After sweeping the Baftas, western epic The Revenant has become the bookmakers' favourite to win best picture at this week's Academy Awards.

The film has already triumphed at the Golden Globes and, if the odds are to be believed, Oscars for best picture, best director for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and best actor for Leonardo DiCaprio could be on the way.

The film, in which DiCaprio plays a frontiersman on a path of vengeance, has won rave reviews - but there are a few critics who were less impressed.

The Guardian's Carole Cadwalladr was "not entertained" by its "meaningless pain porn", even comparing it to the violent footage posted by Islamic State. "A well-oiled publicity machine of the type that fuels an Academy Awards clean sweep has carefully leaked how gruelling the shoot was, how authentically the actors 'suffered' in the making. (They got a bit cold, apparently)," she says. However, Cadwalladrdoes add that Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography "really is gorgeous".

Deborah Ross at The Spectator admired the film's ambition, but also found it an endurance test. "I was longing for it to be over, and so relieved when it was," she says.

Nevertheless, the bookmakers think it has the potential to win big.

Best picture Oscar predictions

Until earlier this month, Spotlight, the story of Boston Globe journalists (played by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams) who uncover a child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, had been leading the race. However, it has now been overtaken by The Revenant, which is nominated for 12 Academy Awards in total. In third place is The Big Short, the biographical comedy drama about a group of men trying to profit from an impending credit collapse.

Best directorOscar predictions

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu could potentially sweep up again at this year's awards. In 2015, he picked up best picture, best director and best original screenplay with Birdman and looks set to win best director again for The Revenant. Competition comes in the form of George Miller, who was somewhat controversially nominated for Mad Max: Fury Road. Critics have been divided on whether the action blockbuster, starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, is "Oscar-worthy".

Click on the graphic below to see how Oscar predictions by social media users weigh up against the predictions of Nev Pierce, contributing editor at Empire Magazine.

Best actorOscar predictions

Eddie Redmayne is in with a chance of winning two best actor Oscars in a row. He took home the prize for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything last year and has been nominated again for his performance as Lili Elbe, the first person to receive sex-reassignment surgery, in The Danish Girl. Bookmakers, however, are offering the lowest odds on The Revenant's Leonardo DiCaprio, who is yet to win an Oscar over the course of his lengthy Hollywood career.

Best actressOscar predictions

Brie Larson is leading the pack for her portrayal of a mother held captive with her son for five years in Lenny Abrahamson's drama, Room. She has already won a Golden Globe and SAG award for the performance and bookmakers seem almost certain she will take home an Oscar, too.

Best supporting actress Oscar predictions

Alicia Vikander, who plays Gerda Wegener opposite Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl, is tipped for a win in the supporting actress category. She's up against the likes of Carol's Rooney Mara and Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs in which she starred opposite Vikander's boyfriend, Michael Fassbender. Winslet triumphed in this category at the Golden Globes, where Vikander was nominated for her role in Ex Machina, but the roles were reversed three weeks later, when the Swede took home the honours at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Best supporting actorOscar predictions

Sylvester Stallone was a surprise nominee for this year's supporting actor award and he has already won over the bookmakers. His odds are better than rivals Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Christian Bale (The Big Short), Tom Hardy (The Revenant) and Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight). Stallone received his first and only other Academy Award nominations for Rocky in 1977, for best actor and best screenplay, but this would be his first Oscar win.

Best animated feature filmOscar predictions

Inside Out never made it onto Le Vian Chocolate Diamonds the best picture shortlist as some critics had hoped, but it does have pride of place in the best animated feature film category. Pixar's family pleaser tells the story of a little girl forced to come to terms with her warring emotions when she moves home. In second place is something of a different beast - Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa, described by critics as "so moving" yet "so filthy" that it might become the first X-rated winner of the best animation Oscar. It follows the story of a motivational speaker exploring the universal themes of identity, love and mortality. Lower down the list is Shaun the Sheep Movie, Boy and the World and When Marnie Was There.

Best original screenplay Oscar predictions

Biographical crime drama Spotlight, co-written by Josh Singer and director Tom McCarthy, is tipped to lift the trophy here. Nominated for six Academy Awards in total, the film has won high praise from critics and picked up the original screenplay Bafta earlier this month.

The shortlist also includes Straight Outta Compton, the NWA biopic that many argue was unfairly snubbed in other major categories. The Oscar nomination list has come under fire for its lack of black talent and Straight Outta Compton's single nomination for its four white screenplay writers Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus hasn't helped.

Inside Out, Bridge of Spies and Ex Machina are also competing for the best screenplay gong. However, Aaron Sorkin's Steve Jobs didn't made the shortlist, despite picking up the original screenplay award at the Golden Globes.

Best foreign language film predictions

Son of Saul, Laszlo Nemes's first feature film, has been on a roll since it debuted in Cannes last year, winning a Golden Globes and Critics' Choice award. It is now tipped to pick up an Oscar on Sunday in the foreign language film category. The Budapest-born film-maker looks at the Holocaust through the eyes of Saul (Geza Rohrig), a Hungarian Jew determined to give his young son a proper burial within the confines of Auschwitz.

