2016 Oscar Hopes and Predictions

Posted on February 12, 2016, 12:30 pm
27 mins


For the past several years, I’ve complained that the Academy Awards have become too predictable. Not so this year, with a few exceptions. (Best Actor and Actress are pretty much a lock.) There are a lot of meaty categories up for grabs, including Best Picture.

These things are determined by a lot of factors, including, but not limited to: Who’s been winning at other award shows (BAFTA, The Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, etc.); who the people are into this season (Leo!); who the studios are backing (Pixar); and plenty of old fashioned meta-gaming. (Iñárritu couldn’t possibly win best director two years running, right?)

It’s giving me a bit of a headache, but it should make for an exciting show and even more exciting Oscar Pools. In 2015, I guessed 19/24 awards correctly, but I doubt I’ll do half as well this year. Here are my best guesses, along with a few hopes, wishes and dark horses.

Though the awards are steeped in controversy for all the #OscarsSoWhite and otherwise uninspired nominations, I think this year will be a pretty entertaining telecast, especially after Neil Patrick Harris’ embarrassingly bad turn last year. Chris Rock is back to host and shepherd us through this awkward storm. 

Best Picture


Still from “The Revenant.”

  • The Big Short
  • Bridge of Spies
  • Brooklyn
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Room
  • Spotlight 

Will Win: The Revenant 

Will it be slightly boring if The Revenant takes both Best Picture and Best Director? Yes. But given all the conflicting opinions out there, it seems like the safest overall bet. The Big Short had a lot of momentum one week ago, but aye, the tides turn quickly in these choppy waters. I thought my ten dollars on the Panthers was a sure thing as well, and look what happened there. I am confident of this choice not at all.

Dark Horse: The Big Short

They may not want to over-congratulate Iñárritu’s work and award him both Best Picture and Best Director as they did last year for Birdman. The Big Short will split the difference in the unlikely event he is passed over for Best Director.

Should Win: Spotlight 

These are almost all great films, with one or two exceptions. (Bridge of Spies is solid but tired filmmaking. I’m bored just thinking about it.) Ultimately, Spotlight has the best acting overall, with a super smart, no-frills story that resonates long after you leave the theater. Journalism movies pretty much never win.

Write Ins: Anomalisa, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 

Is it so crazy that Star Wars should get a best picture nomination in a category that allows up to ten nominees? In twenty years, will we still be talking about The Martian, or The Force Awakens? As for Anomalisa, you can read my take on it here. Maybe people won’t be talking about it as much in twenty years, but I’ll be talking about it a bit more in this list.


  • Adam McKay, The Big Short
  • George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
  • Lenny Abrahamson, Room
  • Thomas McCarthy, Spotlight 

Will Win: Alejandro Iñárritu

Nobody thought the Director’s Guild Awards would ever dare to give a director back-to-back awards, because they’d never done it before, but what do you know—they just did. And since the DGA’s are more than 90 percent predictive of who will take home the Oscar, Iñárritu is the only sane bet.

Dark Horse: George Miller

McKay was the front-runner for the DGA’s, so now I’m thinking anything could happen. To me, if anyone’s going to best Iñárritu, it will be Miller, and it will be a worthy upset.

Write in: Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa 

Actor in a Leading Role

  • Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
  • Matt Damon, The Martian
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant 
  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl 

Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio

I know it was really cold on that shoot, and his lips were so chapped, but this performance didn’t do much for me. And this is coming to you from a girl who saw Titanic in the theaters five times in high school. I love this man. Michael Fassbender probably acted the hardest, but Steve Jobs is not a great film, and I say you have to go down with the ship.

Write In: Jason Segel, The End of the Tour

Actress in a Leading Role


Brie Larson in “Room.”

  • Cate Blanchett, Carol 
  • Brie Larson, Room
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
  • Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
  • Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Will Win: Brie Larson, Room

She’s already won The Golden Globe and a number of other awards this season, and her win in this category will make for a worthy tribute to Room, a really wonderful film that still hasn’t quite found the audience it deserves. How many young, beautiful blondes can one category hold? Did Jennifer Lawrence really need a fourth Oscar nomination?

Dark Horse: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Write In: Rebecca Hall, The Gift 

In a year that’s been touted as a triumph for its many strong female roles, Rebecca Hall’s understated performance in The Gift got unfairly lost in the shuffle.

Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Christian Bale, The Big Short 
  • Tom Hardy, The Revenant 
  • Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight 
  • Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies 
  • Sylvester Stallone, Creed 

Will Win: Tom Hardy

I don’t know why I’m sticking my neck out for this one. The peanut gallery seems to think this will go to Sylvester Stallone, but my gut says that voters will shy away from supporting The Great White Hope after they so summarily ignored his equally brilliant co-star Michael B. Jordan. Here’s my reasoning: Leo’s going to win best actor, but honestly, don’t we all know in our bones that Tom Hardy as his bellicose, chatty nemesis was even better? (If I could give an Oscar to the bear, I would.)

