Oscars: 5 Possible Upsets That Could Rock Hollywood’s Big Night

Trumbo Movie Trailer
Courtesy of Universal

Keep an eye on these unexpected turns in the road next weekend.

The Oscars are six days away, if you can believe it. Will best picture go to “The Big Short,” “The Revenant” or “Spotlight”? That’s the question on everyone’s minds. Underneath it all, there are a few categories that seem locked up, but could give way to a shocker. Here are five potential upsets to keep an eye on next weekend. Our final Oscar predictions will land tomorrow, just as voting draws to a close.

Bryan Cranston for Best Actor
This one would admittedly be a bolt from the blue, but “Trumbo” is right in the Academy wheelhouse, picked up three Screen Actors Guild nominations including an ensemble bid (i.e., actors — who make up the largest Academy branch — love it) and Cranston is a beloved worker. The road certainly seems to be paved for Leonardo DiCaprio after precursor dominance and SAG and BAFTA wins, but there are plenty of places to support “The Revenant” on the ballot and only one place to support “Trumbo.” Don’t underestimate the potential for scoffing at a handsome, successful movie star’s quest for acting Oscar gold: Just ask Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, etc.

Christian Bale or Mark Ruffalo for Best Supporting Actor
“Creed” star Sylvester Stallone’s awards trajectory has been curious this season. Early voting deadlines kept him out of the SAG lineup, while late-breaking buzz might have stalled him with BAFTA voters. So as far as industry awards go, he hasn’t really been up for the honor many expect him to waltz away with on Oscar night. Though of course he has been dominant in the critics awards circuit. Could he be ripe for an upset, the heralded vet who stumbles at the big dance (Mickey Rourke, Lauren Bacall, etc.)? I suppose it depends on how many enemies he may have made along the way, but Bale is a beloved thesp many consider a genius, while Ruffalo is on his second nomination in as many years and could be primed for some Academy love. One or the other could leap-frog BAFTA winner Mark Rylance and give Stallone a headache.

“The Martian” for Best Visual Effects
Most are predicting BAFTA winner “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” to win the visual effects prize, largely due to the blockbuster’s industry impact this year and despite the fact that no film that wasn’t nominated for best picture has toppled a best picture nominee in the category since “Tora! Tora! Tora!” did it to “Patton” 45 years ago. If they aren’t picking that, they’re looking to below-the-line heavies “Mad Max: Fury Road” or “The Revenant.” But don’t sleep on “The Martian.” It’s obviously a popular film and following the Ridley Scott “snub,” supporters could dig in their heels.

“Mustang” for Best Foreign-Language Film
Ever since László Nemes’ “Son of Saul,” a riveting Holocaust drama out of Hungary, won four Cannes awards including the Grand Jury Prize, it has been the assumed foreign-language frontrunner. But like any number of Holocaust tales, it’s not the easiest sit. Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s “Mustang,” while no walk in the park for its depiction of five girls weathering a conservative Turkish society, is more traditional in its filmmaking approach and might even feel more immediate in the face of politics looking to roll the clock back on women’s health.

“What Happened, Miss Simone?” for Best Documentary Feature
All eyes are on “Amy” here, the most popular of the bunch. But in case you haven’t noticed, Netflix has been breaking the bank spending on behalf of their titles “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” and particularly “What Happened, Miss Simone?” The latter, a study of recording artist Nina Simone, would be a great choice in the wake of criticism about diversity in the nominations. And there have been cracks in the “Amy” dam, namely Matthew Heineman’s Directors Guild victory for “Cartel Land.”

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  1. Maddie says:

    Sorry I think Tom Hardy in The Revenant was fantastic and was so happy to see he finally got recognized with a nomination. I whole-heartedly agree that Bryan Cranston could be the big upset this year…he was marvelous in Trumbo and in my opinion far better the Leo, who I agree does deserve an Oscar but this is not the film that he should win for.

  2. El says:

    I know the readership of this column is anti-The Big Short or anti-Brad or anti-Adam McKay but I will give my two cents anyway.

    Christian Bale was outstanding in The Big Short. He is one of the best actors of his generation giving a memorable and endearing depiction of Michael Burry. Don’t get me started on Stallone who I feel is the least deserving of the 5. It would be incredible if Christian pulled an upset though I am not counting on it.

    The Big Short is not boring at all. It is an entertaining, educational, and enlightening film.

  3. Mariana says:

    I want Stallone wins!!!! I love him!!!

  4. Ivan says:

    Despite DiCaprio’s one-note acting, for years Hollywood has been falling over themselves to give him an Oscar. In a year of ‘just Ok’ male acting roles, they will be giving him the standing ovation.

    As for Stallone, history is filled with favourites who didn’t win supporting. I suspect this year will be the same.

  5. Moon says:

    I hope this article is a joke. I really want to see the Academy playing tricks and committing suicide by not giving the Oscar to DiCaprio and Stallone. They have been for a very long time big players and money makers for the industry, they are extremely loved by the public and they deserve recognition for their performances, in different ways.I found Stallone’s performance so honest and truthful like I have not seen in a long time by other more versatile actors or thespians, as for DiCaprio, just give him an Oscar already!

