With the 88th Academy Awards fast approaching, the Oscar campaign season has wrapped up and voting is now officially closed. In a year filled with record-smashing blockbusters like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World, surprise hits like Mad Max: Fury Road and Straight Outta Compton and quieter, but equally compelling dramas like Carol and Spotlight, only so many of the year’s most buzzed-about films ultimately made the coveted cut of the 2016 Oscar nominations.
Whether you’re a devoted Oscar-watcher who keeps a close eye on the race, or the cynic who insists it all comes down to which studio was willing to pump the most money into marketing, the Academy Awards undeniably influence the course of the film industry. Every year, careers are coronated and trends are established. Like it or not, the Oscars can make a difference.
This year, Chris Rock is set to take the stage as host of the Oscars ceremony, which will air live this Sunday, February 28th, at 7 EST / 4 PST on ABC from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
We’ve compiled the latest odds from top Vegas oddsmakers and listed the nominees in each category accordingly. We’ve also listed the total number of awards each nominee has either won (W) or received a nomination (N). Using a combination of those numbers, exclusive insider analysis and our own gut instincts, we’ve come up with our predictions for some of this year’s biggest races.
Stay tuned for our FINAL OSCAR PREDICTIONS on Friday, as well as a breakdown of where the participants of The Tracking Board’s 2016 Oscar Pool currently stand!
THE REVENANT (2 to 3 | 1W | 18N )
THE BIG SHORT (9 to 2 | 1W | 17N)
SPOTLIGHT (11 to 2 | 24W | 18N)
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (66 to 1 | 11W | 23N)
THE MARTIAN (80 to 1 | 2W | 23N)
ROOM (80 to 1 | 0W | 21N)
BROOKLYN (100 to 1 | 0W | 15N)
BRIDGE OF SPIES (100 to 1 | 1W | 7N)
We probably don’t need Vegas to tell us that Bridge of Spies, Room, and Brooklyn have little-to-no shot when it comes to winning this year’s Academy Award for Best Picture. Each of those films, however, may be acknowledged in another category in which it truly shined (Best Supporting Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay, respectively). Mad Max: Fury Road, somewhat appropriately, has lot of throttle behind it heading into the Oscars, but its simply too unconventional for the stuffier Academy voters to grasp. The Martian took on some social media backlash amid its win for Best Comedy at the Golden Globes, and the Oscars notably snubbed Ridley Scott in the Best Director category–two factors which all but eliminate the crowd-pleaser from contention.
With 12 nominations and strong box office numbers, its hard to dismiss The Revenant as a leading candidate for this year’s Best Picture. But let’s look at a few of the elements working against it: (1) it’s three hours long, and a lot of Academy voters just don’t have that kind of time what with all of the parties to attend, (2) it’s a gritty, grimy, difficult-to-watch period drama, and (3) it failed to get a Best Screenplay nomination, which would make it one of the few films in Oscar history to do so and still win Best Picture (another Leo-starrer, Titanic, being one of those rare exceptions).
Spotlight, on the other hand, was nominated for Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress, suggesting the Academy has plenty of reasons to select it as the year’s best, but generally speaking, the film has faded from Oscar chatter in recent weeks. The Big Short, meanwhile, has expanded its theatrical release and launched a strong Oscar campaign. And it doesn’t hurt that heavy hitters like Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling are the ones doing the campaigning. Both of these are ‘issue’-centric films, which will certainly appeal to Academy voters, with The Big Short being the more politically-driven of the two in what is becoming an increasingly political atmosphere. It’s big win at the PGAs instantly improved its chances, as those awards have been an indicator of the Best Picture winner seven years running. Spotlight, meanwhile, took home the prize for Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards, which shares the largest voting body in the Academy. And for Oscar voters who are inclined to vote for a said ‘issue’ film, at the end of the day Spotlight is the more accessible, agreeable and ultimately uplifting film–which should push it past the finish line on Oscar night.
Will Win: Spotlight
Could Win: The Revenant
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, THE REVENANT (2 to 7 | 4W | 19N)
George Miller, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (5 to 1 | 22W | 11N)
Adam McKay, THE BIG SHORT (50 to 1 | 1W | 8N)
Tom McCarthy, SPOTLIGHT (50 to 1 | 5W | 21N)
Lenny Abrahamson, ROOM (100 to 1 | 0W | 2N)
This is one of the more challenging categories to predict. Yes, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu won this year’s Golden Globe for Best Director, but he also won an Oscar last year–and it seems unlikely that voters will choose to bestow Inarritu with a second Oscar so soon, especially given the reports of dangerous working conditions during The Revenant’s grueling shoot. Then again, the film’s Oscar campaign has done a tremendous job of spinning this into a positive, casting a light of admirability on Inarritu rather than purporting that he used questionable judgement. It recently paid off with a big win at the DGA Awards.
