It’s been another long and punishing Oscar season, kicking off (one could argue) with the Sundance premiere of “Brooklyn” 12 months ago and taking us through Cannes, the fall festivals and the various precursor and guild awards before it all finally comes to a climax on Sunday night.
In places, it’s felt like the films themselves have been overwhelmed, not just by the glitz and glamor, but with the vital and overdue debate over the lack of diversity among the Academy’s choices and memberships: For the second year in a row, the acting nominees are entirely white. With Chris Rock hosting, it’s sure to continue to dominate during the actual ceremony, but there will also be some prizes handed out.
And as such, it’s time for us to knuckle down and make our final predictions (which, it should be noted, caused no shortage of arguments among the Playlist staff). It’s in some respects an easier year than some previous ones, and in some rather harder, not least when it comes down to the main prize. So, with four days to go, below you’ll find our picks for every category, as well as the potential surprises and dark horses that could upset. Take a look below, and let us know what you’re predicting, before you head back here for the results on Sunday.
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”
Will Win: As usual, it’s a brutal and bleak collection of subjects here: the death penalty, honor killings, Ebola, the after-effects of Agent Orange and the Holocaust. But I think it’s the one with the greatest name recognition that takes the prize, and in that’s case it’s ‘Claude Lanzmann,’ a tribute to the great French documentarian behind “Shoah.”
Could Win: Uplift tends to work better than purely depressing films, and that probably favors “Chau, Beyond The Lines,” or “Body Team 12,” though the latter is a harder watch.
Dark Horse: That said, “Body Team 12” has some starry names as executive producers, including Olivia Wilde, which might help its cause.
Best Animated Short Film
“Sanjay’s Super Team”
“We Can’t Live Without Cosmos”
“World Of Tomorrow”
Will Win: It’s an interesting minnow vs. mammoth clash here (as it often is in this category), but while Pixar are often heavyweights in Animated Shorts, they’re not default winners — in fact, while Disney won twice in recent years, Pixar themselves haven’t taken this prize since 2001. That means that we’re backing Don Hertzfeldt’s transcendent “World Of Tomorrow” for the prize, and rightly so: It’s one of the best films of any kind up for a prize this year. Netflix gave it a bit of a push recently, which may have helped it get seen too.
Could Win: That said, don’t rule out Pixar’s “Sanjay’s Super Team” — it’s a sweet and personal film that offers a rare opportunity this year to award diversity. That said, having been paired with “The Good Dinosaur,” it might not have been as widely seen as some of the studio’s short films.
Dark Horse: “Bear Story” is the one to keep an eye on: This Chilean film is beautiful-looking and very charming, and it’s the kind of offbeat surprise that can often triumph here.
Best Live-Action Short Film
“Everything Will Be Okay”
Will Win: Look at recent trends for the winner of this category, and you’ll see it often goes to the slighter, less heavy entries, and to my mind that favors “Stutterer,” from Irish director Benjamin Cleary, which is confidently made and, like the bulk of recent winners, in English.
Could Win: The main U.S.-made movie is “Day One,” from former soldier Henry Hughes, which has a litter of student film awards behind it, and feels the most bulked-out and feature-like of the nominees. It’s ambitious and technically very capable, and could benefit from that.
Dark Horse: Almost anything can happen, but I’d be surprised if German film “Everything Will Be Okay” won out, and “Ave Maria” felt like the least of the nominees to me, so that means punishing Kosovo War story “Shok” could be the one to surprise. It definitely feels likely to be one of the two above, though.
Best Sound Editing
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
Will Win: This is likely to be a very, very tight contest between two of the Best Picture nominees, “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Revenant” — the former arguably has the showier sound design, the latter the more Best Picture momentum. We think the award will end up going to Iñárritu’s film, but it could go either way, and it’ll be an interesting early marker for how Best Picture will go: a “Revenant” award means it could have the big prize in the bag, while a miss means one of its competitors might be getting it.
Could Win: ‘Mad Max,’ and “The Martian” might be in with a shout, too — when there’s a Best Picture nominee in the category, it tends to go to them.
Dark Horse: That said, when a giant blockbuster has the goods, it sometimes wins out — see “Skyfall” a few years ago, “The Dark Knight” over “Slumdog Millionaire,” and “The Bourne Ultimatum” over “No Country For Old Men.” As such, ‘Star Wars’ remains a threat.
