The last three years, all four
FULL COVERAGE: Oscars 2016
Bryan Cranston, "Trumbo"
Matt Damon, "The Martian"
Michael Fassbender, "Steve Jobs"
Eddie Redmayne, "The Danish Girl"
And the winner is: People began talking about DiCaprio winning this Oscar long before a frame of "The Revenant" had been shown. It was all about the "it's his time" narrative. Which is a little bonkers, when you think about it. DiCaprio is 41 years old. This is his fifth Oscar nomination as an actor. By comparison, Paul Newman was 62 when he won his first Oscar, on his seventh acting nomination, for "The Color of Money."
Unless: There's no "unless." In fact, I think I saw DiCaprio walking down Hollywood Boulevard carrying this Oscar, posing for pictures, just the other day. Really. Go to the Dolby Theatre. He's standing there, right next to the guy dressed as Capt. Jack Sparrow. You can't miss him.
Cate Blanchett, "Carol"
Brie Larson, "Room"
Jennifer Lawrence, "Joy"
Charlotte Rampling, "45 Years"
Saoirse Ronan, "Brooklyn"
And the winner is: Larson. Could this have turned into a real race? Possibly, if "Joy" had made its budget back at the box office and earned better reviews. But then again, Lawrence isn't due, is she? She won an Oscar when she was 22, the second youngest lead actress winner. At 26, Larson is a comparative geezer, having acted since she was a kid. I know people who don't like "Room," but I've yet to meet a human being who wasn't floored by Larson's fiercely committed performance as the mother in the movie. That she's a genuinely decent person makes this Oscar all the more worthy of celebration.
Unless: Ronan's 21. She was 13 when she earned her first Oscar nomination for "Atonement." And judging from her bravura work in "Brooklyn," she's not going anywhere. We're going to be talking about Ronan for years and she'll probably celebrate an Oscar win at some point. Probably when she's due.
Christian Bale, "The Big Short"
Tom Hardy, "The Revenant"
Mark Ruffalo, "Spotlight"
Mark Rylance, "Bridge of Spies"
Sylvester Stallone, "Creed"
And the winner is: Stallone. Elba's win at the SAG Awards was the best scenario for Stallone. It meant that none of his rivals in this category received a moment in the spotlight and a chance to build momentum for their Oscar chances. Stallone must still overcome a couple of issues: Have enough voters seen "Creed"? It's the only performance in the group not from a movie nominated for best picture. And, if they've seen it, do enough voters take Stallone seriously as an actor, believing he delivered something here that goes deeper than they've witnessed from him before in the role of Rocky Balboa?
Unless: You could make a case for any of the other four actors, which is probably another reason why Stallone will win. They're all great, serious cats each and every one of them. But none of them have upped their profiles to separate themselves from the pack. Maybe if "The Big Short," "The Revenant" or "Spotlight" goes on a roll on the way to a best picture win, it could sweep one of these guys along for the ride. But that doesn't seem likely at this point.
Jennifer Jason Leigh, "The Hateful Eight"
Rooney Mara, "Carol"
Alicia Vikander, "The Danish Girl"
Kate Winslet, "Steve Jobs"
And the winner is: I don't hear many people talking about "The Danish Girl," but everyone knows about Vikander, the young Swedish star who has received several awards this season for her work in the movie and as the seductive android in "Ex Machina." Some pundits thought Vikander might be nominated in supporting for "Ex Machina" and again in lead for "The Danish Girl," which is really where that performance belongs. That didn't happen, but the point remains: She has heat. Vikander will win this Oscar.
Unless: Mara is the other actress nominated for supporting who belongs in lead. She's outstanding opposite Blanchett in "Carol," but she probably needed to win at the SAG Awards to have a serious chance at an upset.