2016 Oscar Predictions: Our Picks in Every Category

·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment

Most of the attention around this year’s Oscars has been focused on who was not nominated — namely the lack of any people of color among the 20 acting nominees for the second year in a row. The academy has since taken action, and we can only hope Hollywood as a whole gets its act together.

In the meantime, let’s set our sights on the deserving folks and films that will be competing for Academy Awards this Sunday, Feb. 28. There are some sure bets and agonizingly close races, starting at the top with Best Picture and Best Director.

Watch our Oscar predictions in the top six categories above, then scroll down to see picks in every category, including the shorts. And get in on that office pool action before it’s too late.

BEST PICTURE

Nominees:
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room

Spotlight

This is the first legit three-horse race we’ve had since 2013, when the late-surging Argo completed its improbable win over Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln. The critics’ favorite, Spotlight, seemed destined to win early on but has never really proven its status as frontrunner in the awards race, winning top-tier awards only from the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild. The Big Short could have a big chance, given its surprise win at the Producers Guild Awards, which have correctly predicted the Oscars’ Best Picture for the past eight years (a stat only slightly marred by a 2013 tie at the PGAs between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity), but it still doesn’t quite feel like the type of film the academy fully invests in.

And then there’s The Revenant, which opened awards season with a bang at the Golden Globes, claimed the most Oscar nominations — 12 — and added exclamation points recently with big wins from the Directors Guild and BAFTAs. Plus, it’s been a beast at the box office, grossing over $165 million so far.

I’ve made the mistake of stubbornly holding out for early favorites in years past (The Social Network, Boyhood), but the academy continues to prove that when it’s a close race, it’s all about momentum. Right now, that belongs to The Revenant.

Will Win: The Revenant
Don’t Be Surprised By: Spotlight or The Big Short

BEST DIRECTOR

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

My early pick to win this category — 0-for-3 nominee Ridley Scott (The Martian) — didn’t even make the ballot, ostensibly ousted for little-known Room director Lenny Abrahamson. Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) and Adam McKay (The Big Short) are on the ballot as well, but this one is going to come down to a battle of filmmakers who made large-scale, extreme motion pictures.

George Miller’s 15-year foray into making Mad Max: Fury Road resulted in one of the most satisfying action movies of the millennium. But the Aussie’s got little to show for it this awards season. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s battles against the elements while shooting The Revenant are already the stuff of legend, and so far he’s been awarded by the Globes, the BAFTAs, and the DGA.

Really the only thing standing against Iñárritu is the fact that he won Best Director last year for Birdman, a bee sting compared with the bear mauling that was making The Revenant. Look for Iñárritu to become the first person to win consecutive Best Director Oscars since Joseph L. Mankiewicz did it in 1949 and 1950 for A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve, and only the third ever (John Ford also won two in a row in 1940 and 1941 for The Grapes of Wrath and How Green Was My Valley).

Will Win: Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
Don’t Be Surprised By: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Dark Horse: Adam McKay, The Big Short

BEST ACTOR

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

Only one word needed here: Leo.

The 41-year-old Revenant star is in the enviable position of “being due” for an Oscar — he’s 0-5 so far, with four losses in the acting categories and one for producing a Best Picture nominee — and also delivering the year’s best male performance. He speaks multiple Native American languages, gets through other scenes communicating with nothing but grunts and looks of pure terror, makes us fully believe he’s getting the stuffing beaten out of him by a bear not actually there, and generally so physically commits to the role that he makes you feel every blow fur trapper Hugh Glass endures.

Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

(There are no dark horses to list here, though at the mention of “dark horse,” we should all take a moment to once again reflect on that time DiCaprio climbed into a dark-horse carcass.)

BEST ACTRESS

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

You know how the first half of Room starts with all that nail-biting suspense before settling into something far quieter? That’s pretty much how this category has played out.

Brie Larson has long been the favorite for her devastating, soul-baring portrayal of a young mother held captive in a madman’s shed, but it had looked like she was going to face stiffer competition from previous winners like Jennifer Lawrence (whose Joy otherwise fizzled) and Cate Blanchett (who should have been a double nominee for Carol and Truth). But it’s been all Brie these last couple months, as the 26-year-old has taken the SAG Award, the Globe, the BAFTA, and more. Next comes the Oscar. And she deserves it.

Will Win: Brie Larson, Room
Dark Horse: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

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

Sylvester Stallone went 39 years between acting nominations for playing the same character, Rocky Balboa — an Oscars record — in 1976’s Rocky and 2015’s torch-passing reboot Creed. It’s a role he’s perfected, and he brings more heart than ever to the Italian Stallion. He’s also the sentimental pick and the odds-on favorite to win here.