Dark Horse: Mark Rylance

Write Ins: Liev Schrieber, Spotlight, Idris Alba, Beasts of No Nation 

This will be Mark Ruffalo’s third Oscar nomination. Meanwhile, the incredible Schrieber has none. Idris Alba pours his still-beating heart onto the screen for his performance in Beasts of No Nation, while Christian Bale gets a third nomination (and a win for 2011’s The Fighter) for a role he could have done in his sleep. Don’t even get me started. It’s incredibly disappointing.

Actress in a Supporting Role


Still from “The Hateful Eight.”

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
  • Rooney Mara, Carol 
  • Rachel McAdams, Spotlight 
  • Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl 
  • Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs 

Will Win: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

This is by no means a sure thing. It’s a great performance, one that out-shined her co-star Eddie Redmayne, but it’s a sham, really, because it isn’t a supporting role at all. She may lose out on that technicality, or she may lose out because every single person in the category is equally deserving.

Dark Horses: Rooney Mara, Carol

Should Win: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

She’s so damn good in this movie. It’s such a fun, dynamic, truly supporting role for an actress who has never fully gotten the credit she deserves for being so consistently excellent for so long. I will be positively giddy if she manages a win.

Animated Feature Film  


“Inside Out.”

  • Anomalisa
  • Boy and the World
  • Inside Out
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie  
  • When Marnie Was There 

Will Win: Inside Out 

The beloved Pixar film is a foregone conclusion. It’s a pretty good movie.

Dark Horse: Anomalisa 

There’s no reason to think Inside Out won’t take home the prize—but crazy things happen in this category. Last year, the big shocker was that The Lego Movie wasn’t even nominated. This year, who knows? It’s not really fair to compare a kid’s movie to a stop-motion, made for grown-ups animation from the mind of Charlie Kaufman. But the movie came out in late January, it’s a technical marvel and it’s been picking up steam. Let me dream, here.

Adapted Screenplay


“The Big Short.”

  • Charles Randolph, Adam McKay, The Big Short 
  • Nick Hornby, Brooklyn 
  • Phyllis Nagy, Carol 
  • Drew Goddard, The Martian 
  • Emma Donoghue, Room 

Will Win: Charles Randolph, Adam McKay, The Big Short 

It’s not easy to jazz up something as incomprehensible as the 2008 financial crisis, but these fellas managed it.

Dark Horse: Emma Donoghue, Room 

A win for Room would be a nice acknowledgment of both the film and the book by a very talented woman, but in this case, probably the nomination is the acknowledgment.

Write In: Anomalisa 

Charlie Kaufman adapted the script from his own stage production, and any year that Kaufman makes a film that isn’t nominated is a year that the Academy messed up.

Original Screenplay



  • Matt Charman, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Bridge of Spies 
  • Alex Garland, Ex Machina 
  • Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Inside Out 
  • Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy, Spotlight 
  • Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff Straight Outta Compton 

Will Win: Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

I would be happy to see either this or Ex Machina win. They’re completely different films, so it’s not really fair to pit them against each other, but life’s not fair and neither are movie awards.

Dark Horse: Inside Out 

People will consider it groundbreaking to award an animated film in this category, but I will just find it annoying.

Documentary Feature

  • Amy
  • Cartel Land
  • The Look of Silence
  • What Happened, Miss Simone? 
  • Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom 

Will Win: Amy

The buzz has been long and steady for this intimate, tragic film about the life and death of Amy Winehouse, and why not.

Dark Horse:  Cartel Land 

It took home directing honors at the DGA’s, so it may be a more-than-likely upset.

Should Win: The Look of Silence

Nothing can make up for the tragic snub of 2014’s The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer’s film about the Indonesian genocide. It wasn’t just the best documentary: It was the very best film of the year, and for this slight, I will never forgive the academy. Its companion piece doesn’t have that same surreal finish, but it’s just as beautiful and in some ways, braver.

Write in: Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief 

Foreign Language Film


Still from “Son of Saul.”

  • Embrace the Serpent, Colombia
  • Mustang, France
  • Son of Saul, Hungary
  • Theeb, Jordan
  • A War, Denmark

Will WinSon of Saul 

It already won the Golden Globe in the category, and people are eager to honor Hungary in this way.

Dark Horse: Mustang 

And it’s more likely than you might think: This is one of those categories known for upsets, and we have a lot of Holocaust films already, right? Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s film may get just enough last-minute support to push it over the edge.

Film Editing

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

Will Win: Hank Corwin, The Big Short 

Of all the nominees, the editing is certainly the most noticeable in The Big Short. There’s a certain style to the quick cuts that matches the energy and the meta nature of the storytelling. I am okay with this.

Dark Horse: Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road 

It’s worth noting that there are three women up for the award in a job that’s generally still relegated to men. Keep hiring women, Hollywood!



“The Hateful Eight.”

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

Will Win: John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road 

Once again I’m going against the grain on this one, but I think people are tired of giving Oscars to Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant). If he wins this time around, it will be his third in a row–after Birdman (2015) and Gravity (2014)–and his eighth (!) nomination.

