Mavericks’s Movies Final Oscar Winner Predictions

It’s that time of year again. Below are my annual Oscar predictions. The last two years I’ve mentioned how difficult the awards were going to be to predict, but this year is really something else. Since December, this season has been one of the most unpredictable races I’ve seen. Spotlight began the season as the clear frontrunner, then The Big Short came out of nowhere to take the lead, with The Revenant finally stealing all the momentum in the last few weeks. In all the year’s I’ve followed the Oscars (since 2002), I have never seen a three horse race for Best Picture. At most it was film vs film (Birdman vs Boyhood, 12 Years a Slave vs Gravity). And here’s the thing, no matter which of the three films wins, long-standing statistics are going to be broken. No film has won Best Picture without a SAG ensemble nomination (The Revenant) since 1995 or without either a WGA or Oscar screenplay nomination since the 1940s. No film has won Best Picture with 2 or fewer wins total since 1952 which will likely be the case if The Big Short or Spotlight win Best Picture. So buckle up…it’s going to be a weird night. I usually average between 21 and 24 out of 24 categories correctly. This year, I’m honestly not sure. I don’t like admitting uncertainty, but this year me (and every Oscar pundit on the internet) is going into the ceremony blind.

Picture: The Revenant

Alt. Spotlight, The Big Short


Most Oscar pundits are going with The Revenant here. It seems to have pulled a Million Dollar Baby and stolen all of the Best Picture momentum in the last few weeks. After missing crucial nominations from SAG (the screen actors guild) and the WGA (Writer’s Guild), and losing the win from the PGA (Producer’s Guild), which has chosen the same winner as the final Oscar winner since The Academy expanded Best Picture beyond 5 nominees in 2008, The Revenant racked up a killing at the box office, dramatically over performed on Oscar Nomination morning, won The Golden Globe for Picture and Director, the DGA (Director’s Guild), and the BAFTA (British Academy Awards). That’s a hell of a combination. The big question is: only the PGA uses the same voting system as The Academy (a preferential—ranked—ballot system). That system favors consensus films (films that get lots of #2 and #3 rankings). The Revenant lost the last time a group used this system. It’s incredibly divisive, meaning there’s a possibility it gets lots of #1s, but also lots of #8s, which makes it more vulnerable than many assume. Spotlight and The Big Short on the other hand will get those #2s and #3s. They’re less divisive than The Revenant, and feature “important movie” narratives. And believe me, those studios are riding those “important” narratives as hard as possible. Los Angeles is covered with posters and billboards for Spotlight with pictures of sexual abuse victims in the film crying and covered with quotes about victims that have come forward since the film’s release. The film’s twitter hashtag, #breakthesilence was one of the top trends last week. Trust me, voters love to feel good about themselves. This film has the actor’s support as is evidenced by its SAG win, and swept the critic’s awards. Don’t count this one out. I’m going with The Revenant, but my gut screams Spotlight. And then of course, The Big Short has its PGA win, which means in The Academy’s particular voting method, it does very well. It is one hell of a race.

Will certainty percentage: 35% (Bet your money on any of the three and you’re probably just as safe)

Director: Alejandro G. Inarritu- The Revenant

Alt. Adam McKay- The Big Short

This looks to be Inarritu’s Oscar. He won the DGA, the BAFTA, and The Golden Globe, as well as a slew of critic’s awards. The only thing that has me hesitating is the fact that it’s been more than 60 years since a Director won two Oscars back to back (he won Best Director last year for Birdman) and it would be the first time EVER a director won two Best Pictures back to back. But the direction is flashy, everybody knows how difficult the shoot was, and three of the other four nominees have comparatively subtle direction. If AMPAS really goes hard for The Big Short, they could choose Adam McKay, or if they’re feeling really wild, they could choose George Miller for Mad Max, but neither has the precursors to suggest that that will happen (even if Miller swept the critic’s awards).

Will certainty percentage: 80%

Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio- The Revenant

Alt. Him losing this award is a scientific impossibility. Not even gonna bother with an alt.

