It’s been another long and punishing Oscar season, kicking off (one could argue) with the Sundance premiere of “Brooklyn” 12 months ago and taking us through Cannes, the fall festivals and the various precursor and guild awards before it all finally comes to a climax on Sunday night.
In places, it’s felt like the films themselves have been overwhelmed, not just by the glitz and glamor, but with the vital and overdue debate over the lack of diversity among the Academy’s choices and memberships: For the second year in a row, the acting nominees are entirely white. With Chris Rock hosting, it’s sure to continue to dominate during the actual ceremony, but there will also be some prizes handed out.
And as such, it’s time for us to knuckle down and make our final predictions (which, it should be noted, caused no shortage of arguments among the Playlist staff). It’s in some respects an easier year than some previous ones, and in some rather harder, not least when it comes down to the main prize. So, with four days to go, below you’ll find our picks for every category, as well as the potential surprises and dark horses that could upset. Take a look below, and let us know what you’re predicting, before you head back here for the results on Sunday.
Best Documentary - Short Subject
“Body Team 12”
“Chau, Beyond The Lines”
“Claude Lanzmann: Spectres Of The Shoah”
“A Girl In The River: The Price Of Forgiveness”
“Last Day Of Freedom”
Will Win: As usual, it’s a brutal and bleak collection of subjects here: the death penalty, honor killings, Ebola, the after-effects of Agent Orange and the Holocaust. But I think it’s the one with the greatest name recognition that takes the prize, and in that’s case it’s 'Claude Lanzmann,' a tribute to the great French documentarian behind “Shoah.”
Could Win: Uplift tends to work better than purely depressing films, and that probably favors “Chau, Beyond The Lines,” or “Body Team 12,” though the latter is a harder watch.
Dark Horse: That said, “Body Team 12” has some starry names as executive producers, including Olivia Wilde, which might help its cause.
Best Animated Short Film
“Sanjay’s Super Team”
“We Can’t Live Without Cosmos”
“World Of Tomorrow”
Will Win: It’s an interesting minnow vs. mammoth clash here (as it often is in this category), but while Pixar are often heavyweights in Animated Shorts, they’re not default winners — in fact, while Disney won twice in recent years, Pixar themselves haven’t taken this prize since 2001. That means that we’re backing Don Hertzfeldt’s transcendent “World Of Tomorrow” for the prize, and rightly so: It’s one of the best films of any kind up for a prize this year. Netflix gave it a bit of a push recently, which may have helped it get seen too.
Could Win: That said, don’t rule out Pixar’s “Sanjay’s Super Team” — it’s a sweet and personal film that offers a rare opportunity this year to award diversity. That said, having been paired with “The Good Dinosaur,” it might not have been as widely seen as some of the studio’s short films.
Dark Horse: “Bear Story” is the one to keep an eye on: This Chilean film is beautiful-looking and very charming, and it’s the kind of offbeat surprise that can often triumph here.
Best Live-Action Short Film
“Everything Will Be Okay”
Will Win: Look at recent trends for the winner of this category, and you’ll see it often goes to the slighter, less heavy entries, and to my mind that favors “Stutterer,” from Irish director Benjamin Cleary, which is confidently made and, like the bulk of recent winners, in English.
Could Win: The main U.S.-made movie is “Day One,” from former soldier Henry Hughes, which has a litter of student film awards behind it, and feels the most bulked-out and feature-like of the nominees. It’s ambitious and technically very capable, and could benefit from that.
Dark Horse: Almost anything can happen, but I’d be surprised if German film “Everything Will Be Okay” won out, and “Ave Maria” felt like the least of the nominees to me, so that means punishing Kosovo War story “Shok” could be the one to surprise. It definitely feels likely to be one of the two above, though.
Best Sound Editing
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
Will Win: This is likely to be a very, very tight contest between two of the Best Picture nominees, “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Revenant” — the former arguably has the showier sound design, the latter the more Best Picture momentum. We think the award will end up going to Iñárritu’s film, but it could go either way, and it’ll be an interesting early marker for how Best Picture will go: a “Revenant” award means it could have the big prize in the bag, while a miss means one of its competitors might be getting it.
Could Win: 'Mad Max,' and “The Martian” might be in with a shout, too — when there’s a Best Picture nominee in the category, it tends to go to them.
Dark Horse: That said, when a giant blockbuster has the goods, it sometimes wins out — see “Skyfall” a few years ago, “The Dark Knight” over “Slumdog Millionaire,” and “The Bourne Ultimatum” over “No Country For Old Men.” As such, 'Star Wars' remains a threat.
Best Sound Mixing
“Bridge Of Spies”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
Will Win: The only time this category tends to split from Sound Editing is when there’s a music film in the mix — see “Whiplash” last year, or “Les Misérables” or “Slumdog Millionaire” before that. None of these really qualify, so expect this to follow Editing and go to “The Revenant” or 'Mad Max,' and probably the latter.
Could Win: Also potentially “The Martian.”
Dark Horse: Also potentially 'Star Wars.'