Jason’s 88th Annual Academy Awards Predictions & Predelictions

88th Annual Academy Awards
My Predictions (what will win) & My Predilections (what should win)

Prognosticators and columnists in the major entertainment rags are all abuzz as a result of such a wide variety of films taking home different awards. “Revenant”, “Mad Max”, “Spotlight”, “The Martian”, “Brooklyn”, “Carol” and “Room” have all won Best Picture from some guild and/or society. It’s such a strange year that there is no mandate as to how one should “consider” Alicia Vikander and Rooney Mara – as a Lead or a Supporting performers in their respective films. And Michael Keaton won Best Actor in the NY Film Critics Awards, but was not even mentioned for Oscars, SAGs or Globes. These journalists seem to think that means it’s going to be difficult to predict this year’s winners.

I disagree. The fact that the combination of nominees has been so inconsistent means the easiest way to figure out the winners is to look at where they HAVE been consistent. Look at where they all intersect and push out those that appear sporadically. Granted, that won’t work for some of the technical and specialty awards, but for the biggies?  Absolutely. As for those other awards, some are quite obvious (big night ahead for the “Mad Max:Fury Road” and “Revenant” design and production teams), and some require an understanding which comes from being amongst the voting body (I see a “Stutterer” in our future).

So, without further ado, here is my cheat sheet for your Oscar’s pool, and my explanations. I average about 90% accuracy over the last decade, so I should be able to help you win.
For a printable Oscar ballot (with my “will wins” and “should wins”), click here.

Best Motion Picture of the Year
The Best Picture award…what does that actually mean? Best crafted? Most affecting? Most important? Best acted? Best realized screenplay? Best buzz? Longest lasting impression?

The only one of the bunch that you can check the yes box for those, and all other questions, is “Spotlight”. That’s why it will win. Well, the OTHER reason it will win is due to the voting process. A film needs a substantial amount of second and third place votes to win, and since people either love or hate “The Revenant”, I don’t think it will garner enough of either to overcome “Spotlight” or even “The Big Short”.

Listen, your mileage may vary…in fact, I thought “Brooklyn” and “Mustang” were better movies. But that doesn’t take away from the overall experience and film-craft of “Spotlight”.

a) The Big Short
b) Bridge of Spies
c) Brooklyn
d) Mad Max: Fury Road
e) The Martian
f) The Revenant
g) Room
h) Spotlight

Will win: Spotlight
Should Win: Spotlight

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Okay. WHERE THE HELL IS MICHAEL KEATON?!?! And how come everyone thinks Leo is so great as he grunts his way across beautiful photography? I think all of these performances have some flaws, and as a result, I think we end up going with sentiment and a publicity juggernaut…meaning Leo gets the win. Me? I thought Fassbender was the best of these particular five, with Cranston nipping on his heels. But seriously, Keaton and Geza Rohrig (“Son of Saul”) gave the year’s best performances.

a) Bryan Cranston
b) Matt Damon
c) Leonardo DiCaprio
d) Michael Fassbender
e) Eddie Redmayne

Will win: Leonardo DiCaprio
Should Win: Michael Fassbender (Keaton/Rohrig)

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
This is probably the year of the Brie. There are no bad choices here, although I wish Sarah Silverman had received some recognition from AMPAS for her performance in “I Smile Back”, a performance I am a huge champion of. Out of these five, I thought Saoirse Ronan’s is the best by more than a little bit, but Larson is outstanding and, since the book is so well loved, it’ll guarantee her the statuette… and I have no problem with that at all. She’s awesome.

a) Cate Blanchett
b) Brie Larson
c) Jennifer Lawrence
d) Charlotte Rampling
e) Saoirse Ronan

Will win: Brie Larson
Should Win: Saoirse Ronan

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Mark Rylance can’t get a break! I’m sure he’d be the first to say that the #OscarsSoWhite campaign is important…however, that very campaign is going to deny him at least three deserved trophies for his mantle…including this one. There is a huge groundswell of sentimental support for Sly (and his AMAZING performance in “Creed”), and the fact that it is one of only three nominations from movies by and about the African American experience, means we’ll be hearing Bill Conti’s old theme when the winner of this category is announced. Even if Mark Rylance gives one of the best supporting performances of the decade.

