Projection: Oscar – Oscar Predictions, 12/18/15


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On the heels of last week’s SAG nominations, one could – and many have – go into an Oscar tailspin, feverishly questioning the meaning of it all and wondering if the standard predictions that have heretofore been culled from an accepted group of films and performances was shortsighted or out of tune with the industry sentiment.

I would advise that we all attempt to maintain a balanced perspective, digesting the apparent oddity of the SAG slate, funnel it through our own informed lens, and come out with intelligent questions rather than wild overreactions. There are certainly some interesting takeaways from the SAG announcement, from the actors’ strong reaction to Trumbo, to the effectiveness of the Beasts of No Nation campaign, to the potential of The Big Short as a legit contender. But it also shows that SAG’s early timeline left off some late-year entries, or that the expansive SAG-AFTRA nominating committee was not particularly film-centric.

There are other, more dangerous implications, including the notion that SAG didn’t adequately follow along with the roadmap clearly laid out for them by the Oscar pundits and bloggers, which is enough to disabuse any pure-hearted awards obsessive of magical Oscar dreams. It does, however, tie directly into the theme of this year’s Projection: Oscar, which is that influence – the fight for it and the power of those people and organizations that ultimately wield it – ultimately defines the season.

Truth be told, it’s likely a combination of factors that resulted in this decidedly skewed SAG field, but those divergent nominations, when combined with a continuing barrage of potentially contradictory announcements from national and regional critics organizations, not to mention the frenzy of reaction from all forms of media, and you have the makings of a season of torrential churn.

Going forward, these predictions will attempt to reflect that churn, utilizing the information we know for sure in the moment – which, frankly, is somewhat ambiguous – with the growing buzz inside the industry itself. Hard to know anything for certain, but there are hints and indications sparsely planted.

Three new categories this week: Best Foreign Language Film (updated based on the Academy’s recent nine-film shortlisting), Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Best Visual Effects.

Here’s where we stand today, 26 days away from the announcement of the 88th Academy Award nominations…

Best Picture

  • Spotlight – The one constant across all critics groups and industry precursors thus far. It was the top contender going into the season, and so it remains.
  • The Martian – A SAG no-show but a top Golden Globe contender (but as a “comedy,” lest we forget). Showing up as a consistent critics group nominee, but not racking up many wins. The result: we can still be confident that it will be a nominee, but not very confident in its winning potential.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – I’m making this leap. It’s a certified threat. The film is fighting with Spotlight for the top choice among critics and it will likely land nominations from PGA and DGA to boot. Plus, look down the list of Oscar categories: the film will almost assuredly score the most nominations and it may well take home the most Oscars. Why shouldn’t we consider it a top contender?
  • The Revenant – Breathtakingly brutal and beautiful. DiCaprio is truly great. Hard to imagine Inarritu winning Best Picture two years in a row, but easy to imagine this film racking up a bunch of nominations.
  • Room – SAG came through for the film, as did the Golden Globes. Its winning potential slowly faded with that initial swell of festival love, but still a solid bet for major nominations, Best Picture included.
  • The Big Short – On the heels of major SAG and Golden Globe nominations, a new contender is born. And if it somehow wins Best Cast from SAG, who knows…
  • Brooklyn – All of the buzz has centered on Saoirse Ronan thus far. Her footing is solid; the film’s, not as much.
  • Carol – Another beneficiary of the early critics and precursor circuit. And damn near the most beautiful film of the lot. Nominations across the board should be expected…and would be deserved.
  • Bridge of Spies – Outside of Mark Rylance, this one is iffy.
  • Inside Out – Probably a sure thing for the Animated Feature win, but not a sure thing for a Best Picture nod.


(11) The Hateful Eight – Tarantino’s latest is polarizing…but what else is new? The Weinstein push will tell the tale.

(12) Trumbo

(13) Beasts of No Nation

(14) Straight Outta Compton

(15) Steve Jobs

(16) Sicario

(17) Black Mass

(18) The Danish Girl

Best Director

  • Tom McCarthy, Spotlight – Holding steady, in spite of (uninformed) speculation that he may not even be nominated. I could see Spotlight winning Best Picture and McCarthy losing Best Director, but we have no reason to believe he will be left off the nominee list.
  • 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. And he could be the Best Director frontrunner.
  • Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant – It’s impossible to deny the film’s visual prowess, even if it’s unlikely Inarritu wins two years in a row.
  • Ridley Scott, The Martian – He’s the respected director of a top-three Best Picture contender. Nuff said.
  • Todd Haynes, Carol – The film is a miraculous visual experience.