DiCaprio’s not losing. The category is weak this year, and he has a massive ‘overdue’ narrative going for him (just like Al Pacino and Paul Newman before him). Is this DiCaprio’s most deserving performance? No, of course not. But people want to see him win (he gets enormous standing ovations every time he wins), he’s in a best picture frontrunner, he’s won SAG, BAFTA, BFCA, The Golden Globe, and a slew of critic’s awards.

Will certainty percentage: 100% (If I’m wrong, the internet will collapse and my wrong prediction is the least of your problems)

Actress: Brie Larson- Room

Alt. See DiCaprio above

Larson has done a clean sweep of awards this year, just like DiCaprio. There really isn’t anyone who could challenge her (much as I would love to see Ronan do so).

Will certainty percentage: 95%

Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander- The Danish Girl

Alt. Kate Winslet- Steve Jobs

Alicia Vikander will win for two reasons: A) she had an amazing breakout year in 2015, starring in The Danish Girl, Ex Machina (for which she won more awards than The Danish Girl), Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Burnt and B) because hers is unequivocally a leading performance. If one runs the numbers, she is on screen almost exactly as much as Redmayne, and the film focuses more on her journey than on his. She’s on screen only 5 minutes less than Lead Actress frontrunner, Brie Larson. When you have the screen time of a lead to show off, chances are, you’re more likely to win than a true supporting performance with 15-20 minutes of screen time. (Rooney Mara also committed similar category fraud for Carol, but lacked the ‘breakthrough year’ narrative to win). Kate Winslet stands in second place in the category with BAFTA and Golden Globe wins, but one must take into account that both of those groups placed Vikander appropriately in lead, so the two were never competing with one another. Vikander has the SAG, the most important acting precursor, and the BFCA, plus the majority of critic’s awards.

Will certainty percentage: 85%

Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone- Creed

Alt. Mark Rylance- Bridge of Spies

Just like the character he plays, Stallone has been a perpetual underdog when it comes to awards. Forty years ago, he lost Best Actor for the original Rocky, while his film took home Awards for Picture and Director. This year, he missed SAG and BAFTA nominations, which typically would be a kiss of death for any hopeful victor (only two actors have EVER won an Oscar without a SAG nomination- Marcia Gay Harden for Pollock and Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained), but his comeback narrative has gotten people so on board (the idea of Stallone being…good again + playing the same character 40 years later gets people’s emotions going…and never underestimate the significance of sentimentality among voters). He keeps getting standing ovations at awards shows, and there isn’t a consistent alternative to choose from. Mark Ruffalo and Tom Hardy also missed SAG nominations and don’t have the narrative the Stallone has. Christian Bale won recently and doesn’t seem to have much passion behind the performance. Plus, neither he nor Mark Rylance were able to beat Idris Elba at the SAGs (when Elba wasn’t even nominated for the Oscar), which suggests a distinct lack of passion. If anyone beats Sly, it’ll be Rylance, the BAFTA winner. And yes…that could happen…but I think emotion will push Stallone to victory.

Will certainty percentage: 75%

Original Screenplay: Spotlight

Alt. Inside Out

Spotlight has won nearly every award given out for Original Screenplay this year, industry and critic alike. And the fact that the film was the clear frontrunner for Best Picture all December means it has a lot of support, much of which is due to its screenplay. This win is one of the safest bets of the night.

Will certainty percentage: 95%

Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short

Alt. Room

As another Best Picture frontrunner, this one has to win SOMETHING to go along with its potential Best Picture win. It has won of slew of Adapted Screenplay prizes (most importantly, the WGA and BAFTA), and serves as a way to reward Adam McKay for his transition from creator of Will Ferrell comedies into acclaimed creator of dramas without giving him Best Director.

Will certainty percentage: 90%

Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road

Alt. The Big Short

When in doubt with this category, go for flashy. Voters love flashy editing (hence Whiplash winning here over frontrunner, Boyhood last year and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo winning over The Artist in 2011). Mad Max has won the majority of the season’s editing prizes, in particular, the ACE (American Cinema Editors). And it’s about as flashy as editing gets this year. Its chief rival here is The Big Short, which is also really, really flashy in its editing, but more divisive. If Big Short, Spotlight, or The Revenant upset over Mad Max here, it will be a major clue as to who is winning Best Picture.

