Oscars 2016: Who Will Win, Who Should Win

5:00 AM 2/27/2016

by Scott Feinberg and Todd McCarthy

It looks like a good night ahead for Leo, Sly and the super-smart screenwriters who cracked 'The Big Short,' as THR's awards analyst Scott Feinberg predicts the winners and THR's chief film critic Todd McCarthy offers his picks for who really deserves the Academy Award.

John Landgraf - H 2016
Illustration by Jason Raish

  • Best Picture

    WILL WIN: The Revenant

    Different films were honored by the guilds of producers (The Big Short), actors (Spotlight) and directors (The Revenant). But only one was a blockbuster, won top Golden Globe and BAFTA awards and landed 12 nominations. So even if its reviews weren't quite up to those of its rivals, and though no pic has won without a screenplay nom in 18 years, one still has to pick it.

    SHOULD WIN: Brooklyn

    Brooklyn reduced me to an unaccustomed state of helpless emotional discombobulation when I saw it at Sundance more than a year ago, and it remains my favorite English-language film of 2015. To those who state that it's "fine" but rather old-fashioned, I would argue that making a first-class love story in the classical vein is one of the hardest things to do in film today.

  • Best Director

    WILL WIN: Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant

    It's extremely rare to win this prize in back-to-back years — only John Ford (74 years ago) and Joseph L. Mankiewicz (65 years ago) managed it — but with his BAFTA and DGA wins, this Mexico-born filmmaker, who won last year for Birdman, seems likely to hold off George Miller, Tom McCarthy and Adam McKay and accomplish that feat.

    SHOULD WIN: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

    This race boils down to two finalists, George Miller and Alejandro G. Inarritu, who could arm wrestle each other over who experienced the more arduous shoot and pulled off the most jaw-dropping sequences. Inarritu won last year, of course, so partly for that reason, as well as for the fresh inventions of Mad Max: Fury Road, Miller is the man.

  • Best Actor

    WILL WIN: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

    Leonardo DiCaprio is both popular with the public and respected within the industry. It has been 22 years since his first acting nom, and all indicators — not least the results of every other awards show, including the strongly predictive SAG — suggest that his fifth acting nom, for an almost silent and heavily physical performance, will deliver his first win.

    SHOULD WIN: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

    A coronation of Leonardo DiCaprio seemingly is in the offing. I have no problem with that given his track record, plus the fact that three of the other nominees — Bryan Cranston, Matt Damon and Michael Fassbender — are strong but not stellar, while the other, the moist and wispy Eddie Redmayne, is just annoyingly precious.

  • Best Actress

    WILL WIN: Brie Larson, Room

    This breakout star of a best picture nominee has swept all of the big precursor prizes — Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA — which makes an upset highly unlikely. If one were to happen, it would come from Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn, which also carries a best pic nomination, or more likely 45 Years' Charlotte Rampling, the one true vet nominated.

    SHOULD WIN: Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

    The climax of 45 Years remains perhaps the most devastating ending to any film last year, all because of the astonishing work of Charlotte Rampling, who gives her career-best performance. Rampling's unusual career had not put her on the path to become one of the grande dames of British acting, but it's now clear she could become one if she wants to.

  • Best Supporting Actor

    WILL WIN: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

    Not long ago, a Sylvester Stallone win would have been as unfathomable as Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock wins once were, but voters love a great narrative. During the 39 years since his previous noms, for the first Rocky, he's made lots of crap, but he hung in there and in this film rose to the occasion. Expect him to win by a TKO over the other four nominees.

    SHOULD WIN: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

    The three Brits — Christian Bale, Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance — are fine, and Mark Ruffalo is one of the main attractions of the overrated Spotlight. But after appearing in fewer than a half-dozen films over the past 35 years that were worth seeing, Sylvester Stallone is like a warm encounter with a long-lost friend in the old neighborhood. It's virtually impossible to deny him.

  • Best Supporting Actress

    WILL WIN: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

    Don't write off Steve Jobs' Kate Winslet, who won Golden Globe and BAFTA awards over Alicia Vikander (though the Swedish actress was up for Ex Machina). But give the "It" girl the edge: She's new, excelled in two pics, is really a co-lead and won Critics' Choice and SAG awards (only one person, Kathy Bates for Primary Colors, has won both but lost the Oscar).

