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It’s time to put up, or shut up. After months of tracking the ongoing Academy Awards race in our regular Awards Blend column, I finally have to put my official Oscar picks in the books And I’ll be 100% honest with you… I don’t feel comfortable with a few of them. This year, more than any other in recent memory, major categories still feel like they are a coin flip – and we are days away from Sunday’s ceremony. Best Picture looks like a three-picture race (four, if you wanted to make the argument). Best Supporting Actor could make a hard left turn. There’s mystery, which leads to excitement.
Other categories, on the other hand, appear to be locks. (Get your speech ready, Mr. DiCaprio). And then there’s the bit of good fortune accrued by the Academy of having Chris Rock as the host before the #OscarsSoWhite controversy hit. Who better to comment on the situation – and hold the Academy’s own feet over the fire they have created – than Rock? So, as we head into the actual final stretch of the lengthy Oscar marathon, here are my best-guess picks for Sunday’s competition, as well as explanations as to why I’m leaning in each direction. What do you think?
Best Supporting ActressI’m going with the beautiful and talented Alicia Vikander, who really should be competing in the Best Actress race (as she shares just as much screen time in The Danish Girl as he co-star – the equally nominated Eddie Redmayne), and also should be rewarded for what ended up being an outstanding year. Vikander also deserved a nomination for her clinical work as an experimental A.I. in the brilliant Ex Machina. And while all five actresses in this category gave outstanding performances, the weight of the circumstances befalling Vikander’s Danish Girl character should propel her to a win on Sunday.
Best Supporting ActorWill the sentimental favorite emerge victorious at the Oscars this year? I’m willing to bet on Stallone, who dusted his Rocky Balboa persona out of the mothballs at the request of director Ryan Coogler for Creed, and was rewarded for an Oscar nomination for his nostalgic, dramatic turn. The thing about Stallone winning, though, is that his presence along represents the diversity issue that is plaguing the Academy. How is the Caucasian actor nominated, while his African-America director and co-star are overlooked? It looks bad, Oscar, but not bad enough to keep Stallone off the stage on Sunday night.
Best ActressOne of the things that routinely happens during the season is that the same actor picks up numerous gongs during the lengthy season, making their status as Oscar winner all but inevitable. We will see that here, with Brie Larson in the Best Actress category, as well as in the Best Actor category (but that will be next). As both kidnapping victim and doting mother in Room, Larson held audiences captivated in a near-impossible dramatic situation – a single-room location for half of her movie’s run time. In the run up to Oscar, she picked up a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, a Critics’ Choice award, and a Screen Actors Guild award. Oscar will be next.
Best ActorIt’s Leo’s year. We all can agree on that, right? There have been other years where it looked like Leo "might" win, and he didn’t. At the same time, I’m not sure we all agree that Leonardo DiCaprio deserves the Oscar for his performance in The Revenant. Heck, THR ran a blind item from an Oscar voter who hated DiCaprio’s performance, and the movie in general. But much like Brie Larson, DiCaprio has picked up most of the major awards leading up to the Oscars, and I’d be stunned if he went home empty-handed.
Best DirectorHere’s where I start making educated guesses, because you could make strong cases for different nominees in our last two categories. Because of the recent heat generated by The Revenant, there are many who think Alejandro G. Inarritu will win his second consecutive Best Director Oscar (after taking one home last year for Birdman). But winning back-to-back Oscars places Inarritu on an EXTREMELY short list of filmmakers who have accomplished that – rarified air, to say the least. Even though Inarritu won the Directors Guild, I think the Academy members will recognize George Miller in this category for the work he accomplished on Mad Max: Fury Road. Miller pulled off the impossible on that shoot. Then again… so did Inarritu. Coin flip, really.
Best PictureFor the longest time, I thought Spotlight was the film to beat. Then, The Revenant started generating some serious, late-game momentum. Finally, The Big Short started turning heads, winning a Producers Guild award (a significant indicator of the Best Picture winner), as well as BAFTA and Critics’ Choice awards. Watch the Adapted Screenplay category. A win in that column earlier in the night could point to a Big Short upset… which wouldn’t really be much of an upset, at all. If Big Short falls short, I still think The Revenant and Spotlight have outside chances, as they have picked up important hardware during the race. But with a gun to my head, metaphorically, the Producers Guild win prompts me to pick The Big Short at the end of a ceremony that seems ready to spread the love.