As we keep reminding our readers, predicting the Oscars is serious business. The process not only involves binge watching a lot of motion pictures (37 titles this year), it also involves knowing how the Academy voters’ mindset works. And here’s a little primer on what that mindset is made of: the Academy Awards are governed by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS for short) a distinguished body of 5,783 members from various film-making disciplines. ‘The Academy’, as it is commonly referred to as, has a very stringent membership criteria, and their member’s median age is around 62. Members — cinematographers, editors, producers, actors — may be part of individual film guilds and unions, and each have their own set of rules and awards leading to the Oscars. Sometimes these awards may hint a win, or an upset, at a category.

What pundits fail to perceive, is the overall strength of that particular group. Often, a deserving cinematographer will be overlooked for the trophy because members who may be producers, actors or writers would vote for someone else. Shakeups also happen out of personal preference or industry tilt.

For instance, out of the 21 categories we have picked this year, 16 are near rock-solid predictions.

Before the righteous, controversial and ill-timed #OscarsSoWhite hashtag rears its head at the 88th Academy Awards and wrecks the mood of the ceremony, Images on Sunday takes its annual look at who may win — and more importantly why they may win — and in which categories

Leonardo DiCaprio, up for a Best Actor trophy, is a long-due favourite with a string of wins for his role of a critically wounded father in search of revenge in The Revenant. It is also slated to nab Best Director for Alejandro González Iñárritu (who won the same trophy last year for Birdman) and Best Cinematography for Emmanuel Lubezki.

The win for Lubezki makes Oscar history — so far no one has won three consecutive cinematography Oscars since the awards started in 1928! The 13-time nominee Roger Deakins (Skyfall, No Country for Old Men, A Beautiful Mind and The Shawshank Redemption) would, sadly, have to wait for another year.

The same fate, of course, does not apply to 87-year-old composer Ennio Morricone — music director of grand western themes in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More as well as classics Cinema Paradisio; he wins — finally and fittingly — for Quentin Tarantino’s western The Hateful Eight (the film’s only win in the race). Other straightforward wins go in the Original and Adapted Screenplays, Actress, Supporting Actress, Animated Feature, Feature Documentary, Make-up and Hairstyling, Production Design and Original Song.

Sylvester Stallone, nominated for the third time for his role as Rocky Balboa, is, again, pushed as an industry favourite; his win in Best Supporting Actor (for Creed), for a good but not great performance, would serve as a thank you note from Hollywood. Cross-reference the category with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the BAFTA — two crucial bodies — and there is a hiccup. The BAFTA was picked up by Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) — our pick, and one of the three top performances in the lot; SAG, meanwhile, applauded Idris Alba for Beasts of No Nation, who is not nominated by The Academy (and in turn, is a part of the diversity debate).

The technical side has its own sets of competition — most of it, between The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Although Star Wars is a contender with five nominations (one for John Williams’ music), we believe it’s only big win would be in Visual Effects. Our personal preference here is The Revenant, whose bear-mauling sequence (emotionally dreadful to behold) is central to the story. Mad Max: Fury Road, full of fantastic physical action, is pegged as an upset.

The three titles face off again in Editing, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. Wins here do not necessarily reflect the will of the edit and sound guilds. Last year, for example, Boyhood won the ACE Eddie Award for Editing and our pick, Whiplash, won the Oscar.

In all three Fury Road looks like a good, but not absolute bet; Sound Mix, in particular, may go to The Revenant. Academy members who may have only seen the film on DVD screeners, and not in cinemas that offer more details in sound, may bungle up many technical predictions this year.

The biggest upset of the night, of which we are sure, would be Best Picture. If someone would have asked just a week back, we would have said the real fight is between The Big Short and Spotlight — two timely, relevant, real-life dramas addressing American issues. The Academy often commends motion pictures that deal with homebound stories, as long as they are well-made and relevant, while promoting a measure of meek benevolent sensitivity and class (Argo and The Hurt Locker versus nominated non-winners like Zero Dark Thirty, American Sniper, The Wolf of Wall Street and Selma).

The Big Short tells of capitalism-inflicted America, tackling Wall Street, a monster of self-preserving and corrupt nature. Spotlight, meanwhile, pits the Boston Globe against priests who assaulted children, the Church and the sacred Christian mindset of the Boston Globe’s higher-ups.

Both are excellently written, pertinent motion pictures deserving the Best Picture accolade. Yet, just last week, The Revenant’s BAFTA win has left the pundits and industry voters in a state of confusion. A significant portion of members wait till the last week to vote, and that is when the trend — and the Oscar forecasting game — patently changes every year.

The Revenant’s sudden change of pace and energy is confounding all categories; it certainly has pushed Spotlight off the spotlight. However (and this is comes from a strong gut feeling) we may see The Big Short win here. The film is well-edited (it won the ACE Eddie, the Editors award for Best Comedy feature) and deals with a far-reaching message; The Revenant is excellent and gruesome, yet fantasised on a historic event of a single man — not a nation like The Big Short. Also, historically, films where Best Actor winners are also SAG winners (like DiCaprio is going to be this year) never go on to win Best Picture. There’s always a first time for everything though. We’ll just have to wait and see tomorrow.


Will win: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner — The Big Short

MKJ: The Big Short

FJ: The Big Short/The Revenant

Likely upset: Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Mary Parent and Keith Redmon — The Revenant


Unanimous: Alejandro González Iñárritu — The Revenant


Unanimous: Leonardo DiCaprio — The Revenant


Unanimous: Brie Larson — Room


Will win: Sylvester Stallone — Creed

MKJ: Mark Rylance — Bridge of Spies

FJ: Mark Rylance — Bridge of Spies/Tom Hardy — The Revenant

Upset: Mark Rylance — Bridge of Spies


Unanimous: Alicia Vikander — The Danish Girl


Unanimous: Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy — Spotlight

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY Unanimous: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay — The Big Short


Unanimous: Inside Out


Unanimous: Son of Saul, Hungary


Unanimous: Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees – Amy

Upset (least possible): Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen — The Look of Silence


Unanimous: Emmanuel Lubezki — The Revenant

Upset (least possible): Roger Deakins — Sicario


Will win: Margaret Sixel — Mad Max: Fury Road

MKJ & FJ: Hank Corwin — The Big Short


Will win: Mark Mangini and David White —

Mad Max: Fury Road

MKJ: Mad Max: Fury Road

FJ: Alan Robert Murray — Sicario

Upset: Martin Hernandez and Lon Bender — The Revenant


Unanimous: Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo — Mad Max: Fury Road

Upset: Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom and Chris Duesterdiek — The Revenant


Unanimous: Colin Gibson; Lisa Thompson — Mad Max: Fury Road


Unanimous: Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin — Mad Max: Fury Road


Will win/MKJ: Sandy Powell — Cinderella

FJ: Paco Delgado — The Danish Girl

Upset: Jenny Beavan — Mad Max: Fury Road


Will win: Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould — Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MKJ/FJ: Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith and Cameron Waldbauer — The Revenant

Upset: Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver and Andy Williams — Mad Max: Fury Road


Will win/MKJ: Ennio Morricone — The Hateful Eight

FJ/MKJ: Jóhann Jóhannsson — Sicario


Unanimous: Till It Happens to You from the film The Hunting Ground — Music and lyrics by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, February 28th, 2016