Local film experts are predicting the predictable big winner, while loudly hoping that a fun, fast, blast-filled blockbuster pulls an upset this year at the Academy Awards.

The News Tribune asked a handful of pros to pick the winners of the big three awards: Best Picture and Best Actor and Actress in a Leading Role. Some included other categories that were personally relevant.

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According to those polled, "The Revenant" will definitely win for Best Picture during Sunday's ceremony, which airs at 7:30 p.m. on ABC-TV Ch. 10. The historical wilderness adventure story directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a fur trapper and all the bear attacks and pelt hunter on pelt hunter crimes that occur during a harrowing run through the Northern Plains.

But it's "Mad Max: Fury Road" that has the movie heads in a tizzy. The adventure flick directed by George Miller is set in desert wasteland and includes a rogue violent gang, a shorn Charlize on the hunt for gasoline and lots of racing, chasing and explosions. One responder noted that it's a blockbuster with a brain.


Nathan Carroll

Best picture: "I'm going with 'Mad Max: Fury Road' because there's something approaching pure cinema about a two-hour car chase scene."

Best Actor: "The zeitgeist says Leo is due."

Best Actress: "Since I'm teaching film this semester in Ireland with a sound design workshop visit from the sound editor on 'Room,' I have to go with Brie Larson."

Best Director: "(Alejandro Gonzalez) Inarritu won last year ('Birdman'), so while he's a solid choice, I'm going with nostalgic favorite George Miller because who doesn't love the 'Babe' films?"

Best Supporting Actor: "Stallone ('Creed') will probably win the Oscar because everyone loves a comeback, but Tom Hardy ('The Revenant') should be in every movie."

Best Supporting Actress: "Jennifer Jason Leigh ('The Hateful Eight'), who stole every scene in a movie full of scene thieves."

NATHAN CARROLL is an associate professor of film studies in the department of communication, theatre and art at the College of St. Scholastica. He responded by email from Ireland, where he is teaching spring semester. He also thinks that "Carol" should win for Writing (Adapted Screenplay) because he loves Patricia Highsmith and that "What Happened, Miss Simone" should win for Best Documentary. "Moving, shocking, talented and passionate (and the movie was good, too)," he wrote.


Valerie Coit

Best Picture: "I can tell you in no uncertain terms what I want to win Best Picture: 'Mad Max: Fury Road.' I thought that was the best picture of 2015 easily and, sadly, I'm guessing it's going to be snubbed in favor of other more Oscar-friendly movies like 'The Revenant.' They won't give it to a genre film like 'Mad Max.' It will get the kiddie table scraps like (Visual Effects), but none of the big, good stuff."

Best Actor: "As much as I do want 'Mad Max' to win Best Picture, I do feel sorry for Leonardo. I do want him to win for 'The Revenant.' I feel like he's kind of gotten snubbed in other years when I thought he should get it. He's a bit hammy these days, but I thought he was awesome in 'The Wolf of Wall Street' and 'The Departed.' "

Other thoughts: "I feel like the last few years, I'm kind of bored with the Academy Awards. I'd like to see Charlize Theron get love for 'Mad Max,' but Kate Winslet has to get nominated every year."

VALERIE COIT is one of the founders-organizers of the annual Free Range Film Festival in Wrenshall. She said she thinks it's lame that "Bridge of Spies" was nominated for Best Picture. "Just because (Steven) Spielberg has a movie this year, it has to get nominated."


Anne Dugan

Best picture: " 'Mad Max,' 'Mad Max,' 'Mad Max.' I loved it so much. I thought it was inventive, fun, everything about it was so fresh. It was beautiful. It said something about the world. It hit it all. ... I don't think it's going to win. I think probably 'The Revenant' will win, but to me it was like three hours of Leonardo DiCaprio breathing heavy interspersed with bear crunching bones. I was a little ho-hum about it."

Best Actor: "Mark Ruffalo I thought could win for lead actor, but he's nominated for (Best Actor in a Supporting Role)."

Best Actress: "Rachel McAdams did a great job in the supporting role, for 'Spotlight.' "

Other picks: "The one thing I think 'The Revenant' should win for: Sound Design. The sound of the bear mauling is amazingly awesome. It's so visceral, in all senses of the word. The exact bone crunching and blood curdling out of places. I could close my eyes, but I can't unhear what I heard."

ANNE DUGAN is one of the keepers of the annual Free Range Film Festival. She thinks "Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter" should have been nominated for an award. "It was a beautiful piece," she said.


Richard Hansen

Best Picture: "Who is going to win is a film I didn't see, 'The Revenant.' It's getting all the lather. Everybody is talking about it. It seems like the favorite at the moment. I think 'Mad Max' would be an awesome choice. It would break with convention. It's something that's a big, fun, Hollywood blockbuster with a brain to it."

Best actor: "Leo is going to win .... You could probably set that in stone. That's what I think. He's the favorite, he hasn't won yet, he certainly deserves to win, from what I understand, based on all of his previous greatness. He's going to get it."