Will certainty percentage: 78%

Cinematography: The Revenant

Alt. Mad Max: Fury Road

Why did I even include an alt. here? This win has been locked in for a year. Fun fact, this will be Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s third win for Cinematography in a row.

Will certainty percentage: 98%

 Production Design: Mad Max: Fury Road

Alt. The Revenant, The Danish Girl

This is a weird year for Production Design. If either winner of the ADG (Art Directors Guild) wins (and one of them usually does) it will make for an incredibly atypical winner. Mad Max and The Revenant each won the ADG in their respective categories and both take place almost entirely outside…which means there aren’t a whole lot of sets…which is the definition of production design. A win here would be for Mad Max’s car designs or for The Revenant’s location scouting, two factors that in theory factor into the category, but never have before. The fact that neither is a clear frontrunner evokes 2012 or 2010, where any film in the category had a chance at the win (Anna Karenina and Life of Pi were duking it out in 2012 and King’s Speech and Inception were doing the same in 2010). In both cases, both frontrunners missed out for a surprising underdog: Lincoln and Alice in Wonderland respectively. So this year, two atypical frontrunners could cancel each other out, leaving room for the more traditional winner, The Danish Girl to take the prize.

Will certainty percentage: 65%

Costume Design: The Danish Girl

Alt. Mad Max Fury Road Carol, Cinderella

Like Production Design, this is a bit of a weird year. Mad Max won its category at the CDG (Costume Designer’s Guild) as well as the BAFTA and the BFCA. On the other hand, it would probably be the most atypical win in the category’s history. This is a category that loves classy period garb (The Great Gatsby, The Young Victoria, Marie Antoinette, etc). Which leads to The Danish Girl. The film isn’t particularly loved, but honestly, many of the winners in this category aren’t. This rewards the team who convincingly made Eddie Redmayne look like a woman, not to mention clothed dozens of extras in realistic period garb. The film also beat double nominee Sandy Powell at the Costume Designer’s Guild in the period category. I really could go either way on this one. And then three time winner Sandy Powell could manage to win for either Carol or Cinderella. It’s a weird category.

Will certainty percentage: 35% (God helps us all)

Makeup & Hairstyling: Mad Max: Fury Road

Alt. The Revenant

This is a category that will give an early idea of just how popular The Revenant is with voters. Tradition dictates that the film more likely to be a Best Picture contender wins over the flashier blockbuster in this category (Grand Budapest Hotel over Guardians of the Galaxy, Dallas Buyers Club over Lone Ranger and Bad Grandpa, Les Miserables over The Hobbit, etc) but here’s the thing…the flashier blockbuster (Mad Max) is also a Best Picture contender (although less than The Revenant). And flashy makeup in a Best Picture contender usually wins over subtle makeup in a Best Picture contender (Lord of the Rings films over A Beautiful Mind and Master and Commander). Mad Max also swept the Makeup and Hairstylist Guild Awards and won the BAFTA in the category as well. If they go full tech sweep for The Revenant, it could upset here, but Mad Max is the one to beat here.

Will certainty percentage: 75%

Sound Mixing: The Revenant

Alt. Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max seemed like the obvious winner here for most of the season, but The Revenant has slowly snatched all the momentum in tech categories across the board, winning both the CAS (Cinema Audio Society) and the BAFTA for sound. Films that win both categories seldom lose the Oscar. And sure, Mad Max’s sound work may be flashier, but The Revenant’s is showy as well, creating an all-encompassing natural sound scape that borders on surreal (DiCaprio breathing over the clouds, etc). Sound is crucial to the whole film experience here, and as cool as it would be to reward Mad Max for its wonderful mixing of diagetic and non-diagetic music (looking at you flamethrower guitar guy), chances are Frank A. Montaño (who is on his eight sound mixing nomination without ever winning) and the rest of The Revenant sound mixing team take this one home.