a) Christian Bale (The Big Short)
b) Tom Hardy (The Revenant)
c) Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)
d) Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) (JS)
e) Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

Will win: Sly Stallone
Should Win: Mark Rylance

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Okay, this one is obvious to me, but maybe not the whole voting body. Rooney Mara (like Vikander) is NOT a supporting player in “Carol”. In fact, in my eyes she would not be a bad choice for Best Lead performance. She’s sensational and handles all the many layers necessary to pull off this film’s premise (young love in a world that is terrified of that love’s existence). But, alas, Vikander seems to be on a runaway train headed directly toward the Hollywood & Highland Red Line station.

a) Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
b) Rooney Mara (Carol)
c) Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)
d) Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)
e) Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

Will win: Alicia Vikander
Should Win: Rooney Mara

Achievement in Directing
No bad choices here, as all are deserving of the recognition. But Inarritu has so much momentum, and the film is 98% directorial style, so he gets the Oscar this year. If I had a vote? I thought Adam McKay’s work on “The Big Short” showed the most creativity compared to the text it was based on. And since Spotlight is my pick for Best Picture, Tom McCarthy is right behind him.

a) The Big Short (Adam McKay)
b) Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
c) The Revenant (Alejandro G. Inarritu)
d) Room (Lenny Abrahamson)
e) Spotlight (Tom McCarthy)

Will win: The Revenant (Alejandro G. Innaritu)
Should Win: Spotlight (Tom McCarthy)/ The Big Short (Adam McKay)

Best Original Screenplay
So, let’s assume, for these purposes, that “Spotlight” is going to win Best Picture. If so, it needs to win at least ONE other major award. This is it. “Spies” and “Machina” have no shot. “Compton” and “Inside Out” will get votes from those who thought it should have been recognized with a Best Picture nomination. But “Spotlight” is easily the best written of the bunch. You know you did something right when you’re film is being compared favorably to “All the President’s Men”.

a) Bridge of Spies
b) Ex Machina
c) Inside Out
d) Spotlight
e) Straight Outta Compton

Will win: Spotlight
Should Win: Spotlight/Inside Out

Best Adapted Screenplay
No film does more with its parent text than “The Big Short”. Don’t get me wrong, the others all have fantastic scripts, but when you can make a dry text book this much fun and so emotionally loaded…it’s on a different level. The rest are simply very, very good adaptations.


a) The Big Short
b) Brooklyn
c) Carol
d) The Martian
e) Room

Will win: The Big Short
Should Win: The Big Short

Achievement in Film Editing
This looks to be the only real bummer for me. Yes, the editing in Mad Max is spectacular, and yes, without it the movie withers and dies. But Hank Corwin took a crazy bunch of disjointed scenes based on one of the driest books written, based on an even drier subject, and crafted it in to something hysterically funny, poignant and important. He’s my winner. And, although I hope I’m wrong, he’s going to be robbed by the flashier film.

a) The Big Short (Hank Corwin)
b) Mad Max: Fury Road (Margaret Sixel)
c) The Revenant (Stephen Mirrione)
d) Spotlight (Tom McArdie)
e) Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey)

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win: The Big Short

Achievement in Cinematography
Another easy choice. “Carol” and “Hateful Eight” have beautiful moments throughout. But Lubezki’s work makes the imagery of “The Revenant” impossible to forget…even if the movie itself never meets that standard.

a) Carol (Edward Lachman)
b) The Hateful Eight (Robert Richman)
c) Mad Max: Fury Road (John Seale)
d) The Revenant (Emmanuel Lubezki)
e) Sicario (Roger Deakins)

Will win: The Revenant
Should Win: The Revenant

Achievement in Production Design
So, this, being the year of the “Max,” is another shoo-in. Colin Gibson has created an incredibly full and thrilling world…out of nothing but desert and gasoline. Watch this interview to see how he did it….or don’t. Either way, in your Oscar pool…he’s your winner.

a) Bridge of Spies
b) The Danish Girl
c) Mad Max: Fury Road
d) The Martian
e) The Revenant

