My Predictions for the 2016 Academy Awards


Is it just me, or did the Oscars kind of sneak up on us this year? After all the controversy a few weeks ago over the alleged whitewashing of the awards race - due in part to the revelation that no people of colour were nominated in the acting categories - it feels like some of the usual momentum died off in the run-up to the big night.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I’ll leave that to others to debate, since for better or worse, I’ll be watching the telecast as I always do. No one ever said Hollywood was an equitable place, and maybe it’s fitting that the industry’s biggest gala reflect that; hopefully this year’s outrage will be enough to turn the tide a little bit.

Complicating matters is a surprisingly tricky-to-predict field of nominees. As Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter pointed out recently, the so-called “precursor awards” like those handed out by the Directors’ Guild (DGA) and the Producers’ Guild (PGA) are not as reliable this year for suggesting the eventual Oscar winners. That being said, let’s dive into the predictions! Below, you’ll find a complete list of who I think will win each of the major awards, as well as who I want to win, and who I think is the “dark horse” in that particular category. If you’d like to play along, draw up your own list and compare it to mine, and then tell me if I’m wrong in the comments!

Best Picture

The Big Short, directed by Adam McKay

What Will Win: The Big Short

Since this is one of the toughest years to predict since I started covering the Oscars, I’m still not 100% confident that The Big Short will take the prize. Maybe that’s just my slight personal disappointment with the film talking (which you can catch up on here). But a few weeks back, the PGA did give their top prize to The Big Short, and of all the guilds to heap praise on Adam McKay’s film, the PGA has the best historical track record in matching the Best Picture winner. Of course, I’d actually love to be wrong and see Mad Max: Fury Road come out on top, which would the ultimate glory for genre fans everywhere.

In case you missed it, The Big Short is the latest stab taken by Hollywood at the 2007/2008 financial crisis, but this time approached by veteran comedy director Adam McKay, helped out by an all-star cast that includes Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt.

What I Want to Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Dark Horse: Spotlight

Best Director

Who Will Win: George Miller - Mad Max: Fury Road

As much as I’d like to say that this pick is based on merit alone, there’s a bit of a numbers game at work here, too. Miller has already won some smaller awards given out by other organizations that share voters with the Academy, and there’s also something to be said for people being nominated when they’re seen to be long overdue (just wait until we get to Best Actor for more proof of that).

Setting all that aside for a moment, Miller is also the director I want to win, due to the vivid, tangible qualities of Fury Road, and the fact that as good as The Revenant is, I’m not a fan of Iñárritu winning two years in a row.

Who I Want to Win: George Miller
Dark Horse: Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant)

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Brie Larson left) stars in Room, directed

Who Will Win: Brie Larson - Room

After the Academy handed out the Best Actress award last year to an actress who many felt had been waiting for the honour for too long (Julianne Moore), this year’s competition looks to be focused on younger, upcoming stars: Brie Larson and Saoirse Ronan.

Larson is just now gaining attention by a mainstream audience following the committed work she puts on display in Room, the story of a young woman living in a tiny chamber after being kidnapped years before by a sexual predator. I’ve been aware of Larson for several years following her breakthrough in Short Term 12, and she certainly deserves this instant boost. However, she faces a strong challenge from Ronan, whose work in Brooklyn has charmed all sorts of audiences.

Who I Want to Win: Brie Larson
Dark Horse: Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Who Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant

The jokes by now are legion. There’s even a fun little Flash game available to play about this contest. When the Best Actor race reaches this kind of cultural moment, the Academy would be crazy not to let DiCaprio take home the gold for The Revenant. You can make a case for the whole thing being a little predictable, what with the impressive physical demands the role placed on DiCaprio and how Oscar voters lap that stuff up. But my feeling now is to just let it happen; give the guy his statue so we can get back to talking about other parts of the Oscars.

Even so, wouldn’t it be cool to see Cranston take it? It would be the biggest middle finger to gushing DiCaprio fans everywhere.

Who I Want to Win: Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)
Dark Horse: Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)

Best Actress in a Supporting  Role

Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl, directed by Tom Hooper.

Who Will Win: Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl

The consensus seems to have built behind Vikander for this category, and it’s not a shock, considering she was the so-called cinematic It Girl in 2015. Even so, I would have preferred to see her be nominated here for Ex Machina instead, simply due to the film being so much more unconventional and modern than the period drama she’s representing here.  

Who I Want to Win: Tie between Rachel McAdams (Spotlight) and Rooney Mara (Carol)
Dark Horse: Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Who Will Win: Sylvester Stallone - Creed

To be honest, I was little surprised that Stallone picked up so much praise for his work in Creed; granted, his character Rocky Balboa is a film legend by this point, and the new installment puts him through a whole new sort of fight. The fact, though, that Stallone is the current favourite speaks more to the Academy using the category as a lifetime achievement award than a recognition of merit, which is a little annoying considering the great performances from the other nominees this year.

