THE REVENANTThe 88th Academy Awards (or the Oscars) are landing on our televisions this Sunday, and as of yesterday (Tuesday) voting has officially closed.  So what exactly are we left with?  A race that either seems weirdly obvious or ferociously unpredictable.

Going with a bit of “thank you’s” before we unveil our final predictions for the season.  I have to begin with the entire writing staff here at Awards Circuit, the cornerstone of this little alleyway of the internet that continues to raise their game, each and every year.  After this season, we’ll be saying goodbye to a few of them however, that have decided to move on and pursue other ventures.  Michael Balderston, once of our Los Angeles team, then moving to Washington D.C. is exploring his horizons, and will surely make a name for himself in the near future.  Watch out for that one.  And the ever talented Robert Hamer, our Navy veteran, that is transitioning to the professional and civilian world, but will always be a focal piece of why AC became as large as it did.  We wish them both a ton of luck.  And of course, the readers.  We can’t do this without you all.

Now, off the sentimental train, and into the fire.  Let’s look at what we have.

The seemingly “locked up” races have been few this year.  Leonardo DiCaprio from “The Revenant” has had a complete career retrospective all season long, and has done everything he needed to do that leads up to this moment, his long overdue time on the Oscar stage.  Brie Larson ran the gauntlet for critic’s prizes for “Room,” as well as all the televised to claim her stake against competitors Saoirse Ronan of “Brooklyn” and Charlotte Rampling of “45 Years.”

Critics Choice, BAFTA, and Writers Guild cemented the name plates for the writing categories as “Spotlight” from Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, along with “The Big Short” from Adam McKay and Charles Randolph are assured Oscars.  Pixar’s “Inside Out” never lost any steam, even when the delectable “Anomalisa” was trying to nip at its heels.

I truly believe that’s where the list ends in terms of “locked” up races.

Then we move into the “safe bet” zone.  After the DGA, BAFTA, and Golden Globes cited Alejandro G. Iñárritu for “The Revenant,” he should be joining the list of Joseph L. Mankiewicz and John Ford as back-to-back Director winners.  If “The Revenant” does win Best Picture, he’ll be the first to direct back-to-back Best Picture winners, but we’ll address that shortly.  The spoiler for him is not one person but four.  Does the PGA tip any favor towards Adam McKay?  If “Spotlight” decides to make a comeback, does Tom McCarthy squeeze in?  Or does the genius of George Miller give him any pull as “Mad Max: Fury Road” can pull in a ton of tech love?

Alicia Vikander worked the circuit like a champ, picking up Supporting Actress prizes from SAG and Critics Choice for her work in “The Danish Girl.”  The two times she wasn’t listed, due to a shift to the Lead Actress category, Kate Winslet reaped the benefits for “Steve Jobs.”  I don’t think that momentum in any way helps or hurts the other, if anything, it truly shows that Rooney Mara was never really in the running for the prize for “Carol.”  Vikander should be winning her Oscar accordingly.

From its initial trailer, we knew that Emmanuel Lubezki would be a force this year for his camera work on “The Revenant.”  With wins from ASC, Critics Choice, and BAFTA, he looks likely to win his third straight Cinematography prize in a row.  His threat comes from the sentimental factor of DP John Seale, who came out of retirement to blow the minds of those who revered George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road.”  Any way you slice it, Roger Deakins from “Sicario” and Ed Lachman from “Carol” look to be going home empty-handed once again.

With the absence of Harvey Weinstein and TWC in the Best Picture race this year, he’s put all resources into getting any major love for “Carol” as well as for veteran composer Ennio Morricone, whose work on “The Hateful Eight” has been well received and cited all season long.  I’d watch out for 50-time nominee John Williams to pull an upset for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” or maybe overdue composer Thomas Newman for “Bridge of Spies.”

On the subject of music, it took the star power of Lady Gaga to propel long overdue song writer Diane Warren to the forefront and possibly win her first Academy Award for the song “Til’ it Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground.”  However, Golden Globe winner Sam Smith has some momentum for “Writing’s on the Wall” from “Spectre” that may offer a “default”-like choice from the voting members.

