They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

Final Predictions for the 88th Academy Awards

By J. Don Birnam

February 27, 2016

He's more tired of snow than those of us who have lived through February.

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Do or die time, folks. After months of ceaseless speculation, the 88th Academy Awards are here. Given how unpredictable this year has been, it will be a good chance for Oscar prognosticators to show what they're made of.

We won't bore you with a full walk-through of the six-month Oscar season, but you can check out all our coverage here. At least there was less ennui this season. Normally, by now, the long slog of the Oscar campaign settles into a frothy mixture of inevitability and predictability. But, the variety of movies and the spreading of the wealth has kept it interesting, at least for Best Picture.

Aside from that, the tech races are also challenging. Normally there is one big tech movie - Avatar, Gravity - that is poised to take those easily. This year, we have two (Mad Max and The Revenant). So, basically, every tech category becomes an impossibly difficult question of Mad Max or The Revenant. It's funny that so many pundits are picking The Revenant to win Best Picture but Mad Max to sweep tech - that seems counter-intuitive to me to say the least.

My cardinal rule of predicting is always: Academy members vote for what they like. They don't vote for statistics or for history. Sure, they're aware of public scrutiny of their choices, but when they have a ballot they just want to reward that movie that made them feel good. Academy members are industry members but a lot do not have extensive specialized knowledge of how to actually make a film. Branches that themselves are not involved in physically making movies - producers, executives, and public relations people - are about 20-25% of the Academy. This means that the "Best" Costumes don't always win, but the more showy ones do. They simply vote for what they like. It's just another way of saying: go with your gut.

Below I list the "consensus" pick, which I derived from a survey of online compilations of predictions. If you go with the "consensus" pick, you are sure to get 17-23 categories correct. I try to go out on at least 2-3 limbs each year. This year I'm going out on even more - I don't find the consensus picks that logical and, if I just picked the consensus pick, why bother? I could just list the consensus for you and call it a day.

I'm also listing degree of confidence. "High" means complete lock, or maybe one other possible contender could win, but unlikely. "Medium" means any of 2-3 in the race can win. "Low" means the race appears wide open if you ask me, and basically four or five of the nominees have a chance at it. Finally, categories with power rankings have links to the final rankings of the year.

Check back after the show to mock how poorly I did. Enjoy the Oscars!

Final Predictions for the 88th Academy Awards
J. Don Birnam says: Will Win
Could Also Win
Consensus Pick
Guild Winner
Degree of Confidence
Best Picture The Revenant Spotlight; The Big Short The Revenant The Big Short (PGA) Low
Best Director Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu (The Revenant) George Miller (Mad Max) Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu (DGA) High
Best Actor Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) N/A Leonardo DiCaprio Leonardo DiCaprio High
Best Actress Brie Larson (Room) N/A Brie Larson Brie Larson High
Best Supporting Actor Tom Hardy (The Revenant) Sylvester Stallone; Mark Rylance Sylvester Stallone Idris Elba Low
Best Supporting Actress Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) Kate Winslet Alicia Vikander Alicia Vikander Medium
Original Screenplay Spotlight N/A Spotlight Spotlight High
Adapted Screenplay The Big Short Room The Big Short The Big Short High
Best Film Editing Mad Max: Fury Road The Big Short; The Revenant Mad Max Mad Max & Big Short Medium
Best Cinematography The Revenant Mad Max: Fury Road The Revenant The Revenant High
Best Production Design Mad Max: Fury Road The Revenant; The Danish Girl Mad Max Mad Max & The Revenant High
Best Costumes The Danish Girl Cinderella; Mad Max Mad Max; Cinderella Mad Max; The Danish Girl Low
Best Make-Up Mad Max The Revenant Mad Max Mad Max Medium
Best Visual Effects The Revenant Star Wars; Mad Max Star Wars Star Wars Low
Best Sound Mixing Mad Max: Fury Road The Revenant Mad Max The Revenant Medium
Best Sound Editing Mad Max: Fury Road The Revenant Mad Max The Revenant Medium
Best Original Score The Hateful Eight Carol The Hateful Eight N/A High
Best Original Song Spectre: Writings on the Wall The Hunting Ground: Til It Happens To You The Hunting Ground: Til It Happens To You N/A Low
Best Foreign Language Film Son of Saul Mustang Son of Saul N/A High
Animated Feature Inside Out N/A Inside Out Inside Out High
Best Documentary Feature Amy Cartel Land Amy N/A High
Best Animated Short Bear Story World of Tomorrow; Sanjay's Super Team Sanjay's Super Team N/A Low
Best Live Action Short Shok Ave Maria Ave Maria N/A Low
Best Documentary Short Girl In the River Body Team 12 Body Team 12 N/A Low



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