(6) Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies – The old master still likely to be included, though his spot is tentative.

(7) Adam McKay, The Big Short – He should’ve been nominated for Anchorman, but this will do…

(8) Lenny Abrahamson, Room

(9) Danny Boyle, Steve Jobs – Brilliant work that has fallen away. A DGA nod would help, but that’s still a ways off.

(10) Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight

(11) Cary Joji Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation

(12) John Crowley, Brooklyn

(12) F. Gary Gray, Straight Outta Compton

(13) Ryan Coogler, Creed

Best Actress

  • Brie Larson, Room – Still the favorite, even if the race is tighter than we once thought.
  • Saoirse 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 – Shut out of SAG and Golden Globes. Critics are standing their ground…we will have to wait and see.
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Joy – The film’s central, and best, performance is likely its best shot at a major nomination.

Other Contenders:

(6) Sarah Silverman, I Smile Back – SAG’s surprise choice also happens to be the year’s most incredible performance. Let this happen…

(7) Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road

(8) Lily Tomlin, Grandma

(9) Carey Mulligan, Suffragette

(10) Rooney Mara, Carol

(11) Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

(12) Bel Powley, The Diary of a Teenage Girl

(13) Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van

(14) Blythe Danner, I’ll See You in My Dreams

Best Actor

  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant – Coronation time?
  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs – Even as the film has faded, Fassbender’s performance has held strong.
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl – SAG and Golden Globes confirmed him as a player, even when it looked like he could fade.
  • 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.

Other Contenders:

(6) Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

(7) Michael B. Jordan, Creed

(8) Matt Damon, The Martian

(9) Michael Caine, Youth

(10) Ian McKellen, Mr. Holmes

(11) Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful Eight

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 – A safe choice, confirmed by SAG and the Globes.
  • Helen Mirren, Trumbo – An unexpected contender with surprisingly strong footing in the industry.

Other Contenders:

(6) Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina – A double nomination is not out of the question.

(7) Rachel McAdams, Spotlight – All this talk about which Spotlight actor would land the Oscar nod, and the film’s only SAG nomination was for its sole female cast member.

(8) Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria – Could still happen; the critical wave post-dated the SAG and Globe nomination deadline.

(9) Jane Fonda, Youth

(10) Elizabeth Banks, Love & Mercy

(11) Tessa Thompson, Creed

(12) Joan Allen, Room

(13) Julie Walters, Brooklyn

Best Supporting Actor

  • Sylvester Stallone, Creed – Buzz has been surprisingly quiet on this gem of a performance thus far. I still feel like, if he gets nominated, he wins.
  • Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies – Short of the Sly upset, it’s likely Rylance’s award to lose.
  • Christian Bale, The Big Short – The film is being seen and celebrated, and it has the showier ensemble than Spotlight. Bale is the go-to default nominee from the group.
  • Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation – SAG support is legit.
  • Jacob Tremblay, Room – SAG support is crucial. Still vulnerable with Shannon and the Spotlight guys on his heels.

Other Contenders:

(6) Michael Keaton, Spotlight – Still a possibility, though lessened.

(7) Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight – Toss-up between him and Keaton.

(8) Steve Carell, The Big Short – Strong work in the buzziest late-season entry of them all.

(9) Paul Dano, Love & Mercy – Figuring prominently in the critics awards…but the industry has yet to chime in.

(10) Benicio Del Toro, Sicario – Likely the first one in if one of the above drops out.

(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

Best Original Screenplay

  • Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer, Spotlight – Your winner.
  • Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight – QT’s bonafides in the screenplay category likely yields him a nod here.
  • 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.
  • Annie Mumulo, David O. Russell, Joy – The field gets fuzzy at the bottom. This one might sneak in.

