Colin VandenBerg
Staff Writer

The 88th annual Academy Awards ceremony is next Sunday and here are the top nine storylines and areas of interest heading into the much hyped event:
9. Chris Rock
For the past five-ten years, The Oscars have garnered a reputation as the least entertaining awards show. Failed hosts of the last five years include Ellen Degeneres and Neil Patrick Harris. Many believe that problem has not always been with the hosts themselves, but with the terrible material they are given. Chris Rock hosted in 2005, and was likely hired to add some much needed spontaneity to the proceedings.

8. Snubs
As long as there have been Oscars, there are has been a public outcry over who was not nominated. Notable snubs this year include Inside Out, Creed, and Ex Machina for Best Picture, Ridley for The Martian) for Best Director (and The Peanuts Movie for Best Animated Film.) There are of course a good handful of other names notable by their absence, but the bigger question is always, “what nominee would you replace (insert snub here) with?”

7. #Oscarssowhite outcry
Related to the above is the #Oscarssowhite campaign, which started thanks to 2015-16 being yet another year in which every major nominee was white. Among the most egregious non-white snubs this year were actors Will Smith (lead, Concussion), Idris Elba (supporting, Beasts of No Nation) and director Ryan Coogler (Creed). Such was the outcry that the Oscars changed their voting rules to allow for more diversity among its voting members (mostly old white guys). All eyes are on Chris Rock, who is expected to use his unique perspective and quick wit to address the issue on the world’s biggest stage.

6. Blockbusters still relegated to technical awards
Pretty self-explanatory. Oddly enough, 2015 did not have a great number of blockbusters that were being talked about as being Oscar-worthy. Only Star Wars: The Force Awakens got any awards buzz, and the only non-technical award that it was ever discussed for Best Picture. Well, of the Best Picture snubs, Star Wars is a distant fifth. It was good, but not on the level of Inside Out or other discussed contenders like Carol.

5. Will Iñárritu repeat?
The Revenant is a film that continues to get awards recognitions, but many film pundits are still skeptical of its Oscar chances. The film was vastly inferior to Iñárritu’s Birdman (2014), as well as many fellow no monies like Spotlight and Brooklyn. Similarly, Iñárritu has already won trophies this awards season but is also not as highly regarded as fellow nominees like Tom Mcarthy (Spotlight) and George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road).

4. Is this finally Leo’s year?
Leonardo DiCaprio has had five nominations for Best Actor in his career, and was thought by many to be the deserving winner at least twice. This year he practically tortured himself on-screen, virtually daring Academy voters not give him the Oscar already. Leo is the heavy favorite, but don’t sleep on Michael Fassbender, who many feel gave the superior performance in Steve Jobs. Leo was amazing, but out-acted in his own movie by co-star Tom Hardy.

3. Very few favorites across the board
Inside Out for Best Animated picture. Brie Larson (Room) for best Actress. That’s it, those are the locks. This year is so wide-open, not even Leo is a sure-bet. Most everything else is a two-horse race, such as Mark Rylance/Sylvester Stallone for supporting actor and Spotlight/Inside Out for original screenplay.

2. The Revenant and Mad Max lead the way with nominations, heavy favorites
There’s been a lot of The Revenant hate already in this article (and more to come), but the film landed the most nominations with 12 (mostly in the technical categories). The film is also one of the favorites to win most of its nominations; however, in most cases it has to contend with Mad Max: Fury Road. Mad Max was hailed as a technical marvel, and many predict that it will win a good handful of trophies next Sunday.

1. Who will win Best Picture?
There are eight Best Picture nominees, but only three of them (The Revenant, Spotlight, and The Big Short) have been winning the big prizes this awards season. Spotlight, The Big Short and The Revenant have all won the smaller awards, such as the Screen Actors’ Guild and Producers’ guild; they each have reasons to pick them or not pick them. So who will win? Oscar pundits are still stumped. Let the best film win.