Best Sound Mixing
“Bridge Of Spies”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
Will Win: The only time this category tends to split from Sound Editing is when there’s a music film in the mix — see “Whiplash” last year, or “Les Misérables” or “Slumdog Millionaire” before that. None of these really qualify, so expect this to follow Editing and go to “The Revenant” or ‘Mad Max,’ and probably the latter.
Could Win: Also potentially “The Martian.”
Dark Horse: Also potentially ‘Star Wars.’
Best Visual Effects
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
Will Win: Though this is a category where superhero movies and exploding robots make a rare awards foray, voters tend to stick with more familiar territory: When a Best Picture nominee is up for this category, they’ve always defeated those that aren’t, which is bad news for ‘Star Wars‘ and “Ex Machina” (even last year, which had no Best Picture nominee in the five, it was won by the most quote-unquote prestigious, “Interstellar”). So it’s another three-way battle between “The Revenant,” ‘Mad Max‘ and “The Martian,” and we’d say that the bear takes it for Iñárritu and co.
Could Win: That said, ‘Fury Road’’s blend of CGI and traditional effects appeals to the branch. And if anything could break that rule above, it might be ‘Star Wars,‘ which is well liked, featured practical effects along with the CGI, and made a gajillion dollars.
Dark Horse: If “The Martian” proves to be stealthily more popular than suspected with Academy members, it could be a factor. And “Ex Machina,” as the cheapest-budgeted movie in this category since “Alien” in 1979, has a hell of an underdog appeal that voters might appreciate, and the film is well-liked.
Best Original Song
“Earned It” from “Fifty Shades Of Grey”
“Manta Ray” from “Racing Extinction”
“Simple Song No. 3” from “Youth”
“Til It Happens To You” from “The Hunting Ground”
“Writing’s On The Wall” from “Spectre”
Will Win: Regular readers will know our contempt for this particular category, but while it isn’t Lady Gaga’s finest moment, “Til It Happens To You” from college-rape documentary “The Hunting Ground” is a moving song about an important subject, and seems like the obvious front-runner in a weak year for the category.
Could Win: That said, voters may end up going for the most famous song here, which is probably the “Spectre” track, or The Weeknd’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” number. The latter is more palatable, the former more likely to appeal to the Academy.
Dark Horse: A lack of nominations elsewhere suggests that “Youth” didn’t connect with the Academy, but maybe the song from the film will connect with more traditional voters (though the fact that it won’t be performed during the broadcast suggests that the Academy isn’t banking on it winning).
Best Original Score
Thomas Newman – “Bridge Of Spies”
Carter Burwell – “Carol”
Ennio Morricone – “The Hateful Eight”
Johann Johansson – “Sicario”
John Williams – “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
Will Win: It’s a year of returning legends, but it seems pretty likely that Ennio Morricone’s return to the Western for the first time in decades will win out over another win for John Williams, the most nominated man in movie music (he has fifty nominations — only Walt Disney has more). Both men are in their 80s, and there may not be many more chances to honor them, but Morricone won the BAFTA and the Golden Globe, among others, and works less often (Williams is back with Steven Spielberg for this summer’s “The BFG”), so he seems odds-on here, especially as he only has an honorary Oscar to his name so far.
Could Win: That said, Williams is an institution, returned brilliantly to one of his trademark themes for ‘Star Wars,’ and hasn’t won in 20 years, despite 19 nominations in the meantime. It would be an upset if he won, but it’s definitely feasible.
Dark Horse: Anyone but these two would be a shock, but Carter Burwell might be best placed — like Morricone, he’s never won, and “Carol” actually marks his first-ever nomination, absurdly. Still a very, very long shot though.
Best Production Design
Rena DeAngelo, Bernhard Henrich, Adam Stockhausen – “Bridge Of Spies”
Michael Standish and Eve Stewart – “The Danish Girl”
Colin Gibson and Lisa Thompson – “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Celia Bobak and Arthur Max – “The Martian”
Jack Fisk and Hamish Purdy – “The Revenant”
Will Win: This is one case where “The Revenant” having spent months in the wilderness may not help it so much — though the film’s likely to be a behind-the-scenes titan in many respects, voters may go for the more visible work of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” The film relies on exteriors in the same way, but has more striking and designed sets, plus all the amazing cars. This category’s also a little more welcoming to fantasy than most — see wins for “Avatar,” “Lord Of The Rings” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.”