Tom McCarthy managed to make journalism exciting in Spotlight, a fantastically enjoyable watch despite its difficult subject matter, although its best attribute is also what’s going to work against it: subtlety. He will more likely be rewarded in the Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay category, while Room will see the fruits of its recent campaign push pay off with a Best Actress win for Brie Larson.
That leaves George Miller and Adam McKay, who arguably had the biggest, splashiest movies–albeit on opposite ends of the genre spectrum. McKay’s The Big Short has been picking up steam, aided in part by an additional 1,000 theater distribution, and is the only brand of comedy that the Academy is typically willing to reward (that is to say, a completely non-traditional and ultimately depressing one). But rather than crown McKay–a guy that many voters might have trouble seeing as anything but the Anchorman guy–with a Best Director statue, Best Adapted Screenplay seems more likely. It really comes down to George Miller, whose relentlessly kinetic, visually brilliant Mad Max: Fury Road stunned critics and audiences alike–so much so that the veteran director will at last be honored by the Academy on Oscar night.
Will Win: George Miller
Could Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Leonardo DiCaprio, THE REVENANT (1 to 10 | 19W | 14N)
Michael Fassbender, STEVE JOBS (40 to 1 | 7W | 18N)
Matt Damon, THE MARTIAN (50 to 1 | 2W | 17N)
Bryan Cranston, TRUMBO (66 to 1 | 1W | 16N)
Eddie Redmayne, THE DANISH GIRL (66 to 1 | 0W | 0N)
Michael Fassbender has certainly earned the respect of the Academy over the past few years, but his role as Apple icon Steve Jobs was not quite up to the standard with that of what Oscar typically requires in the portrayal of a well-known cultural figure (see: Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln). As good as he was at expressing the darker, moodier nature of Jobs through Aaron Sorkin’s oh-so-Sorkin dialogue, Fassbender was still… Fassbender. Matt Damon showed us that a sense of humor can keep you sane in The Martian, but it was by far the least transformative of the bunch–and failed to earn a SAG nomination. Bryan Cranston’s Dalton Trumbo impressed critics, but not enough to convince people to actually go out and see the film.
Every year, there’s at least one acting category to which there is ascribed an air of inevitability. Last year, there were few critics who said the Best Actress Oscar would go to anyone but Julianne Moore for Still Alice. In these cases, it’s always about more than the specific performance for which the actor is nominated, but rather an acknowledgement of a strong and steady career. This year, Leonardo DiCaprio is that actor. Regardless of whether or not his performance in The Revenant was the best performance of the year, it was good enough to give Academy voters a reason to greenlight Leo’s Oscar. Eddie Redmayne’s lesser-seen The Danish Girl could tally up some unexpected votes given the incredible performance as well as the film’s acknowledgement of LGBTQ issues. That said, this is Leo’s to lose.
Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio
Could Win: Michael Fassbender
Brie Larson, ROOM (1 to 10 | 25W | 14N)
Saoirse Ronan, BROOKLYN (33 to 1 | 6W | 20N)
Cate Blanchett, CAROL (50 to 1 | 1W | 26N)
Charlotte Rampling, 45 YEARS (66 to 1 | 5W | 10N)
Jennifer Lawrence, JOY (80 to 1 | 1W | 4N)
Momentum is certainly in Brie Larson’s favor: her devastatingly human performance in Room is what made the movie work, and her excellent supporting role opposite Amy Schumer in Trainwreck didn’t go unnoticed. The producers’ campaign has also seemed to be a practical one, realizing that Larson is the film’s best shot at an Oscar, putting its weight behind her to push her up on stage. That said, if enough voters are eager to give Carol some of the recognition that it didn’t get when it was left out of the Best Picture category, Cate Blanchett could walk away with her second Best Actress Oscar in three years. Brooklyn’s Saoirse Ronan certainly shouldn’t be counted out, though the actress’s name is likely too unfamiliar with voters to result in a win.
At 25 years old, Jennifer Lawrence has earned her record-setting fourth nomination, but Joy was so poorly received overall, she’s likely out of this year’s race. Last but not least, Charlotte Rampling, who recently picked up the London Critics’ Circle award for Best Actress, has been getting plenty of love for her performance in 45 Years. While the odds are not in her favor, a long, lauded career as both an actress and fashion icon could certainly translate to a better-than-expected tally on Oscar night. Then again, Rampling hasn’t fared so well on the campaign circuit–recently earning some bad press for her comments on the ‘OscarSoWhite’ controversy.
