What will win, and what should win, at the 2016 Oscars

What will win, and what should win, at the 2016 Oscars

When people talk about the Academy, what they’re really describing is a loosely organized collective of some 6,000 industry professionals. So it’s strange that, this time every year, journalists and pundits wildly speculate about the motives of the group, as though it were a hive mind of shared interests and not just a bunch of Hollywood types honoring their peers and colleagues, with any number of reasons—from artistic sensibilities to personal grudges—informing their voting habits. Still, given that it is possible to correctly predict the Oscars (we got all but two of them right two years ago, just saying), maybe there is some science to the annual tradition of playing oddsmaker. Either way—and this is now an annual disclaimer—take the following predictions and (especially) preferences with a grain of salt. We take no responsibility for the money you may lose in your company Oscar pool. On the other hand, should our picks guide you to victory on Sunday, gratitude checks can be made out to “Onion Inc.” Spread the wealth, folks, even if the Academy doesn’t!

BEST PICTURE

Nominees: The Big Short; Bridge Of Spies; Brooklyn; Mad Max: Fury Road; The Martian; The Revenant; Room; Spotlight

Prediction: Most of the time, it’s easy to identify the likely Best Picture winner well in advance; precursor awards take a lot of the guessing out of the game, which is what happened last year with eventual victor Birdman. This year is different, though: The major industry guilds, which share members with the Academy, have split their support among three different films, with the actors going for Tom McCarthy’s ensemble newspaper drama Spotlight, the directors honoring Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s violent frontier actioner The Revenant, and the producers throwing their support behind the financial-crisis comedy The Big Short. Any of these three films could now conceivably win, and the fact that actors make up the largest branch of the Academy certainly bodes well for Spotlight. But The Revenant has also picked up Best Film from BAFTA, whose winner usually aligns with the Oscars proper, and its Golden Globe victory doesn’t hurt either. Beyond all that, Hollywood seems to have fallen in love with the narrative surrounding The Revenant—this idea that everyone involved really suffered for their art, emerging from an arduous shoot with a critical and commercial success. It’s a genuine three-way race, but smart money is on the marauding bear.

Preference: You know what was just as difficult to make as The Revenant? Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller’s awe-inspiring action spectacular and The A.V. Club’s consensus pick for the best film of 2015. That the Academy overcame its snobbish genre bias to include a slam-bang summer blockbuster among the elite eight is a testament to how universally beloved the movie has become. Or maybe it’s just too damn good to ignore. In any case, Fury Road hasn’t a snowball’s chance in Namibia; it’s just the crown jewel of an unusually solid lineup, free for once of any outright embarrassments. (Even the worst of the crop, The Big Short, is more audacious than the average middlebrow also-ran.)

Overlooked: One film came close to giving Mad Max a run for its money in our year-end contributor poll, and that was Christian Petzold’s devastating postwar noir, Phoenix. It was never going to be an Oscar movie, but maybe that’s the issue: If something this classically brilliant, this simultaneously artful and accessible, can’t be a contender, than what are awards good for?

BEST DIRECTOR

Nominees: Adam McKay, The Big Short; George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road; Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant; Lenny Abrahamson, Room; Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Prediction: It’s been 66 years since anyone claimed consecutive Best Director Oscars. Will this long history of spreading the wealth work against Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who just won last year for Birdman? Don’t count on it. The Revenant, which has already won the DGA, is exactly the kind of muscular, showy directorial showcase that AMPAS goes wild for. Factor in the well-publicized details of its arduous production, and it’s hard to imagine that the Academy will hold a recent victory against the filmmaker. (It also helps to remember that Oscar pundits probably know and care much more about Oscar history than Oscar voters do.)

Preference: For creating a fully realized world from scratch, for orchestrating one instantly iconic image after another, for reclaiming the lost art of making things going vroom and boom through practical means: For all these reasons and more, George Miller was the director of 2015. It’s really not even close.

Overlooked: Even harder than scoring an Oscar nomination for a big action movie is nabbing one for a small horror film. With It Follows, David Robert Mitchell established himself as a master in the making, manipulating space and perspective to generate white-knuckle fear. In a world (and award season) without genre prejudice, he’d be near the top of the shortlist.