Could Win: Again, if “The Revenant” looks like it’s heading for a sweep, it winning this, which is absolutely possible, will be a sign of that, and it’s definitely in the mix.
Dark Horse: Spielberg’s “Lincoln” was a surprise winner a few years back in this category, so don’t be shocked if “Bridge Of Spies” comes from nowhere to take this. And don’t entirely count out “The Danish Girl” either, though even “The King’s Speech” didn’t take this prize.
Best Costume Design
Sandy Powell – “Carol”
Sandy Powell – “Cinderella”
Paco Delgado – “The Danish Girl”
Jenny Beavan – “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Jacqueline West – “The Revenant”
Will Win: The idea of a split vote when someone is nominated twice can be slightly over-stated: Look at Soderbergh winning Best Director for “Traffic” when he was up for “Erin Brockovich” as well. And Sandy Powell has already beaten herself to this prize once: Back in 1998, she was nominated for “Velvet Goldmine” and won for “Shakespeare In Love.” That said, we still think the Academy will follow BAFTA and give it to Jenny Beavan, a multiple nominee who hasn’t won since “A Room With A View” 30 years ago, and who was working severely out of her comfort zone and did so amazingly.
Could Win: That said, Powell shouldn’t be counted out, though probably for “Carol” rather than “Cinderella.” This category overwhelmingly favors period stuff rather than sci-fi or fantasy, with “Alice In Wonderland” the only recent exception.
Dark Horse: As such, “The Danish Girl” could surprise too — it does fall into that category of films like “The Duchess” and “The Young Victoria” that often triumph in this category.
Best Animated Feature
“Boy & The World”
“Shaun The Sheep Movie”
“When Marnie Was There”
Will Win: Pixar aren’t necessarily the dead certs in this category that they once were: Though they’ve won half of the 14 Oscars given out since this category was created, two of their last three movies weren’t even nominated. But while “The Good Dinosaur” followed their fate, “Inside Out” was hailed as a return to form and then some, and particularly as it failed to land a Best Picture nod, should triumph here fairly easily.
Could Win: That said, don’t entirely rule out “Anomalisa,” a movie almost as well received as “Inside Out,” from a previous Oscar winner in Charlie Kaufman, and which has had a big push from Paramount. In a way, if it was last year, against the less strong “Big Hero 6” (or three years ago against the shaky “Brave”), the Oscar would have been Kaufman’s. But with “Inside Out” one of Pixar’s best, it’s an uphill battle.
Dark Horse: “Shaun The Sheep Movie” is well liked by all those who’ve seen it, and makers Aardman have multiple Oscars for their “Wallace & Gromit” work. But it couldn’t even win the BAFTA with the home crowd, so an upset is extremely unlikely, to be honest.
Best Documentary Feature
“The Look Of Silence”
“What Happened, Miss Simone?”
“Winter On Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom”
Will Win: With rave reviews and one of the biggest grosses for a doc in a while, “Amy” looks to have this sewn up for a while. Asif Kapadia’s last hit, “Senna,” wasn’t nominated, so he’s seen as overdue by some, and it’s likely the most well-known nominee of the five by some distance
Could Win: That said, this is a category prime for an upset. Netflix have been spending huge amounts on a campaign for “What Happened, Miss Simone?” and ‘Winter On Fire,’ and one of these days will see it pay off. And “Cartel Land” was a sleeper hit, too, and won the DGA non-fiction prize in an upset. Plus it’s worth noting that winners here tend to be more issues-based (though “20 Feet From Stardom” and “Searching For Sugar Man” are recent winners, on the other hand).
Dark Horse: “The Look Of Silence” is the best film of a strong line-up, and maybe voters will have watched it and realized that (he said, with an unconvincing optimism in his voice)?
Best Foreign Language Film
“Embrace Of The Serpent” (Colombia)
“Son Of Saul” (Hungary)
“A War” (Denmark)
Will Win: Like documentary, this is a category that’s had a clear front-runner since Cannes — in this case, harrowing Holocaust drama “Son Of Saul.” With exemplary reviews and the biggest audience of any of these movies, it feels like a home run, not least with Sony Pictures Classics, who have a long and successful history in this category, in charge of the campaign.
