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This year’s list of Oscar nominees is a strange one. There are a handful of awards where the choice appears to be so clear that there isn’t even a discussion, and then everything else looks like a bloody free for all. Every Oscars ceremony tends to have a few upsets, but how can you have an upset when there’s no clear frontrunner? For those of us who fill out Oscar ballots with the same focus that others put together a March Madness bracket, what are we to do?
However, it's possible that a few of those "sure things" might not be quite as sure as you believe. There are a few places where we think upsets might actually be possible. Here are the places to keep an eye open for potential Academy Award upsets. If you lose $10 to your office mate based on this we accept no responsibility. However, if you win money, drinks are on you.
Best Supporting Actor - Mark RylanceEver since Sylvester Stallone got a Golden Globe nomination for his role in Creed and then walked out with the award, this year’s Best Supporting Actor award seems to be his to lose. The thing is, as good as Creed was, and as good as Stallone was in it, nobody walked out of that movie thinking it was an Oscar worthy performance. The Academy Awards do give awards for long careers on occasion but they also like to reward traditional actors playing very traditional award roles. If Stallone wasn’t nominated this year than Mark Rylance’s performance in Bridge of Spies would be just the kind of thing they would go for, and there may be just enough old school pull in the Academy to make it happen anyway.
Best Animated Feature - AnomalisaPixar has won the award for Best Animated Feature so many times they might as well name the award after the studio. Add to that the fact that Inside Out has been one of the studio’s highest regarded films in years and this one would seem to be a slam dunk. However, Pixar has never had competition quite like Anomalisa. It’s a unique movie from the equally unique Charlie Kaufman. It was a very well regarded movie generally speaking, and as this is the only award it’s up for, it has a better chance than you might think to steal this one from Pixar.
Best Original Screenplay - Inside OutSo if Inside Out doesn’t win the award for Best Animated Feature, how will the best Pixar movie in years receive its proper recognition? Perhaps by stealing the award for Best Original Screenplay. While Spotlight is the obvious frontrunner for this award, it’s ok that it doesn’t win this one (wait for it). The screenplay for Inside Out is truly unique and creative, ultimately it’s the reason the movie is as good as it is, so there’s no problem with it taking this award.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling - The RevenantThe technical categories that make up the bulk of the Oscar slate can be a little difficult get a handle on. Unless you’re an expert in the field it’s hard to know what the Academy is looking for. However, in a category that only has three nominees, and includes Mad Max: Fury Road, a film that contains absolutely wild makeup and hair, it may seem like an easy choice. Hold that thought. If you look back at the history of this award, while many science fiction and fantasy films get nominated, they rarely win. The Grand Budapest Hotel beat out Guardians of the Galaxy last year and expect something similar to happen here. Making Leonardo DiCaprio look mostly dead is actually more likely to take this award.
Best Director - George MillerThe Revenant is looking like the current front runner for many of the top awards. That means Alejandro González Iñárritu it sitting in the catbird seat for the Best Director Oscar. If he won it he’d be the first director since 1950 to win the award back to back. Ultimately, we’re not sure that’s going to happen. Leonardo DiCaprio will likely get his Oscar but this night will not belong to The Revenant. George Miller’s wowed movie fans and critics alike with Mad Max: Fury Road. It will take a number of the technical awards it is nominated for, but the crown jewel could very well be Miller’s own award for Best Director.
Best Picture - SpotlightAs we were saying, this may not be the night that The Revenant sweeps the awards, as so many seem to think. At the beginning of the awards season, many were pegging Spotlight to go all the way and there’s still a good chance that it will. In the final analysis Spotlight is just the kind of movie that the Academy really likes. It may not be the best movie of the year, but it has a good chance of winning the award and spoiling The Revenant’s night.