Upsets possible at 2016 Academy Awards

Upsets possible at 2016 Academy Awards

The only thing the Academy Awards could take a back seat to is a crazy election year. While politics dominate the news, the whole Oscar hype has been oddly off its game. And then there was the nominations scandal that left many actors of color out of the running, a disgraceful error that this institution must address in the future.

If it’s not politics or bad publicity casting a long shadow, maybe it’s just because some of the categories have frontrunners that are so far ahead of the pack that there is absolutely no way they will lose, which makes for a long and boring night.

I hate it when that happens. Give me a close race. I want the suspense. I want a collective gasp from the audience when the winner is announced. I want upsets. And I just might get my wish.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Jennifer Jason Leigh for “The Hateful Eight”; Rooney Mara, “Carol”; Rachel McAdams, “Spotlight”; Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”; and Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”

Two actresses are running neck in neck in this race, Winslet and newcomer Vikander. Vikander has had a great year with this film and another critical hit, “Ex Machina.” She has a slight lead, but Winslet could nose her out. 

Will win: Vikander. Should win: Vikander

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Christian Bale for “The Big Short”; Tom Hardy, “The Revenant”; “Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”; Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”; and Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”

This was supposed to be Rylance’s year until “Creed” opened and suddenly Stallone started generating heaps of buzz for his Rocky revival. It makes him the sentimental favorite. At one time or another, all of the above have been mentioned as frontrunners, but Oscar loves sentimentality, though not always.

Will win: Sylvester Stallone. Should win: Rylance. This underrated British actor stood out even against his more famous co-star, Tom Hanks.

Best Lead Actress

Cate Blanchett for “Carol”; Brie Larson, “Room”; Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy”; Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years”; Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”

Nominees: It’s such a great lineup of women who are nominated this year. I’ve my own favorite, but there is no doubt — at all — that Brie Larson will win for her powerful portrayal of a rape victim held in captivity with her young son. It’s a harrowing story with a redemptive ending, and she carries much of the film. It’s a good win, but I tip my hat to Blanchett and Rampling, the group’s elder stateswoman. It would be hard to go wrong with any of these choices. 

Will win: Larson. Should win: Larson

Best Lead Actor

Nominees: Bryan Cranston for “Trumbo”; Matt Damon, “The Martian”; Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”; Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs”; and Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl”

I guess it’s about time for DiCaprio to earn a win. That’s what the critics say, anyway. In any case, Leo should win. He only had to freeze to death, gnaw on a raw bison liver, and not bathe for about three months, but hey, whatever it takes. Congratulations, it’s finally yours. 

Will win: DiCaprio. Should win: DiCaprio

Best Director

Nominees: Adam McKay for “The Big Short”; George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”; Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “The Revenant”; Lenny Abrahamson, “Room”; Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight.”

This may come as a surprise, but the favorite in this category is Miller, who resurrected his franchise to great critical success after a 30-year lapse. There are two more to watch: McKay and Innaritu. Logic says Oscar doesn’t reward directors two years in a row, so if you believe that, then it’s not Iñárritu, who won last year for “Birdman.” 

Will win: Miller. Should win: McKay, for making the unwieldy topic of high finance palatable.

Best Picture

Nominees: “The Big Short,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Brooklyn,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant,” “Room” and “Spotlight.” Look at that lineup. It was a very good year for movies of every kind. The bookmakers say “The Revenant” as this goes to press, and it was very good, not to mention a difficult and challenging shoot. But don’t overlook “Spotlight,” an early frontrunner that evokes the great investigative reporting recounted in “All the President’s Men” with its retelling of the Boston Globe’s uncovering of the Catholic priest pedophile scandal over a decade ago. It’s as riveting as it is relevant.

Will win: “Spotlight.” Should win: “Spotlight.”

The only sure bet is ceremony host Chris Rock will probably make Monday morning headlines with his acerbic wit. Sure-bet targets are bound to include the Academy’s lack of diversity in its nominations and the presidential election, because this year it trumps even the movies.