BEST ACTOR

Nominees: Bryan Cranston, Trumbo; Matt Damon, The Martian; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant; Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs; Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Prediction: He went through hell in subzero temperatures. He’s a bankable star in an age without many others. He’s been nominated many times before, but has never won. For these reasons and more, Leonardo DiCaprio is your preordained Best Actor winner. His walk to the podium is the night’s surest thing.

Preference: Yes, Leo ate a raw bison liver and nearly froze to death. But is that really any harder than performing an Aaron Sorkin walk-and-talk? All joking aside, Michael Fassbender makes the title character of Steve Jobs a magnetic human monster, wrapping his tongue around every line of acidic dialogue. Unlike DiCaprio, he’s playing a character with real dimension; unless your criteria for great acting is “how much misery did the actor endure on set?”, Fassbender gives the richer performance.

Overlooked: If there’s a single omission that most underlines the Academy’s diversity problem, it’s that of Michael B. Jordan from this very category. It’s not just that he’s impassioned and charismatic in Creed, carrying the film that bears his character’s name. It’s that it’s the type of rousing, breakout performance that’s very much in the Oscar wheelhouse, save for one inconvenient little detail.

BEST ACTRESS

Nominees: Cate Blanchett, Carol; Brie Larson, Room; Jennifer Lawrence, Joy; Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years; Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Prediction: The safe bet is Room’s Brie Larson, whose turn as a kidnapped mother during and after a seven-year imprisonment has already earned her kudos from the Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA. That she does fine acting opposite a 7-year-old co-star can only help her chances.

Preference: Truth told, this is a uniformly outstanding lineup; if the weakest link is Jennifer Lawrence, she still does wonders with a thinly conceived title character. Force us to choose a favorite and we’ll go with Charlotte Rampling, who’s so achingly good in 45 Years—playing a wife buckling under the weight of her marriage’s lies—that we’ll forgive the dumb shit she’s said this award season.

Overlooked: Okay, so she’s basically playing herself, but that doesn’t detract one bit from the soul-bearing screen presence of Arielle Holmes, the ex-addict star of NYC junkie drama Heaven Knows What. She’s a star born from the ashes of her own troubled life story.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Nominees: Christian Bale, The Big Short; Tom Hardy, The Revenant; Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight; Mark Rylance, Bridge Of Spies; Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Prediction: After years of reprising the role in lesser sequels, Sylvester Stallone scores his second acting nomination ever by playing Rocky Balboa for the seventh time. With SAG winner Idris Elba not even nominated and Bridge Of Spies costar Mark Rylance losing momentum over the last few weeks, the Italian Stallion has made like his favorite underdog and emerged as the frontrunner for Supporting Actor. Hollywood loves a comeback story, and this is basically a comeback story within a comeback story.

Preference: Stallone is genuinely affecting in Creed—in part because he’s carrying the weight of a whole franchise history on his shoulders, in part because writer-director Ryan Coogler provides him with better dialogue than the actor usually writes for himself. But if our heart goes out to Rocky, our head says that Tom Hardy provides the strongest support here, lending The Revenant a flawed, fascinatingly human dimension that Leo can’t. Hardy’s character may be the villain, but he’s arguably the most relatable person on screen, unintelligible dialect and all.

Overlooked: We’ve seen Benicio Del Toro play characters like Sicario’s Alejandro before, but never with as much tightly coiled menace and intensity. His big, terrifying scene at the dinner table was worth the nomination alone.

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

Prediction: 2015 was the year of Alicia Vikander, who appeared in a whopping seven movies over the 12-month stretch. And while she earned most of her critical plaudits for her performance as a mechanical woman in Ex Machina, a win for her work in The Danish Girl could easily function as a celebration of all her supporting performances—not to mention the official coronation of a new industry heavyweight.

Preference: If awarding Vikander an Oscar for multiple performances feels like a cheat, it’s nothing compared to the category fraud of putting lead actress Rooney Mara in Supporting; if anything, it’s Best Actress nominee Cate Blanchett who’s doing the supporting in Carol. Still, great acting is great acting, and it’d be nice to see both the beautifully understated Mara and the criminally underrepresented Carol score a prize.

