Oscars 2016: Who Will Win – and Who Should Win? PEOPLE's Reviewer Picks and Predicts

02/25/2016 AT 01:30 PM EST

Best Picture
When a Steven Spielberg drama starring a two-time Oscar winner alongside a three-time Tony winner isn't the front-runner, you know it's been a heck of a year. As terrific as Bridge of Spies was (as were The Martian, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road and Room), the Best Picture race comes down to a surging Revenant; a prestige tribute to journalism, Spotlight; and The Big Short, a wild experiment in storytelling that turns the financial crisis of '08 into breath­lessly entertaining (and inform­ative) cinema. Risks that big should be rewarded.
Will win: The Revenant
Should win: The Big Short

Oscars 2016: Who Will Win – and Who Should Win? PEOPLE's Reviewer Picks and Predicts| Academy Awards, Oscars 2016, Movie News, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon

The Big Short

Paramount



Best Director
As bizarre as it seems to split Best Picture and Best Director, it's what I'd do if I had my druthers. The Big Short is wildly deserving of a win for the big award, but I would still give the edge for the director's prize to Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who helmed The Revenant. Iñárritu deftly handles everything from complex battle scenes to moments of intense intimacy to, oh yes, the bear attack, shooting scenes primarily in natural light. But let's give him credit for another coup: keeping his actors from mutinying during a bitterly cold, grueling nine-month shoot. You'd have to be a heck of a leader to pull that off.
Will win: Iñárritu
Should win: Iñárritu

Oscars 2016: Who Will Win – and Who Should Win? PEOPLE's Reviewer Picks and Predicts| Academy Awards, Oscars 2016, Movie News, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon

Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty





Best Actor
This is Leo's year, and not just because it's his "turn," whatever that means. The fact is that DiCaprio carries the epic story of The Revenant largely on his back as his character painfully makes his way toward justice. Certainly Matt Damon, Bryan Cranston and Michael Fassbender gave outstanding performances (as did last year's winner, Eddie Redmayne – but if we're honest, The Danish Girl was truly Alicia Vikander's film). Still, it takes more than a bear to hold an audience's gaze for 156 minutes, and DiCaprio does it handily.
Will win: Leonardo DiCaprio
Should win: Leonardo DiCaprio

Oscars 2016: Who Will Win – and Who Should Win? PEOPLE's Reviewer Picks and Predicts| Academy Awards, Oscars 2016, Movie News, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant

Twentieth Century FOX



Best Actress
Charlotte Rampling is the embodiment of heartbreak in 45 Years, while Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett and Saoirse Ronan are terrific as different versions of hope. But Brie Larson's star turn in Room stakes its ground in heartbreak and hope. As Ma, the young woman trying to keep her son innocent in the middle of hell, she delivers a performance that's as deep as a mother's love, while forcing us to face the tragedy that there are two children kept in that room.
Will win: Brie Larson
Should win: Brie Larson

Oscars 2016: Who Will Win – and Who Should Win? PEOPLE's Reviewer Picks and Predicts| Academy Awards, Oscars 2016, Movie News, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon

Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson in Room

A24



Best Supporting Actor
Tom Hardy is thrilling in The Revenant. More brutal than nature itself, he's also funny and a bold foil to DiCaprio. His competition is from theater vet Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies' humane bad guy, and a surging Sylvester Stallone, the sentimental favorite from Creed. Rylance may have a slight edge, having won the BAFTA and several critics' awards, but The Revenant just wouldn't work without Hardy.
Will win: Mark Rylance
Should win: Tom Hardy

Oscars 2016: Who Will Win – and Who Should Win? PEOPLE's Reviewer Picks and Predicts| Academy Awards, Oscars 2016, Movie News, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon

Tom Hardy in The Revenant

Twentieth Century FOX



Best Supporting Actress
Kate Winslet won the Golden Globe, but Alicia Vikander deserves the Oscar. She's vital and essential to The Danish Girl, and she gives a Best Actress-worthy turn. If you missed The Man from U.N.C.L.E. or Ex Machina, catch up. You'll never want to miss her again.
Will win: Alicia Vikander
Should win: Alicia Vikander

Oscars 2016: Who Will Win – and Who Should Win? PEOPLE's Reviewer Picks and Predicts| Academy Awards, Oscars 2016, Movie News, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon

Alicia Vikander and Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl

Focus Features



Watch our Live from the Oscars Red Carpet show on PEOPLE.com starting at 5:30 ET/2:30 PT on Feb. 28 – and the 88th Academy Awards at 7 ET/4 PT on ABC. Click here for a handy ballot of this year’s Oscar nominees!
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