Every contending movie has debuted. Screeners are circulating, FYC screenings are happening, the critics are sounding off, and the first industry guild – the Screen Actors Guild – announces its nominations tomorrow.
Critics Group choices indicate a somewhat open race. The forthcoming SAG nominations will provide some early insight in terms of the industry’s preferences…but even that won’t be a completely clarified picture.
There is still the potential for shifts in these races, and plenty of campaigning to do in order to make those shifts happen.
Here’s where we stand today, 37 days away from the announcement of the 88th Academy Award nominations…
- Spotlight – Tom McCarthy’s film has taken the early lead in Critics Group prizes, which was to be expected. Time will tell if it can sustain momentum; it hasn’t had a problem doing that so far.
- The Martian – An audience favorite that is also figuring into the critical conversation. The SAG and Golden Globe nominations will be additional indicators in terms of its strength in the race.
- Brooklyn – A truly lovable film with a major Best Actress contender at its center.
- Room – Brie Larson is a major factor in the critical conversation, but not much else. Wait and see what SAG has to say. A Best Supporting Male nomination for Tremblay and/or a Best Ensemble nod would be a huge boost.
- Bridge of Spies – Holding solid on the strength of Mark Rylance.
- The Revenant – The film is breathtakingly brutal and beautiful. DiCaprio is truly great. But the narrative is pretty simple and straightforward…it may not be the heavyweight we all presumed it to be.
- Steve Jobs – Critics Group love has been sparing, though LAFCA did give Best Actor to Fassbender. The industry will need to revive this one…
- Inside Out – Pixar’s horse needs to start making the rounds again before we can call it a certain BP nominee.
- Carol – Awareness has been officially raised by the critical community, and rightfully so. It will be interesting to see where it shakes out in terms of SAG and Golden Globe nominations.
- Mad Max: Fury Road – Another case of critics forcing the issue in terms of awareness. What seemed like a film banished to the Below-the-Line categories could once again be a top-tier player.
(11) The Hateful Eight – Tarantino’s latest is polarizing…but what else is new? The Weinstein push will tell the tale.
(12) Black Mass
(13) The Big Short
(14) Son of Saul
(17) The Danish Girl
- Tom McCarthy, Spotlight – Holding steady.
- Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant – It’s difficult to deny the film’s visual prowess, even if it isn’t ultimately a top-five movie.
- Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies – The old master still likely to be included, though his spot is tentative.
- George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road – The year’s most sumptuous and inventive visual feast will likely yield a Best Director nomination for its creator.
- Ridley Scott, The Martian – He’s the respected director of a top-three Best Picture contender. Nuff said.
(6) Todd Haynes, Carol – Wouldn’t be a surprise inclusion, particularly if the film continues to be a player in the critics circuit.
(7) Danny Boyle, Steve Jobs – Brilliant work that has fallen away. A DGA nod would help, but that’s still a ways off.
(8) Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight
(9) John Crowley, Brooklyn
(10) Laszlo Nemes, Son of Saul
(11) Lenny Abrahamson, Room
(12) David O. Russell, Joy
- Brie Larson, Room – Still the favorite, even if the race is tighter than we once thought.
- Saiorse Ronan, Brooklyn – Brie’s chief competition…and apparent BFF.
- Cate Blanchett, Carol – The film has two brilliant lead performances…Blanchett seems most likely to land here thanks to Category Confusion.
- Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years – The critics are already standing up for this brilliant work. If SAG follows suit with a nomination, that’s likely the clincher.
- Jennifer Lawrence, Joy – The film’s central, and best, performance is likely its best shot at a major nomination.
(6) Blythe Danner, I’ll See You in My Dreams
(7) Lily Tomlin, Grandma
(8) Carey Mulligan, Suffragette
(9) Bel Powley, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
(10) Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van
- Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant – Coronation time?
- Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs – After this year, Fassbender may become the new Leo…always a nominee, never a winner. His time will, certainly, come. But this year may now be out of reach.
