This year, the controversy over the Oscars’ all-Caucasian acting nominees has overshadowed nearly everything else about the ceremony. Those who tune in for Sunday night’s (Feb. 28) broadcast will be on tenterhooks waiting to hear what host Chris Rock will say about the uproar, and to see how the various acceptance speeches will address the massive white elephant in the room. Does anyone even care who wins or loses?
For those who do, here’s how the 88th Oscar race is shaping up. The gonzo action flick “Mad Max: Fury Road” has been lauded with a whopping 10 nominations, including one for best picture. “Room,” a small film about a kidnapped woman and her son, seems likely to win at least one major award. Beloved television actor Bryan Cranston has entered the ranks of Oscar-nominated film stars with his performance in the biopic “Trumbo.” And one of the world’s most famous celebrities, Leonardo DiCaprio, looks likely to take home his first Academy Award.
Diversity issues aside, it’s still an interesting year at the Oscars. Here are our picks for who deserves to win the gold, and our predictions for who actually will.
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- “The Big Short”
- “Bridge of Spies”
- “Mad Max: Fury Road”
- “The Martian”
- “The Revenant”
SHOULD WIN: “The Revenant.” Alejandro G. Inarritu’s epic film about survival in the American West is a jaw-dropper, full of the same dazzling camerawork and balletic choreography as his previous best picture winner, “Birdman.” And it’s about 50 times more intense.
WILL WIN: “The Revenant”
- Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo”
- Matt Damon, “The Martian”
- Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”
- Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs”
- Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl”
SHOULD WIN: DiCaprio. He’s played larger-than-life roles before (“The Aviator,” “The Departed”), but his performance as the nearly immortal frontiersman Hugh Glass strikes just the right balance of machismo and vulnerability.
WILL WIN: DiCaprio
- Cate Blanchett, “Carol”
- Brie Larson, “Room”
- Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy”
- Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years”
- Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”
SHOULD WIN: Rampling. As a wife whose 45-year marriage is floundering, she delivers the performance of a lifetime. “Acting” doesn’t quite do it justice.
WILL WIN: Larson. After years of smaller roles, Larson stopped critics in their tracks as a woman kidnapped and impregnated by a psychopath. “Room” novelist Emma Donoghue also has a shot at winning best adapted screenplay.
- Christian Bale, “The Big Short”
- Tom Hardy, “The Revenant”
- Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”
- Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”
- Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”
SHOULD WIN: Hardy. In a movie about the fragility of man, Hardy, as a frontiersman whose morals never stand in the way of profit, is a force of nature.
WILL WIN: Stallone. This is Rocky Balboa with a new twist — he’s training, not fighting — and the 69-year-old actor invests his performance with a twilight wistfulness. It’s too much sentimental symbolism for Oscar voters to pass up.
- Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”
- Rooney Mara, “Carol”
- Rachel McAdams, “Spotlight”
- Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”
- Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”
SHOULD WIN: Winslet. As Apple marketing honcho Joanna Hoffman, Winslet stood out as a flesh-and-blood character in a film full of archetypes, mouthpieces and symbols.
WILL WIN: Vikander. The role was compelling — a woman who realizes her husband is transgender — and Vikander came away with some of the film’s best notices.
- Lenny Abrahamson, “Room”
- Alejandro G. Inarritu, “The Revenant”
- Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”
- Adam McKay, “The Big Short”
- George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”
SHOULD WIN: Inarritu. It’s neck-and-neck between him and Miller, whose “Mad Max” is an equally stunning achievement. In terms of thematic heft, however, “The Revenant” has stronger Oscar potential.
WILL WIN: Inarritu
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
- “Boy and the World”
- “Inside Out”
- “Shaun the Sheep Movie”
- “When Marnie Was There”
SHOULD WIN: “Inside Out.” It may not be as visually interesting as Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion romance, “Anomalisa,” but this hugely inventive Pixar film — a buddy comedy that takes place inside a girl’s brain — was one of the year’s best in any medium.
WILL WIN: “Inside Out”
- “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”)
SHOULD WIN: “Earned It.” The year’s most hotly anticipated soft-core flick turned out to be a cold fish, but The Weeknd’s syrupy slow jam almost got the blood pumping.
WILL WIN: “Til It Happens to You.” It’s an overwrought pop ballad from Diane Warren (“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”), but the important subject matter — rape — and the voice of the culturally resurgent Lady Gaga makes this the obvious winner.
When: Live coverage begins at 4 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 28).
Host: Comedian and actor Chris Rock.