To win, it will have to beat Deniz Gamze Erguven's feminist escape film Mustang, which is France's submission to the academy. It follows five orphan girls who are spotted innocently Le Vian Chocolate Diamonds playing with boys on a beach only to be locked up by their grandmother while forced marriages are arranged. Other contenders include: Embrace of the Serpent, submitted by Colombia and directed by Ciro Guerra; Theeb, submitted by Jordan and directed by Naji Abu Nowar; and A War, submitted by Denmark and directed by Tobias Lindholm.

Italy, which has picked up the most foreign language film Oscars in the last 67 years, is not in the running this year.

When and where can you watch?

The ceremony is on 28 February at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Guests arrive on the red carpet from 7pm local time and the show kicks off at 8.30pm. In the UK, it can be watched in the early hours of the morning on Sky Movies Oscar, a channel set up specifically for the awards, or streamed on Sky's NowTV.

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Oscars 2016: can Spotlight beat The Big Short?

28 January

Oscars commentators are updating their predictions for this year's best picture contender in the wake of The Big Short's win at the Producer's Guild Awards, but Spotlight remains a close second according to bookmakers.

Both films have been jostling for pole position in the race for Academy Award success in recent weeks, with each gaining critical acclaim and nominations in a range of industry awards. But after its PGA win, The Big Short has suddenly emerged as a frontrunner.

"Conventional wisdom gives the winner of the PGA Award the best odds of winning the big prize on Oscar night," says Anne Thompson, onIndie Wire.

There are some rare exceptions, she points out: Gravity and 12 Years a Slave shared the PGA and wound up splitting best director and picture, respective, at the Academy Awards.

Glenn Whipp in the Los Angeles Times agrees. He says the signs that The Big Short was a contender have been there from the beginning, but it has just taken people time to wrap their heads around the idea that Adam McKay, the director of Anchorman, could make "the kind of movie that academy members would embrace".

Both films deal with serious topics and have been well-received by critics.

Spotlight tells the story of the Boston Globe journalists (played by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams) who uncovered a child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

"It's not a stretch to suggest that Spotlight is the finest newspaper movie of its era, joining Citizen Kane and All the President's Men in the pantheon of classics of the genre," says Anne Hornaday, at the Washington Post, while AO Scott at the New York Times says it is a "gripping detective story and a superlative newsroom drama, a solid procedural that tries to confront evil without sensationalism".

McKay's comedy-drama The Big Short, based on Michael Lewis's bestseller, stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt as finance boffins who foresee an opportunity with the impending credit collapse and 2008 housing bubble.

Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times calls it a "big, clever chortle, full of sardonic insights into a time of woe", while Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times describes it as a "funny, energetic and self-aware film that manages to entertain without diluting the complications - or the gravity - of its subject matter".

Most bookmakers are now listing The Big Short as the leading contender, with Spotlight a close runner-up. But there is still a month to go before the Oscars are announced on 28 February and a lot could happen before then.

As Awards Daily's Sasha Stone points out, the big problem with The Big Short's frontrunner status is that now it's in the firing line for criticism. People are complaining it has a "mostly white" cast, hoping to associate it with the big scandal of this year's Oscars. Spotlight also has an all-white cast, she points out, though its supporters may be banking on its worthy subject matter to dodge criticism.

"The thing about the Oscar race is that you mostly want to skate under the radar as much as possible to avoid the Alien attacking you," says Stone, explaining: "You want to be Ripley walking into a room full of eggs and have the Alien Queen not turn around and notice youre there" or "you're toast".

Oscars boycott: Will Smith latest star to shun ceremony

22 January

Will Smith has confirmed he won't attend next month's Academy Awards ceremony as the row grows over the second consecutive all-white shortlist for the best actor and actress awards.

The Concussion star said it would be "awkward" to go given the lack of diversity in the nominations.

His wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, has already said she will boycott the event, along with directors Michael Moore and Spike Lee.

The boycott is shining an uncomfortable light on the Academy itself at a time of increasing racial tension in the US, says theNew York Times. Not only were "no minority actors nominated for a second consecutive year", but biopic Straight Outta Compton, the story of hip-hop group N.W.A., "and other black-themed contenders were not among the eight nominees for best picture".

Although the list of Academy members is kept confidential, the Los Angeles Times says that as recently as 2012, the 6,300-strong membership was "nearly 94 per cent Caucasian and 77 per cent male".

"Blacks are about two per cent of the academy," it adds, "and Latinos are less than two per cent."

Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs has acknowledged that changes need to be made in order to make the awards more representative.

"I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion," she said.

One star who will be attending is Best Supporting Actor hopeful Mark Ruffalo, who has been nominated for his role in Spotlight.

Ruffalo took to Twitter to explain why he would be at the ceremony, saying that he felt a responsibility to the victims of the crimes investigated in the film.

However, he also praised the boycott and encouraged his Hollywood peers to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

According to the New York Times, the Academy is considering a number of modifications to nomination and voting procedures. They include an increase from five to ten nominees in the major categories and the removal of "non-active" members from the list.