- Michael B. Jordan, Creed – In a year shamefully low on African-American contenders, Jordan could easily ascend to a nomination in a film already being celebrated.
- Will Smith, Concussion – Strong work in a not-as-strong film. Star power will help.
- Johnny Depp, Black Mass – Seems like industry voters are fans of the performance. But what once seemed like a possible win is now a struggle to land a nomination.
(6) Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
(7) Matt Damon, The Martian
(8) Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful Eight
(9) Geza Rohrig, Son of Saul
(10) Michael Caine, Youth
(11) Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies
(12) Steve Carell, The Big Short
Best Supporting Actress
- Rooney Mara, Carol – She’s a co-lead being campaigned for Supporting. It will depend on whether voters fall in line with the studio logic or go their own way.
- Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl – Ditto the above comment.
- Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight – She becomes especially dangerous if Category Confusion costs Mara and/or Vikander votes.
- Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs – Feels safe.
- Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria – Critics are making everyone aware of this performance. That awareness could result in a nomination for K-Stew…and it becomes increasingly likely if either Mara or Vikander get voted into the Best Actress category.
(6) Jane Fonda, Youth
(7) Elizabeth Banks, Love & Mercy
(8) Julie Walters, Brooklyn
(9) Joan Allen, Room
(10) Marion Cotillard, Macbeth
Best Supporting Actor
- Sylvester Stallone, Creed – His brilliant update of his iconic creation is likely the sure thing this category has seemed to be waiting for.
- Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies – Critics are responding. Will Academy members remember the film?
- Michael Keaton, Spotlight – Will this be the “sorry about last year” winner?
- Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight – The other likely representative from this great ensemble…but will voters opt to support only one representative from the film?
- Jacob Tremblay, Room – Very vulnerable as a result of the film’s early dismissal from the Gothams and Indie Spirits.
(6) Benicio Del Toro, Sicario – Likely the first one in if one of the above drops out.
(7) Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation – The film’s best shot at a nomination.
(8) Paul Dano, Love & Mercy – Figuring prominently in the critics awards…but the industry has yet to chime in.
(9) Tom Hardy, The Revenant – I find it hard to believe this mustache-twirling villain role will yield Hardy his first Oscar nod. It certainly shouldn’t.
(10) Jason Mitchell, Straight Outta Compton
(11) Joel Edgerton, Black Mass
(12) Christian Bale, The Big Short
Best Original Screenplay
- Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer, Spotlight – Would be an easy pick…
- Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight – …if not for QT.
- Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Inside Out – Welcome back to the Oscar game, Pixar.
- Matt Charman, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Bridge of Spies – A deserving nomination for the film’s strongest aspect.
- Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa – Admiration for the film will land Kaufman another nomination.
(6) Annie Mumulo & David O. Russell, Joy
(7) Taylor Sheridan, Sicario
(8) Alex Garland, Ex Machina
(9) Laszlo Nemes and Clara Royer, Son of Saul
(10) Amy Schumer, Trainwreck
Best Adapted Screenplay
- Nick Hornby, Brooklyn – Seems to have risen to the top of the field.
- Phyllis Nagy, Carol – Brilliant screenwriting – and a legitimate contender.
- Emma Donaghue, Room – Still a threat to win.
- Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs – Great work, but lack on enthusiasm for the film lowers its chances.
- Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu & Mark L. Smith, The Revenant – Feels like this could fall out. It’s not great screenwriting.
(6) Adam McKay & Charles Randolph, The Big Short
(7) Drew Goddard, The Martian
(8) Andrew Haigh, 45 Years
(9) Marielle Heller, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
(10) Lucina Coxen, The Danish Girl
- Roger Deakins, Sicario – Possibly the most brilliant work in this category. And Deakins has never won…can you believe it??
- Edward Lachmann, Carol – The visual palette is an essential part of the film’s enormous power. A possible winner.