Overlooked: It’s not the kind of performance that generally gets recognized by the Oscars, but Rebecca Ferguson totally owns Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation. As a conflicted, coolly competent secret agent, she upstages Tom Cruise’s franchise protagonist at every turn, and even invests these superlative spy games with a little heart and soul. Striking movie-star turns deserve attention too.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Nominees: Bridge Of Spies, Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen; Ex Machina, Alex Garland; Inside Out, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; Spotlight, Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy; Straight Outta Compton, Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff.

Prediction: WGA winner and legitimate Best Picture threat Spotlight is a film about noble writers literally changing the world. Sounds like a winner in this category.

Preference: Extolling sadness as an essential virtue, Inside Out is among the most profound of Pixar’s fantastic voyages. But for its sheer organizational finesse—the way it smoothly rearranges the important dates and facts of its investigative true story, making a gripping procedural out of a lot of legwork—Spotlight deserves what may prove to be its only Oscar.

Overlooked: Given how stylishly the material is executed, it’d be easy to suggest that The Duke Of Burgundy is primarily an aesthetic triumph. But writer-director Peter Strickland does some of his most crucial work on the left side of the hyphen; the film’s brilliance—the way it reverses expectations, then balloons its subverted genre scenario with feeling—begins on the page.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Nominees: The Big Short, Charles Randolph, Adam McKay; Brooklyn, Nick Hornby; Carol, Phyllis Nagy; The Martian, Drew Goddard; Room, Emma Donoghue

Prediction: Like the other writing category, this one is likely to be dominated by a strong Best Picture hopeful and WGA winner: The Big Short, whose surfeit of pure information, fourth-wall-breaking hijinks, and flavorful shit-talk certainly marks it as the most writing of the category.

Preference: One could make a credible case for all of these adaptations, some of which (The Big Short, The Martian) condense heady concepts into understandable terms, while others (Brooklyn, Room) boldly bifurcate their narratives. But Carol towers over all of them, navigating the hearts of its main characters as elegantly as it does the social mores of 1950s Manhattan. Great dialogue, too.

Overlooked: It feels weird to stump for a past Oscar winner here, but Anomalisa should have been the script to earn Charlie Kaufman his second statuette; he cleanly translates the strange charms of his own high-concept radio play to a new medium, and comes up with another beguilingly melancholic character study.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Nominees: Anomalisa; Boy And The World; Inside Out; Shaun The Sheep Movie; When Marnie Was There

Prediction: More often than not, Pixar has this category on lockdown. If they can win for, say, Brave, there should be no stopping Inside Out, one of their most critically and commercially successful ventures.

Preference: It’s a tough call between the harsh adult insights of Anomalisa and the family-friendly wisdom of Inside Out. The fact that the latter speaks its deep truths to audiences of all ages feels like as good of reason as any to give it the slight edge, though wouldn’t it be cool to see a movie with a marionette sex scene win this award?

Overlooked: You know what? This category already includes a Pixar, a Ghibli, an Aardman, a Charlie Kaufman, and a cartoon from Brazil. Color us satisfied for once.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

Nominees: “Bear Short”; “Prologue”; “Sanjay’s Super Team”; We Can’t Live Without Cosmos”; “World Of Tomorrow”

Prediction: Most pundits are predicting the drippy Pixar short “Sanjay’s Super Team,” which has the added merit of focusing on non-white characters in the year of #OscarsSoWhite. But “World Of Tomorrow” is simply too remarkable to bet against. Maybe we’re thinking with our hearts instead of our heads, but it really feels like the kind of miniature triumph that will score votes from everyone who watches it.

Preference: Our staff had a serious debate as to whether “World Of Tomorrow” should be eligible for inclusion on our best-films-of-the-year list, with one contributor implying that it would have topped his ballot had we allowed shorts as well as features. So, yeah, that gets our stamp of approval.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Nominees: Carol, Ed Lachman; The Hateful Eight, Robert Richardson; Mad Max: Fury Road, John Seale; The Revenant, Emmanuel Lubezki; Sicario, Roger Deakins

Prediction: After years of being honored just to be nominated, master lensman Emmanuel Lubezki is now looking at a third consecutive win. His famous steadicam gets a healthy workout in The Revenant, whether it’s capturing a feverish woodland battle between trappers and tribesman or staying locked on the CGI likeness of a bear as it tosses Leonardo DiCaprio around like a ragdoll.