Will Win: Brie Larson
Could Win: Cate Blanchett
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Sylvester Stallone, CREED (2 to 7 | 13W | 14N)
Mark Rylance, BRIDGE OF SPIES (10 to 1 | 8W | 17N)
Mark Ruffalo, SPOTLIGHT (10 to 1 | 3W | 12N)
Christian Bale, THE BIG SHORT (66 to 1 | 1W | 5N)
Tom Hardy, THE REVENANT (66 to 1 | 3W | 5N)
Tom Hardy has become one of the most rock-solid actors in the business, and if it was a surprise that he was nominated for his role in The Revenant, its only because his grizzled beard and grumbling drawl made him virtually unrecognizable to many who had just seen him traverse Fury Road. All in all, Hardy anchored two of the years biggest films–and that doesn’t even touch on his dual roles playing twins in the mobster movie Legend. If the night begins with Hardy pulling off an upset in the Best Supporting Actor category, don’t be too shocked–but expect to see the rest of the dominos fall in The Revenant’s favor as well.
Mark Ruffalo pulled off a great performance in Spotlight, but its difficult to single out one actor to praise what the film’s pitch-perfect ensemble collectively achieved. He also had the ‘biggest’ performance of the bunch, loaded shoulder twitches and speech impediments, which could appeal to voters as much as it could turn them off. Christian Bale gave a similarly ‘big’ performance in The Big Short, but it was also contained–literally, physically–to an office, and ultimately overshadowed by co-star Steve Carell.
Sylvester Stallone’s latest reprisal of Rocky Balboa in Ryan Coogler’s Creed struck a chord with a lot of the franchise’s fans, both old and new. It was the sort of performance that seemed to remind people that Stallone was once more than a washed-up, unusually vascular punchline. The question, however, is how much of Stallone’s nomination was rooted in nostalgia as opposed to genuine enthusiasm for the performance?
Unlike Stallone, Mark Rylance isn’t exactly a household name, but he is a highly respected actor of stage and screen. And one should never discount The Power of Spielberg, which Rylance has in spades given that he’s the best shot Bridge of Spies has to pick up a major award at the Oscars. With a Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay nomination, it does appear as though the Academy felt strongly about this well crafted, old school Cold War spy flick–even if it largely drew a yawn from the masses. While his recent BAFTA win won’t necessarily trigger a surge in votes for Rylance, the fact that his performance is by far the film’s most compelling suggests a recipe for sudden Oscar success.
Will Win: Mark Rylance
Could Win: Sylvester Stallone
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Alicia Vikander, THE DANISH GIRL (2 to 9 | 15W | 11N)
Kate Winslet, STEVE JOBS (7 to 1 | 3W | 18N)
Rooney Mara, CAROL (40 to 1 | 4W | 19N)
Jennifer Jason Leigh, THE HATEFUL EIGHT (66 to 1 | 3W | 17N)
Rachel McAdams, SPOTLIGHT (80 to 1 | 3W | 5N)
Alicia Vikander had quite a year. Her breakthrough performance in Alex Garland’s Ex Machina was remarkable, and helped give her enough buzz to pick up an equally deserved nomination for The Danish Girl (although if she’d been nominated for Ex Machina, no one would have batted an eye). The problem? Vikander was almost certainly the lead in The Danish Girl. The creative categorizing that went on behind the scenes was a move that doesn’t look like its going to pay off for Vikander–but that may not be the case for fellow nominee, Rooney Mara.
McAdams, who represents the lone female performance in the year’s strongest ensemble, did an admirable job of embodying Boston Globe reporter Sacha Pfeiffer. Jennifer Jason Leigh stood tall in the face of a beating in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, but some have suggested that the role made light of physical violence towards women–and that’s likely enough to cross it off the list.
If there’s anything weighing down Rooney Mara’s potential to win, its the aforementioned fact that she should’ve been bumped up to the Best Actress category (by our count, there are seven nominees for Best Actress this year). It’s a fair grievance, but one that doesn’t diminish the fantastic work she does opposite Cate Blanchett in Todd Haynes’ romantic drama. The desire to show Carol some love in light of its Best Picture and Best Director snubs could prompt some voters to skip over previous winner Blanchett (paving the way for a Brie Larson win) and tic the box next to Rooney Mara’s name instead. Kate Winslet, meanwhile, has racked up plenty of awards thus far for her performance as Steve Jobs’ right-hand woman Joanna Hoffman–a performance she delicately coats with a light dusting of a Polish accent–but the film itself was largely dismissed by audiences and critics alike. In the end, it’s going to come down to whether or not Winslet’s star-power is able to outshine Carol’s fading luster.
