And the Oscar will go to ...

World-Herald movie guy Micah Mertes takes on the Academy Awards. Who will win, who should win, who might win. There's a whole lotta uncertainty heading into Sunday's ceremony.

By Micah Mertes / World-Herald staff writer

Friday, February 26, 2016


The 88th Academy Awards ceremony (starting at 7:30 p.m. Sunday on ABC) will be remembered for a few things:
» Foremost the #oscarssowhite controversy, when an egregiously white nominee roster forced the academy to address its diversity problem.
» Host Chris Rock commenting on that controversy.
» Leo DiCaprio, after more than 20 years of great performances and also “The Great Gatsby,” winning his first Oscar.
» And it will be remembered for no one having any bloody idea what was going to win best picture up to the final moment.
This all makes Sunday’s show an exciting one, at least in theory. But even with all the uncertainty ahead, many of the awards categories feel downright preordained, and thus easier to predict.
Here’s our best guess at how things are going to shake out. Apologies if we’re wrong entirely.
AWARDS TALLY If our predictions are correct, here’s the number of Oscars each major film will take home.
“Mad Max: Fury Road”: 5; “The Revenant”: 4; “The Big Short”: 1; “Cinderella”: 1; “Creed”: 1; “The Danish Girl”: 1; “The Hateful Eight”: 1; “Inside Out”: 1; “Room”: 1; “Spotlight”: 1; “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”: 1

Best Picture

NOMINEES

“The Big Short”
“Bridge of Spies”
“Brooklyn”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Room”
“Spotlight”
What should win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
What will win: “The Revenant.” Unless it’s “Spotlight.” Or “The Big Short.”
What should have been nominated: “Creed”

More than any Oscar season in recent memory, the best picture race remains an open question.
The awards shows leading up to the Oscars — which usually allow us to predict who will take home the big one with a fair amount of certainty — weren’t much help this year. Because each show backed a different horse.
The Producers Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild of America gave their top awards to, respectively, “The Big Short,” “Spotlight” and “The Revenant.”
Now, conventional wisdom says that “The Big Short’s” PGA win makes it the frontrunner, as that award has predicted the eventual best picture winner for the past eight years.
On the other hand, “Spotlight’s” best ensemble win at the SAG Awards (the organization’s top prize), is less of a boon, as that award only lines up with the best picture winner about half the time.
A more helpful indicator coming out of the SAG Awards is that “The Revenant” was not nominated for the best ensemble award. Only one film has gone on to win best picture without at least being nominated for the SAG ensemble award: “Braveheart.”
So you’d think no “Revenant” win here. However ... Alejandro González Iñárritu winning the DGA award for “The Revenant” complicates things further. The DGA has a great track record of not only predicting the Oscar win for best director but best picture as well. Furthermore, “Revenant” won best picture and director at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards. The BAFTAs have a spotty history predicting best picture, though the guild has some overlap with the Oscars: About 500 people vote for both award shows, says the Hollywood Reporter.
“Revenant” seems to have the slightest edge here, but its victory is far from certain. “Spotlight” or “The Big Short” might sneak past it.
In any case, with the best picture category’s goofy preferential voting system, this is going to be an extremely tight race.
One final note: While you’re watching the show Sunday, remember that “Mad Max: Fury Road” is clearly the deserved winner and that history will judge the academy — harshly — for not correctly identifying the greatest movie ever made.

Directing

NOMINEES

Adam McKay, “The Big Short”
George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Alejandro González Iñárritu, “The Revenant”
Lenny Abrahamson, “Room”
Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”
Who should win: Miller
Who will win: Iñárritu
Who should have been nominated: Ridley Scott, “The Martian”

With the surprise DGA win, as well as his BAFTA victory, Iñárritu is the most likely winner here, but Miller remains a possibility. Had Scott been nominated, he very well might have taken the award, especially as Scott has never won and “The Martian” is the first great film he’s made since 2001’s “Black Hawk Down.”
If Iñárritu does win — he won for “Birdman” last year — he will become only the third director to score two in a row. The others are John Ford and Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
And consider this possibility: “The Revenant” has a decent chance at winning both best picture and best director, as “Birdman” did. That would make Iñárritu the recipient of the first back-to-back picture/director win in the academy’s history.