Could Win: That said, “Mustang” has build up some steam over time, not least because it’s one of the few nominated films that are directed by a woman. If anything could upset ‘Saul,’ it’ll be this, though it’s a long shot.
Dark Horse: Those who watch “Embrace Of The Serpent” kind of love it, and it’s the kind of left-turn that sometimes does happen in this category. Then again, Foreign Language has become a little more predictable, with the front-runner tending to take the prize in recent years, so an upset has long odds, and if it does happen, it’ll come from “Mustang.”
Best Film Editing
Hank Corwin – “The Big Short”
Margaret Sixel – “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Stephen Mirrione – “The Revenant”
Tom McArdle – “Spotlight”
Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey – “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
Will Win: I’m going to differ with some of my rival prognosticators here and go for “The Big Short” over its more action-y rivals. The film’s mix of media and fast pace is something that’s had a lot of attention from voters, and while more high-octane fare tends to go rewarded in this category, last year’s win for “Whiplash” was a reminder that voters are able to think out of the box a little, though the closest comparison point for a “Big Short” win would be when “JFK” beat out “The Silence Of The Lambs” and “Terminator 2” 25 years back. It’s going to be very, very close, but my money’s on the banking boys for this one.
Could Win: That said, one can’t argue with the craft on display on the Fury Road, and the film did win the BAFTA and the Drama Eddie award. That said, that doesn’t always match up (“Boyhood,” “Captain Phillips” and “The Descendants” all won the Eddie and lost the Oscar, while “Rush” and “Senna” were BAFTA winners and weren’t even Oscar-nominated). It may depend on the strength of “The Big Short” in general, and on whether voters feel they’ve recognized George Miller’s film enough elsewhere.
Dark Horse: To call “The Revenant” a dark horse might be a little unfair, given how well it’s likely to do elsewhere, but it’s in with a shot. The one to watch here might be “Spotlight,” which is propulsively put together. Again, a win here will suggest that its Best Picture chances are better than some think right now.
Ed Lachman – “Carol”
Robert Richardson – “The Hateful Eight”
John Seale – “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Emmanuel Lubezki – “The Revenant”
Roger Deakins – “Sicario”
Will Win: Everyone’s assuming that Emmanuel Lubezki win a historic third award in a row here for “The Revenant” and that’s probably the case — he has won both the ASC award and the BAFTA, and seems to have momentum on his side. And to think that only a few years ago, he’d never won at all…
Could Win: That said, we wonder if Lubezki’s streak might make him vulnerable (voters don’t see the cinematographer’s name, just the film, but plenty are aware that he’s won two in a row), and more importantly the trend in this category has, in recent years, been for effects-filled blockbusters like ‘Inception,” “Hugo,” “Life Of Pi” and “Gravity,” which would seem to bode well for “Mad Max: Fury Road.” And DoP John Seale is a veteran who came out of retirement for the film, and he hasn’t won an Oscar since “The English Patient” nearly two decades ago. We’re still backing Lubezki, but there’s prime territory for an upset here.
Dark Horse: Or maybe it’s finally Roger Deakins’ year? He’s had 13 nominations without a win, and he’s got to take something at some point, and “Sicario” was very fine work. That said, no film without a Best Picture nod has won here since “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and that had many more nods than “Sicario” does. And the 70mm photography of “The Hateful Eight” could pay off for Robert Richardson, though the same precedent applies, too.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Adam McKay and Charles Randolph – “The Big Short”
Nick Hornby – “Brooklyn”
Phyllis Nagy – “Carol”
Drew Goddard – “The Martian”
Emma Donoghue – “Room”
Will Win: A strong line-up in this category this year, but this looks likely to be easily “The Big Short” for the win. The film takes a near-impenetrable subject matter and makes it accessible with wit and flair, and has a winning narrative in McKay’s passage from broad comedy king to Oscar nominee. And he and co-writer Charles Randolph have been a model of co-operation and good humor between a first writer on a project and the filmmaker who rewrote him, something that’s seen other potentials throw an award or nod away when their behavior’s been more sour — paging James Gunn and Jason Reitman.
Could Win: If there’s a threat here, it might be “Room,” which is a really tough job done beautifully. No author’s won for adapting their own work since John Irving in 1999, so “The Big Short” still feels safe to us, though.
Dark Horse: Maybe “The Martian,” if only because Drew Goddard was such a key force on that project from so early on. But again: “The Big Short.”
