The 88th Academy Awards – My Picks

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The 88th Academy Awards

Another year, another selection of fantastic films to choose from. Last year I was lucky to pick twenty right, out of the twenty-four categories I picked. This time it looks like I have some tough choices to make. Like previous years, I haven’t gotten a chance to see everything, so I’m relying on fellow critics and friends to guide my choices.

I think this year’s show stands a good chance at being better than the last. Instead of Neil Patrick Harris, we’re lucky enough to have Chris Rock to keep things funny. Here are the nominees, as well as my choices. I’ll try to give some insight into my picks for every category.

Best PictureBest Picture

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies


Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant



This was an incredibly difficult year to pick a winner for the big prize of the night. In the end I went with Spotlight since I felt that it had the biggest impact of everything I saw. The story is so riveting, and the acting handles the content wonderfully. This isn’t to say that the other movies weren’t great. There was just something more about Spotlight that I couldn’t ignore.

My Pick: Spotlight

My sentimental favorite: same

Nailed it! This movie deserved this win. Several other great films would’ve been deserving as well, but I’m so happy. 17/24

Actor in a Leading RoleActor in a Leading Role

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Matt Damon, The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

For many reasons, this is the year that Leonardo DiCaprio should get the monkey off of his back, and an Oscar on his mantle. His performance in The Revenant is intense and powerful. He tapped into a level of emotion not often seen in films today. He also handled the physical demands of his role equally well.

My Pick: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

My sentimental favorite: same

Yes! I’m so glad to see a talent like DiCaprio receive such a big honor. 16/22

Actress in a Leading RoleActress in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett, Carol

Brie Larson, Room

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Charlottte Rampling, 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

I know, I know. How can I pick in a category with films that I haven’t yet seen? This is where I rely on the wisdom and knowledge of my friends and associates. That being said, I’m going to pick the performance that I have heard the most about. Not only did Room get a lot of notice, but Larson has stayed in the conversation from the start. I’d be surprised to see someone else take this one. the only name that seems to stand out as a possible upset is Cate Blanchett, mainly because she’s always so good.

My Pick: Brie Larson, Room

My sentimental favorite: Cate Blanchett, Carol (because she’s so good.)

Another good pick for me. Saw this one coming from a mile away. 15/21

Actor in a Supporting RoleActor in a Supporting Role

Christian Bale, The Big Short

Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Back to movies I’ve seen and can speak about. I’ve been fortunate to see all of the films in this category, and the competition is tough. When I began paring down the nominees I was left with two names: Tom Hardy and Sylvester Stallone. Hardy’s performance in The Revenant is incredible. He takes over sections of the film with his intensity, and his transformation is awesome. In the opposite corner is the Hollywood fixture, Sylvester Stallone. Creed is a film I’ve been able to see multiple times. Each viewing has given me a deeper appreciation for the acting ability Stallone has. I think that this might be his last chance at an acting award, and I don’t think the voters will forget that.

My Pick: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

My sentimental favorite: same

I can’t say that I’m disappointed because of the win by Rylance. I just really wanted this for Sly. 9/14

Actress in a Supporting RoleActress in a Supporting Role

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara, Carol

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

I actually had a tougher time with this category than I expected to. I haven’t seen all of the films, but I have done my homework. Seeing Spotlight late in the game also made this a bigger challenge. I also really loved the work that Jennifer Jason Leigh did in The Hateful Eight. My pick ultimately went to the woman who I felt might have been overlooked elsewhere. I chose Alicia Vikander because of her excellent work in multiple films this last year. I would’ve preferred to see her nominated for Ex Machina, but I expect her to win for The Danish Girl.

My Pick: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

My sentimental pick: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Another pick right! She’s such an incredible actress, and I can’t wait to see what she does next. 3/3


Animated Feature FilmAnimated Feature Film


Boy and the World

Inside Out

Shaun and the Sheep Movie

When Marnie Was There

Inside Out is one of the movies that I thought was Oscar bound from the moment I saw it during the past summer. The other films have all been well-received, but nothing looks to stand in the way of a win for this Disney-Pixar creation.