Dark Horse: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant 

Should Win: Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight  

I don’t even care that most of the movie takes place in a single room haberdashery. That snowy landscape thrilled me.

Production Design

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

Will Win: Colin Gibson, Lisa Thompson, Mad Max: Fury Road 

Period is easy enough, and The Revenant and The Martian just utilized natural locales. Creating a fantasy dystopia requires vision and moxie. Mad Max deserves the win here.

Dark Horse: Eve Stewart, Michael Standish, The Danish Girl 

Visual Effects


“Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

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

Will Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens 

This is a win that I can almost get behind, particularly when you consider the film’s first 20 minutes. In the end, though, I still don’t appreciate entire characters made from CGI. (We’ve come far since Jar Jar, but not far enough.)

Dark Horses: The Revenant, The Martian 

The Revenant may eke it out, only because the bear doesn’t qualify for best supporting actress. If The Martian wins, I’ll eat my hat, but it’s a serious contender. I thought the sandstorm in the beginning sequence was particularly terrible.

Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road 

George Miller achieves astounding visuals with his careful, meticulous filmmaking here. So many of the stunts are achieved in real space, with very little computers. He understands that CGI works for giving Furiosa one arm but looks cartoonish for a car crash.

Original Score

  • Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies 
  • Carter Burwell, Carol 
  • Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight 
  • Johann Johannsson, Sicario 
  • John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will Win: The Hateful Eight 

It really is a competitive year for best score. There’s something to admire in the music in every one of these films. It’s just too bad for the other nominees that The Hateful Eight score positively makes the movie. It’s the best score of the decade.

Dark Horse: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Original Song

  • “Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Gray
  • “Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction 
  • “Simple Song #3” from Youth 
  • “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground 
  • “Writing’s on the Wall,” from Spectre 

Will Win: “Til It Happens to You,” Lady Gaga

Dark Horse: “Writing’s on the Wall,” Sam Smith

The Sam Smith song that no one really likes has a shot, to the extent that the Academy often gets this category so, so wrong. And it won at The Golden Globes.

Should Win: “Earned It,” The Weeknd

It’s the best song of the bunch, in my opinion, and this is probably unfair but I’m tired of watching good things happen to Lady Gaga. I found her acceptance speech at this year’s Golden Globes to be disproportionately gushing for the scope of the event, and I don’t want to see it happen again.

Sound Editing

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

Will Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I’m going with Star Wars because the predictions for this category are just all over the place, and hey, when in doubt, why not give it to the space opera? Historically, sound editing and sound mixing are rarely split, but it happened last year with American Sniper and Whiplash, so really, who the heck knows?

Dark Horses: The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road 

Sound Mixing

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

Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road 

Dark Horses: The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Costume Design


Still from “The Danish Girl.”

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

Will Win: Paco Delgado, The Danish Girl 

It’s never easy to predict this category, but The Danish Girl seems as good a guess as any. Cinderella and Carol are both the product of Sandy Powell, who has three wins and 19 nominations under her belt, compared to Palco Delgado’s two nominations and zero wins.

Dark Horse: Cinderella 

Because the above logic means very little, in the end.

Write in: Star Wars: The Force Awakens 

Makeup and Hairstyling


Furiosa in “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

  • Lesley Vanderwait, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin, Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Love Larson and Eva Von Bahr, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared
  • Sian Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini, The Revenant

Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road 

It deserves the win for Furiosa’s black eye smear alone. So much of the film’s creativity comes from the way the character’s look. And how much did the makeup artists have to do on The Revenant, really? They shot on location in inhospitable conditions, and most of those windburned faces probably came to the shot that way.

Dark Horse: The Revenant

Write In: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Because, sue me, I have a soft spot for cosplay.

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: Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah 

I have to go entirely off what industry insiders are predicting on this one: I haven’t seen any of the films, and I don’t know how the general public ever does.

Dark Horse: Chau, Beyond the Lines 

Short Film (Live Action)

  • Basil Khalil and Eric Dupont, Ave Maria
  • Henry Hughes, Day One
  • Patrick Vollrath, Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut) 
  • Jamie Donoughue, Shok
  • Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage, Stutterer

Will Win: Ave Maria

I’m going against the grain on this one. Shok is overwhelmingly the projected favorite, but I just have a feeling that Ave Maria will pull an upset. It’s both political and a little funny. You can read my rundown on the category here.

Dark Horse: Shok

Should Win: Everything Will Be Okay 

Write In: Coeur D’Alene 

The best short film I saw last year played at the Seattle Shorts Film Festival but failed to earn a nomination. I interviewed the filmmaker, Merlin Camozzi in November.

Short Film (Animated)

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

Will Win: Sanjay’s Super Team

It’s the Pixar film, and it’s quite touching. Read my full rundown on the category here.

Dark Horse: World of Tomorrow 

Should Win: World of Tomorrow 

And there you have it! Check back after the telecast Sunday, February 28 at 5:30 PM PST on ABC to find out just how right/wrong/heartbroken we all are!

Molly Laich is a writer and media fan. You can find her at mollylaich.com and doghatesfilm.com and on twitter @MollyL