Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald predicts who will win — as well as who she wishes could win — in anticipation of the Oscars ceremony on Feb. 28. How well will she do this year?

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Want to talk about the elephant in the room on Oscar night?

In the weeks leading up to the film industry’s biggest event, talk has been not so much on the nominees and possible winners, but on #OscarsSoWhite, the hashtag calling out the Academy for once again naming a slate of all-white acting nominees. A few prominent figures — most notably filmmaker Spike Lee, who just received an honorary Oscar last November — announced that they would not attend the ceremony. Others questioned the relevance of the Academy, in the light of its overwhelmingly male and white membership.

In response, change quickly happened: Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs last month announced sweeping alterations to membership rules (designed to weed out those who haven’t worked in film in decades), as well as a new initiative to double the numbers of “women and diverse members” of the Academy by 2020.


The 88th Academy Awards

Red-carpet arrivals will be shown at 4 p.m. PST; ceremony will begin at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28, on ABC. Join us at for live updates and commentary.

All well and good, and designed to make the Academy membership more accurately reflect the world we live in. But the problem’s much bigger: As Viola Davis noted in her Emmys speech last fall, you can’t win awards for roles that aren’t there. Very few movies with diverse casts, or with Oscar-worthy roles written for actors of color, make it to theaters; very few plum directing jobs are given to women; very few fresh stories, it seems, get told on screen.

This needs to change, industrywide, and if #OscarsSoWhite gets that conversation moving — well, then it’ll be effort well spent.

So let’s, with hope and optimism, look forward to what host Chris Rock might have to say Sunday night about that elephant. And let’s not forget that some really terrific movies came out this year, and that some of them might even win an award or two. Here are my thoughts on the major categories.

Best picture

This is an unusually tough year to call, with the usual indicators all over the map: “The Big Short” won the Producers Guild Award; the Directors Guild went with “The Revenant,” and “Spotlight” took the SAG ensemble acting award. “The Revenant” would make history if it won — Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu would become the first director to helm back-to-back Best Picture winners — but it doesn’t have a screenplay nomination, which a Best Picture usually has. Might we see a director/picture split this year? I think we might.

Prediction: “Spotlight”

My vote: “Spotlight”

Wish you were here: To fill out the potential 10 slots in the category (only eight made the cut these year, for reasons I don’t understand), I’d have added two very different yet equally masterful films: “Carol” and “Creed.”

Best director

Sometimes, this award is given for survival. Iñárritu, who somehow made it through the punishing “The Revenant” shoot intact, looks likely to win his second Best Director statuette in a row (after last year’s “Birdman,” the shooting of which must now seem like a day at the spa). Possible spoilers: a picture/director sweep for either “The Big Short” (Adam McKay) or “Spotlight” (Tom McCarthy), both of whom are first-timers in this category, or a sentimental vote for 70-year-old veteran George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”). (Fun fact in this unusually diverse Oscar category: A white American male hasn’t won an Oscar for best director since the Coen brothers in 2007.)

Prediction: Iñárritu

My vote: McCarthy

Wish you were here: Todd Haynes, “Carol”

Best actress

No question here: Brie Larson, so harrowing and so remarkable in “Room,” has swept up every imaginable award this season, and will do so again. No one else has a shot — not even Saoirse Ronan, whose subtle, beautiful work in “Brooklyn” might have won in a different year.

Prediction: Larson

My vote: Ronan

Wish you were here: Lily Tomlin, “Grandma”

Best actor

Likewise, this one appears to be a foregone conclusion: Leonardo DiCaprio, who froze, starved, and ate wild buffalo liver (ugh) for “The Revenant,” appears likely to be rewarded for his labors — and, with his fifth acting nomination, due for a win. Michael Fassbender, who only had to put on a mock turtleneck for “Steve Jobs,” is the longest of long shots; no one else has a shred of a chance. Sorry, Eddie Redmayne; no back-to-back Oscars this time.

Prediction: DiCaprio

My vote: Fassbender

Wish you were here: Michael B. Jordan, “Creed”

Best supporting actress

There’s a bit of drama here: Alicia Vikander, though her role in “The Danish Girl” isn’t remotely a supporting one, has been sweeping up most of the pre-Oscar awards. But Kate Winslet, a seven-time Oscar nominee (she won Best Actress in 2009, for “The Reader”), is beloved by Oscar voters, has never won this category, and uncannily disappears into her role in “Steve Jobs.” Don’t rule her out. I’d love to see Rooney Mara’s remarkable work in “Carol” recognized here, but it’s not likely.

Prediction: Vikander

My vote: Mara

Wish you were here: Helen Mirren, “Trumbo” (but mostly so I could look at those hats again).

Best supporting actor

Perhaps you’ve heard that Idris Elba, who was terrific in “Beasts of No Nation,” won the SAG award in this category and wasn’t even nominated here? Surely you have. Anyway, I’m thinking the Academy might go with the sentimental vote and hand it to Stallone — or, if not, give it to one of two deserving guys named Mark: either Rylance, the sly spy in “Bridge of Spies,” or Ruffalo, the journalist-on-a-mission in “Spotlight.” Don’t rule out Christian Bale (“The Big Short”); he’s won this category before.

Prediction: Rylance

My vote: Ruffalo

Wish you were here: Elba

Elsewhere, I’m thinking that “Mad Max: Fury Road” might sweep the technical awards, Emmanuel Lubezki might become the first cinematographer ever to win three Oscars in a row (he’s up for “The Revenant,” and previously won for “Birdman” and “Gravity”), Sandy Powell only has herself to compete with for Best Costume Design (she’s up for both “Carol” and “Cinderella”), and that at least one of the nominees (Mara? Jennifer Jason Leigh?) is going to wear something hideous. Join me online, at, as I live-blog the night; should be a lively one.

Print this ballot to make your own choices — and follow along with the show. (Click at the upper right corner to see a full-page view of the ballot for printing):