    SHOULD WIN: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

    The grande dame in this category, Kate Winslet, turns out to be still quite young. It took many of us a few minutes to realize who was playing Steve Jobs' invaluable right hand and the only person who could stand up to him, something Winslet did with uncanny authority alongside Michael Fassbender's dominant turn. Alicia Vikander had less trouble stealing her film.

  • Best Original Screenplay

    WILL WIN: Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy Spotlight

    Quirky scripts like Ex Machina or Inside Out tend to do well in this category, and some members might vote — genuinely, or to show they're not racist — for Straight Outta Compton (this is its sole nom). But Spotlight won Critics' Choice, WGA and BAFTA prizes, among others, and I expect voters to seize this chance to honor its nominated director Tom McCarthy.

    SHOULD WIN: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Ronnie del Carmen, Inside Out

    Three scripts adroitly compress complex events into manageable dramatic terms ­— Bridge of Spies, Spotlight and Straight Outta Compton — and two are wildly imaginative and take you someplace new — Ex Machina and Inside Out. A tough call, but I'll go for the breathtaking originality of Inside Out.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay

    WILL WIN: Charles Randolph, Adam McKay, The Big Short

    Four films represented in this category also are up for best pic, and the fifth just missed. So all have a shot. The Martian looked like the early favorite, but The Big Short won the Critics' Choice, WGA and BAFTA prizes, among others, and offers voters a chance to celebrate the film's nominated director, Adam McKay.

    SHOULD WIN: Charles Randolph, Adam McKay, The Big Short

    Nick Hornby's Brooklyn always will be a model adaptation. But The Big Short is even more unusual and rare. It shapes an inherently uncinematic financial scandal into a reasonably coherent narrative, turning a tragic story into tragicomedy, provoking righteous anger in the bargain. A very shrewd, wise and talented work.

  • Best Documentary Feature

    WILL WIN: Amy

    Few voters watch all the nominees. They are likely to opt for this up-close look at the life and death of Amy Winehouse, the most buzzed-about and widely appealing option. Netflix could have posed a bigger threat for an upset if it had one nominee, instead of two — What Happened, Miss Simone? and Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom.


    The lineup here is strong and competitive; it would be far from disgraceful for any of them to win. The material was familiar — Mexican cartels, the crisis in Ukraine, Indonesian political murder squads, two brilliant and tragic female singers — but each film illuminated its subject far beyond anything expected. Still, one film felt a tad more definitive: Asif Kapadia's Amy.

  • Best Foreign-Language Film

    WILL WIN: Son of Saul

    Holocaust-related films nominated in this category nearly always win. This one comes with rave reviews and tons of other awards, including prizes from the top critics groups on both coasts and NBR, Critics' Choice and Golden Globe wins. If voters watch all five nominees, France's Mustang would give it a run for its money — but they usually don't.

    SHOULD WIN: Son of Saul

    The foreign contenders this year are fresh and diverse. All the same, one film stands tall above the others, that being Son of Saul, Laszlo Nemes' devastating, judiciously intelligent and prudently subjective rendering of a particular concentration camp experience. It immediately takes its place among the major Holocaust features.

  • Best Animated Feature

    WILL WIN: Inside Out

    Talk about a slam dunk. Only once has this award been won by a stop-motion pic (sorry, Anomalisa and Shaun the Sheep Movie) or a non-English-language pic (adios, Boy & the World and When Marnie Was There). Plus, the last time a Disney-Pixar pic was nominated and lost was in 2007 — and each time one wins, more studio employees become voters, leading to more wins.

    SHOULD WIN: Anomalisa

    There are two biggies here: the clever, poignant and mainstream Inside Out and the weird, touching and private Anomalisa. The unexpected aspects of the latter, both in subject matter and artistic treatment, caught everyone off guard and continue to resonate in singular, private ways that have few parallels in American animation.



  • Best Cinematography

    WILL WIN: The Revenant

    It’s an outrage that Sicario’s Roger Deakins is still winless, but only his film’s name appears on the ballot, not his, which undercuts his chances. It’s unfathomable that this award won’t go to Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki for The Revenant, which will make him the first person ever to win this prize three years in a row (after Gravity and Birdman).

