groans with some bits of dialogue added in.  Working with Aaron Sorkin’s script, Fassbender completely threw himself into the role of Steve Jobs and made use of every second of his screen time.  By bringing the complexity and genius of his character to the big screen, Fassbender gave one of 2015’s most blazing performances, one that will rank among his best in what will surely be a long and illustrious career.

Best Director: Lenny Abrahamson – “Room,” Alejandro G. Iñárritu – “The Revenant,” Tom McCarthy – “Spotlight,” Adam McKay – “The Big Short,” George Miller – “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Will Win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu – “The Revenant” – You probably heard stories about the difficulties that went into filming “The Revenant,” which led to the question of whether or not choosing to film in natural locations would be worth it. Clearly, it was, as Iñárritu delivered a truly visceral moviegoing experience, and he’s since been picking up awards for his accomplishments.  He won the Golden Globe, the BAFTA Award, and the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Feature Film. The only reason I can think of as to why the Academy won’t award him is because he won last year, and they may want to recognize someone else this year.  However, after the many wins he has received up to this point, there’s a significant chance he will be winning his second consecutive Oscar.

Should Win: George Miller – “Mad Max: Fury Road” – As much as I admired the beautiful and harrowing experience Iñárritu presented to moviegoers, the work done by Miller this year was extraordinary. I never would have thought a “Mad Max” sequel would be one of the best films of the year, but here we are.  After 30 years since the franchise’s third film, Miller took viewers through the chaos of his post-apocalyptic world to deliver a visual marvel.  He upped his game significantly with this film, and even though the movie is basically one long car chase, he kept the film in high gear with an energy that didn’t go anywhere but up for the two-hour running time.  Miller crafted an action spectacle that caused the viewer to stare in awe at the screen, giving us one of the most exhilarating and supremely entertaining films of the decade.

Best Picture: “The Big Short,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Brooklyn,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant,” “Room,” “Spotlight”

Will Win: “The Revenant” – This year’s Best Picture race is by far one of the most difficult to predict in recent years, as it looks like it can go to either “The Revenant,” “The Big Short,” or “Spotlight.”  That being said, let’s break it down: “The Revenant” won Best Picture at the Golden Globes and BAFTA Awards, and it’s a rare possible winner that is not only a critical hit, but a commercial one, as well.  It also helps its chances that there’s a high probability of Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Leonardo DiCaprio winning in their categories.  Then, there’s “The Big Short,” which has mainly been picking up awards for its screenplay, but has also won the Producers Guild of America Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture, an award has been a very good indicator of who will win Best Picture.  Lastly, there’s “Spotlight,” which was one of the top contenders before the latter two films were released, but has still held onto some of its traction, winning “Best Picture” from many top critics groups.  However, with the combined praise “The Revenant” is receiving for its directing, acting, and technical accomplishments, it could end up winning the big prize come Oscar night.

Should Win: “Spotlight” – While I liked “The Revenant” for the filmmaking achievement it was, “Spotlight” carried a much more interesting story.  It was relevant, deeply layered, tense, tragic, and triumphant, and the screenplay was brought to life by Tom McCarthy’s direction and one of the best casts assembled for a 2015 film.  It was the type of movie that held you immobile in your seat as you watched the events play out on screen, and you were left shocked at what you learned.  Feeling that kind of power movies can have on you is one of the most unforgettable parts of the filmgoing experience, and “Spotlight” had that power in abundance.

The 88th Academy Awards will air on Sunday, February 28 at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.

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