My Pick: Inside Out

My sentimental pick: same

I knew it, I picked it, I couldn’t be happier. 9/13


Ed Lachman, Carol

Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight

John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road

Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant

Roger Deakins, Sicario

Having seen four of the five nominated films, I have had my pick in this category for a long time. The Hateful Eight is a special movie from a cinematography standpoint. There’s something unique about the way every scene is staged and choreographed. On the other hand, Mad Max: Fury Road is an example of how to film high-intensity action right. This left me with a difficult choice, especially since it was hard to ignore the work done in The Revenant and Sicario.

My Pick: John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road

My sentimental pick: Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight

I missed this on both tries. Still, not a bad looking film in the bunch. 5/7

Costume DesignCostume Design

Sandy Powell, Carol

Sandy Powell, Cinderella

Paco Delgado, The Danish Girl

Jenny Beavan, Mad Max: Fury Road

Jacqueline West, The Revenant

The academy is unfortunately predictable in categories like this one. The winners generally come from period-piece films. This ignores the world building costuming done in great science-fiction films and other great genres. I’m always hopeful that the chain will be broken, but I’m not sure that this is the year for it.

My Pick: Paco Delgado, The Danish Girl

My sentimental pick: Jenny Beavan, Mad Max: Fury Road

Missed the pick, but got the sentimental pick a win. Hard to be unhappy with that. 3/4


Adam McKay, The Big Short

George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant

Lenny Abrahamson, Room

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

So many great films were made this year. It almost seems like this category should be expanded to account for the work of people like Ryan Coogler (Creed). Given the five nominees, I think that this is one of the three hardest categories to pick. I’m not sure that we’ll see a repeat winner, mainly due to the high level of work from everyone nominated. That left me with Miller, McKay, McCarthy, and Abrahamson. Including Iñárritu, I wouldn’t be unhappy to see any of them win. My pick reflects the perfect touch Tom McCarthy used in crafting a story around very sensitive material.

My Pick: Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

My sentimental pick: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

I didn’t think that The Revenant was as good as his film that won last year. Surprising choice by the voters. 14/21

Documentary FeatureDocumentary (Feature)


Cartel Land

The Look of Silence

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom

I’ve actually seen several of these documentaries, and reviews will be coming soon. Each of the films I’ve seen tells a disturbing story, each within a different world. Films like these can illuminate people who are more myth than facts, or highlight the world outside my own country. I chose Cartel Land because the narrative is fresh, and the story is follows is fascinating. I’m actually hoping that any documentary except Amy takes this one. I’d much rather see a world where the focus on the many is appreciated more than a singular focus on a flawed, talented, and addicted celebrity.

My Pick: Cartel Land

My sentimental pick: Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Amy wasn’t my favorite of these. I guess the voters can’t help but honor a fellow artist. 10/16

Oscars 4Documentary (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

Without having seen these short documentaries I’m shooting in the dark. Based on the people I’ve spoken to, and a number of great reviews, I’m going with A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.

My Pick: A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

My sentimental pick: none

Picked this one right. I guess my friends and fellow cinema geeks were right. 10/15

EditingFilm Editing

Hank Corwin, The Big Short

Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road

Stephen Mirrione, The Revenant

Tom McArdle, Spotlight

Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I initially thought that Mad Max: Fury Road was a clear favorite in this category. With a little thought I was able to make this a harder decision. Each of these movies is very well-edited. Each of them would be a deserving winner. I chose Mad Max: Fury Road in the end, mainly due to the excellent pacing of the film. Every shot feels right, and every beat cut perfectly into the story.

My Pick: Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road

My sentimental pick: Tom McArdle, Spotlight

Fourth win of the night for Mad Max. A great film and a wonderful honor. 6/8

Foreign Language FilmForeign Language Film

Embrace of the Serpent


Son of Saul


A War

Another category I’m ashamed to say I’ve seen nothing from. Once again I’ll be basing my pick on the expert opinions that I trust and rely on.

