LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ahead of Sunday's 88th Academy Awards, Associated Press film writers Lindsey Bahr and Jake Coyle share their predictions for a ceremony that has everyone guessing:
The Nominees: "The Big Short," ''Bridge of Spies," ''Brooklyn," ''Mad Max: Fury Road," ''The Martian," ''The Revenant," ''Room," ''Spotlight."
Will Win: "The Revenant's" bravado will match its awards tally.
Should Win: "Mad Max: Fury Road" is a visionary filmmaking coup of a different kind, and, unlike "The Revenant," Miller's raging road opera is the definite classic of the bunch.
Should Have Been a Contender: It still boggles the mind why Todd Haynes' period romance "Carol" was overlooked. It is filmmaking at its best.
Will Win: No one really knows. "The Revenant" has the momentum, but consensus is elusive. Panicked voices everywhere can be heard exclaiming "The guilds are all over the map!" In the end, I go with "The Big Short" because the Producers Guild has been the best forecaster in recent years.
Should Win: It may lack some cinematic punch, but the sturdy "Spotlight" is the closest thing we have to a new Sydney Lumet classic.
Should Have Been a Contender: "Carol" and "Creed." The absence here of Todd Haynes' majestic '50s dream is a glaring oversight. And it took too long for people to realize just how good Ryan Coogler's "Rocky" sequel is.
The Nominees: Bryan Cranston, "Trumbo"; Matt Damon, "The Martian"; Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Revenant"; Michael Fassbender, "Steve Jobs"; Eddie Redmayne, "The Danish Girl."
Will Win: DiCaprio. He had us at "raw bison."
Should Win: DiCaprio's inevitable win can be both boring and merited. If only we could guarantee that the Academy was choosing him for his actual performance and not the behind-the-scenes suffering.
Should Have Been a Contender: When did we start taking the greatness of the Tarantino/Samuel L. Jackson pairing for granted? Jackson's speechifying, Lincoln-letter carrying Union soldier in "The Hateful Eight" is a performance that will live long beyond DiCaprio's tussle with that bear.
Will Win: DiCaprio. It's "his year," as they say. But I would love to see what lengths his Oscar crusade would go to if he didn't win. What would he eat in his next film? What animal carcass would he sleep in?
Should Win: It's a weak year for the men. Can I pass?
Should Have Been a Contender: Michael B. Jordan of "Creed" and 2013's "Fruitvale Station" has twice been unfairly overlooked here. But what about Al Pacino as an aged rock star in "Danny Collins"? It was one of the year's most underrated films. (And that surprised me, too.)
The Nominees: Cate Blanchett, "Carol"; Brie Larson, "Room"; Jennifer Lawrence, "Joy"; Charlotte Rampling, "45 Years"; Saoirse Ronan, "Brooklyn."
Will Win: Brie Larson. She gives about 10 incredible performances in a single film and has won everything so far.
Should Win: Obvious grit trumps nuance at the Oscars, but Charlotte Rampling tore out many a heartstring as a jealous woman in "45 Years."
Should Have Been a Contender: Bel Powley made the sexual awakening of a teenager (with her mom's adult boyfriend no less) seem neither too exploitative nor celebratory in the criminally underseen "The Diary of a Teenage Girl."
Will Win: Brie Larson has this in the bag. She's a terrifically natural performer and a real talent. But, for me, she was better in "Short Term 12" than in the mawkishly manipulative "Room."
Should Win: In a strong field, Cate Blanchett slips by because of the regularity of her quality. In "Carol," she's both devastating and exhilarating.
Should Have Been a Contender: Bel Powley's hip-swinging '70s San Francisco teenager in "Diary of a Teenage Girl" was a sensational breakthrough.
BEST SUPPORING ACTOR
The Nominees: Christian Bale, "The Big Short"; Tom Hardy, "The Revenant"; Mark Ruffalo, "Spotlight"; Mark Rylance, "Bridge of Spies"; Sylvester Stallone, "Creed."
Will Win: Sylvester Stallone, but it'll be more about his legacy than "Creed."
Should Win: Mark Rylance made his subtlety affecting Soviet spy more lovable than Tom Hanks in "Bridge of Spies."
Should Have Been a Contender: Nicholas Hoult. It takes quite a performance to upstage the bellowing visuals of "Mad Max: Fury Road."
Will Win: There's potential intrigue here, but the swell around Stallone is a fitting honor for the actor who's spent three myth-making decades as Rocky Balboa.
Should Win: Mark Rylance gives "Bridge of Spies" a serene glow. The combination of him and Tom Hanks is riveting: one of the theater's greats meets one of the movies'.
Should Have Been a Contender: The thundering Idris Elba is the obvious answer for his rebel commander in "Beast of No Nation." But Michael Shannon in most things is a good answer, too, and he was in grand, imposing form in Ramin Bahrani's "99 Homes."
BEST SUPPORING ACTRESS
The Nominees: Jennifer Jason Leigh, "The Hateful Eight"; Rooney Mara, "Carol"; Rachel McAdams, "Spotlight"; Alicia Vikander, "The Danish Girl"; Kate Winslet, "Steve Jobs."
Will Win: Alicia Vikander, for giving a soul to "The Danish Girl."
Should Win: Alicia Vikander, for "The Danish Girl," sure, but also as a secret nod to the scope of her work this year in both "Ex Machina" and "Testament of Youth."
Should Have Been a Contender: There are few performances that have moved, entertained, and stayed with me as much as Mya Taylor's sultry transgender lounge-singing stunner did in "Tangerine."
Will Win: Alicia Vikander will win for "The Danish Girl," as voters honor not only her intelligent performance in that film, but a year full of standout work.
Should Win: Vikander, but for her slinky artificial intelligence in "Ex Machina."
Should Have Been a Contender: Cobie Smulders, best known for "How I Met Your Mother," ran away with Andrew Bujalski's "Results" as a comically intense personal trainer.
The Nominees: "The Big Short," Adam McKay; "Mad Max: Fury Road," George Miller; "The Revenant," Alejandro G. Inarritu; "Room," Lenny Abrahamson; "Spotlight," Tom McCarthy.
Will Win: Alejandro Inarritu, and it'll be deserved and an incredible achievement.
Should Win: George Miller, and it will also be deserved.
Should Have Been a Contender: There are so many this year — Ridley Scott ("The Martian") and Todd Haynes ("Carol") among them — but I would like to have seen Sean Baker in here for his incredibly inventive and utterly engaging "Tangerine."
Will Win: The Inarritu repeat seems to be in effect. "The Revenant" isn't shy about its filmmaking, but Inarritu's audacious long shots and ravishing frontier wilderness offer a quality hard to come by: the awe of something not seen before.
Should Win: George Miller's "Mad Max: Fury Road" is a crazy puzzle of a movie trying to stretch the language of film just like "The Revenant," but in opposite directions: with rapid cutting and feverish surrealism.
Should Have Been a Contender: Andrew Haigh's "45 Years" earned a nod for Charlotte Rampling and acclaim for her co-star, Tom Courtenay. But neither would have been possible without the acutely observant eye of Haigh.
Follow Coyle on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP and Bahr at http://twitter.com/ldbahr