There is perhaps no other awards show on earth that captures people’s interest like the Oscars. For the past 88 years, the ceremony has built a mythical presence on the world stage thanks to its ability to draw seemingly every star on the planet into one theater and reward them for bringing magic to life on the big screen. As a critic for the Catholic News Agency and the Christian movie review site Movieguide, I see over 150 movies a year. The following are the nominees in the top five categories this year, and who I’m predicting should and will win the awards.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Nominees: Jennifer Jason Leigh (“The Hateful Eight”), Rooney Mara (“Carol”), Rachel McAdams (“Spotlight”), Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl”), Kate Winslet (“Steve Jobs”)
The Breakdown: “The Hateful Eight” was too violently ugly and paled in comparison to fellow Western “The Revenant,” so count Leigh out. Mara drew a lot of hype for the lesbian drama “Carol,” but the movie really belonged to costar Cate Blanchett. McAdams was really part of a superbly woven ensemble rather than a flashy role. Winslet was great in a movie few really liked. Vikander showed range with a second great role in “Ex Machina” last year, and has the politically correct vote as the supportive wife of the world’s first transgender man.
Should Win: Kate Winslet
Will Win: Alicia Vikander
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Nominees: Christian Bale (“The Big Short”), Tom Hardy (“The Revenant”), Mark Ruffalo (“Spotlight”), Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”), Sylvester Stallone (“Creed”)
The Breakdown: There’s no point in even analyzing this category, as Stallone recovered from a career filled with mediocre action flicks and bad choices to portray one of film history’s most beloved figures — Rocky Balboa — again. The fact that the Academy can finally correct the oversight of leaving him without a statue for the first “Rocky” in 1976 and honor one of the nicest guys in the business for his strongest turn ever in the role makes this a slam dunk.
Should Win: Sylvester Stallone
Will Win: Sylvester Stallone
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Nominees: Cate Blanchett (“Carol”), Brie Larson (“Room”), Jennifer Lawrence (“Joy”), Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”), Saiorse Ronan (“Brooklyn”)
The Breakdown: Blanchett has won before and played a cold, calculating and unlikable woman. Larson came out of nowhere to blow critics away with her powerful portrayal of a mother who has to raise her young son under harrowing circumstances and decide to risk their lives to escape. Lawrence was great, but “Joy” didn’t connect with audiences as much as her last two nominated films, “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” did. Rampling’s portrayal of a long-suffering wife whose marriage falls apart after decades was so little-seen it’s lucky to be nominated. Ronan is absolutely superb in a wonderfully pro-Catholic period romance, but as a 20-year-old she’ll have plenty of other chances ahead.
Should Win: Brie Larso
Will Win: Brie Larso
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Nominees: Bryan Cranston (“Trumbo”), Matt Damon (“The Martian”), Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant”), Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs”), Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”)
The Breakdown: Cranston won numerous Emmys for “Breaking Bad” and will have to settle for a nomination here since he’s seen mainly as a TV actor. Damon was fantastic in a role that was almost a solo showcase with a wealth of emotions involved. DiCaprio has been trying for over 20 years to win an Oscar with six nominations, and was subjected to everything from a fake yet brutal bear attack, vicious weather conditions and really bad facial hair here. Fassbender, like Winslet, does a superb job in a vastly underseen movie and played an unlikable man to boot. Redmayne just won last year for “The Theory of Everything” and was clearly nominated not for range here — which he barely showed — but for the politically correct reason of portraying the world’s first transgender man in a movie that was heavily hyped yet still flopped badly.
Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio
Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio
Nominees: “The Big Short,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Brooklyn,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant,” “Room,” “Spotlight”
The Breakdown: The Academy has only itself to blame for the controversy over lack of diversity, since it is allowed 10 Best Picture nominations yet inexplicably stopped at eight when the African American-centered films “Creed” and “Straight Outta Compton” easily could and should have been nominated.
“The Big Short” scored points for managing to explain the 2008 financial crisis to laymen with humor and urgency, and it’s considered one of three viable winners together with “The Revenant” and “Spotlight,” but it still left me emotionally cold and somewhat confused by its arcane subject matter. “The Revenant” was an incredible epic shot rapidly against very difficult weather and geographical circumstances, but its director just won Best Picture last year and no director has won Best Picture two years in a row since the 1930s.
“Spotlight” handled the Catholic Church’s priest abuse scandal with remarkable fairness, and seems to have the right combination of acting, writing and direction to take the top prize. “Bridge of Spies” didn’t register strongly with the public, and “Mad Max” will win a slew of technical awards for its look and sound, but was too ugly in its subject matter to win here.
“The Martian,” is terrific and smart entertainment, but not having won major Golden Globes and other second-tier awards means it’ll have to be an also-ran here. “Room” was my favorite movie of this bunch, thanks to an amazing story that makes viewers feel terribly claustrophobic as they watch the young mother and her son attempt to live life in a tiny space, then leaves jaws dropped and pulses racing with a thrilling escape sequence before winding up as a powerful tale of emotional adjustment to the difficulties of the outside world. It is the least-seen of all these films and deserves much better, so please check it out.
SHOULD WIN: “Room”
WILL WIN: “Spotlight”