My Pick: Son of Saul

My sentimental pick: none

Not hard to see this coming if you’ve read anything about this category in the last month. 12/18

Makeup and HairstylingMakeup and Hairstyling

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

Love Larson and Eva von Bahr, The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini, The Revenant

I consider this category a race between Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant. Both of these movies do incredible work with hair and makeup that transform characters wonderfully. I chose Mad Max: Fury Road because the hair and makeup work didn’t just transform actors, it also created entirely unique and new characters.

My Pick: Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin, Mad Max: Fury Road

My sentimental pick: same

This win was not unexpected. The night just keeps getting bigger for Mad Max. 5/6

Original ScoreMusic (Original Score)

Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies

Carter Burwell, Carol

Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight

Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sicario

John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I love film music. I’ve taken college classes on the subject, and I own far too many original scores. This is a category that I studied and examined every way I could. How do you choose between Morricone and Williams? That’s not to say that the other three nominees don’t also deserve to be in the argument. I eventually went with Morricone, mainly out of personal preference. I love Williams work on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so this wasn’t an easy decision. The rest of the nominees also can’t be ignored.

My Pick: Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight

My sentimental pick: same

I picked this one right. I love this win. He’s one of the legends of film, and I love his work. 13/19


Original SongMusic (Original Song)

“Earned It”, Fifty Shades of Grey

“Manta Ray”, Racing Extinction

“Simple Song #3”, Youth

“Til It Happens To You”, The Hunting Ground

“Writing’s On The Wall”, Spectre

I have to admit, this category just disappointed me this year. I’m a lover of all things music, but there isn’t a really great song in this category. (In my opinion none of these songs could touch Skyfall.) I think the popular opinion might give the award to Spectre, which features “Writing’s On The Wall”. I just happen to think that it’s one of the worst Bond songs ever made. I guess I’ll have to make my pick and suck it up for now.

My Pick: “Writing’s On The Wall”, Spectre

My sentimental pick: Anything but “Writing’s On The Wall”, Spectre

I knew it. I knew it and I hate it. It never hurt so much to be right… 14/19

Production DesignProduction Design

Adam Stockhausen, Bridge of Spies

Eve Stewart, The Danish Girl

Colin Gibson, Mad Max: Fury Road

Arthur Max, The Martian

Jack Fisk, The Revenant

This is yet another tough category to pick. The movies nominated all do such great work building the world of their stories. The real standouts in this category, in my opinion, were The Martian, The Revenant, and Mad Max: Fury Road. Like many of the categories, I don’t think I’d disagree with any choice the voters make.

My Pick: Colin Gibson, Mad Max: Fury Road

My sentimental pick: Arthur Max, The Martian

This movie deserved a win. All good films, but this one did some special things. 4/5

Short Film (Animated)

Bear Story


Sanjay’s Super Team

We Can’t Live without Cosmos

World of Tomorrow

It’s yet another place for me to apologize for not seeing the films in the category. Like the others, I’ll be relying on the friends and fellow critics to fill in my knowledge void.

My Pick: Sanjay’s Super Team

My sentimental pick: none

I guessed, I missed. Oh, well. 8/12

Oscars 3Short Film (Live Action)

Ave Maria

Day One

Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)



Don’t worry, this is the last place for excuses on my pick list this year. I’ll be blaming/thanking the people I relied on later.

My Pick: Stutterer

My sentimental pick: none

I got it right. Thanks to the people who educated me! 11/17

Sound EditingSound Editing

Bridge of Spies

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I wish I understood the ins and outs of sound editing better than I currently do. Maybe I’d be more confident in my picks. This time around I think the voters have some great options. The sound work in each of these movies adds a lot to the experience.

My Pick: Mad Max: Fury Road

My sentimental pick: The Martian

I thought Mad Max might have a big night. Looks like I was right. 7/9

Sound MixingSound Mixing

Bridge of Spies

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I should just copy and paste my comments in the sound editing category into this one. The films all have great sound work in them, and I don’t know that I could pick a clear winner here. I’ll be trying anyways.