Best Original Screenplay
Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen – “Bridge Of Spies”
Alex Garland – “Ex Machina”
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Ronnie del Carmen – “Inside Out”
Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer – “Spotlight”
Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus – “Straight Outta Compton”
Will Win: Another safe bet here, for “Spotlight.” It’s the kind of script that feels like it should be based on a book, but in fact it was almost an act of journalism by McCarthy and Singer themselves, and it’s been sweeping the precursor awards in recognition of that. It’s also the award that the movie’s most likely to win, and one that people will probably go for in lieu of Best Picture.
Could Win: Its biggest threat could come from “Inside Out,” which is a dazzling feat of ingenuity, and obviously the most popular film of the five. But we’ve still never seen an animated film win a Screenplay prize, so the odds are long of it happening, especially with an anointed frontrunner.
Dark Horse: People do seem to really like “Ex Machina,” and it’s the kind of movie that sometimes wins recognition in this category in recognition of its distinctiveness and smarts (see “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” or “Her”). But again, “Spotlight” is a tough one to overcome.
Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale – “The Big Short”
Tom Hardy – “The Revenant”
Mark Ruffalo – “Spotlight”
Mark Rylance – “Bridge Of Spies”
Sylvester Stallone – “Creed”
Will Win: There’s a wide assumption that this will be Sylvester Stallone, and he’s definitely the most likely to take the prize: His return to the Oscars 40 years after “Rocky” is a comeback story worthy of the franchise, and Stallone’s campaigned well on the whole, shaking off worries that his reputation in the industry could be something of an albatross. He didn’t win the SAG or the BAFTA because he wasn’t nominated for either, but now that he’s in the final five, he’s in with a pretty good shot.
Could Win: That said, it’s not entirely cemented yet: Mark Rylance had a lot of early chatter (though our suspicion is that it’s not showy enough a turn to win), and we think Mark Ruffalo could be a real threat — he’s a well-liked actor in a movie that actors love, who’s yet to win, and is on his second nomination in a row. If anyone topples Stallone, it’s likely him.
Dark Horse: Rylance certainly shouldn’t be counted out: The film isn’t the buzziest, but it’s well-liked, and one that older voters will be into.
Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Jason Leigh – “The Hateful Eight”
Rooney Mara – “Carol”
Rachel McAdams – “Spotlight”
Alicia Vikander – “The Danish Girl”
Kate Winslet – “Steve Jobs”
Will Win: This is easily the most competitive of the acting categories, but the consensus seems to be that SAG winner Alicia Vikander will take the prize. Not so much out of a great love for the film, but out of a recognition for a fast-rising talent who, if Focus and her reps hadn’t botched it by not campaigning her in lead, could have had two nominations this year and still won one. Also, someone has to win it.
Could Win: Rooney Mara’s still in with a very good shot, thanks in part to the Cannes Best Actress trophy she won in May. The Academy don’t seem to love “Carol” as much as some, shunning it for Best Picture, but if its fans do want to recognize it somewhere, it’ll be here.
Dark Horse: Kate Winslet, who beat both Vikander and Mara to the BAFTA, and is the kind of curveball that we can absolutely see happening in a category which isn’t inspiring much passion from voters.
Bryan Cranston – “Trumbo”
Matt Damon – “The Martian”
Leonardo DiCaprio – “The Revenant”
Michael Fassbender – “Steve Jobs”
Eddie Redmayne – “The Danish Girl”
Will Win: Enjoy those Leo-is-thirsty-for-awards memes while you can, because on Sunday DiCaprio’s finally going to be an Oscar winner. Whether or not it’s his best-ever performance is moot: This has been in the stars for most of the season, and he’s won basically every precursor going. Basically count on it.
Could Win: Again, the chances of any but DiCaprio taking a trophy home are slim, but Michael Fassbender might be the closest: The film’s underperformed awards-wise, but you won’t find many people who didn’t love the actor in “Steve Jobs.” It’d be an all-timer of an Oscar surprise if it happened, though.
Dark Horse: Don’t entirely count out Bryan Cranston in “Trumbo,” who’s a beloved and veteran character actor on his first nomination, for a movie about Hollywood. But again, it’s a long shot.