Preference: Competitive category. Each nominee is special for its own reasons. But while we’d love to see Roger Deakins finally get his due and couldn’t argue with John Seale’s striking work on Mad Max pulling the upset, it’s Carol’s cinematography that’s stolen our hearts. Shooting on gorgeously grainy 16mm, director of photography Ed Lachman alternates the stolen glimpses of an infatuated lover with more traditional compositions, resulting in a vision of midcentury New York that feels both nostalgic and timeless.

Overlooked: Beautiful in a much more ragged, on-the-fly way than the typical nominees of this category, the iPhone imagery of Tangerine nonetheless represents some of last year’s most adventurous, innovative cinematography. The way we shoot movies is changing; AMPAS would be smart to acknowledge that with their selection process.

BEST FILM EDITING

Nominees: The Big Short, Hank Corwin; Mad Max: Fury Road, Margaret Sixel; The Revenant, Stephen Mirrione; Spotlight, Tom McArdle; Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey

Prediction: Sorry, Star Wars fans, but J.J. Abrams’ zippy space opera hasn’t a chance against four Best Picture nominees. Fury Road’s feverish crosscutting will strike another blow for big, violent action movies in a category that previously honored The Bourne Ultimatum and The Matrix.

Preference: Fury Road is a masterclass in coherence, keeping its flurry of vehicular mayhem intelligible at all times. It deserves its win.

Overlooked: So much of comedy is in the timing, and few understand that as well as Noah Baumbach, whose films often score huge laughs from the rhythm of their montage or the precise moment they choose to cut out of a scene or joke. Seeing either While We’re Young or Mistress America in this category would be delightful.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Nominees: Embrace Of The Serpent; Mustang; Son Of Saul; Theeb; A War

Prediction: Rule of thumb when it comes to the Oscars: If there’s a film about the Holocaust nominated, bet on that one. It helps that Son Of Saul is gripping and relentless, on top of tackling the heaviest of heavy topics.

Preference: There are plenty who find Son Of Saul more obscene than powerful, given the way it depicts atrocities long considered… un-depictable. But count us in the opposite side—the one bowled over by its dynamic staging and complicated moral dilemma. That said, the moving Turkish drama Mustang would make for a fine alternate winner.

Overlooked: Comb the original list of 81 eligible foreign-language titles, and a couple of big snubs stick out. The most notable is probably Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s gorgeous wuxia riff The Assassin, which doesn’t just expertly evoke what eighth-century China might have looked and sounded like, but also approximates the rhythms of that bygone era. Plus, the (very brief) fight scenes kill.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Nominees: Amy; Cartel Land; The Look Of Silence; What Happened, Miss Simone?; Winter On Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom

Prediction: Documentary Feature is one category where the biggest hit often takes home the prize—and as one of 2015’s highest-grossing documentaries, Amy fits that bill. Only the film’s crushing sadness could cost it votes.

Preference: Speaking of crushing sadness, if there’s one film that could give Amy a run for its money, it’s probably The Look Of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer’s second film about genocide in Indonesia. This one is somehow even more powerful than The Act Of Killing, largely because it adopts the perspective of the victims instead of the perpetrators; it shouldn’t just win here, but should also be competing for Best Picture.

Overlooked: So long as we’re dreaming, can we get a write-in campaign going for Approaching The Elephant? If documentary legend Frederick Wiseman made a film about the tumultuous first year at a Free School, where teachers and students alike vote on the rules, it would probably look something like this. (Pssst: It’s streaming on Netflix now.)

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

Nominees: “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”

Prediction: Remember what we said about Holocaust movies? This category could prove to be the exception to the rule, as Lanzmann’s talky, unsentimental approach to the subject—best exemplified by his landmark Shoah—doesn’t exactly square with the Academy’s sensibilities, historically speaking. Which is to say that while “Spectres” definitely has a shot, we’re banking instead on “Body Team 12,” part of a trilogy of documentaries about Ebola airing on HBO next month.