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Animated Feature Film
I still have no idea how “Inside Out” was not nominated for Best Picture. If any animated film ever deserved such honors, it is this one. Nonetheless, it will win this award…quite possibly with the highest percentage of votes ever (not that we’ll ever know). “Anomalisa”, while incredibly original, is just too melancholic. The other three are lovely films, but “Inside Out” has one of the most original takes on pre-adolescent emotional reaction ever made…animated or no…which means it speaks just as forcefully to adults as it does to children. It would be a bigger upset than the Broncos beating the Panthers if this film were to somehow NOT win the award.

a) Anomalisa
b) Boy & The World
c) Inside Out
d) Shaun the Sheep movie
e) When Marnie Was There

Will win: Inside Out
Should Win: Inside Out

Best Animated Short Film
Short films are hard to prognosticate, especially when there is no clear cut choice. This year’s crop of animated shorts are a bizarre group, but “The Bear Story” has the proper mix of wow, plot, and sentimentality that voters usually look for. The only way “Bear” loses is if, somehow, Pixar/Disney makes a big push and convince voters to go with “Sanjay”. This would not be unusual, but would be a shame. My favorite, “Cosmos”, has no shot, but, boy oh boy, is it good.

bearstory squareNominees:
a) Bear Story
b) Prologue
c) Sanjay’s Super Team
d) We Can’t Live Without the Cosmos
e) World of Tomorrow

Will win: Bear Story
Should Win: We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

Best Documentary Feature
I had high hopes for “Cartel Land”, but it’s just not very good. “Winter on Fire” won’t be seen by enough voters. “Amy” and “Simone” are almost the same film…except “Amy” is more accessible, enjoyable, and fulfilling (even if Netflix is spending a buttload of promo dollars). So it’ll come down to  a race between “Amy” and “The Look of Silence” (which  isn’t nearly as good as its predecessor, “Act of Killing”). But since “Killing”, which is one of the most affecting documentaries ever made, lost to “Twenty Feet From Stardom” in 2012, there will be many voters who will want to reward Joshua Oppenheimer this year. In fact, an argument could be made that “Silence” shouldn’t have even been eligible this year ( it was released in 2014), while “Amy” had a wide and extremely well received theatrical release this past summer,  I expect Ms. Winehouse’s goodbye love letter to get the win. Besides…pop cultural examinations tend to beat historical morality tales (except when the Holocaust is involved).

a) Amy
b) Cartel Land
c) The Look of Silence
d) What Happened, Miss Simone?
e) Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Will win: Amy
Should Win: Amy

Best Documentary Short Subject
<sigh> These left my local theater in days, so I failed to see them. This prediction is solely based on buzz and reviews…and the fact that it’s about the man who made the most detailed and exhaustive documentary of the Holocaust thirty years ago.

a) Body Team 12
b) Chau, beyond the Lines
c) Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of Shoah
d) A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
e) Last Day of Freedom

Will win: Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of Shoah
Should Win: Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of Shoah

Best Live-Action Short Film
Every year I say “they couldn’t possibly ignore this film…it’s so good!” And every year…they choose the silly one. When it comes to the Live Action shorts and the Academy Awards, up is down, down is up. That said, I think “Stutterer” (which wasn’t my favorite, that goes to “Shok”) might be too good to pass up for voters. But, y’know, maybe hedge your bet and go with the silly one (“Ave Maria”). When it comes to AMPAS voters, silly often takes this prize.

a) Ave Maria
b) Day One
c) Everything Will Be Okay
d) Shok (Friend)
e) Stutterer

Will win: Stutterer
Should Win: Shok

Best Foreign-Language Film
“Son of Saul” is quite possibly one of the most important films ever made.
“Mustang” is my favorite movie of the year – but not nearly as important as “Saul”.
“Embrace” is unique, but not as affecting as “Mustang”.
“Theeb” is very thin on plot, unlike “Embrace”.
“A War” is just plain boring – which cannot be said of “Theeb”.
See where I’m headed here?

a) Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia)
b) Mustang (France)
c) Son of Saul (Hungary)
d) Theeb (Jordan)
e) A War (Denmark)

