Controversy threatens to diminish the accolades associated with the 88th annual Academy Awards honoring the best cinema of 2015 Sunday, Feb. 28 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Oscars So White has been trending since last month, but the broader voting landscape still indicates Hollywood’s surprising leeriness to fully embrace diversity in storytelling and filmmaking. In particular, the marvelously conceived, gay-themed Carol being shut-out of the Best Picture and Director categories is just as disappointing as the egregious omissions of minorities in the acting fields. Nevertheless, the Oscars are an American pop culture tradition worth celebrating in good times and bad. As always, anything is possible when it comes to the 6,261 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, specifically their final choice of the evening which will undoubtedly be suspenseful.
Here are my predictions in the top six categories.
Overlooked: 45 Years; Amy; Beasts of No Nation; Black Mass; Carol; Clouds of Sils Maria; Creed; The Dairy of a Teenage Girl; The Danish Girl; Ex Machina; Far From the Madding Crowd; The Hateful Eight; Joy; Love and Mercy; Sicario; Steve Jobs; Straight Outta Compton; Trumbo
Will/Should Win: Spotlight
One of the closest Best Picture races in recent history will come down to three choices based on precursors. Spotlight was embraced by the Screen Actors Guild, Revenant was a hit with the Directors Guild, and Big Short wowed the Producers Guild. Revenant has momentum, but the topical, universal, heartbreaking relevance of Spotlight, accented by a tremendous ensemble, gives it the edge.
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, The Revenant
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Adam McKay, The Big Short
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Overlooked: Olivier Assayas, Clouds of Sils Maria; Danny Boyle, Steve Jobs; Ryan Coogler, Creed; Cary Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation; Alex Garland, Ex Machina; F. Gary Gray, Straight Outta Compton; Andrew Haigh, 45 Years; Todd Haynes, Carol; Spike Lee, Chi-Raq; John Madden, Brooklyn; Jay Roach, Trumbo; David O. Russell, Joy; Ridley Scott, The Martian; Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies; Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight; Denis Villeneuve, Sicario; Thomas Vinterberg, Far From the Madding Crowd
Will/Should Win: Iñarritu
Miller rebooted Mad Max to the hilt, but Iñarritu, the mastermind honored here last year for Birdman, looks unstoppable as the first director to win back-to-back since Joseph L. Mankiewicz in 1950 for All About Eve.
Overlooked:; Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation; Michael Caine, Youth; Tom Courtenay, 45 Years; Paul Dano, Love and Mercy; Johnny Depp, Black Mass; Jesse Eisenberg, The End of the Tour; Domhnall Gleason, Ex Machina; Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies; Jake Gyllenhaal, Southpaw; Michael B. Jordan, Creed; Ian McKellen, Mr. Holmes; Mark Ruffalo, Infinitely Polar Bear; Matthias Schoenaerts, Far From the Madding Crowd; Will Smith, Concussion
Will/Should Win: DiCaprio
DiCaprio’s rigorous, palpable, raw, and literally gutsy portrayal of fur trapper Hugh Glass is classic, all-about-me Oscar bait from his first scene to his final close-up. Only the reliably versatile Cranston and the most daring performance Redmayne has delivered thus far seem capable of stealing Leo’s overdue Oscar.
Overlooked: Juliette Binoche, Clouds of Sils Maria; Emily Blunt, Sicario; Sandra Bullock, Our Brand Is Crisis; Blythe Danner, I’ll See You in My Dreams; Helen Mirren, Woman in Gold; Carey Mulligan, Far From the Madding Crowd and Suffragette; Bel Powley, The Diary of a Teenage Girl; Zoe Saldana, Infinitely Polar Bear; Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van; Meryl Streep, Ricki and the Flash; Lily Tomlin, Grandma
Will Win: Larson
Should Win: Blanchett
Blanchett, as captivating and nuanced as ever, mesmerized with delicacy, but Larson is a sure bet for her fierce portrayal of a mother held captive with her son.
Overlooked: Josh Brolin, Sicario; Kyle Chandler, Carol; Billy Crudup, Spotlight; John Cusack, Love and Mercy; Jeff Daniels, Steve Jobs; Robert De Niro, Joy; Benecio del Toro, Sicario; Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation; Sam Elliott, I’ll See You in My Dreams; Paul Giamatti, Straight Outta Compton; Domhnall Gleeson, The Revenant; Walton Goggins, The Hateful Eight; Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina; Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful Eight; Michael Keaton, Spotlight; Jason Mitchell, Straight Outta Compton; Kurt Russell, The Hateful Eight; Liev Schreiber, Spotlight; Jason Segel, The End of the Tour; Michael Shannon, 99 Homes; Michael Sheen, Far From the Madding Crowd; Alexander Skarsgaard, The Diary of a Teenage Girl; Rick Springfield, Ricki and the Flash; Tom Sturridge, Far From the Madding Crowd; Jacob Tremblay, Room; Stanley Tucci, Spotlight; Forest Whitaker, Southpaw
Will Win: Stallone
Should Win: Rylance
Recent BAFTA winner Rylance, a three-time Tony Award winner with extensive stage credits in London’s West End, relied on the most subtle acting choices to heighten his quietly commanding performance. However, Stallone, nominated for Rocky in 1977, is the sentimental favorite and will likely receive the first standing ovation of the night. If you’re a Stallone fan, have your tissues handy.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Overlooked: Joan Allen, Room; Elizabeth Banks, Love and Mercy; Angela Bassett, Chi-Raq; Jane Fonda, Youth; Mamie Gummer, Ricki and the Flash; Lola Kirke, Mistress America; Laura Linney, Mr. Holmes; Helen Mirren, Trumbo; Sarah Paulson, Carol; Isabella Rossellini, Joy; Kristin Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria; Tessa Thompson, Creed; Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina; Julie Walters, Brooklyn; Kristin Wiig, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Will Win: Vikander
Should Win: Mara
Let’s face it. Vikander and Mara commit category fraud for being placed here instead of the leading field where they belong. Nonetheless, both were remarkable and deserve to win despite a late surge for Winslet. Due to Carol’s dwindling support within the Academy, Mara’s incredibly layered and revelatory work will not surpass Vikander’s dynamic breakthrough portrayal of an artist championing and loving her identity-rattled husband against all odds.
The 88th annual Academy Awards, hosted by Chris Rock, will be telecast live Sun. Feb. 28 on ABC at 8:30 pm.