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.”