Oscars predictions: And the winners are...
It has been a record-breaking year for Irish film, with Room and Brooklyn both nominated in several categories, Michael Fassbender and Saoirse Ronan up for Best Actor and Actress. But who'll win? Here are our film critic's predictions:
Ridley Scott's big-budget hit The Martian and George Miller's sci-fi sequel Mad Max: Fury Road get the nod for their sheer visual splendour, while Steven Spielberg's more sombre and solid Bridge of Spies is rewarded for its dramatic qualities. Adam McKay's audacious banking crash comedy The Big Short has made an eye-catching late awards run, while both Brooklyn and Room have also made the cut. Room is being given an outside chance for Best Picture, and so is Tom McCarthy's brilliant recreation of the Boston clerical sex abuse scandal, Spotlight, but I think Alejandro G Inarritu's survivalist western The Revenant, starring Domhnall Gleeson (above), is going to win.
Only five candidates can make this shortlist, so Lenny Abrahamson should be very proud of being selected for his work on Room, which imaginatively recreates Emma Donoghue's chilling novel. George Miller is deservedly nominated for his superb orchestration of Mad Max: Fury Road's colourful chase and battle scenes, and Tom McCarthy is up for his brilliant investigative thriller Spotlight. But that's all academic if you ask me, because I think Alejandro G Inarritu (above) will win for his extraordinary work on The Revenant.
Michael Fassbender fully deserves his nomination in this category for his intense portrayal of computer guru Steve Jobs in Danny Boyle's very fine biopic. The Academy loves English actor Eddie Redmayne, who won last year for The Theory of Everything, but his performance in the deadly dull Danish Girl is arid. He won't win, and Matt Damon probably won't either, though he brought real depth and humanity to his portrayal of a stranded astronaut in The Martian. But this just has to be Leonardo DiCaprio's year (above): he gives his all playing a tracker stranded in the wilderness in The Revenant, and I'll eat my hat if he doesn't win.
On the back of her Golden Globe and BAFTA wins for Room, Brie Larson (above) has emerged as the favourite in the Best Actress award, and if she wins there'll be no arguments. Cate Blanchett was as good as ever in Carol, but that film has fallen out of fashion with awards voters in recent months. They'll hardly give it to Jennifer Lawrence again, though she's pretty good in Joy, and though Charlotte Rampling was quite superb in the British drama 45 Years, her recent contributions to the movie-racism debate may not have helped her cause. So it's Larson's to lose, though some commentators are giving Saoirse Ronan an outside chance for Brooklyn.
Best Supporting Actor
If it were up to me, I'd give this Oscar to Mark Rylance straight away. The legendary English stage actor makes a rare foray into film in Bridge of Spies and delivers a performance full of colour, nuance and quiet intensity. He's superb but is unlikely to win, and Mark Ruffalo doesn't deserve to in my opinion as he's not at his very best in Spotlight. Christian Bale was hugely impressive in The Big Short playing an eccentric hedge-fund manager, but if sentiment has anything to do with it, the 2016 Best Supporting Actor gong will go to Sylvester Stallone (above), who's surprisingly good as an older, wiser Rocky Balboa in Creed.
Best Supporting Actress
Kate Winslet (above) came from nowhere to win the Supporting Actress Golden Globe playing Michael Fassbender's long-suffering assistant in Steve Jobs, and is now a strong contender to grab this Oscar. Alicia Vikander will provide strong opposition for her very fine portrayal of a troubled painter in the otherwise so-so Danish Girl, and Rachel McAdams gets the nod for her solid work in the ensemble drama Spotlight. The needless unpleasantness of Hateful Eight will mitigate against Jennifer Jason Leigh's nomination, but Rooney Mara must be a serious contender for her sterling work on Carol. But I fancy Winslet.
This award is split into two categories, Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay, and Emma Donoghue stands a real chance of triumphing in the latter category with Room. Nick Hornby's fine adaptation of Colm Tóibín's novel Brooklyn is also nominated here, and both The Big Short and Carol are strong contenders as well, making this one hard to call. In the Best Original Screenplay category, Matt Charman and Joel and Ethan Coen will surely figure for their very clever writing on Bridge of Spies, as should Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer for Spotlight. But the writers of Pixar's brilliant animation Inside Out (above) - Pete Docter and Josh Cooley - might just prevail here.