Whatever Leo Wants: Your 2016 Academy Awards Preview

"Acting!"
"Acting!"
Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

No, not that Leo.

The 88th Academy Awards ceremony airs this Sunday. The awards (called "Oscars" for reasons that are far too dull even for this piece) are awarded for "excellence in cinematic achievement," which has most recently translated to "given to attractive white people who temporarily ugly themselves up."

In keeping with that transition, look for Leonardo DiCaprio to *finally* overcome his "Oscar drought" and take home a Best Actor award for The Revenant. Provided you agree 23 years constitutes a drought, and subjecting yourself to experiences that sound a lot like fraternity hazing counts as "acting."

Then again, DiCaprio's thirst for a gold-plated doorstop has actually become the secondary storyline to this year's ceremony. For the second year in a row, all 20 acting nominees are white, and of the eight movies up for Best Picture, only one (The Martian) has a non-Caucasian in a role of any significance (Chiwetel Ejiofor as Vincent Kapoor). #OscarsSoWhite isn't just a clever hashtag; it's spurred more discussion about the ongoing paucity of actors, directors and screenwriters of color in Hollywood. 

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My interest in the awards has waned over the years, partly because of the impossibility of devoting four hours of attention to anything while three kids and a dog attempt to destroy my house at any given moment. Well, it's mostly that, actually. I never really took them seriously beyond the gambling implications ($250 if Fury Road wins Best Picture!) and the hope that every year Sacheen Littlefeather would make a triumphant return. 

Nonetheless, some of you have either a) not yet placed your bets, or b) want to root against a particular nominee (The Revenant really wasn't that good, you guys). So to help you in either case, here are my predictions for the 2016 Oscars. Author is not liable for missed mortgage payments.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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

Who Should Win? I'm probably biased, but I thought Winslet was very good in a movie that felt like it should be important but ultimately really wasn't. And if you adhere to the "uglification" prediction strategy, then Leigh's your winner.

Who Will Win? Vikander appears to be the favorite, which is bittersweet for all of us who thought she deserved the nod for Ex Machina instead. Despite a late push on Winslet's behalf, this is Vikander's to lose.

Hopefully that means Redmayne doesn't win again.

Who *Really* Wins? Vikander fans, who can do  the Oscar Isaac Robo-Dance in celebration.

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

Who Should Win? I honestly thought Hardy (and Will Poulter, who didn't get a sniff) was better than Leo in The Revenant, but that's neither here nor there, and I have several more nominations to get through before that axe is fully ground. Ruffalo was great in a great ensemble, which will hurt him. Rylance is the only one I see *maybe* threatening the sentimental favorite.

Who Will Win? Stallone, who will, hilariously (in the sense that "hilarious" means "spectacularly dense"), take home Creed's sole Oscar. That's right: Donald Trump will be your Republican Presidential nominee, and Sylvester Stallone is going to win an award for acting. Take your protein pills and put your helmet on.

Who *Really* Wins? The "All Lives Matter" crowd.

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

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

What Should Win? I joke that this might as well be renamed the Annual Pixar Award, but in this case,  Inside Out is perfectly deserving. Anomalisa is probably the only one even within a sniff, that's how great IO was.

What Will Win? Inside Out is — next to the best acting awards — the closest thing to a lock this year.

Who *Really* Wins? Fans of awkward stop-motion sex (if you want to call that "winning"), who certainly got their fill in Anomalisa.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Embrace of the Serpent
Mustang
Son of Saul
Theeb
A War

What Should Win? All of these, A War and Embrace of the Serpent especially, are very good films, but one is a clear standout.

Who Will Win? Son of Saul is tense, heartbreaking and remarkably layered. I had this on my top 10 list for the year, so it's clear where my sympathies lie.

Who *Really* Wins? Fans of Holocaust Oscar jokes.

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

“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? I'd like Racing Extinction to win *something*. The doc about mass species die-offs resulting from human activity hardly lifted any eyebrows (maybe Leo could have raised awareness by crawling into a Sumatran rhinoceros carcass). I liked very little about either Youth or Fifty Shades, including the songs.