  • Best Costume Design

    WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

    Costumes from period movies have historically done better than costumes from fantasy movies, which is why I’m tempted to pick Carol or The Danish Girl. But in light of the fact that Mad Max won Critics’ Choice, BAFTA and Costume Designers Guild awards, and will benefit from coattails that the others won’t, I’m going with it.

  • Best Film Editing

    WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

    While the American Cinema Editors recognized both Mad Max (best edited drama) and The Big Short (best edited comedy), Mad Max — which was edited by Margaret Sixel, director George Miller’s wife — beat Short to win the BAFTA (the only group that anticipated last year’s surprise winner) and Critics’ Choice prizes.

  • Best Makeup & Hair Styling

    WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

    Since virtually no Academy members saw The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, this is between The Revenant and Mad Max. Since the makeup in The Revenant is not nearly as flashy as the makeup in Mad Max, I’m picking the latter. If the former wins early in the night, brace yourself for a big sweep.

  • Best Original Score

    WILL WIN: The Hateful Eight

    The legendary Ennio Morricone has never won a competitive Oscar — he got an honorary one in 2007 — but he’s the favorite for The Hateful Eight, having won Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe and BAFTA prizes. Still, his name is not on the ballot, so Bridge of Spies (Thomas Newman) or Star Wars: The Force Awakens (John Williams) could upset.

  • Best Original Song

    WILL WIN: "Til It Happens to You" (The Hunting Ground)

    The eighth nom should be the charm for perennial bridesmaid Diane Warren, who collaborated with superstar Lady Gaga on the powerful and personal anthem “Til It Happens to You.” Still, since artists’ names don’t appear on the ballot, and the only widely seen nominees were Spectre and Fifty Shades of Grey, don’t totally count out Golden Globe winner “Writing’s on the Wall” or Grammy winner “Earned It.”

  • Best Production Design

    WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

    The Art Directors Guild picked three winners — Revenant (best design of a period film), Martian (best design of a contemporary film) and Mad Max (best design of a fantasy film) — but BAFTA had to pick just one: Mad Max. In recognition of its creation of a large-scale world and attention to every detail of it, I bet the Academy will do the same.

  • Best Sound Editing

    WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

    Most voters have no idea what the difference is between sound editing and sound mixing. In the sound editing category, they tend to back their favorite action movie and/or the overall noisiest nominee. I’m betting that translates into a few more votes for Mad Max, with its churning engines and explosions, than for The Revenant or Star Wars.

  • Best Sound Mixing

    WILL WIN: The Revenant

    In most years, voters, while generally not grasping the distinction between sound editing and sound mixing, nevertheless award the two prizes to different films, almost as if to cover their bases. In light of the result of the best sound BAFTA Award, and partly to cover my own bases, I’m going with The Revenant in this category.

  • Best Visual Effects

    WILL WIN: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

    Only once has a nominee in this category that was also nominated for best picture lost to a nominee in this category that was not — 45 years ago. Nevertheless, I’m picking Star Wars over The Revenant (with its amazing bear sequence), Mad Max and The Martian, because voters so closely associate Star Wars with VFX (the first three installments won).

  • Best Animated Short

    WILL WIN: Bear Story

    Sanjay’s Super Team will benefit from Disney-Pixar’s bloc of voters who can be counted on to back it, but I think this is between futuristic World of Tomorrow, which won at Sundance and is airing on Netflix, and sentimental Bear Story. Voters have historically been less interested in edgy ideas or animation than in stories that move them, so bet Bear.

  • Best Documentary Short

    WILL WIN: Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah

    Considering that this category’s winner is almost always inspirational, this should be a three-way race between Body Team 12, Chau: Beyond the Lines and Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah. I’m picking the third, an HBO release, not only because it’s well done, but because the names of the person and event in its title will attract votes, as well.

  • Best Live-Action Short

    WILL WIN: Day One

    Comedic shorts, like Ave Maria, and shorts about children in peril, like Shok and Everything Will Be Okay, have strong track records in this category. But, in a close race, I give the edge to the only nominee that is American-made and in the English language, Day One, which also displays the greatest potential of becoming a feature.