Last on the “safe bets” are the brilliant and masterful works from László Nemes and Asif Kapadia.  “Son of Saul” and “Amy” have also been well-regarded and awarded on the circuit in Foreign Language and Documentary Feature.  In the case of the former, “Mustang” and possibly “Embrace of the Serpent” can offer alternative choices while the banks of Netflix have shown that possibly “What Happened Miss Simone?” or “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” can be worthy advocates for the prize.  In the scenario of the “Simone,” the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag can factor into voter’s mindsets as well.

Finally, we move into the “50/50” or “anyone’s game” or “it can’t be THAT easy, right?” categories.

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in CREED. ©Warner Bros. Entertainment/MGM Pictures. CR: Barry Wetcher.
Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in CREED. ©Warner Bros. Entertainment/MGM Pictures. CR: Barry Wetcher.

Supporting Actor has been the race to watch all year as Sylvester Stallone became the critical darling for his work in “Creed,” with Mark Rylance not too far behind for “Bridge of Spies.”  Stallone nabbed himself Globe and BFCA prizes while the not-nominated Idris Elba picked up SAG, where Stallone was not nominated.  In all the years of SAG, only two people have won the Academy Award without a corresponding SAG nomination (Marcia Gay Harden for “Pollock” and Christoph Waltz for “Django Unchained”).  Even if you’re deciding to tip the scale in favor of any of the other nominees that isn’t Rylance, history is going to be made in this category.  Rylance went on to win BAFTA, where fellow Oscar-nominee Mark Ruffalo from “Spotlight” and Christian Bale from “The Big Short” could have staked their claim on the race.  Again, Stallone was not nominated due to an alleged late surge for “Creed” in the U.K..  And then we have Tom Hardy, who probably on paper looks like the “#5” in the lineup, but I believe on sheer mathematics, Hardy coasted his way into the Oscar lineup.  By the same logic, if “The Revenant” is poised to make a sweep-like run through the categories, picking up multiple prizes, at bare minimum he’s in the top three.  Now, go with voters that genuinely like him and the performance, and are possibly anti-Stallone based on career and the role (understanding that the mentioned weakness can be his strength as well), maybe Hardy is the potential spoiler to Stallone’s party.  I do believe we’re due for that “WTF?” acting win moment that has popped up over the years like Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, and more.  In the end…I’m going with…eh.  I’ll reveal it later.

Costume and Production Design, two of the hardest calls of the night.  BAFTA and BFCA have tipped it with “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and these two categories conventionally do go hand-in-hand.  However, “The Danish Girl” looks to be something that is more “conventional” based on their past choices, and Focus Features has ran a remarkable campaign to ensure “The Danish Girl” wins more than just Vikander.  And there’s “The Revenant,” who possibly can replicate a run similar to “Slumdog Millionaire.”  I’m going with a split here with “Mad Max: Fury Road” taking Production Design and “The Danish Girl” taking Costumes.

The sound categories have been another hot topic, and for the sake of argument, we’re going to bring Visual Effects in on the conversation.  The sound categories almost never split.  A film that has won both sounds, and was nominated for Visual Effects has lost that one as well.  With that said, the CAS guild went with “The Revenant” and I expect it to nab both categories.  As with Visual Effects, the guild and BAFTA both went with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” a non-Best Picture nominee and many are expecting it to tilt in that direction.  I’m going with history and expecting “The Revenant” to pick this one up too.

Film Editing looked once poised for “The Big Short” to pick up on its way to the Dolby Theatre but the massive undertaking of cutting “Mad Max: Fury Road,” along with a BAFTA and ACE win, keeps me in the game for Margaret Sixel to win this prize.  We may even get some more “Revenant” love here.  I’d even watch out for “Spotlight” if you’re thinking a comeback is in its future.

Makeup and Hairstyling is a death match between “Max” and “Revenant” and I expect the chrome faces to just barely edge out the aftermath of a bear mauling.

When it comes to the shorts.  Your guesses are as good as mine.  I’ve leaned towards “Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah” and “World of Tomorrow” to win Documentary and Animated Short Film while the campaign for “Shok” has kept it truly alive and in the conversation.