Will win: Son of Saul
Should Win: Son of Saul

Achievement in Costume Design
Poor Sandy Powell. Her incredible costumes led to TWO nominations…and that’s going to be the reason she loses. She might eke out a win for her work in “Carol”, but chances are  Jenny Beavan is the beneficiary due to Ms. Powell’s votes being split by those who loved “Cinderella”. Whatever the reason, Beavan’s “Mad Max” costumes are OUT there! Give it to her!

a) Carol (Sandy Powell)
b) Cinderella (Sandy Powell)
c) The Danish Girl (Paco Delgado)
d) Mad Max: Fury Road (Jenny Beavan)
e) The Revenant (Jacqueline West)

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
I’m not going to pretend I know a lot about this category, but it’s a 50-50 proposition, since “The 100-Year-Old Man…” was seen by about five people. And, while “The Revenant” boasts some amazing post-Bear attack markings, “Mad Max” has about 300 actors with unique craziness all over their bodies.

a) Mad Max: Fury Road
b) The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window…
c) The Revenant

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road


Achievement in Visual Effects
The first three Star Wars releases all won this award. Odds are this one does, as well. But “Mad Max” manages to make every one of its effects seem like it’s happening in a non-make believe environment. For me, that puts it slightly ahead. Don’t get me wrong, the effects in Star Wars are breathtaking…but they suffer a bit from the fantasy element…and from the fact that they hearken to those earlier Star Wars films, so they seem a little “been there done that.” Regardless, either is a worthy winner…as is “The Revenant”, really. But I’ll base my prediction on prior results.

a) Ex Machina
b) Mad Max: Fury Road
c) Star Wars: The Force Awakens
d) The Martian
e) The Revenant

Will win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Achievement in Sound Mixing (best mix of sound, dialogue, music etc.)
Some great choices here, but NONE come close to being as effective as the work done by Chris Duesterdiek, Frank A. Montaño, Jon Taylor & Randy Thom. Watch this short doc to get a better understanding of why that is so!

a) Bridge of Spies
b) Mad Max: Fury Road
c) The Martian
d) The Revenant
e) Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win: The Revenant
Should Win: The Revenant

Achievement in Sound Editing (best creation of sound other than music – sound fx)
Watch this and tell me my prediction is wrong (spoiler alert – actual scene from film).


a) Mad Max: Fury Road
b) The Martian
c) The Revenant
d) Sicario
e) Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original SCORE)
“And the Oscar goes to…Theodore Shapiro for “Trumbo”!” Wait…what? Not nominated? Wow. Okay…so….”The Oscar goes to Ryuichi Sakamoto for “The Revenant”!”  I’m sorry…WHAT?! So you’re telling me the two best scores of the year weren’t even nominated? Oy. Fine. Just give it to Ennio. He’s god, so that’s cool. Just know that, in my estimation, Burwell deserved it a little bit more this year.

a) Bridge of Spies – Thomas Newman
b) Carol – Carter Burwell
c) Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone
d) Sicario – Johann Johannsson
e) Star Wars: The Force Awakens – John Williams

Will win: The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone
Should Win: Carol – Carter Burwell

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original SONG)
Sorry, but I can’t believe this award still exists. Rarely do nominated songs have ANYTHING to do with their respective film, and haven’t in decades. This year, however, there are TWO exceptions to that axiom. “Simple Song #3” is so integral, there would simply be no film without it. And, of course, “Til It Happens To You” could actually replace the whole of the film, summing up its entire purpose in just a few short minutes. It’ll win…but don’t hate me if I’d rather see “Simple Song” win. As an aging man, “Youth” destroyed me.

a) “Earned It” (Fifty Shades of Grey)
b) “Manta Ray” (Racing Extinction)
c) “Simple Song #3” (Youth)
d) “Til It Happens To You” (The Hunting Ground)
e) “Writing’s On The Wall” (Spectre)

Will win: “Til It Happens To You”
Should Win: “Simple Song #3”

So best of luck in your pools and have fun watching Chris Rock make everyone uncomfortable.I’ll see you at the Oscars!!!

Written 2/22/2016

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