Oscars 2016: Rankings and Predictions

The 88th Academy Awards, a.k.a. the Year of #OscarsSoWhite, reflect an interesting time for the Oscars. Thanks to a second consecutive year of a lily-white field of Oscar acting nominees, something that last happened in the 1990s, there’s been a greater push for diversity in the Academy’s membership. The social media awareness has also drawn attention to the broader issue of diversity in production – it’s hard to nominate performances that aren’t being made in the first place.

Still, this year’s list of nominees does offer some welcome trends. This year’s Best Picture lineup may be heavy on films involving straight white men, as per usual, but the inclusions of RoomBrooklyn and especially Mad Max: Fury Road do thankfully break that up. Just remember last year’s male-centric lineup.

So why does an Oscar nomination, let alone a win, matter? It’s hard to deny some of the good that an Oscar can do. Simply getting a nomination can lead to a better box office for a struggling, independently produced film. A win or multiple nominations may open up doors for an actor to choose more challenging work in the future. Seeing the trailers and commercials for Oscar-nominated films at the beginning of the year can encourage people to see something they might not have known about otherwise, because of the weight that an Oscar nomination carries.

Below, I’ve gone through the eight major categories by ranking the nominees, then offering my thoughts on the category, before making my predictions for the evening. Below that, I offer my predictions for the rest of the categories this year.


Best Picture

  1. Spotlight
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. Room
  4. The Martian
  5. Brooklyn
  6. Bridge of Spies
  7. The Big Short
  8. The Revenant

There are few things more exciting than a good competition, where no one’s 100 percent sure of the outcome. If you really follow the races, by the time the Oscars happen, it’s fairly easy to guess the winners in at least the major categories.

Not this year. This year’s race for Best Picture is actually too close to call. Out of the eight films nominated, three – The Big ShortSpotlight, and The Revenant – are legitimately in contention for the win.

Why is it so hard to predict? In a word: precursors. In the month or so before the Oscars, various groups give out their annual awards. Each one has their equivalent of Oscar’s Best Picture category, and a handful of groups have voter overlap with the Academy. Among them are the guilds for directors, screen actors, producers and writers. They don’t always choose the same films for their top prize, but there’s usually a clear favorite in the results.

This year, the three big guilds – PGA, SAG, DGA –each went with a different film. Combined with other awards from other groups, and even taking each film’s other Oscar nominations into account, there’s no clear frontrunner.

For Best Picture, I think it comes down to the preferential ballot. The Revenant and The Big Short are just divisive enough where I think they’ll be weighed down by a ton of 7th and 8th place rankings. Spotlight just doesn’t have that sense of divisiveness, so even if it’s not ranked #1 for some voters, I can see it getting a lot of votes in the top half of the list. (This assumes that a majority of voters actually rank all eight nominees.)

Will Win: Spotlight

Could Win: The Revenant

Should Win: Spotlight

Should Be Nominated: CarolCreedInside Out


Best Director

  1. George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Alejandro González Iñárritu – The Revenant
  3. Lenny Abrahamson – Room
  4. Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
  5. Adam McKay – The Big Short

Alejandro G. Iñárritu was the recipient of The Revenant’s DGA win, which makes him a likely winner – except the last director to win this category in consecutive years was Joseph L. Mankiewicz in 1949 (A Letter to Three Wives) and 1950 (All About Eve). I don’t believe voters will know or care that Iñárritu would only be the third back-to-back Best Director winner, but I can buy them not giving it to him because he won last year.

Also, two of the last three ceremonies have seen a split for Best Picture and Best Director. Historically, this is unusual, but the long-term history doesn’t take into account the current differences in voting. Picture requires a majority and Director only requires a plurality. I think that these two categories are more likely to be split in a divisive year, and this one would certainly count.

Given the sheer number of technical nominations it landed, along with Best Picture and Director, it’s clear that the tech branches liked Mad Max: Fury Road on some level. And while The Revenant‘s narrative has focused on Iñárritu, he’s not the primary focus of the promotional campaign. That’s Leonardo DiCaprio. Mad Max: Fury Road has really tied itself specifically to George Miller, from that first trailer including his name in large text through the interviews he’s given months after the film’s release, where topics like more Mad Max films and his brush with directing a Justice League movie only bringing him specifically more prominence. I think he’ll take it.