Best Actor

NOMINEES

Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo”
Matt Damon, “The Martian”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”
Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl”
Who should win: Damon
Who will win: DiCaprio
Who should have been nominated: “Michael B. Jordan, “Creed”

I’ll be as happy as anyone to see vaping enthusiast DiCaprio scream-crawl Hugh Glass-style up onto that stage Sunday and finally get his little gold man, the months-long narrative of his Oscar triumph coming to fruition.
But, as with many Oscar wins past, this feels more like a lifetime achievement award than anything. The win recognizes all the grunting, howling and filthy bearding he brought to “Revenant,” but it also acknowledges an astounding body of work.
“The Revenant” is not his best role. More deserving would have been his performances in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “The Departed,” “The Aviator” or “Catch Me If You Can.” But, all the same, thrilled to see the dude get his prize — maybe now he can go off and take it easy with a rom-com or something.
It’s an absurd long shot, but I’d love to see a Damon win. His performance was equal parts actorly prowess and movie star charisma. If only he’d eaten raw bison liver instead of poopy potatoes, then he might’ve stood a chance.

Best Actress

NOMINEES

Cate Blanchett, “Carol”
Brie Larson, “Room”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy”
Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years”
Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”
Who should win: Larson
Who will win: Larson
Who should have been nominated: Charlize Theron, “Mad Max: Fury Road”

After her Globes win (which isn’t relevant here) and her SAG win (which is), Larson is the one to beat. Though there remains the thinnest sliver of a chance that Ronan could upset.
It was a refreshingly strong year for female roles (so much so that Alicia Vikander and Rooney Mara’s lead-ish performances were relegated to supporting). But none of the actresses hit viewers in the throat so hard as Larson. As a mother struggling for her son’s survival, as a woman outraged that her life was stolen from her, Larson just nails every moment. Brutal.

Best Supporting Actor

NOMINEES

Christian Bale, “The Big Short”
Tom Hardy, “The Revenant”
Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”
Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”
Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”
Who should win: Rylance
Who will win: Stallone
Who should have been nominated: Benicio Del Toro, “Sicario”

This is the most open of the acting categories thanks to an unexpected SAG Awards outcome, which honored Idris Elba for his “Beasts of No Nation” performance. As Elba wasn’t nominated for an Oscar (one of the omissions that fueled the #oscarssowhite controversy), that leaves this race unsettled.
Had Bale or Rylance (once the presumed frontrunner) won the SAG, they’d have a clear path to victory here. But Stallone, not even nominated for a SAG, has emerged as the sentimental favorite. There is precedent for such a win: A few years back, Christoph Waltz won the same award for “Django Unchained,” despite being snubbed at the SAGs.
What helps Stallone’s chances is that “Creed” is his first honest-to-God good movie since 1997’s “Cop Land.” And seeing him nab a comeback win for reprising the same role he was nominated for nearly 40 years ago? Well, that will just be a neat Oscar moment.
When Sly gets up on that stage, the big lug better thank “Creed” writer/director Ryan Coogler until he’s red in the face with effort.

Best Supporting Actress

NOMINEES

Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”
Rooney Mara, “Carol”
Rachel McAdams, “Spotlight”
Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”
Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”
Who should win: Vikander
Who will win: Vikander
Who should have been nominated: Mya Taylor, “Tangerine”

Vikander scored the supporting actress win at the SAG Awards, a better predictor than the Golden Globes, which gave the award to Winslet.
Though all the performances here are great, Vikander’s is the one that sticks with you the most. And she was not only the best part of a rather staid prestige pic; she also had a banner year altogether, with great turns in “Ex Machina,” “Testament of Youth” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”
Vikander and Brie Larson are both realizing the “star is born” narrative with a vengeance.

