My final predictions, and I haven’t even entered a betting pool.
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: Bryan Cranston’s here because Hollywood prefers shrill self-mythologizing to truth telling about its cravenness when HUAC went after the industry. Eddie Redmayne’s here because the Academy will take a pretty boy turning himself into a woman who suffers rather than transgender women playing themselves who laugh (and the sick part is he’d be the contender had he not won last year). Matt Damon is here because why not. Leonardo DiCaprio will win because the Academy thinks he’s overdue and he works hard.
SHOULD WIN: Of course Steve Jobs serves as an excuse for Aaron Sorkin to scribble more malicious, polysyllabic bon mots; Academy voters thought Paddy Chayevsky was a smart writer too. But Michael Fassbender, a man with as much talent for vulnerability as Katherine Hepburn did for playing Asian matrons, finally found a snug vehicle for his crisp, malicious, polysyllabic talents. Anyway he’s not my pick in a normal race. Obviously the Academy needed to nominate Cranston over Creed‘s Michael B. Jordan.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
WILL WIN: Brie Larson’s momentum looks unstoppable. As a young mother adjusting to life after years locked in a basement, she makes no mistakes. Often she gave the impression of looking for a fiercer movie than the one for which she’s nominated.
SHOULD WIN: If Brooklyn were better realized, I’d select Saoirse Ronan’s lovely work as an Irish immigrant on whom nothing is lost. My colleagues adored Cate Blanchett’s work in Carol, and I found her lubricious kittycat expression as alluring as she thought it was, but the mix of affectation and vulnerability was like creamed spinach over poached eggs. Gimme Charlotte Rampling’s scrupulous control as a wife unsettled by her husband’s unseemly attachment to a memory in 45 Years (I’ll ask again: why the hell wasn’t Tom Courtenay nominated?).
The Big Short, dir. Adam McKay.
Mad Max: Fury Road, dir. George Miller.
The Revenant, dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu
Room, dir. Lenny Abrahamson
Spotlight , dir. Tom McCarthy.
WILL WIN: Whatever, people: in 1994 you were saying Tom Hanks couldn’t possibly win two consecutive Oscars. Alejandro González Iñárritu, Hollywood’s favorite concocter of harrowing films about the difficulty of being male and angling for Oscar nominations, will make a second acceptance speech.
SHOULD WIN: I’m not as high on George Miller as everybody else (watched Lorenzo’s Oil lately? Harrowing!), but his reinvention of the action film is the kind of prodigious achievement immune to Oscar validation.
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
WILL WIN: The award group salad into which this contest has been tossed has advanced three plausible finalists, but its surprising box office strength and the unwelcome and ridiculous assumption that Leonardo DiCaprio needs an Oscar now has turned The Revenant into the prohibitive favorite over The Big Short and Spotlight.
SHOULD WIN: When the night’s over and Scrunchy Face returns to wenching with Toby Maguire, voters are going to feel silly that they ignored a solid and often excellent early bird dinner fare like Spotlight, as obvious a choice in 1985 as it is in 2016 even if Mad Max: Fury Road remains my choice of the bunch.