LOS ANGELES — Ahead of Sunday’s 88th Academy Awards, Associated Press film writers Lindsey Bahr and Jake Coyle share their predictions for a ceremony that has everyone guessing:
The Nominees: “The Big Short,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Brooklyn,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant,” “Room,” “Spotlight.”
Will Win: “The Revenant’s” bravado will match its awards tally.
Should Win: “Mad Max: Fury Road” is a visionary filmmaking coup of a different kind, and, unlike “The Revenant,” Miller’s raging road opera is the definite classic of the bunch.
Will Win: “The Revenant” has the momentum, but consensus is elusive. Panicked voices everywhere can be heard exclaiming “The guilds are all over the map!” In the end, I go with “The Big Short” because the Producers Guild has been the best forecaster in recent years.
Should Win: It may lack some cinematic punch, but the sturdy “Spotlight” is the closest thing we have to a new Sydney Lumet classic.
The Nominees: Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo”; Matt Damon, “The Martian”; Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”; Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs”; Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl.”
Will Win: DiCaprio. He had us at “raw bison.”
Should Win: DiCaprio’s inevitable win can be both boring and merited. If only we could guarantee that the Academy was choosing him for his actual performance and not the behind-the-scenes suffering.
Will Win: DiCaprio. It’s “his year,” as they say. But I would love to see what lengths his Oscar crusade would go to if he didn’t win. What would he eat in his next film?
Should Win: It’s a weak year for the men. Can I pass?
The Nominees: Cate Blanchett, “Carol”; Brie Larson, “Room”; Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy”; Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years”; Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn.”
Will Win: Brie Larson. She gives about 10 incredible performances in a single film and has won everything so far.
Should Win: Obvious grit trumps nuance at the Oscars, but Charlotte Rampling tore out many a heartstring as a jealous woman in “45 Years.”
Will Win: Brie Larson has this in the bag. She’s a terrifically natural performer and a real talent. But, for me, she was better in “Short Term 12” than in the mawkishly manipulative “Room.”
Should Win: In a strong field, Cate Blanchett slips by because of the regularity of her quality. In “Carol,” she’s both devastating and exhilarating.
The Nominees: Christian Bale, “The Big Short”; Tom Hardy, “The Revenant”; Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”; Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”; Sylvester Stallone, “Creed.”
Will Win: Sylvester Stallone, but it’ll be more about his legacy than “Creed.”
Should Win: Mark Rylance made his subtlety affecting Soviet spy more lovable than Tom Hanks in “Bridge of Spies.”
Will Win: There’s potential intrigue here, but the swell around Stallone is a fitting honor for the actor who’s spent three myth-making decades as Rocky Balboa.
Should Win: Mark Rylance gives “Bridge of Spies” a serene glow. The combination of him and Tom Hanks is riveting: one of the theater’s greats meets one of the movies’.
The Nominees: Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”; Rooney Mara, “Carol”; Rachel McAdams, “Spotlight”; Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”; Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs.”
Will Win: Alicia Vikander, for giving a soul to “The Danish Girl.”
Should Win: Alicia Vikander, for “The Danish Girl,” sure, but also as a secret nod to the scope of her work this year in both “Ex Machina” and “Testament of Youth.”
Will Win: Alicia Vikander will win for “The Danish Girl,” as voters honor not only her intelligent performance in that film, but a year full of standout work.
Should Win: Vikander, but for her slinky artificial intelligence in “Ex Machina.”
The Nominees: “The Big Short,” Adam McKay; “Mad Max: Fury Road,” George Miller; “The Revenant,” Alejandro G. Inarritu; “Room,” Lenny Abrahamson; “Spotlight,” Tom McCarthy.
Will Win: Alejandro Inarritu, and it’ll be deserved and an incredible achievement.
Should Win: George Miller, and it will also be deserved.
Will Win: The Inarritu repeat seems to be in effect. “The Revenant” isn’t shy about its filmmaking, but Inarritu’s audacious long shots and ravishing frontier wilderness offer a quality hard to come by: the awe of something not seen before.
Should Win: George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” is a crazy puzzle of a movie trying to stretch the language of film just like “The Revenant,” but in opposite directions: with rapid cutting and feverish surrealism.