Preference: We haven’t seen any of them, alas. But Lanzmann’s made chronicling the horrors of the Holocaust a kind of life’s work; there’s no reason to doubt that his short-subject continuation of the project is anything less than amazing.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Nominees: Bridge Of Spies, Adam Stockhausen, Rena DeAngelo, Bernhard Henrich; The Danish Girl, Eve Stewart, Michael Standish; Mad Max: Fury Road, Colin Gibson, Lisa Thompson; The Martian, Arthur Max, Celia Bobak; The Revenant, Jack Fisk, Hamish Purdy

Prediction: Because of their habit of creating piles of unusual, eye-grabbing crap, fantasies tend to do very well in the production design category. Unless AMPAS is seduced by the more traditional period-piece trappings of The Danish Girl, this feels like another win for the Fury Road team.

Preference: Considering that the award is shared with a set designer, it seems a little strange to stump for a movie that takes place almost entirely in the middle of the desert, as seen from the front seat of several cars. But Fury Road is a spectacularly art-directed movie, its vision of the dystopian future expressed through props and vehicles and all the cool junk scattered across its sprawling wasteland scenery.

Overlooked: This year’s most egregious Oscar snub just might be the exclusion of Guillermo Del Toro’s gothic fairy tale Crimson Peak from this category. Every frame of the movie is like a sketchbook brought to expensive life; Del Toro has done nothing less than interior decorate his own movie-addled headspace.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Nominees: Carol, Sandy Powell; Cinderella, Sandy Powell; The Danish Girl, Paco Delgado; Mad Max: Fury Road, Jenny Beavan; The Revenant, Jacqueline West

Prediction: The Costume Designers Guild just awarded The Danish Girl and Mad Max top honors in their respective Period and Fantasy categories. But Sandy Powell’s lavish work on Cinderella combines elements of both. It also features a bunch of elaborately conceived dresses—the clincher in this category, usually.

Preference: We’ll take Powell’s more subtle work on Carol instead. She perfectly defines the characters through their fashion choices, be it the glamorous ’50s-housewife look of the title character or the fetching shopgirl attire of Rooney Mara’s Therese.

Overlooked: Not to sound like a broken record, but where the hell is Crimson Peak? Did they see what Mia Wasikowska wears in that movie?

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Nominees: Bridge Of Spies, Thomas Newman; Carol, Carter Burwell; The Hateful Eight, Ennio Morricone; Sicario, Jóhann Jóhannsson; Star Wars: The Force Awakens, John Williams

Prediction: Hooking up with Quentin Tarantino can really boost your awards chances, as legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone will learn when he (probably) accepts his very first Oscar for the sinister throwback score of The Hateful Eight.

Preference: Morricone’s work, while typically infectious, is so sparingly employed throughout Eight that it feels more like a cool supplement than an essential component of the movie’s stylistic fabric. In other words, you could remove it without doing much damage. The same can’t be said for Carter Burwell’s unforgettable Carol score, which is absolutely integral to the movie’s emotional impact. To play just a few notes of its bittersweet melody—on your computer or in your head—is to have the whole film come rushing back to you.

Overlooked: Isn’t it about time that the Academy starts embracing more unconventional scores and composers? Nominating Trent Reznor and the Arcade Fire were good first steps. Now let’s try something as off-kilter but memorable as Disasterpiece’s synth-heavy soundtrack for It Follows. It perfectly modulates the mood of the movie, from dreamy to menacing, and it could have served as a kind of honorary Oscar for the various Academy-neglected John Carpenter scores to which it plays homage.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Nominees: “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

Prediction: There’s no “Skyfall” or “Glory” this year—no clear favorite among the five ballads voters are choosing from. But while “Earned It” is probably the most high-profile of these tunes, Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens To You” has gravity and star power.

Preference: Like the film itself, “Til It Happens To You” is a powerful lament for victims of sexual assault. Having Gaga belting it doesn’t hurt.

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT

Nominees: “Ave Maria;” “Day One;” “Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut);” “Shok;” “Stutterer”

Prediction: Guessing the shorts categories can be the key to winning office Oscar pools—and also a total blind-luck shot in the dark. Cannes selection “Ave Maria” appears to be the presumed frontrunner, mainly because its loaded dramatic scenario—a Jewish couple stranded in a convent within Palestinian territory—has been spiked with some crowd-pleasing levity. But don’t bet the farm on it.

