CINEPHILIA: Who will win at the 88th Academy Awards?


If the itches on my back were the Hollywood elite, the Oscars would be their back scratcher; an awards show by Hollywood to please Hollywood. Exclusivity is a part of what makes an award prestigious, and even though the Academy gives Meryl Streep a participation medal every year, the Oscars try to keep up this appearance.

Much hoopla has been made with regards to the lack of racial diversity in this year’s slate of nominees, but I think this is less a product of the Academy’s racism than their closed-mindedness to certain kinds of films. Of course, there were outstanding performances from non-white actors and actresses in 2015, they just weren’t in a 12 Years A Slave, Selma, or Crash. Since the Oscars can’t be ultimately important, they have to pick films that pretend to be.

Despite my cynicism, the mastery of the show is that no matter how much I complain or condescend, I still can’t ignore the thing. I talk about it. I hate-watch it. I end up inadvertently doing a lot of back scratching. If you can get past the old boys’ club, the lame nominees, the politics of the industry that fuel the entire process, and the self-aggrandizing nature of the whole thing, this year’s best picture nominees range from good to quite strong films. They’re not the best pictures, but certainly not the worst either. In all of the major categories, these are my predictions for who will end up on stage come Sunday, February 28.

Best Actor In A Leading Role:

Who will win? Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant

If DiCaprio doesn’t win this time around, the Internet might break. His role in The Revenant is fairly one-note, especially in comparison to his far more layered and dynamic performances in other films. In a year with very little to choose from, I suppose this is a better time than ever for an apology Oscar.

Who should win? None of the nominees

Best Actor In A Supporting Role:

Who will win? Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies

To steal scenes when you’re bouncing lines off Tom Hanks is no easy feat. In Spielberg’s cold-war drama, Mark Rylance, is a magnetic enigma, being both earnest and ambiguous. It’s a very good performance, and with the other hardware Rylance has been picking up before the Oscars, he will be hard to ignore.

Who should win? Sylvester Stallone – Creed

Best Actress In A Leading Role:

Who will win? Brie Larson – Room

The young Jacob Tremblay is such a revelation in Room that it’s easy to miss the other half of the film’s heart: Brie Larson as the mother of a child who has only known the contents of a 10-by-10 room for the entirety of his short five year life. Larson, whom I first saw in the indie gem Short Term 12, helps sell a film that could’ve easily felt false, schmaltzy, and manipulative.

Who should win? Cate Blanchett – Carol

Best Actress In A Supporting Role:

Who will win? Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl

Like Jessica Chastain in 2011, Alicia Vikander had a standout year, becoming a household name from being completely unknown. With roles in The Danish Girl, Ex Machina, Burnt, The Man From UNCLE, and Seventh Son, she was fantastic even when her films weren’t. Vikander’s best work was as the manipulative robot in Ex Machina, but sci-fi films aren’t the Oscars’ bag, so she’ll probably be given the award in The Danish Girl as the wife of the first person to undergo sexual reassignment surgery.

Who should win? Rooney Mara – Carol

Best Director:

Who will win? Alejandro González Iñárritu – The Revenant

Even if you haven’t seen The Revenant you have probably still heard about how hard it was to make: its toll on the crew, the physical devotion of Leo’s performance, and Iñárritu’s choice to only use natural light. Unfortunately, self-masochism doesn’t always make for great direction.  The Revenant is a good film — even overwhelmingly beautiful at times — but there is a fundamental flaw with the film’s construction: the showmanship distracts from the storytelling, rather than being a nuanced expression of it. For a film that often tries to showcase natural beauty, The Revenant sometimes feels mechanical, the sight of the churning gears left unhidden. For the Academy, the gears are probably enough.

Who should win? George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Picture:

What will win?  Spotlight

Politically charged but not with the kind of unabashed self-importance that the Academy often gravitates towards, Spotlight is in every respect an unglamorous film. Centering on The Boston Globe’s investigative journalism group who unveiled the Catholic Church’s systematic cover up of sexual abuse cases, there are no speeches about the importance of “true” journalism in our digital age, no hagiographic knights in shining armor. It’s a movie about doing gritty work, about uncovering files, about digging deeper into archives and memories. The film doesn’t unfold like one long take, it wasn’t made over the course of 12 years, and it doesn’t continually remind you why it’s important. Spotlight is tightly made without making a big fuss.

What should win? Spotlight

Love them or hate them, the Academy Awards are their own kind of movie. Constructed narratives of villains, underdogs, and surprises are a part of the show. No matter how much I despise their choices and ethos, will I be watching the Oscars come Sunday? Of course. I wouldn’t miss them for anything.