Will Win: George Miller

Could Win: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Should Win: George Miller

Should Be Nominated: Ridley Scott (The Martian), Todd Haynes (Carol)


Best Actor

  1. Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs – Steve Jobs
  2. Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass – The Revenant
  3. Matt Damon as Mark Watney – The Martian
  4. Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo – Trumbo
  5. Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe / Einar Wegener – The Danish Girl

Look, everyone knows that Leonardo DiCaprio is so desperate for one of these that if he doesn’t win for The Revenant, he may actually die making his next film to ensure a win. The only way he’s losing is if enough people want to make that happen.

Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio

Could Win: Leonardo DiCaprio

Should Win: Michael Fassbender

Should Be Nominated: Michael B. Jordan (Creed), Jacob Tremblay (Room)


Best Actress

  1. Brie Larson as Joy “Ma” Newsome – Room
  2. Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird – Carol
  3. Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey – Brooklyn
  4. Charlotte Rampling as Kate Mercer – 45 Years
  5. Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano – Joy

The Oscars love giving this award to young, pretty actresses doing challenging work. Rest assured, Brie Larson absolutely earns the attention in Room (and deserved it a few years ago for Short Term 12, too).

Will Win: Brie Larson

Could Win: Saoirse Ronan

Should Win: Brie Larson

Should Be Nominated: Lily Tomlin (Grandma)


Best Supporting Actor

  1. Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa – Creed
  2. Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes – Spotlight
  3. Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald – The Revenant
  4. Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel – Bridge of Spies
  5. Christian Bale as Michael Burry – The Big Short

Sylvester Stallone earned a pair of nominations 40 years ago for writing and starring in Rocky, losing both while the film won Best Picture. Creed gave Stallone a well-deserved critical comeback, and a win here gives the Academy a chance to give him a Rocky-related Oscar. The only real competition he faces is Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies, though that’s partially due to colleagues who know his work in theater.

Will Win: Sylvester Stallone

Could Win: Mark Rylance

Should Win: Sylvester Stallone

Should Be Nominated: Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation), Jacob Tremblay (Room)


Best Supporting Actress

  1. Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet – Carol
  2. Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegener – The Danish Girl
  3. Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer – Spotlight
  4. Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue – The Hateful Eight
  5. Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman – Steve Jobs

Alicia Vikander and Rooney Mara are nominated in this category for undeniably lead roles, which could hurt them. But Vikander has the advantage of also getting acclaim for her turn in Ex Machina, and voters will likely see a vote for Vikander as recognizing her breakthrough year. Her only true competition is Kate Winslet, the only actress to win major awards against Vikander this season. Except when that’s happened, Vikander was nominated for Ex Machina. When Vikander’s nominated for The Danish Girl, she wins.

Will Win: Alicia Vikander

Could Win: Kate Winslet

Should Win: Rachel McAdams

Should Be Nominated: e


Best Original Screenplay

  1. Spotlight – Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer
  2. Inside Out – Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, and Ronnie del Carmen
  3. Ex Machina – Alex Garland
  4. Bridge of Spies – Matt Charman, Joel Coen, and Ethan Coen
  5. Straight Outta Compton – Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge, and Alan Wenkus

While I’m predicting Spotlight for Best Picture, this is the category where a win for the film is more or less guaranteed. More or less. Considering the #OscarsSoWhite backlash with this year’s nominations, there’s a chance that the screenplay for Straight Outta Compton, which happens to be the weak link in the film (and features four white nominees), could pull off an upset.

Will Win: Spotlight

Could Win: Straight Outta Compton

Should Win: Spotlight


Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. The Martian – Drew Goddard, from The Martian by Andy Weir
  2. Carol – Phyllis Nagy, from The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
  3. Brooklyn – Nick Hornby, from Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
  4. Room – Emma Donoghue, from Room by Emma Donoghue
  5. The Big Short – Adam McKay and Charles Randolph from The Big Short by Michael Lewis

Like with SpotlightThe Big Short is all but guaranteed to win this award if nothing else. I wouldn’t completely rule out an upset, though, from any of the other worthy nominees.