Other Contenders:

(6) Taylor Sheridan, Sicario

(7) Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, Straight Outta Compton

(8) Ramin Bahrani, Amir Naderi, 99 Homes

(9) Alex Garland, Ex Machina

(10) Laszlo Nemes and Clara Royer, Son of Saul

(11) Amy Schumer, Trainwreck

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Adam McKay, Charles Randolph, The Big Short – All of the sudden, the heat is emanating off of this one. Difficult to predict whether its freshness as a contender will help its winning chances, or if its late release will ultimately hurt.
  • Emma Donaghue, Room – Still a threat to win. And it’s been marinating longer.
  • Phyllis Nagy, Carol – Brilliant screenwriting – and a legitimate contender.
  • Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs – Great work, but lack of enthusiasm for the film lowers its chances.
  • Nick Hornby, Brooklyn – Early sensation for the film had me thinking this could win; now industry fervor seems to have cooled.

Other Contenders:

(6) Drew Goddard, The Martian

(7) Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa

(8) Andrew Haigh, 45 Years

(9) Marielle Heller, The Diary of a Teenage Girl

(10) Lucina Coxen, The Danish Girl

Best Cinematography

  • John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road – The year’s grandest technical achievement may yield a winner here.
  • 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.
  • Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant – Can Chivo three-peat?
  • Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight – More greatness from Richardson.

Other Contenders:

(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?
  • Jenny Beavan, Mad Max: Fury Road – Another possible winner for the year’s most awe-inspiring craft achievement.
  • 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, but the more apparently extravagant costuming. Film quality never ends up mattering in this category, anyway.
  • Odile Dicks-Mireaux, Brooklyn – A potential first-time nominee.

Other Contenders:

(6) Jacqueline West, The Revenant

(7) Kate Hawley, Crimson Peak

(8) Jane Petrie, Suffragette

(9) Courtney Hoffman, The Hateful Eight

Best Film Editing

  • Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road – Another below-the-line threat from George Miller’s film. How many does it need to win in order for that to translate into a Best Picture win?
  • Tom McArdle, Spotlight – Showy editing doesn’t always win out. And as the Best Picture frontrunner, its editing is likely in contention as well.
  • Hank Corwin, The Big Short – Corwin’s work in this newly hot Best Picture commodity is already gaining traction.
  • Stephen Mirrione, The Revenant – Mirrione may be in line for his second Oscar win after failing to receive a nomination for Birdman last year.
  • Pietro Scalia, The Martian – A possible inclusion for the two-time Oscar winner, who did solid work in a likely Best Picture nominee.

Other Contenders:

(6) Elliott Graham, Steve Jobs

(7) Michael Kahn, Bridge of Spies

(8) Nathan Nugent, Room

(9) Jake Roberts, Brooklyn

(10) Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

(11) Fred Raskin, The Hateful Eight

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
  • Thomas E. Sanders, Crimson Peak – Sometimes beautiful craft is undeniable…even in a bad film.
  • 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.

Other Contenders:

(6) Star Wars: The Force Awakens

(7) Carol

(8) The Revenant

(9) Cinderella

(10) 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.
  • Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet – The year’s token GKids entry could outshine the B-level Pixar entry.

Other Contenders:

(6) The Good Dinosaur

(7) Boy and the World

(8) Minions

(9) When Marnie Was There

(10) Home

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.
  • Listen to Me Marlon – This beloved profile of an icon could land a nomination here easily.
  • 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.

Other Contenders:

(6) Where to Invade Next

(7) Best of Enemies

(8) What Happened, Miss Simone?

(9) He Named Me Malala

(10) Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Son of Saul (Hungary)
  • Mustang (France)
  • Labyrinth of Lies (Germany)
  • Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia)
  • Viva (Ireland)

Other Contenders:

(6) A War (Denmark)

(7) The Brand New Testament (Belgium)

(8) Theeb (Jordan)

(9) The Fencer (Finland)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Revenant
  • Black Mass

Other Contenders:

(4) Mr. Holmes

(5) Concussion

Best Visual Effects

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • The Walk
  • Jurassic World
  • The Martian

Other Contenders:

(6) Avengers: Age of Ultron

(7) In the Heart of the Sea

(8) Ex Machina

(9) The Revenant

More categories will be added each week, as we try to gain as much clarity as we can as Nomination Day approaches….


About Author

I married into the cult of cinema at a very young age - I wasn't of legal marriage age, but I didn't care. It has taken advantage of me and abused me many times. Yet I stay in this marriage because I'm obsessed and consumed. Don't try to save me -- I'm too far gone.