- John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road – The year’s grandest technical achievement may yield a winner here.
- Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant – Can Chivo three-peat?
- Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight – More greatness from Richardson.
(6) Janusz Kaminski, Bridge of Spies
(7) Dariusz Wolski, The Martian
(8) Danny Cohen, Room
(9) Alwin H. Kuchler, Steve Jobs
(10) Matyas Erdely, Son of Saul
(11) Yves Belanger, Brooklyn
Best Costume Design
- Sandy Powell, Carol – Powell has two contenders in the race. I’ll bet on the more sophisticated entry for now…but who am I kidding?
- Paco Delgado, The Danish Girl – Delgado trying for his second nomination from a Tom Hooper film.
- Sandy Powell, Cinderella – The lesser of Powell’s two films, though not the lesser of her work.
- Odile Dicks-Mireaux, Brooklyn – A potential first-time nominee.
- Jacqueline West, The Revenant – West likely to earn her third Oscar nomination.
Jenny Beavan, Mad Max: Fury Road
Kate Hawley, Crimson Peak
Jane Petrie, Suffragette
Courtney Hoffman, The Hateful Eight
Best Film Editing
- Stephen Mirrione, The Revenant – Mirrione may be in line for his second Oscar win after failing to receive a nomination for Birdman last year.
- Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road – Even if the film doesn’t figure into the Best Picture conversation, its undeniable craft is likely to threaten in multiple below-the-line categories.
- Tom McArdle, Spotlight – Showy editing doesn’t always win out. And if the film is a Best Picture contender, its editing is likely in contention as well.
- Elliot Graham, Steve Jobs – Great work from a former Oscar nominee…but it may fade from view if the film continues its descent from relevance.
- Pietro Scalia, The Martian – A possible inclusion for the two-time Oscar winner, who did solid work in a likely Best Picture nominee.
Michael Kahn, Bridge of Spies
Nathan Nugent, Room
Jake Roberts, Brooklyn
Fred Raskin, The Hateful Eight
Joe Walker, Sicario
Alan Baumgarten, Tom Cross, Jay Cassidy, Christopher Tellefsen, Joy
Best Production Design
- Eve Stewart, The Danish Girl – Lavish décor may lead three-time nominee Stewart to her first Oscar.
- Adam Stockhausen, Bridge of Spies – Stockhausen trying for a repeat win after taking home the Oscar for Grand Budapest Hotel last year.
- Francois Seguin, Brooklyn
- Judy Becker, Heather Loeffler, Carol
- Colin Gibson, Mad Max: Fury Road – Somehow I think this nomination will end up happening if the film is nominated across the board in the craft categories, even though there are several deserving, more traditional contenders that could supplant it.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Hateful Eight
Best Animated Feature
- Inside Out – Like a runaway freight train…
- Anomalisa — …unless Charlie Kaufman can disrupt the charted path.
- Shaun the Sheep Movie – Really well-liked, and Lionsgate is campaigning.
- The Peanuts Movie – Such a wonderful throwback. I hope this nomination happens.
- The Good Dinosaur – So it’s B-level Pixar…that’s still Pixar.
Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet
When Marnie Was There
Hotel Transylvania 2
Best Documentary Feature
- The Look of Silence – Surely Joshua Oppenheimer gets his Oscar this time, right?
- Amy – And yet this film is likely the true frontrunner. Still brilliant work, though.
- Cartel Land – Powerful and relevant. Seems like a sure thing.
- The Hunting Ground – Would seem to me a much surer bet than it is…but then, the kind of institutional ignorance the film exposes might hold true with Oscar voters.
- Listen to Me Marlon – This beloved profile of an icon could land a nomination here easily.
Where to Invade Next
Best of Enemies
What Happened, Miss Simone?
He Named Me Malala
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution
In Jackson Heights
More categories will be added each week, as we try to gain as much clarity as we can as Nomination Day approaches….