Preference: “Everything Will Be Okay” is a tense half-hour thriller about a divorced father considering kidnapping his child. The very qualities that make it a longshot here—its queasy urgency, its lack of sentimental catharsis—are also what make it the clear standout.

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

Nominees: Mad Max: Fury Road, Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega, Damian Martin; The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out A Window And Disappeared, Love Larson, Eva Von Bahr; The Revenant, Sian Grigg, Duncan Jarman, Robert Pandini

Prediction: As much as the Academy simply adores old-age makeup—hence the nomination of an obscure foreign-language film featuring it—this feels like another title fight between the harsh past and the harsher future. It could go either way, but something tells us that Mad Max’s chalk-white war boys will fall to the manly, face-swallowing beards of The Revenant.

Preference: Turning baby-faced DiCaprio into a credible-looking frontier legend is no easy feat. This is one potential Revenant victory we could get behind.

Overlooked: Roy Andersson routinely transforms his entire ensemble casts into pasty, cadaverous museum exhibits. His makeup team’s thorough work is all part of the overarching aesthetic of films like A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence. We’d love to see it nominated somewhere.

BEST SOUND EDITING

Nominees: Mad Max: Fury Road, Mark Mangini, David White; The Martian, Oliver Tarney; The Revenant, Martin Hernandez, Lon Bender; Sicario, Alan Robert Murray; Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Matthew Wood, David Acord

Prediction: The ferocious roar of engines begins before the first image has even filled the screen. Mad Max: Fury Road is a sandbox for Foley artists—and with its automotive cacophony, an easy choice here.

Preference: Since this category is about the creation of original sounds, we’re halfway inclined to go with The Force Awakens, which surely had to come up with more than a few unheard-in-nature noises. (In other words, someone had to come up with what those tentacle beasties rampaging across the Falcon sound like.) But Mad Max is every bit as exciting to listen to as it is to watch, so it gets our fanfare again.

Overlooked: Splitting flesh, inhuman cannibal war cries, and the whoosh of the titular weapon are but a few of the memorably unsettling sound effects created for the eccentric horror-Western Bone Tomahawk. They’re also good reason to watch the film, in case you haven’t and you need another nudge in its direction.

BEST SOUND MIXING

Nominees: Bridge Of Spies, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, Drew Kunin; Mad Max: Fury Road, Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff, Ben Osmo; The Martian, Paul Massey, Mark Taylor, Mac Ruth; The Revenant, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montano, Randy Thom, Chris Duesterdiek; Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio, Stuart Wilson

Prediction: Wow, Bridge Of Spies is up for six Oscars. That’s a lot of nominations for a film that probably isn’t going to win anything. It’ll almost certainly lose in this category, which belongs to Mad Max: Fury Road and its perfectly calibrated symphony of squealing tires, booming rifles, and bitching guitar solos.

Preference: All hail The Doof Warrior. All hail Fury Road. Sorry, Spielberg.

Overlooked: Most years, the Academy finds room for at least one music movie in the Sound Mixing category. For one reason or another, they didn’t offer that token slot to the Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy, which actually boasts a sophisticated sound mix, suggesting the intersection of its subject’s genius and madness by blending voices with snippets of Beach Boys music.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Nominees: Ex Machina, Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington, Sara Bennett; Mad Max: Fury Road, Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver, Andy Williams; The Martian, Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence, Steven Warner; The Revenant, Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith, Cameron Waldbauer; Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan, Chris Corbould

Prediction: It’s probably safe to assume that Fury Road’s expected sweep of the technical categories will encompass a win here, too. But don’t be too shocked if they go for the CGI wildlife of The Revenant or the CGI everything of The Force Awakens instead.

Preference: Several of these nominees show an admirable commitment to balancing digital effects work with the handmade variety; even Star Wars goes physical when it can. But Fury Road probably deserves this on principle, mainly for using CGI to augment rather than create, and for relying on practical pyrotechnics as much as possible.

Overlooked: Speaking of practical effects, it’d be really cool to see Krampus’ yuletide critters competing against 1s and 0s here. That jack-in-the-box monster will haunt nightmares for several Christmases to come.