by Ivor Davis

Now that we’ve got the whole “There are too many elderly white folk voting for the Oscars” controversy out of the way, allow me a short salvo before getting down to the nitty-gritty of this week’s Oscar ceremonies. It’s a shame that no African Americans are in the running. Yes, Will Smith did a credible job in Concussion — although his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, was one of the first out of the starting gate to blast the Academy’s shortage of black nominees and lead a boycott of the telecast. And true, British actor Idris Elba was so powerful in the little-seen Beasts of No Nation (the brutal story of child-soldiers in West Africa) that he deserved a best supporting actor nod. But frankly, I think those perceived omissions were not as outrageous as we were led to believe.

I look forward to Oscar host Chris Rock’s caustic comments as he surely will tackle the whole diversity brouhaha. I don’t expect his spiel to be quite the slash-and-burn delivered by Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes. Gervais deliberately — and with gleeful malice aforethought — savagely bit the Foreign Press hand that fed him.

So let me start out by saying that if Leonardo DiCaprio wins for best actor for The Revenant it will be a shame. The movie was a long, grueling sit. It also practiced what one critic rightly described as “pornographic pain.” Endless suffering, bloodshed ad nauseum. Sure, the scenery was majestic and DiCaprio wrestled with a bear and supposedly devoured real bison liver — definitely a first for a Hollywood leading man — but that doesn’t excuse the movie’s excesses. Here are my best guesses for this year’s Academy Awards, and why:

BEST PICTURE

Ten movies and only one gets a statuette. My favorite was Spotlight, with Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies a close second. The Big Short could be a spoiler, but I think not. Don’t rule out The Martian, although director Ridley Scott being overlooked as best director is not a good harbinger.

BEST DIRECTOR

I like Tom McCarthy for Spotlight — a superbly told tale. Why Revenant’s Alejandro G. Iñárritu probably won’t win is that no filmmaker in 87 years has won back-to-back Oscars. (On the other hand, aren’t records meant to be broken?) The dark horse is George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road.

BEST ACTOR

The popular “He’s paid his dues” nominee, Bryan Cranston, will win for Trumbo, the story of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. The movie topic is near and dear to the old fogies who vote in the Academy. You’ve heard my rant on DiCaprio. But where was Johnny Depp for Black Mass? A big omission.

BEST ACTRESS

This one is a real toughie. Brie Larson (where did this child actress-singer come from?) had a good performance in Room, but not the best in my book. Best actress should have been Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl. But he’s been nominated for best actor! Cate Blanchett is always formidable; she won two years ago for Blue Jasmine and was first-rate in Carol. The more mature crowd seems to like the lovely Charlotte Rampling for her role in the little-seen 45 Years. It will be a real shocker if she wins because Vegas bookies have her down at 50-l.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Lots of hot contenders in this category. The moment I saw British actor Mark Rylance as the Russian spy Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies I knew he was a winner. There are other strong contenders, but it’s going to Rylance despite the competition. Hoping to nose him out is The Big Short’s Christian Bale. But beware of a possible late knockout delivered by Sylvester Stallone for his role as the aged ex-champ Rocky Balboa in Creed: Hollywood adores comebacks.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

This is a very wide-open race. The Hateful Eight’s Jennifer Jason Leigh could hiss her way to gold as the nasty convicted killer in Quentin Tarantino’s overindulgent violence fest. But watch out for the rest of the gals: Kate Winslet as Steve Jobs’ right hand girl or Rooney Mara, who more than held her own opposite Cate Blanchett in Carol. And a surprise (in this category there are often big surprises), Alicia Vikander as Eddie Redmayne’s understanding wife in The Danish Girl is a possibility.

Nothing is certain at the Academy Awards, but as you mark your Oscar night ballot, expect surefire winners to include: The very innovative Inside Out for Best Animated film; the Hungarian Son of Saul, a disturbingly shocking Holocaust movie, for Best Foreign Film; and Mad Max for Best Make Up and Hair (does anyone really care?)

Ventura resident Ivor Davis has been writing about the entertainment business for more than four decades. He has interviewed the most celebrated actors of the mid- to late-20th century and the early 21st century.
He also authored the book
The Beatles and Me on Tour.