Will certainty percentage: 78%

Sound Editing: The Revenant

Alt. Mad Max: Fury Road

This is slightly more difficult to predict, as the MPSE (Motion Picture Sound Editors) aren’t announcing winners until after The Oscars, so we aren’t able to tell which film the industry prefers in that category. That being said, if you want to be safe here, don’t predict splits between the two sound categories…largely because many voters don’t know the difference between mixing and editing and just vote for the same film in both. You really only see splits when a film is ONLY nominated in Sound Mixing and not in editing (Les Miserables, Whiplash, Dreamgirls, etc). So honestly, Mad Max has the showier Sound Editing and would seem like a typical winner in this category, but The Revenant is probably taking Sound Mixing, so you might as well predict it in Editing as well.

Will Certainty percentage: 68%

Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Alt. Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant

This is another tough one. There is a long standing statistic against non-Best Picture nominees in this category: No Best Picture nominee has lost Visual Effects when nominated since 1970, when Patton lost to Tora Tora Tora. This is largely due to the fact that voters often simply vote for their favorite film in this category (see Hugo and Forrest Gump winning). The problem is, this year THREE of the five visual effects nominees are also Best Picture nominees. You never see that kind of overlap in this category. So, going by statistics, one would assume that the award would come down to Mad Max, The Revenant, or The Martian. But here’s the thing, Star Wars won the VES (Visual Effects Society) and the BAFTA for Visual Effects, a combination that seldom loses. And you have to wonder if the statistic against non Best Picture nominees in this category has to do more with the fact that voters often simply didn’t bother to watch films that were only nominated in the Visual Effects category and nowhere else. With Star Wars, however, you can safely guess that just about every voter in The Academy saw the film. This is really a Star Wars vs Mad Max race. Mad Max has history on its side and will win at least a few other tech awards, plus it has plenty of talk about its impressive use of practical effects. Star Wars has won the most important precursors, and one gets the feeling that the industry will want to reward the film that made it billions.

Will certainty percentage: 70%

Original Score: The Hateful Eight- Ennio Morricone

Alt. Carol- Carter Burwell, Thomas Newman- Bridge of Spies

Like DiCaprio’s win for The Revenant, Original Score will at least in part be a career win. Ennio Morricone is widely regarded as one of the greatest film composers of all time, having basically scored every Eastwood western ever made (all the great whistling themes? That’s him), yet at 87 years old, he has never won a competitive Oscar. After reusing old Morricone tracks in many of his films, Tarantino finally pulled Morricone out of semi-retirement (this is his first Hollywood film since 2000) to compose a score for The Hateful Eight. Critics and audiences may not have loved the film as a whole, but Morricone’s score was raved, and has won the majority of the precursors. It seems the industry agrees that it is finally Morricone’s time. Poor Thomas Newman…got his THIRTEENTH nomination without ever winning this year for Bridge of Spies. One of these years, I suppose.

Will certainty percentage: 88%

Original Song: Til it Happens to You- The Hunting Ground

Alt. Writing’s On the Wall- Spectre

AMPAS loves to award big stars in this category, and Lady Gaga remains one of the biggest. Her co-writer, Diane Warren is overdue (having been nominated 8 times and never won), and the song speaks to a timely subject (and a personal one for its writers): sexual assault. Plus the competition is thin: AMPAS is never going to give Fifty Shades of Grey an Oscar, so forget that one, and Writing’s on the Wall was savaged by many; critics and industry type alike (Golden Globe win aside). Simple Song #3 and Manta Ray are from comparatively small films and the showrunners aren’t even allowing them to perform on the show (which suggests they don’t have much faith in them winning either). So Gaga is the safe bet here.

Animated Film: Inside Out

Do I really need to explain this one?

Will certainty percentage: 100%

Documentary: Amy

Alt. The Look of Silence

Will certainty percentage: 85%

Foreign Film: Son of Saul

Will certainty percentage: 98%

I’ll do the shorts later.

If you’re planning on putting down money, here are the categories I’m certain about:

Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Animated Film, Best Foreign Film

Categories I’m pretty damn sure I got correct:

Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Documentary Feature

Categories I feel good about but an upset wouldn’t stun me:

Best Supporting Actor, Best Editing, Best Production Design, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing

God help us all:

Best Picture, Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects



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