Adapted Screenplay

NOMINEES

“The Big Short”
“Brooklyn”
“Carol”
“The Martian”
“Room”
What should win: “The Martian”
What will win: “The Big Short”

Adam McKay and Charles Randolph’s wildly inventive adaptation of Michael Lewis’ book has all the momentum in this category, including a win at the Writers Guild Awards.
We’ll soon be able to truthfully identify McKay as an Oscar-winner and the director of “Anchorman 2.”

Original Screenplay

NOMINEES

“Bridge of Spies”
“Ex Machina”
“Inside Out”
“Spotlight”
“Straight Outta Compton”
What should win: “Spotlight”
What will win: “Spotlight”

The research and development Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer put into their “Spotlight” screenplay was great journalism in its own right, and the academy is going to reward that.

Animated Feature Film

NOMINEES

“Anomalisa”
“Boy and the World”
“Inside Out”
“Shaun the Sheep Movie”
“When Marnie Was There”
What should win: “Inside Out”
What will win: “Inside Out”

This is an altogether solid lineup, but “Inside Out” is Pixar’s first great movie in far too long. If it doesn’t win, like, people should go to jail.

Foreign Language Film

NOMINEES

“Embrace of the Serpent”
“Mustang”
“Son of Saul”
“Theeb”
“A War”
What should win: “Son of Saul”
What will win: “Son of Saul”

László Nemes’ Holocaust drama has received near-universal acclaim from critics, festivals and the small cluster of audiences who have seen it (it opened in Omaha earlier this month).
Its closest competitor is the equally well-regarded Turkish drama, “Mustang.”

Documentary Feature

NOMINEES

“Amy”
“Cartel Land”
“The Look of Silence”
“What Happened, Miss Simone?”
“Winter on Fire”
What should win: “The Look of Silence”
What will win: “Amy”

“Amy” is really good. It’s a sad, riveting and expertly made documentary about the rise and fall of Amy Winehouse. But “The Look of Silence” is one of the greatest documentaries ever.
“Amy” is a very special “Behind the Music” episode. “The Look of Silence” is a masterpiece, a cool-headed examination of atrocity that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as “Shoah.” It won’t win.

Best Cinematography

NOMINEES

“Carol”
“The Hateful Eight”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”
“Sicario”
What should win: “Sicario”
What will win: “The Revenant”

Look, I thought “The Revenant” looked great, too. With the stunning visuals, lead shooter Emmanuel Lubezki helped transform an overwrought, overlong story into an awe-inspiring experience. But this will be Lubezki’s third consecutive win (following “Birdman” and “Gravity”), giving him the most consecutive awards in the category’s history.
This will be, however, “Sicario” cinematographer Roger Deakins’ 13th nomination and 13th loss. Deakins’ remarkable résumé aside (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “Fargo,” “No Country for Old Men”), his work on “Sicario” is more deserving of this year’s trophy. Deakins’ images are wholly part of the film, an essential ingredient in the recipe. Lubezki’s “Revenant” visuals are the icing hiding an overbaked cake.

Film Editing

NOMINEES

“The Big Short”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”
“Spotlight”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
What should win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
What will win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

“The Big Short” certainly had a lot of editing in it, the rapid-fire cuts Red-Bull-shotting some pizazz into a highly dialogue-driven story.
But Margaret Sixel’s feat of assembling a coherent action movie out of the bloody chaos of “Mad Max” should not be ignored.

Original Song

NOMINEES

“Earned It,” “Fifty Shades of Grey”
“Manta Ray,” “Racing Extinction”
“Simple Song #3,” “Youth”
“Til It Happens to You,” “The Hunting Ground”
“Writing’s on the Wall,” “Spectre”
What should win: “Earned It”
What will win: “Til It Happens to You”

The question (the oldest question there is, really): Do you want to live in a world where “Fifty Shades of Grey” is an Oscar winner or Lady Gaga is Oscar winner?