  6. Tony Lampert says:

    Ref Best Actor comment: Careful what you print! I don’t think you can ask Paul Newman.

  7. Louisa says:

    Here’s hoping for Bryan Cranston!!!! He deserves it! He IS TRuMBo!

  8. HPR says:

    A year from now, everyone will own Star Wars and no one will remember these other movies. And that’s because Star Wars is actually a joy to watch.

  9. Sean C. says:

    The lack of support for Trumbo makes it hard for me to see a Cranston upset.

    I would adore Mustang winning.

  10. Ridley Scott’s omission in Best Director is a snub, but Force Awakens’ criminal, despicable, cutting-off-Oscar’s-nose-in-spite-of-its-face exclusion in every major category isn’t?

    • Bill B. says:

      Scott not being nominated was by far the biggest upset of the nominations. Many were predicting a win for him, even if the film didn’t.

  11. KEN says:

    This is going to be a huge night for THE REVENANT. I predict 6, maybe 7, wins. MAD MAX will grab a couple of tech awards. SPOTLIGHT and BIG SHORT will – justly or not – nab the screenplay honours. Zip for THE MARTIAN and CAROL. And SON OF SAUL will get the Foreign Film prize because it is simply brilliant film-making.

  12. James says:

    Best director is a bigger possible upset

  13. Torah says:

    Ronan (deservedly) won Best Actress!

  14. Free says:

    Ooh, I liked Son of Saul but I do hope Mustang upsets. I don’t see Cranston winning over Leo, though. It would be a HUGE slap in the face at this point, and if he can’t win with a Best Actor field this weak, it will never happen for him.

    • Bill B. says:

      This is not a weak field & it rarely is, though I think there were stronger contenders than Cranston that weren’t nominated. I agree that DiCaprio won’t lose for all sorts of reasons, but Fassbinder gives the best performance and he’s just as effective in Macbeth as well.

  15. You know who says:

    I’d be surprised if anyone not named Stallone won Supporting Actor. Bale, Hardy, Ruffalo and Rylance didn’t even bother to show up for the nominees luncheon. I think Stallone will win because the other four don’t really seem to give a damn.

  16. WA says:

    I’m actually surprised Christian Bale was nominated for “The Big Short.” In a film full of good performances, I don’t really get why he was singled out for the nomination. I would have gone with Steve Carrell from that film. I do think Sylvester Stallone will win Best Supporting Actor, but Mark Rylance was also great.

  17. Nanny Mo says:

    It doesn’t matter. As long as the Academy Awards are rigged with racial quotas against people and elitists deciding who in the Academy is worthy to vote, it doesn’t matter. If it’s not based on one-vote per member, voting the way they chose then it just doesn’t matter. Why would anyone want to be a member of an Academy where elitists decide if they are worthy enough to vote at all? It’s so sick, it’s something Stalin would do.

    • Pablo says:

      Yes, insisting some minorities get recognition in an awards ceremony is just like something Stalin would do…

      … and then he’d send Academy members to a Siberian work camp for years, before having them murdered.

  18. Daryle says:

    I hope the contest for Supporting Actor is between Mark Rylance and Mark Ruffalo, and a win by either would not surprise me. I PREDICT Sylvester Stallone, because I think some people (maybe too many) believe that would make for a memorable Oscar moment, but in terms of my own preferences, this was the toughest award for which to make a choice – very close for me between Rylance and Ruffalo,,, and Christian Bale was maybe just a tad behind.

  19. Burcu says:

    Hell no… Leonardo will win

  20. Bill B. says:

    I have been predicting the Oscars for decades and I’ve had some very good years and some off ones, but none that I was way off the rails. One would think that it would be easier now with all the precursors that we have, but sometimes I think they just add confusion. For someone who has paid attention to this stuff much more than it actually deserves, I have found for me that if one has a good feel for the way these things go, sometimes I have been more accurate when not seeing all of the films. Sometimes one’s personal opinions interfere with logic. I thought The Big Short, sorry, was a bore and I just have a hard time finding a place for it to win anything other than adapted screenplay and even there I am hoping, very probably fruitlessly, that Room upsets it. I think best pic goes to either The Revenant or Spotlight, though I have not yet decided on which to pick. Had I not gotten my personal opinion involved, I would probably be considering The Big Short a lot more, but it’s too late now.

  21. JR Costa says:

    Although I’d vote for SW, actually everywhere I look I see the Mad Max as front runner for Best VFX.

  22. cadavra says:

    Ditto on Cranston; he clearly deserves it. But I don’t see it happening.

    Kris, there’s some chatter that Miller could sneak in for Best Director. Do you not buy that, or is the chatter sufficient that it wouldn’t be considered an actual upset?

  23. achow says:

    Carol winning all the awards it was nominated for. the oscars would definitely get some love and viewers if to make up for oscarsowhite

  24. Faris Gammoh says:

    “Theeb” is the clear winner for best foreign-language film. Just look at Rotten Tomatoes with a 96% rating. Critic consensus is “outstanding”

  25. Edward Kargir says:

    The look of silence should win best documentary.
    Amonlisa best animated film.
    Best picture Spotlight

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