My Pick: Mad Max: Fury Road

My sentimental pick: The Revenant

Another win for an exciting movie. Nice to see the Oscars think outside the norm. 8/10

Visual EffectsVisual Effects

Ex Machina

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

In the modern era of making movies, visual effects can do almost anything. The trick is making sure that it’s honest within the world of the film. Each of these films finds a way to seamlessly blend the effects into the story. With so many good options, my picks really shouldn’t be seen as criticism of the other films nominated.

My Pick: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

My sentimental pick: The Martian

I loved Ex Machina, but I didn’t think the voters would recognize the work among the films nominated. Good win.

Writing (Adapted ScreenplayWriting (Adapted Screenplay)

Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, The Big Short

Nick Hornby, Brooklyn

Phyllis Nagy, Carol

Drew Goddard, The Martian

Emma Donoghue, Room

I’m a writer at heart. It’s what I studied in college, and how I’d like to make a living. That makes the Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay categories two of my favorites. I look for one thing when it comes to screenwriting, good stories. I pick based on the film’s ability to suck me in. I want to get lost in a film and feel satisfied by the choices made that lead to the conclusion. Each of these movies is well written, and my pick didn’t come easily.

My Pick: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, The Big Short

My sentimental pick: The Martian

Nailed it. Another important story to be told, and the Academy voted as I expected. 2/2

Writing (Original Screenplay)Writing (Original Screenplay)

Matt Charman and Ethan & Joel Coen, Bridge of Spies

Alex Garland, Ex Machina

Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, & Ronnie del Carmen, Inside Out

Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus, Straight Outta Compton

I don’t want to repeat myself, so I’ll refer you to the comments I made in the Adapted Screenplay category.

My Pick: Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

My sentimental pick: same

I got this one right. I’m glad to see such an important film win this award. 1/1

Fun Facts

Here are the nomination totals for the films competing this year:

The Revenant – 12 Nominations

Mad Max – 10 Nominations

The Martian – 7 Nominations

Spotlight – 6 Nominations

Carol – 6 Nominations

Bridge of Spies – 6 Nominations

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – 5 Nominations

The Big Short – 5 Nominations

The Danish Girl – 4 Nominations

Room – 4 Nominations

The Hateful Eight – 3 Nominations

Sicario – 3 Nominations

Brooklyn – 3 Nominations

Steve Jobs – 2 Nominations

Ex Machina – 2 Nominations

Inside Out – 2 Nominations

Trumbo – 1 Nomination

Joy – 1 Nomination

45 Years – 1 Nomination

Creed – 1 Nomination

Cinderella – 1 Nomination

The 100 Year-Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared – 1 Nomination

Straight Outta Compton – 1 Nomination


Here are some stats based on the assumption that I’ve picked everything right:

My Picks

The Big Winners

Mad Max: Fury Road – 6 Wins from 10 Nominations

Spotlight – 3 Wins from 6 Nominations

The Danish Girl – 2 Wins from 4 Nominations

The Big Losers

The Revenant: 1 Win from 12 Nominations

The Martian – 0 Wins from 7 Nominations

Bridge of Spies – 0 Wins from 6 Nominations


My Sentimental Picks

The Big Winners

The Martian – 4 Wins from 7 Nominations

Spotlight – 3 Wins from 6 Nominations

The Hateful Eight – 3 Wins from 3 Nominations

The Big Losers

The Revenant – 2 Wins from 12 Nominations

Bridge of Spies – 0 Wins from 6 Nominations

The Big Short – 0 Wins from 5 Nominations

In Conclusion

Until the awards are presented I’d love to see your picks. You could also chime in to tell me just how wrong I really am. Either way, I welcome your opinions or thoughts. If I happen to see any of the remaining films I’ll update my picks accordingly.

I think I did pretty well considering the large number of excellent films nominated this year. I’m also hopeful that the next time we do this there will be just as many great movies to celebrate.

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