Will Win: The Big Short

Could Win: Room

Should Win: The Martian

Best Animated Feature Film

  • Anomalisa – Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson, and Rosa Tran
  • Boy & the World – Alê Abreu
  • Inside Out – Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie – Mark Burton and Richard Starzak
  • When Marnie Was There – Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia) in Spanish – Ciro Guerra
  • Mustang (France) in Turkish – Deniz Gamze Ergüven
  • Son of Saul (Hungary) in Hungarian – László Nemes
  • Theeb (Jordan) in Arabic – Naji Abu Nowar
  • A War (Denmark) in Danish – Tobias Lindholm

Best Documentary – Feature

  • Amy – Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees
  • Cartel Land – Matthew Heineman and Tom Yellin
  • The Look of Silence – Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
  • What Happened, Miss Simone? – Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby, and Justin Wilkes
  • Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom – Evgeny Afineevsky and Den Tolmor

Best Documentary – Short Subject

  • Body Team 12 – David Darg and Bryn Mooser
  • Chau, Beyond the Lines – Courtney Marsh and Jerry Franck
  • Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah – Adam Benzine
  • A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness – Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
  • Last Day of Freedom – Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman

Best Live Action Short Film

  • Ave Maria – Eric Dupont and Basil Khalil
  • Day One – Henry Hughes
  • Everything Will Be Okay – Patrick Vollrath
  • Shok – Jamie Donoughue
  • Stutterer – Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage

Best Animated Short Film

  • Bear Story – Pato Escala Pierart and Gabriel Osorio Vargas
  • Prologue – Imogen Sutton and Richard Williams
  • Sanjay’s Super Team – Nicole Paradis Grindle and Sanjay Patel
  • We Can’t Live Without Cosmos – Konstantin Bronzit
  • World of Tomorrow – Don Hertzfeldt

Best Original Score

  • Bridge of Spies – Thomas Newman
  • Carol – Carter Burwell
  • The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone
  • Sicario – Jóhann Jóhannsson
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens – John Williams

Best Original Song

  • “Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey – Music and Lyrics by Ahamad Balshe (Belly), Stephan Moccio, Jason “Daheala” Quenneville, Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd)
  • “Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction – Music by J. Ralph, Lyrics by Antony Hegarty
  • “Simple Song #3” from Youth – Music and Lyrics by David Lang
  • “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground – Music and Lyrics by Lady Gaga and Diane Warren
  • “Writing’s on the Wall” from SPECTRE – Music and Lyrics by Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith

Best Sound Editing

  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Mark A. Mangini and David White
  • The Martian – Oliver Tarney
  • The Revenant – Martin Hernández and Lon Bender
  • Sicario – Alan Robert Murray
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Matthew Wood and David Acord

Best Sound Mixing

  • Bridge of Spies – Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, and Drew Kunin
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff, and Ben Osmo
  • The Martian – Paul Massey, Mark Taylor, and Mac Ruth
  • The Revenant – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom, and Chris Duesterdiek
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio, and Stuart Wilson

Best Production Design

  • Bridge of Spies – Rena DeAngelo, Bernhard Henrich, and Adam Stockhausen
  • The Danish Girl – Michael Standish and Eve Stewart
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Colin Gibson and Lisa Thompson
  • The Martian – Celia Bobak and Arthur Max
  • The Revenant – Jack Fisk and Hamish Purdy

Best Cinematography

  • Carol – Ed Lachman
  • The Hateful Eight – Robert Richardson
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – John Seale
  • The Revenant – Emmanuel Lubezki
  • Sicario – Roger Deakins

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared – Love Larson and Eva von Bahr
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega, and Damian Martin
  • The Revenant – Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman, and Robert Pandini

Best Costume Design

  • Carol – Sandy Powell
  • Cinderella – Sandy Powell
  • The Danish Girl – Paco Delgado
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Jenny Beavan
  • The Revenant – Jacqueline West

Best Film Editing

  • The Big Short – Hank Corwin
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Margaret Sixel
  • The Revenant – Stephen Mirrione
  • Spotlight – Tom McArdle
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey

Best Visual Effects

  • Ex Machina – Mark Williams Ardington, Sara Bennett, Paul Norris, and Andrew Whitehurst
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Andrew Jackson, Dan Oliver, Andy Williams, and Tom Wood
  • The Martian – Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence, Richard Stammers, and Steven Warner
  • The Revenant – Richard McBride, Matt Shumway, Jason Smith, and Cameron Waldbauer
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Chris Corbould, Roger Guyett, Paul Kavanagh, and Neal Scanlan

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