And in the case of Best Picture, we have a three-man race between “The Big Short,” The Revenant,” and “Spotlight.”  All have picked up a substantial prize during the season.  “The Big Short” has PGA, and Paramount Pictures has relentlessly pushed it to the front of the line all season.  “The Revenant” also pulled together a very compelling Phase 2 campaign, shining the light on the film’s themes and career retrospectives of its stars.  And in the case of “Spotlight,” the film that started the season as the undisputed frontrunner, it’s fallen off when it came to guild support, but on a preferential ballot, it can do some real damage.  In the end, I’m not feeling “the split,” at least in terms of Iñárritu taking Director with “The Big Short” winning Picture.  If there is a split, I’m thinking “Spotlight” comes on top.  Final words for this one…I’m going with “The Revenant.”

Make sure to join us on Sunday, beginning at 12:00 pm Eastern Time, as we open our LIVE Blog, along with our Awards Chat Room for you all to decipher your final thoughts all day long.  Official prediction pages will be updated over the next few hours.

oscars_promo
Chris Rock will host the Oscars for the second time.

AwardsCircuit.com Final Oscar Predictions

BEST PICTURE – “The Revenant” (Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Mary Parent and Keith Redmon)
ALTERNATE: “Spotlight” (Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin and Blye Pagon Faust)

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING – Alejandro G. Iñárritu (“The Revenant”)
ALTERNATE: Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”)

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE – Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant”)
ALTERNATE: Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs”)

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE – Brie Larson (“Room”)
ALTERNATE: Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”)

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – Sylvester Stallone (“Creed”)
ALTERNATE: Tom Hardy (“The Revenant”)

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl”)
ALTERNATE: Kate Winslet (“Steve Jobs”)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – “Spotlight” (Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer)
ALTERNATE: “Straight Outta Compton” (Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – “The Big Short” (Adam McKay, Charles Randolph)
ALTERNATE: “Room” (Emma Donaghue)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – “Inside Out” (Pete Docter, Jonas Rivera)
ALTERNATE: “When Marnie Was There” (Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – “Mad Max: Fury Road” (Colin Gibson; Katie Sharrock, Lisa Thompson)
ALTERNATE: “The Danish Girl” (Eve Stewart; Michael Standish)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – “The Revenant” (Emmanuel Lubezki)
ALTERNATE: “Mad Max: Fury Road” (John Seale)

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – “The Danish Girl” (Paco Delgado)
ALTERNATE: “Mad Max: Fury Road” (Jenny Beavan)

BEST FILM EDITING – “Mad Max: Fury Road” (Margaret Sixel)
ALTERNATE: “The Big Short” (Hank Corwin)

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING – “Mad Max: Fury Road” (Lesley Vanderwalt, Damian Martin, Elka Wardega)
ALTERNATE: “The Revenant” (Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini)

BEST SOUND MIXING – “The Revenant” (Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom and Chris Duesterdiek)
ALTERNATE: “Mad Max: Fury Road” (Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo)

BEST SOUND EDITING – “The Revenant” (Martin Hernandez, Lon Bender)
ALTERNATE: “Mad Max: Fury Road” (Mark Mangini, David White)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – “The Revenant” (Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith, Cameron Waldbauer)
ALTERNATE: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan, Chris Corbould)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – “The Hateful Eight” (Ennio Morricone)
ALTERNATE: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (John Williams)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – “Til’ it Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground”
ALTERNATE: “Writing’s on the Wall” from “Spectre”

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – “Amy” (Asif Kapadia, James Gay-Rees)
ALTERNATE: “What Happened Miss Simone?” (Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby, Justin Wilkes)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – “Son of Saul” from Hungary (László Nemes)
ALTERNATE: “Mustang” from France (Deniz Gamze Ergüven)

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – “Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah” (Adam Benzine)
ALTERNATE: “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness” (Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy)

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM – “World of Tomorrow” (Don Hertzfeldt)
ALTERNATE: “Sanjay’s Super Team” (Sanjay Patel and Nicole Drindle)

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM – “Shok” (Jamie Donoughue)
ALTERNATE: “Stutterer” (Benjamin Cleary, Serena Armitage)

Share your predictions and thoughts in the comments and/or the Message Forums!

CHECK OUT THE OFFICIAL OSCAR PREDICTIONS FOR ALL CATEGORIES:

PICTURE |DIRECTOR | LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS |SUPPORTING ACTOR |SUPPORTING ACTRESS |ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY |ADAPTED SCREENPLAY |ANIMATED FEATURE |PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS | ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG | DOCUMENTARY FEATURE | FOREIGN LANGUAGE | LIVE ACTION SHORT | ANIMATED SHORT | DOCUMENTARY SHORT