88th Academy Awards predictions

I already posted my personal picks for the major categories, irrespective of actual qualification requirements or, goodness knows, likelihood. Those can be seen by clicking here. Now it’s time to predict what will happen at the 88th Academy Awards for films from 2015. I’ll go whole hog and predict every category.

Best Original Screenplay

Bridge of Spies

Ex Machina

Inside Out

Spotlight

Straight Outta Compton

David’s prediction — SpotlightBridge of Spies, which I think is its biggest threat, has a great pedigree and some montage-worthy one-liners. It’s better in the memory than it is in the moment, and that could influence Oscars voters. But if they do what they should, and I think they will, Spotlight will pick up its first award here. Its plotting follows All the President’s Men so closely that Spotlight could be in trouble if the current crop of voters had an aversion to the paranoid, talk-heavy, politically-charged movies of the ’70s. But they don’t; in recent years they’ve recognized ’70s period pieces like Argo and American Hustle with awards and nominations. Spotlight is set primarily in 2001, of course, but I’m guessing voters didn’t miss its similarities to the William Goldman adapted screenplay that won at the 49th Academy Awards.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Big Short

Brooklyn

Carol

The Martian

Room

David’s prediction — The two that I think have the best shot are the ones that turn technical jargon into comedy: The Big Short and The Martian. The Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar is often given to a work that deals with an issue of contemporary relevance, so as much as I’d like to see The Martian get an early win, I think this one goes to The Big Short.

Best Visual Effects

Ex Machina

Mad Max: Fury Road

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Martian

The Revenant

David’s prediction — A good second pick here is The Revenant, which will threaten for most of the major categories and clearly has a strong bloc of support. Generally, though, this award is a pat on the head for the blockbuster film that critics liked the most. That’s clearly Mad Max: Fury Road. It also got the Best Picture slot that’s unofficially earmarked for blockbusters, but the technical categories are where it will get its two Oscars.

Sound Mixing

Bridge of Spies

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

David’s prediction — In a lot of years this one might go to a Star Wars or a Mad Max, but the sound design of The Revenant is as good as its directing. If you saw it in a theater with a decent audio rig, you may have noticed that you could hear characters coming from behind before the cameras would swivel to see the action. A prestige movie that makes this much overt use of surround sound is unusual, and I think it will get its first award in this category.

Sound Editing

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

David’s prediction — Sicario must be doing something right here to elbow in amongst these giants.

Best Short Film (Live Action)

Ave Maria

Day One

Everything Will Be Okay

Shok

Stutterer

David’s prediction — I haven’t seen any of these, but that won’t stop me from predicting a win for Stutterer.

Best Short Film (Animated)

Bear Story

Prologue

Sanjay’s Super Team

We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

World of Tomorrow

David’s prediction World of Tomorrow has all the buzz and had a great outing at Sundance. Its big year will culminate here with an Oscar.

Best Production Design

Bridge of Spies

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

David’s prediction — As in many categories, The Revenant stands out for the appreciably complex way in which it achieves a deceptive sense of simplicity. The movie is a sequence of breathtaking tableaus captured with long, slow camera movements timed to the second.

Best Original Song

“Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey

“Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction

“Simple Song #3” from Youth

“Writing’s on the Wall” from Spectre

“Til it Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground

David’s prediction — Sam Smith, who caterwauled the Spectre title song and sounds like a sick manatee, is inexplicably popular at awards shows, but this one should go to “Simple Song #3” from Youth. It’s elegant, classic, and, in the context of the film, very moving. This one may depend on whether most voters saw the film or just downloaded the track, but the fact that it got a nomination in the first place is a good sign.

Best Original Score

Bridge of Spies

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

David’s prediction — Personally I’d like to see Star Wars pick up a lone Oscar here, but John Williams’ trophy case is sufficiently full and the safe money is on a lifetime achievement award for Ennio Morricone and his The Hateful Eight dirge.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Mad Max: Fury Road

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

The Revenant

David’s prediction — Mad Max: Fury Road gets its second.

Best Foreign Language Film

Embrace of the Serpent

Mustang

Son of Saul

Theeb

A War

David’s prediction — The Academy tracks the history of this award by country, and two countries are first-time nominees here: Jordan for Theeb and Colombia for Embrace of the SerpentTheeb, which concerns the British in Arabia, has the look of classic cinema.