Original Score

NOMINEES

“Bridge of Spies”
“Carol”
“The Hateful Eight”
“Sicario”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
What should win: “Sicario”
What will win:The Hateful Eight”
What should have been nominated: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

The 87-year-old legend Ennio Morricone will get a long-overdue Oscar Sunday, making him the oldest winner (in any category) in academy history — not including honorary awards.
And his “Hateful Eight” score is stellar. Incorporating unused music he’d written for John Carpenter’s 1982 horror movie “The Thing,” Morricone crafted a playful but sinister score that perfectly sets the tone for Tarantino’s film.
But I dug Jóhann Jóhannsson’s waking beast of a “Sicario” score, which boosted the severity of my “Sicario”-induced panic attack by 10 to 15 percent.
Also, Junkie XL’s rock operatic “Mad Max” score should have made the cut over Thomas Newman’s good but safe work in “Bridge of Spies.”

Visual Effects

NOMINEES

“Ex Machina”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
What should win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
What will win: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

“Star Wars” recently scored the top award of outstanding VFX in a photoreal feature at the Visual Effects Society Awards, which is a good (but not infallible) predictor of the visual effects Oscar winner.
Every movie in this category is a major achievement that seamlessly merges practical and digital effects. But no contender was so much about its visual effects as that cockamamie car chase movie.

Production Design

NOMINEES

“Bridge of Spies”
“The Danish Girl”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
What should win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
What will win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

I’m sorry, but none of the other features featured killer cars covered in rusty spikes.

Sound Editing

NOMINEES

“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Sicario”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
What should win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
What will win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

I’m sorry, but none of the other films had to make so many sounds involving killer cars covered in rusty spikes.

Sound Mixing

NOMINEES

“Bridge of Spies”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
What should win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
What will win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

I’m sorry, but none of the other films had to mix many sounds of killer cars covered in rusty spikes with other sounds that were not the sounds of killer cars covered in rusty spikes.

Costume Design

NOMINEES

“Carol”
“Cinderella”
“The Danish Girl”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”
What should win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
What will win: “Cinderella”

“Mad Max’s” costumes were as visionary and terrifying and hilarious as every other aspect of the film. But I’m not going to bet against Disney here, even with “Cinderella’s” notable lack of a Doof Warrior.

Makeup and Hairstyling

NOMINEES

“The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”
What should win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
What will win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Dirty, scalped Tom Hardy vs. dirty, scalp-intact Tom Hardy and an army of War Boys.

Documentary Short

NOMINEES

“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”
What should win:A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”
What will win: “Body Team 12”

The shorts categories are notoriously hard to predict and have busted many an Oscar pool ballot. “A Girl in the River,”a great, rage-provoking story about an honor killing in Pakistan, has my vote. But I feel like the nearly-as-compelling Ebola doc “Body Team 12” is taking this one — it’s shorter than the others.

Live Action Short

NOMINEES

“Ave Maria”
“Day One”
“Everything Will Be Okay”
“Shok”
“Stutterer”
What should win: “Stutterer”
What will win: “Ave Maria”

Another case of who knows, though the insiders who follow the academy’s doings for months on end are pointing to “Ave Maria.” I found “Stutterer,” the story of a brilliant young man with a speech impediment, to be the most moving of the bunch.

Animated Short

NOMINEES

“Bear Story”
“Prologue”
“Sanjay’s Super Team”
“We Can’t Live Without Cosmos”
“World of Tomorrow”
What should win: “World of Tomorrow”
What will win: “Sanjay’s Super Team”

“Sanjay” is a cute and colorful lil’ romp. But “World of Tomorrow” is truth.

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