Will Win: Rooney Mara
Could Win: Kate Winslet
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Adam McKay, Charles Randolph, THE BIG SHORT (1 to 10 | 11W | 9N)
Emma Donoghue, ROOM (40 to 1 | 6W | 21N)
Phyllis Nagy, CAROL (50 to 1 | 3W | 12N)
Drew Goddard, THE MARTIAN (66 to 1 | 6W | 17N)
Nick Hornby, BROOKLYN (80 to 1 | 1W | 17N)
Voters have favored high stakes, historical chronicles in this category for the past three years (Argo, 12 Years a Slave, The Imitation Game). The Big Short is the only film that fits this particular bill amongst this year’s nominees. While the voters traditionally eschew comedies– the last comedy winner being Alexander Payne for Sideways in 2004–The Big Short is devastatingly serious at its core. Writers Adam McKay and Charles Randolph accomplished the near impossible task of adapting Michael Lewis’s non-fiction best-seller for the big screen using some form of narrative jiu jitsu. The Big Short utilizes voiceover, abrupt cutaways, animation and breaking of the fourth wall–all in service of successfully weaving together three distinct story lines within a documentary style framework to tell the hilariously depressing story of the run-up to the Great Recession. It’s WGA win for Best Adapted Screenplay practically cemented its odds.
The star-crossed lovers theme in the period dramas Brooklyn and Carol could very well result in the two canceling each other out. Watch out for Room due to its stellar treatment of the subject and excellent character construction. The screenwriting categories are often seen as “consolation” prizes for the films on the outside of the Best Picture race, and Room is certainly a dark horse in that sense.
Will Win: The Big Short
Could Win: Room
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer, SPOTLIGHT (1 to 10 | 25W | 13N)
Josh Cooley, Ronnie del Carmen, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, INSIDE OUT (16 to 1 | 5W | 14N)
Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus, STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (50 to 1 | 1W | 2N)
Alex Garland, EX MACHINA (66 to 1 | 0W | 18N)
Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, BRIDGE OF SPIES (66 to 1 | 0W | 10N)
Spotlight was a masterful narrative about the bygone era that is print journalism. The pacing is pristine and the story grabs us from the beginning and never lets go. The film is a masterclass in efficiency and every moment is loaded with substance. Not to mention the fact that the subject of the Boston Archdiocese molestation cover-up is the type of socially conscious subject that tends to do well with Oscar voters. The WGAs honored the script as its Best Original Screenplay of the year, which gives it a nudge ahead of the competition.
But let’s take a moment to consider Inside Out, one of Pixar’s most creative, outside-the-box films to date. Tear jerking and hilarious in equal measures, Inside Out’s vision of the inner-workings of the psyche was the sort of inspired writing that hits home with people of all ages. Straight Outta Compton, however, was one of the most entertaining movies of the year. The film flawlessly introduces and resolves conflict with perfect pacing–although the tendency to ‘soften’ some of the history surrounding the film’s real-life figures could hurt its chances. Then again, the growing call for more diversity in the Oscar nominations–particularly in the wake of Compton’s failure to make the Best Picture cut, widely regarded as a snub–could help its chances of earning a win here, since voters don’t have too many options this year when it comes to honoring diversity in film.
Will Win: Spotlight
Could Win: Straight Outta Compton
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Last year, many were surprised to see The Lego Movie–one of the most critically acclaimed and highest grossing pictures of 2014–excluded from the list of nominees for Best Animated Feature. And even more were surprised when Big Hero 6 beat out Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2.
This year, the story is a bit different, as there wasn’t a major animated release which deserved to make the cut that was left out (cough cough, we’re looking at you, The Good Dinosaur). The most obvious choice for Best Animated Feature also seems to be the right one. Pixar’s Inside Out is the studio’s most inspired movie in years; many expected to see it in the Best Picture race. It’s closest competition is likely Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s Anomalisa, a stunning work of stop motion animation that contained some of the most human scenes of any movie this year. Both featured phenomenal voice work: Phyllis Smith was perfectly cast as Sadness, while it could be argued that Jennifer Jason Leigh’s best performance this year was as Lisa the customer service rep. Aside from its broader appeal, though, Inside Out also had a gorgeous score, vibrant production design, sharp writing and a deeply emotional theme.
Will Win: Inside Out
Could Win: Anomalisa
Be sure to check back as we continue to update our Oscar predictions with the latest odds and insider information in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards. Click here for the complete list of nominees!
You’ve seen our picks, now let’s see yours. Don’t forget to submit your ballot to The Tracking Board’s 2016 Oscar Pool for your chance to win a fantastic Oscar-worthy prize package!
Josh Lyons | Managing Editor
Sources: Metacritic, Hollywood Stock Exchange, GoldDerby