But in this case, I will stick with my early pick and predict an upset by Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight. The man who also smashes it as Hulk gives the best performance in an ensemble packed with great ones as the loose cannon in the bunch of intrepid Boston Globe reporters taking on the Catholic Church. He runs all over town in the gripping drama, and there’s a chance he could run away with an Oscar for it.

Will Win: Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Don’t Be Surprised By: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Dark Horse: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

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

Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) and Rooney Mara (Carol) both had over 60 percent of the total screen time in their respective dramas. They both should be in the lead category, but the studios campaigning for them placed them in the supporting race because that’s where they have a better chance of winning. It makes no sense and shouldn’t be allowed, but it’s just one of those things everyone accepts about the Oscars.

It was the Swedish breakout (and SAG winner) Vikander who gave the grandest performance, and she could be buoyed by the fact that she was equally as impressive as the sexiest robot ever in the summer sleeper Ex Machina. Mara can’t be counted out, though, for her quietly powerful performance in Carol, nor can Kate Winslet, whose wins at the Globes and BAFTAs prove she’s immune to the poor box-office performance of Steve Jobs.

Will Win: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Don’t Be Surprised By: Rooney Mara, Carol
Dark Horse: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY & BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Best Original Screenplay Nominees:
Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Spotlight

Straight Outta Compton

Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees:
The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
The Martian

Room

For better or worse, the screenplay categories can sometimes be looked at as consolation prizes for films that are runners-up in the Best Picture race. Hopefully, that’s not how voters approach them, but this year could be a perfect example.

Say The Revenant — which wasn’t even nominated for its screenplay— does end up winning Best Picture. It’s highly likely that the screenplay categories will go to the other two films mentioned as Best Picture frontrunners: Spotlight and The Big Short.

If you want to take it a step further, you could also argue that Straight Outta Compton and Carol might earn extra votes to make up for being left out of the Best Picture race. It’s unlikely, but not out of the question.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Will Win: Spotlight
Dark Horses: Inside Out or Straight Outta Compton

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Will Win: The Big Short
Dark Horses: Room, The Martian or Carol

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Nominees:
Anomalisa
Boy and the World
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie

When Marnie Was There

Disney/Pixar’s inventive slice of genius, Inside Out, has had this category locked down since its release in June. This one is almost as easy to predict as Best Actor.

Side note: A win for Disney will give the studio eight out of the past 10 Best Animated Feature Oscars.

Will Win: Inside Out

Related: All You Need to Know About the Two Wonderful Wild Cards Up for Best Animated Feature

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Nominees:
Amy
Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

A couple of the highest profile documentaries of 2015 were left off the nomination shortlist: Going Clear and He Named Me Malala. But it’s unlikely they stood a fighting chance against Amy, Asif Kapadia’s riveting and heartbreaking film about late singer Amy Winehouse.

Will Win: Amy
Don’t Be Surprised By: The Look of Silence
Dark Horse: Cartel Land

Related: ‘Amy’ Director Asif Kapadia on Winehouse Family Reaction to Film and the Singer’s Legacy

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM

Nominees:
Embrace of the Serpent
Mustang
Son of Saul
Theeb

A War

Like Animated Feature, Foreign Language Film has had a clear frontrunner since mid-2015: the acclaimed Hungarian Holocaust drama Son of Saul, which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. The artsy Turkish coming-of-age drama Mustang has its fans, but it’s still a long shot.

Will Win: Son of Saul
Dark Horse: Mustang

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Nominees:
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Sicario

If you think Leo’s had a rough Oscar run, famed cinematographer Roger Deakins is 0-for-12, and he doesn’t have a strong chance of winning for No. 13 (Sicario). Like Best Director, this one will come down to the gorgeously filmed spectacles The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road. And once again, Revenant has the upper hand.

Will Win: The Revenant
Don’t Be Surprised By: Mad Max: Fury Road
Dark Horse: Sicario

Related: The People With the Most Oscar Nominations Without a Win

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Nominees:
Carol
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

This contest features a tale of two movies that couldn’t be any more different: Cinderella and Mad Max: Fury Road. As much as I’d like to choose based on which would make the better Halloween costume (Fury Road), history favors anything with a corset, with recent winners including Anna Karenina, Alice in Wonderland, The Young Victoria, The Duchess, Elizabeth: The Golden Years, and Marie Antoinette. And that’s just over the past 10 years. So gotta go ’Ella.

Will Win: Cinderella
Don’t Be Surprised By: Mad Max: Fury Road
Dark Horse: Carol

BEST FILM EDITING

Nominees:
The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Spotlight

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Get used to this Revenant-Fury Road rivalry, especially in the technical awards. Here, I’ll side with the popular vote among Oscar experts: the frenetically paced thriller Fury Road, which was cut by director George Miller’s wife, Margaret Sixel.

Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Don’t Be Surprised By: The Revenant
Dark Horse: The Big Short

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

Nominees:
Mad Max: Fury Road
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

The Revenant

As I was saying: Revenant vs. Fury Road. And while it felt like the baby-faced DiCaprio finally looked his age in the rough-and-tumble cosmetics of The Revenant, there’s no beating the grooming of Fury Road’s dust-soaked warriors. (You’re forgiven if you’ve never heard of the third film in this category, the Swedish comedy The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.)

Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Don’t Be Surprised By: The Revenant

Related: The Evolution of the Oscar Winners for Best Makeup

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Nominees:
Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian

The Revenant

Our rivalry continues in this category recognizing production design (otherwise known as art direction), only here Fury Road gets heavy frontrunner status for its rich and unique post-apocalyptic world building.

Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Don’t Be Surprised By: Bridge of Spies
Dark Horse: The Revenant

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Nominees:
Bridge of Spies
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Aside from Jennifer Jason Leigh’s nod for Best Supporting Actress, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight flamed out in the major categories. But it should still win one Oscar: for the prolific Italian maestro Ennio Morricone’s lush western score.

Will Win: The Hateful Eight
Don’t Be Surprised By: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Dark Horse: Sicario

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

The bad news: The most beloved movie song of the year, Wiz Khalifa’s mega-hit Paul Walker farewell ballad “See You Again,” wasn’t even nominated.

The good news: The favorite to win is “Til It Happens to You” from the haunting documentary The Hunting Ground, which would bring songwriter Diane Warren her first Oscar win in eight attempts.

Will Win: “Til It Happens to You,” The Hunting Ground
Don’t Be Surprised By: “Writing’s on the Wall,” Spectre
Dark Horse: “Simple Song #3,” Youth

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Nominees:
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

George Miller’s team pulled off the majority of effects in Fury Road practically, which has to give it a leg up here. But the buzzed-about bear attack scene in The Revenant, a monster CGI coup, could win that film an Oscar by itself. And then, of course, there is the more traditional, but still eye-popping, FX employed in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This is one close race, but we’ll call it for Fury Road.

Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Don’t Be Surprised By: The Revenant or Star Wars: The Force Awakens

BEST SOUND EDITING & BEST SOUND MIXING

Best Sound Editing Nominees:
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Sound Mixing Nominees:
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

First, our annual refresher on the difference between the categories: Sound editing is the creation and recording of new (nonmusical) sounds, while sound mixing is the layering of all sounds (music, dialogue, effects, and so on) into a cohesive mix.

The trick with predicting these — besides the fact that most of us are not professional soundmen/women — is deciding whether or not you want to split the votes or go with one overall sound winner.

This year is a bit easier since the favorite in both categories appears to be Mad Max: Fury Road, while the film hottest on its tail is — you guessed it — The Revenant. And don’t forget Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Still, I’ll split the votes.

BEST SOUND EDITING

Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Don’t Be Surprised By: The Revenant
Dark Horse: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

BEST SOUND MIXING

Will Win: The Revenant
Don’t Be Surprised By: Mad Max: Fury Road
Dark Horse: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

Nominees:
Bear Story
Prologue
Sanjay’s Super Team
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

World of Tomorrow

You’d think it would be unfair when there’s a Disney Pixar short in this category — this year it’s the charming Indian superhero vs. spirituality tale Sanjay’s Super Team. But that doesn’t mean it will win. In fact, Disney Pixar lost eight of its last 11 nominations. Here, I’m betting the Academy will go with the melancholic and touching Chilean toon Bear Story, which takes place mostly within the spellbinding confines of a mechanical diorama.

Will Win: Bear Story
Don’t Be Surprised By: Sanjay’s Super Team
Dark Horse: We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

Related: Watch the Oscar-Nominated Short ‘We Can’t Live Without Cosmos’

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT

Nominees:
Ave Marie
Day One
Everything Will Be Okay
Shok

Stutterer

Most pundits are picking the religious comedy Ave Marie — which unites a feuding Israeli family with silent nuns in the West Bank — after it won praise at Cannes. But I’m going with the category’s other lighthearted entry, Stutterer, a poignant romance about an online relationship that plays like a lost chapter from Love Actually. If the Oscar goes to a drama, expect it to be the tense and heartbreaking Shok, about young Albanian boys caught in the Kosovo War.

Will Win: Stutterer
Don’t Be Surprised By: Shok
Dark Horse: Everything Will Be Okay

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

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

You’re not going to find any laughs among the docu shorts, which feature subjects ranging from the Ebola crisis (Body Team 12) to a war vet with PTSD given the death penalty (Last Day of Freedom) to Vietnamese youth born with physical deformities caused by Agent Orange (Chau, Beyond the Lines). The inspiring Body Team 12, which follows Red Cross workers around Liberia as they collect the bodies of Ebola victims, is considered the favorite.

Will Win: Body Team 12
Don’t Be Surprised By: Chau, Beyond the Lines or Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
Dark Horse: A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness