For the 2016 Academy Awards the Arts and Entertainment section of the Tribune did the work for you, predicting the winners for Best Film, Best Leading Actor and Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress, and Film Editing. Read the reviews, rent the films, and be ready to watch the Oscars on Feb. 28. Unless you're boycotting the show, that is.
Best Picture: Spotlight
A true exercise in cinematic restraint, Spotlight is the rare Best Picture oscar nomination that was actually the best film of the year. Featuring a taut script and a versatile ensemble full of heavy-hitting character actors, the film uses the Boston Globe’s slow uncovering of rampant sexual assault in the Catholic church as a testament to the importance of the journalistic process. There’s a subtle humanity beneath the journalists’ shocking discovery, making their work feel personally important as well as publicly.
Best Actor In a Leading Role: Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Yes, Leonardo DiCaprio is probably going to win for the two-and-a-half hour exercise in human misery that is The Revenant, but in typical Oscar's fashion, he is not the most deserving contender. Instead, that honour goes to Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of the notoriously difficult Apple CEO, Steve Jobs. The film spans three decades of his life, and Fassbender’s committed performance does a great job of showing what does and doesn’t change about the man behind the Macbook.
Best Actress In a Leading Role: Brie Larson, Room
Delivering the latest in a string of strong emotionally-vulnerable performances, Larson’s portrayal of a young woman who is held in captivity for years and then released, might be her best yet. Well-served by the melodramatic potential of the script, Larson sells the unimaginably complex interior life of her character through acts of depression and frustration at herself and the world around her before and after her freedom. There’s a rare emotional consistency to her performance, with each action and reaction revealing something deeper about her mental state, and the trappings that total freedom can bring.
Best Actor In a Supporting Role: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Giving an exercise in powerful, invisible acting, Mark Rylance is by far the best part of Bridge of Spies, elevating a middle of the road spy thriller. As a captured Russian spy, Rylance brings a quiet dignity to his role, hinting at his character’s humanity beneath his allegiances, but never fully giving anything away. Every movement he makes is meticulous and hypnotic, silently drawing attention to himself in every frame without ever stealing the spotlight.
Best Actress In a Supporting Role: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Giving two of the year’s best performances (the other was her voice work in Anomalisa), Jennifer Jason Leigh had a 2015 that hints at a Matthew McConaughey-style creative resurgence. Her role as a captured member of a band of outlaws is remarkable for how gleefully unhinged and dark it’s allowed to get. Her character’s unrepentant nastiness is simultaneously played for laughter and menace, an incredibly difficult line to walk that Jason Leigh handles with manic grace.
Film Editing: Hank Corwin, The Big Short
The Big Short had the hardest job to keep the audience engaged in a complicated story, but the way the film was edited and cut kept your attention at every turn. The pacing was perfect in terms of letting the anticipation of the climax build until the very end without seeming pretentious. The simultaneous juggling of multiple parallel storylines only worked as well as it did due to the superb editing that the other films did not need nor display to the same extent.
Read our extended predictions for live-action and animated short films online.