What shouldn't win is "Writing's On The Wall," arguably the worst Bond theme of all time, and I blame Adele for making the Academy feel obligated to nominate this one.

What Will Win? "Til It Happens To You," which will ultimately end up generating more publicity for Lady Gaga than for the actual subject of The Hunting Ground (sexual assault on American college campuses).

Who *Really* Wins? Everyone hoping for a Leo-Gaga rematch:

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
The Martian
Room

Who Should Win? They're perfectly fine movies, but there's nothing remarkable about the writing in Carol or Brooklyn. I also don't get the nom for The Martian, unless all the voters just geeked out to "science the shit out of everything" and thought because Jeff Daniels was in it that Aaron Sorkin must somehow be involved.

Who Will Win? In spite of significantly dumbing down the source material, The Big Short wins this.

Who *Really* Wins? Everyone who uses movies as an excuse not to read books (JK: I wasn't going to read Brooklyn anyway).

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton

Who Should Win? Does anyone really win, in the end? Aren't we all — after the hectic and fruitless pursuits of life — doomed to the same fate? Can any of us then be said to "win" in any sense of the word?

This is my way of saying I really don't have a favorite. 

Who Will Win? Usually when I'm gauging writing award possibilities, I go by which movie had the most talking. That would be Spotlight, with Bridge of Spies a close second.

Who *Really* Wins? Anyone who says, "Whaddya mean the Oscars are too white? They nominated that rap movie for something!"

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

Who Should Win? Can we not go there? This is a pretty weak field, all told. Cranston was decent in a bad movie, Damon was Science Bourne, and Redmayne wasn't nearly as good as the pact he made with Satan appears to have convinced everyone he was. As with Winslet, I thought Fassbender was pretty damn good in an otherwise unremarkable Steve Jobs. But enough of that...

Who Will Win? You know it. I know it. This guy knows it. Much as I'd love an extinction-level "psych!" on the podium, Leonardo DiCaprio will finally have a statuette to comfort him alongside the entire Victoria's Secret swimsuit lineup, his multimillion-dollar Malibu mansion, and his living room set upholstered solely with the hymens of virgins he's deflowered. He's *earned* this, you guys.

Who *Really* Wins? Give it up for the worst Romeo ever.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

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

Who Should Win? I'd like to take a minute and point out that, with the exception of 45 Rooms, every film in this category has a one-word title. It's like I imagine Atouk from Caveman describing moving to Williamsburgh. 

WhoWill Win? Oh, Brie Larson, for sure. Lawrence and Blanchett are basically mandatory noms at this point, and Rampling might be a "lifetime achievement" option, except there's not a widespread perception she's been cheated out of winning one (this is her first nomination). Also, she's not very bright.

Who *Really* Wins? Anyone with the "under" on the "How many times will Jennifer Lawrence fall down walking up to the podium?" prop bet.

DIRECTING

Adam McKay, The Big Short
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Who Should Win? Miller storyboarded Fury Road for 19 years. There isn't a wasted moment or sequence in the entire film, and it's more emotionally engaging than anything else nominated. But go ahead and give it to the movie with the CGI bear.

Who Will Win? I'm afraid my love for MM:FR has skewed my perception that Miller actually has a shot and that Iñárritu — who has increasingly had his head up his own ass in interviews — is going to repeat. 

Who *Really* Wins? McKay went from the likes of Talladega Nights to an Oscar nomination. 'nuff said.

BEST PICTURE

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

What Should Win? I've taken some shit for saying Mad Max: Fury Road was the best movie of 2015, so let me elucidate the points in support of my position: Mad Max: Fury Road was the best movie of 2015.

What Will Win? Barring that, I really hope Spotlight wins, but I'm afraid everyone bought into Iñárritu and Leo's campfire snuff and gives it to The Revenant.

Who *Really* Wins? Anyone who watches The Walking Dead and is in bed by 9:15 instead.


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