Cate Blanchett – “Carol”
Brie Larson – “Room”
Jennifer Lawrence – “Joy”
Charlotte Rampling – “45 Years”
Saoirse Ronan – “Brooklyn”
Will Win: Almost as inevitable as Leo’s win in Best Actor is Brie Larson’s for “Room.” Since the film’s Telluride premiere, Larson’s been the front-runner, and has charmed those who weren’t previously aware of on the circuit ever since, where she’s taken basically every precursor award.
Could Win: Her closest competition might be Saoirse Ronan, and maybe if she’d taken the BAFTA or the SAG we might think this was closer. But as well liked as the film and performance are, Larson has this in the bag.
Dark Horse: We’d have been tempted to say Charlotte Rampling, who’s never won, but her diversity comments put paid to any hope of a late surge for her.
Adam McKay – “The Big Short”
George Miller – “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu – “The Revenant”
Lenny Abrahamson – “Room”
Tom McCarthy – “Spotlight”
Will Win: The last director to take two back-to-back Best Director Oscars was Joseph L. Mankiewicz, for “A Letter To Three Wives” and “All About Eve” in 1949 and 1950. The shortest gap between wins in living memory is Oliver Stone, who won for “Platoon” and “Born On The Fourth Of July” in 1986 and 1989 (Spielberg had five years between his wins, Ang Lee seven). That record looks likely to come tumbling down this year, as Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu seems poised to take the trophy thanks to BAFTA and DGA wins for “The Revenant.” It’s not entirely set in stone, and could result in another Picture/Director split, an increasingly common occurrence these days, but Iñárritu’s definitely the front-runner.
Could Win: That said, he’s not got it completely in the bag. George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” is a hell of a directorial achievement for anyone, especially a man in his seventies. It’s a little divisive among voters, but so is “The Revenant,” and if the latter does end up winning Best Picture, voters may want to spread the love and go for Miller.
Dark Horse: Adam McKay’s chances of winning are slim, but if the Academy really love “The Big Short,” and they seem to, it’s not impossible to see him taking the prize, especially if the gruelling-shoot auteur vote is split between the other two.
“The Big Short”
“Bridge Of Spies”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
Will Win: I’ve been doing these predictions for a few years now, but this is easily the hardest year I’ve had so far. Even two years ago, when the guilds were similarly split (five films winning across the four main guilds), it felt like “12 Years A Slave” still had an advantage over “Gravity.” Of all the guilds, the DGA, who picked “The Revenant,” seems to have the closest relationship to the Academy with their winners: Their Best Director winner has won the Oscar every year of the last 15 bar 2013 (when Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated by the Academy), and the film has taken Best Picture in all but three. The PGA, who went with “The Big Short,” is 11/15, but 8/8 the last few years, which is notable because they use the same preferential balloting system as the Oscars. The SAG, who gave their ensemble prize to “Spotlight,” are 8/15, and BAFTA are too (but 7/8 the last few years). Which is all to say that there’s no easy precedent to follow here. So in the end, I’ve got to go with my gut, and while many are going with “The Revenant,” my gut still says “The Big Short.” It’s the kind of widely liked film that’ll likely place highly on multiple ballots; whereas “The Revenant” may be more divisive, it’s about an important issue that’s in the news at the moment, and it’s likely to get more support from actors, the biggest branch of the Academy. I’m sticking to my guns here, but I’ll be more than a little nervous when the award is announced on Sunday.
Could Win: Obviously “The Revenant” is well-placed to take the prize after its BAFTA and DGA wins, which could mark another impressive feat for Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu. And some of the Playlist team think it’s the picture that’s already in the pole position for Best Picture. Meanwhile, “Spotlight” is still firmly in the mix: It did take the SAG prize (which predicted “Crash”’s win when no one else did), and has many of the same virtues as “The Big Short,” while feeling a little more worthy too. It’s really a three-way race, and a surprisingly tight one.
Dark Horse: It’s a very close race, with all the films have a strong pack of support, and with votes likely to be spread widely, that could in theory benefit a surprise. Could that surprise be “Room”? The film slightly struggled to get people to watch it thanks to the harrowing subject matter, but managed not just enough support to make it to Best Picture, but also to Best Director. Now, with it firmly on the inside, it’s likely to have had more people watching it, and the film plays indisputably well to those who’ve seen it (it beat “Spotlight” to the TIFF People’s Choice award). This is more of an interesting ‘what if’ than a firm prediction, but it’s certainly one to keep half an eye on.