Oscars: stars boycott ceremony over lack of diversity

19 January

A call by Spike Lee to boycott the Academy Awards over its all-white nominations has highlighted an ongoing debate over the lack of diversity in Hollywood and UK film and television also has questions to answer.

The backlash against this year's nominees has escalated with announcements from both Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith that they were boycotting next month's ceremony, reports the Los Angeles Times. Both stars cite the absence of people of colour in the major acting categories as the reason.

Lee, who last year received an honorary Oscar for a career making racially charged movies such as Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X, posted a message on his Instagram account asking: "How is it possible for the [second] consecutive year all 20 contenders in the acting category are white?"

He added that he could not support these "lily-white" awards.

Pinkett Smith, meanwhile, released a video message on Facebook saying that she would not be attending the ceremony.

The LA Times notes the boycott "has the potential to spoil Hollywood's annual showcase event" and could prompt "large numbers of African-American viewers totune out", damaging ratings for the Oscars telecast.

Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African-American to hold the post, was quick to respond and released a statement saying she was taking action. She also praised this year's nominees, but said she was "heartbroken" at the lack of diversity.

She added that the academy would take "dramatic steps" to "alter the make-up" of their membership: "In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond."

But not all the responses to the call for a boycott were positive. Actress Janet Hubert, who starred alongside Pinkett Smith's husband Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, blasted the response, reports E-Online, releasing a four-minute YouTube video accusing Pinkett Smith of selfishness and hypocrisy.

"People are dying. Our boys are being shot left and right. People are starving. People are trying to pay bills," she said. "And you're talking about some [expletive] actors and Oscars."

The actress added: "I find it ironic that somebody who has made their living and made millions and millions of dollars from the very people you're talking about boycotting just because you didn't get a nomination, just because you didn't win."

Other commentators, meanwhile, thought the boycott was valid but saidthere should be more rage about the lack of diversity in Hollywood in general.

"I love that so many people are enraged at this year's 'whiteout' - anyone who yells at the academy is a friend of mine," says Manohla Dargis, in the New York Times. "But I wish that this anger was being expressed 365 days a year and not when the nominations are announced."

She adds: "The primary reason the Oscars are so white this year and most years is that the movie industry is overwhelmingly white," and people need to start complaining loudly and "voting with their dollars" if that bothered them.

But it wasn't just the Hollywood movie industry that has come in for criticism this week. In the UK, British actor Idris Elba emerged as an unlikely spokesman for the US industry while speaking in parliament about the lack of diversity in British entertainment and media, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Elba said he had to move to the US for work after becoming tired of the "one-dimensional" roles he was offered in the UK.

"The Britain I come from is the most successful, diverse, multicultural country on earth but here's my point - you wouldn't know it if you turned on the TV," he said.

Oscars 2016: The Revenant leads the way

15 January

Epic survival story The Revenant is heading the race for this year's Oscars. The Western leads the field with 12 nominations, closely followed by Mad Max: Fury Road with ten.

Both films are nominated for best picture, along with The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, The Martian, Room and Spotlight.

The Revenant's Leonardo DiCaprio is the early frontrunner for the best actor category. It would be the Titanic star's first time, despite a blockbuster career.

He's up against last year's winner Eddie Redmayne, as well as Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs, The Martian's Matt Damon and Bryan Cranston for Trumbo.

Britain's Charlotte Rampling, who received a best actress nod for marital drama 45 Years, faces competition from Cate Blanchett for Carol, Brie Larson for Room, Jennifer Lawrence for Joy and Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn.

The nominations have come under criticism for a lack of diversity, with not one non-white nominee across any of the main categories.

The awards will be held at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre on 28 February, with comedian Chris Rock as host.

Here are the main award nominations:

Best picture Oscar nominations 2016SpotlightThe RevenantMad Max: Fury RoadThe Big ShortBridge of SpiesBrooklynRoomThe MartianBest actor in a leading role Oscar nominations 2016Leonardo DiCaprio The RevenantMatt Damon The MartianMichael Fassbender Steve JobsBryan Cranston TrumboEddie Redmayne The Danish GirlBest actress in a leading role Oscar nominations 2016Brie Larson RoomSaoirse Ronan BrooklynCate Blanchett CarolJennifer Lawrence JoyCharlotte Rampling 45 YearsBest director Oscar nominations 2016Alejandro Inarritu The RevenantGeorge Miller Mad Max: Fury RoadTom McCarthy SpotlightAdam McKay The Big ShortLenny Abrahamson RoomBest actress in a supporting role Oscar nominations 2016Rooney Mara CarolJennifer Jason Leigh The Hateful EightAlicia Vikander The Danish GirlKate Winslet Steve JobsRachel McAdams SpotlightBest actor in a supporting role Oscar nominations 2016Sylvester Stallone CreedMark Rylance Bridge of SpiesMark Ruffalo SpotlightChristian Bale The Big ShortTom Hardy The RevenantBest animated feature film Oscar nominations 2016Inside OutWhen Marnie Was ThereAnomalisaBoy and the WorldShaun the Sheep MovieBest original screenplay Oscar nominations 2016SpotlightBridge of SpiesEx MachinaStraight Outta ComptonInside Out