The Oscars this year, to be held on Sunday (Monday morning Singapore time), will be remembered as the one with the cloud of #OscarsSoWhite looming over it.
Strong performances by non- white actors such as Michael B. Jordan in Creed, directed by Ryan Coogler, also black, were ignored, sparking a revamp of the voting system at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The backlash against #OscarsSoWhite from the likes of actress Charlotte Rampling (nominated in the Best Actress category for 45 Years) has been telling and serves only to reinforce the idea that the bias runs so deep in the academy that only institutional change will offer minorities a fair shake.
Still, without the colour bias, this year features the usual drama about who will win versus who should, and who was snubbed for nod, as the list shows.
•The 88th Annual Academy Awards airs live on HBO (StarHub TV Channel 601) on Monday from 7.30am.
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Sicario, Straight Outta Compton, Creed (above), Ex Machina
The Big Short - a big, splashy take on the 2008 financial crisis seen through the eyes of the outsiders who predicted it- has momentum.
It has picked up the Producers Guild Of America Award, along with a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award, for its adapted screenplay.
Voters like The Big Short's brashness, with how it backs the idea that capitalism is flawed but corrects itself.
But the prize should go to the better-crafted Spotlight, a low-key, realistic look at how journalism revealed cover-ups by the Catholic Church of abuses carried out by paedophile priests.
This will be a year when the Best Director prize will go to someone who did not work on the Best Picture winner - it is rare, but it happens.
BEST DIRECTOR NOMINEES
• Adam McKay, The Big Short
• George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
• Alejandro Inarritu, The Revenant
• Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
WILL WIN: Alejandro Inarritu, The Revenant
SHOULD WIN: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Cary Fukunaga, Beasts Of No Nation
This will be one of those years when the Best Director and Best Picture prizes will go to two different films.
The academy voters think The Big Short has an important message, but recognise that The Revenant is more epic and technically more difficult to execute.
Also, they might yearn to make history by giving Inarritu the Best Director award two years in a row, after his win for Birdman last year.
The more deserving win should be Miller's, for the astounding vehicular mayhem of Mad Max: Fury Road, packaged within a rich story, peopled by vivid characters.
Fukunaga should be recognised for the powerful Beasts, which was probably shunned by the academy for being distributed by online service Netflix, which it sees as a threat to the traditional movie business.
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE NOMINEES
• Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
• Matt Damon, The Martian
• Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
•Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
• Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
WILL WIN: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
SHOULD WIN: Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Michael B. Jordan (right), Creed; Will Smith, Concussion
It is not hard to understand the hurt of the #OscarSoWhite protestors when Matt Damon's wise-cracking astronaut in The Martian gets a nod, while Michael B. Jordan's strongly dramatic performance in Creed does not.
DiCaprio, nominated five times for an acting prize at the Oscars without winning any so far, has been spotted pressing the flesh at every party in Los Angeles, campaigning hard. Voters also love suffering and he suffered a great deal in the wintry outdoors shooting the western The Revenant. He will beat Cranston, who turns in a winning, low-key performance in Trumbo.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE NOMINEES
• Cate Blanchett, Carol
• Brie Larson, Room
• Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
•Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
• Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
WILL WIN: Brie Larson, Room
SHOULD WIN: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Rooney Mara, Carol
Hollywood loves an ingenue and Larson fits the bill, seeming to have come from nowhere to nail her role as the young mother in the kidnapping drama Room.
She, of course, comes from somewhere - television (The League, Community) and edgy indie movies (Short Term 12, 2012).
But the voters, all older, do not watch television or independent films, so they have no idea.
But it is Ronan who turns in a stronger performance as the immigrant Irish woman in Brooklyn.
Mara's part in the period romance Carol was as large, if not larger than Blanchett's, and she turned in a performance that was just as strong.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE 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 (left), Creed
SHOULD WIN: Mark Rylance, Bridge Of Spies
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Idris Elba, Beasts Of No Nation
Stallone is a sentimental favourite with Oscars' older voting demographic, who remember him from the first Rocky movie.
He has already picked up a Golden Globe for playing Rocky in Creed - not bad for an actor who won a Worst Actor of the Century Razzie for his roles in the Rambo and Rocky sequels.
Stage actor Rylance, however, was the best thing in Bridge Of Spies and he deserves a win.
The worst snub on this list is that for the powerful war drama Beasts Of No Nation, propelled by a scary and charismatic warlord, played by Elba.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE 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, The Danish Girl
SHOULD WIN: Rooney Mara, Carol
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
Hollywood's love affair with fresh faces continues with Vikander - they are not likely to have seen her in Ex Machina (2015) or A Royal Affair (2012).
Her performance in The Danish Girl has already bagged a Screen Actors Guild award, so she is likely to win the Oscar too.
Too bad for Mara, who made a better impression for her work in Carol.
Theron was unfairly snubbed - her turn as Furiosa gave Mad Max at least 50 per cent of its punch.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2016, with the headline 'True colours of Oscars'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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