Best Actress: "I think it's going to be Brie Larson from 'Room.' She was fantastic, but it's really heavy material. Frankly, I haven't seen any of the others. I'm picking her because she's a favorite and it's powerful stuff."

Best Director: "I think George Miller is going to win it (for "Mad Max"). He's 70-something years old and he really broke the mold way-back-when and he's continued on that path until this Hollywood blockbuster that has a brain."

Documentary (feature): " 'Amy' was so good. I've seen so many of the music documentaries about a person and what they were like before, then they got famous, then they got hooked on drugs, then they commit suicide or pull themselves out of the mire and survive it. It's a very typical musical documentary arc. ('Amy') did that in such a terrific and different kind of way. It was hard-hitting. I hope it wins. ... I think 'The Look of Silence' will probably win."

RICHARD HANSEN is behind Duluth-Superior Film Festival. He doesn't think Eddie Redmayne should have been nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role. "It wasn't nearly chancey enough," he said of Redmayne's performance in "The Danish Girl." "I think Eddie Redmayne is overrated."


Lance Karasti

Best picture: "I really like 'Mad Max.' A lot of nominees, to me, seem like they're clearly trying to win Oscars - specifically 'Spotlight.' There are too many scenes of Mark Ruffalo getting mad and staring at things like he's going to turn into the Hulk. 'This is my Oscar moment.' A lot of Oscar movies are very serious and as a celebration of cinema, (the Academy Awards lose) its point by getting too serious once in awhile. I think 'Mad Max' is one of the most fun movies I've seen in awhile."

Best Actor: "Leo did the best out of the bunch they picked. I find it really weird that Matt Damon got nominated. The last thing that stood out about 'The Martian' was his performance. It didn't compare to the rest. I was really let down that Abraham Attah and of Idris Elba 'Beast of No Nation' weren't nominated. It was the best performance of the year. I couldn't believe that he wasn't nominated and that Matt Damon was - that was almost an insult."

Best Actress: "Brie Larson is clearly the best choice for Best Actress in a Leading Role. She has always been good and her work in 'Short Term 12' showed she was capable of really solid dramatic work. I really hope she wins because I would love to see her achieve Jennifer Lawrence status and start getting huge parts."

Other picks: "(One of my favorite) categories is Actress in a Supporting Role usually because you get a lot more fun performances. The actress who wins, you see a lot more of next year. Jennifer Jason leigh, her role in 'The Hateful Eight' is a fun performance and a really good one. I'd like to see her career resurrect and see her become a mainstream actress again.

I thought 'The Hateful Eight' would get a Best Picture or Best Original Script.

LANCE KARASTI is a local filmmaker whose latest, "Artificial," is scheduled for a summer release.


Riki McManus

Best picture: "I love the idea of 'The Revenant.' I love that they went into the wilderness and shot it. It was a difficult, difficult film to make. I've heard a lot of stories about how difficult it was being so far from a city and all of the niceties we get used to. It'd be hard for me to watch. I can't imagine a guy getting inside a horse to get warm."

Other picks: "I'm rooting for anything local and anyone who has believed in shooting in our area, even if their film is not the film that was shot in our area."

RIKI MCMANUS also likes "The Revenant" because Valerie Flueger Veras, who was part of "North Country," was the post-production supervisor. McManus is from the Upper Midwest Film Office, and helps filmmakers find Minnesota locations for shooting.


Mike Scholtz

Best Picture: " 'Mad Max: Fury Road.' It's the best movie that was nominated. My favorite movie of last year was 'Star Wars.' I just loved it so much. It was made for me. I would be happy if 'The Revenant' won, but 'Mad Max' was just so different and colorful and bold."

Best Actor: "I want anyone but Leonardo DiCaprio to win. I love it when they put cameras on all the nominees. I want to see how good of an actor he really is when he loses. He's going to have to stay stone-faced or even put on a smile because I think he thinks he's got it."

Best Actress: "I have a theory: If I can't figure out who should win, I'm going to look at the people in it and pick the person who is the most white. I think it will be Cate Blanchett. She's the palest actor on the list. I considered Brie Larson because Larson is a Scandinavian name."

Cinematography: "Roger Deakins ('Sicario'). He's been nominated every single year for the past 100 years. I just want him to win so badly. He makes such pretty images."

Animated Feature Film: "I just saw 'Anamolisa' last week and it blew my mind. I'd be happy if that won best animated feature. It changed my life. There's a sex scene between puppets and it's so realistic and gross that I'll never have sex again. It's so uncomfortable and awkward and real. It's a great film. I've never felt that way about a film."

MIKE SCHOLTZ, the local documentary filmmaker behind, most recently, "Lost Conquest," saw most of the movies that were nominated this year. "I don't know if it's because I'm aging so rapidly that I'm finally in line with the elderly Academy voters ... but I'm familiar with a lot of the movies." However, he won't be watching the Academy Awards.