Best Film Editing

The Big Short

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Spotlight

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

David’s prediction — The Revenant was shot in natural light both indoors and outdoors, but that doesn’t mean there was no post-production to achieve the desired look. And there may be some hidden cuts among the long, floating camera flights. No clear pattern emerges in the recent history of this category, but a movie photographed by Emmanuel Lubezki won two years ago (Gravity), so The Revenant seems like a good bet.

Best Documentary (Short Subject)

Body Team 12

Chau, Beyond the Lines

Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

Last Day of Freedom

David’s prediction — This set includes a Holocaust film, a Middle Eastern human rights film, and a follow-your-dreams film, all topics that have fared well in this category in recent years. At the risk of reducing a documentary about the making of Shoah to a stereotype, the Claude Lanzmann doc is also about an old person reminiscing, which voters generally like. That could tip the scales in its favor. But I’m choosing a wildcard about the West African Ebola crisis: Body Team 12.

Best Documentary (Feature)

Amy

Cartel Land

The Look of Silence

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

David’s prediction — What Happened, Miss Simone? is about an artist making a difference, and the Academy likes that.

Best Costume Design

Carol

Cinderella

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

David’s prediction — Sandy Powell is a favorite of the Academy, and if the vote doesn’t split between her two nominated films, she’ll win for Carol.

Best Animated Feature Film

Anomalisa

Boy & The World

Inside Out

Shaun the Sheep Movie

When Marnie Was There

David’s prediction — Though some members may want to bid Studio Ghibli farewell with an Oscar (assuming they don’t make another film), and though Pixar usually wins this category when nominated (and also received a screenplay nod this year), this one will go to Charlie Kaufman’s puppet-based drama Anomalisa. It’s gotten more gushing reviews than some Best Picture nominees. Puppets aren’t usually used to tell adult stories, so this is uncharted territory, but Charlie Kaufman’s brand of Sad Man drama is right up the Academy’s alley.

Best Cinematography

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Sicario

David’s prediction — If there’s one lock on this list, it’s Emmanuel Lubezki for The Revenant. He’ll get his third in three years.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara, Carol

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

David’s prediction — McAdams would have a better chance if her Spotlight character had the same kind of big moment that Mark Ruffalo’s does, but it wouldn’t have fit the character or the movie. Leigh’s character in The Hateful Eight is nothing but big moments, but will the Academy think it’s too cartoonish? Rooney Mara is the only one with both a Golden Globe and a BAFTA nomination, so I think she has the edge.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Christian Bale, The Big Short

Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone, Creed

David’s prediction — Giving Stallone this award would draw attention to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, since Creed has several arguably snubbed performances by black actors. I don’t think that’s why he won’t win, though; he won’t win because Tom Hardy is just that arresting in The Revenant.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett, Carol

Brie Larson, Room

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

David’s prediction Cate Blanchett will win her third in seven nominations.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Matt Damon, The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

David’s prediction — It’s gotta be time for Leo to get his Oscar, right? In a weak field, his demanding and largely solo performance will finally be enough.

Best Directing

The Big Short

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

David’s prediction — It’s easy to see what Alejandro Iñarritu is doing in The Revenant, and that he’s doing it very well. He accepts his film’s fourth award of the night.

Best Picture

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies

Brooklyn

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

David’s prediction — Though its director did not receive so much as a nomination, and though I do not pick it to win any technical awards or even the adapted screenplay category, I say The Martian brings him home at the end of the night. (“Him” is the Oscar statue. Has that joke been made?) It’s just a big, fun, capital-M Movie. With no nominees this year about “the industry,” like Argo and The Artist and arguably Birdman, it’s a fairly open field. Why not a triumphal space adventure for the win? Only three times in history has a movie won Best Picture without winning any other category, and they were all a little while ago. It happened for Mutiny on the Bounty at the 8th Academy Awards in 1936, Grand Hotel at the 5th awards in 1932, and The Broadway Melody at the 2nd awards in 1930, and the odds of such a thing were better then because there were fewer categories. Nevertheless, I think we’re due for history to repeat itself.

I’ll revisit this list after the Oscars to brag or to issue a mea culpa.

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