Who I Want to Win: Tom Hardy (The Revenant)
Dark Horse: Tom Hardy

Best Cinematography

The Revenant, as captured by Emmanuel Lubezki.

Who Will Win: Emmanuel Lubezki - The Revenant

Will Lubezki take this category three years in a row? If so, it could be quite a development for this more technical branch of the Oscars, as Lubezki would be the first person with three consecutive wins in the category. The cinematographer has had the good sense to partner with two recent Academy favourites back-to-back-to-back, Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) and Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman). Now, with The Revenant, Lubezki continues his trend of innovating with every project, this time shooting in punishing winter conditions and limiting himself to only natural light.

As much as I loved the contributions from John Seale and Roger Deakins this year (the latter of whom desperately needs an Oscar one of these years), I suspect the Academy will be swayed by Lubezki’s technical achievement once again.

Who I Want to Win: John Seale (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Dark Horse: Roger Deakins (Sicario)

Best Animated Feature

What Will Win: Inside Out - Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera

It’s never smart to bet against Pixar in this category, unless they’re running with one of their less-fresh sequels. This year actually brought us two films from the studio, Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur, though judging from the critical acclaim, Pixar likely figured Inside Out’s entirely original look inside a young girl’s mind would resonate the most with voters.

Still, it would have been nice to see some of the other contenders get a fairer shot, like the bright, energetic Boy and the World or the decidedly mature Anomalisa.

What I Want to Win: Boy and the World (Alê Abreu)
Dark Horse: Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson and Rosa Tran)

Best Editing

Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky in 'Mad Max: Fury Road', directed by George Miller.

Who Will Win: Margaret Sixel - Mad Max: Fury Road

If you spoke to anyone who saw and loved Mad Max: Fury Road, part of their excitement over the film owed a lot to Sixel’s confident, kinetic editing. It takes a true professional to take a crazy world of fire and blood like Miller’s and keep non-genre fans interested, and there’s something to be said for an editor who doesn't try to hide their contribution to the overall film.

Who I Want to Win: Margaret Sixel
Dark Horse: Hank Corwin (The Big Short)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Who Will Win: Charles Randolph, Adam McKay - The Big Short

Even though I have my issues with The Big Short with regard to its story structure (I still feel like it would have excelled as a Netflix Original), the film would be nothing without its script. Randolph and McKay deserve a lot of praise for taking Michael Lewis’ book and finding clever, funny ways of explaining complex financial processes, something other films about the 2007/2008 crisis haven’t always attempted. There’s a palpable educational bent to the writing in The Big Short, and it looks like Randolph and McKay’s industry peers think it’s worth commending.

Who I Want to Win: Drew Goddard (The Martian)
Dark Horse: Drew Goddard

Best Original Screenplay

Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Brian d'Arcy James, Michael Keaton and John Slattery in Spotlight, directed by Tom McCarthy.

Who Will Win: Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer - Spotlight

It’s kind of fitting that Spotlight would be the frontrunner in this category, as the act of assembling a faithful, effective screenplay is not unlike the dogged journalism practised by the characters in the film. Some of my thinking on this prediction is also due to the historical performance of the award (and its Adapted Screenplay sibling above) as a “consolation prize” for films that almost win Best Picture, and Spotlight definitely matches that description.

Who I Want to Win: Alex Garland (Ex Machina)
Dark Horse: Tie between Josh Cooley, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve (Inside Out) and Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus, Andrea Berloff (Straight Outta Compton)

Best Documentary Feature

What Will Win: Amy (Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees)

There are two docs about musicians up for the award this year, and then three films dealing with politics and/or violent social unrest. Considering that the award went to a film matching the latter description last year (Citizenfour), the Academy voters can be forgiven with focusing more on pop culture this time around. The category is also one that usually finds a solid frontrunner early on, meaning this award is Amy’s to lose.

What I Want to Win: The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen)
Dark Horse: What Happened, Miss Simone? (Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby and Justin Wilkes)

Best Foreign Language Film

Géza Röhrig in Son of Saul, directed by László Nemes.

What Will Win: Son of Saul - Hungary

Don’t worry, we all feel bad about not seeing most of the films in this category. It’s always going to be a source of shame for people who follow the Oscars, and this year it’s especially difficult to convince regular people to run to the theatre for the film leading the pack here.

Son of Saul, while clearly a cinematic kick to the head (and the director’s feature debut, no less), drops viewers into the midst of constant close-ups of concentration camp victims during the Second World War, as a group of Sonderkommandos are forced to cart away the bodies of the people already executed by the Nazis. Bleak but necessary stuff, and likely to pick up a little more attention if the Oscars race goes the way it seems to be.

What I Want to Win: Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia)
Dark Horse: Mustang (France)

There you have it. I didn’t predict each category because I figure these are the ones most people are interested in (and frankly, the ones that can actually be predicted).

Am I right or wrong about the winners I named above? Will you be playing along to see who wins? Join the conversation about the 2016 Oscars in the comments section below!