Projection: Oscar – Oscar Predictions, 1/8/16


The Martian


Here we are, just a week away from the announcement of the Oscar nominations.

And the race is about as crowded and confusing as ever.

As industry guild nominations start to filter in, we can begin to get a legitimate feel for how the Oscar nomination vote might go down, since we are finally getting glimpses of what each industry discipline is celebrating. Some of it is obvious – Deakins and Lubezki receiving ASC nominations, Danish Girl and Crimson Peak nabbing nods from the Art Directors, Mad Max scoring with every peripheral craft group. Other inclusions – and omissions – were more surprising, like Spotlight failing to land an ACE Eddie nomination, or the likes of Carol, Inside Out, and especially Room being left off the PGA’s Best Picture nominees list in favor of Ex Machina and Sicario.

We may yet be in for more surprises, since the Oscar nomination balloting deadline is tomorrow, January 8, a full four days before the Directors Guild announces its 2016 nominees. The last time Oscar nominations balloting closed before the DGA announcement was 2013, the now-infamous year when Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow were left off Oscar’s Best Director slate. Of course, such correlations lead us down a path where we seem to think AMPAS must “take cues” from the likes of DGA and PGA, thinking that leads us down a slippery slope of illogic at best and entitlement at worst…but there again, it strikes on my proclaimed theme of the season: media influence on (and attempts to wield total control over) the season.

And so it goes…even as late as we now are in Phase One of the Oscar race, there is a great deal of uncertainty in terms of expectations and therefore predictions. It’s easy to know which films and performances are in contention, but far more difficult to nail down what will be included versus what will be left on the outside looking in.

All categories are now accounted for, save the pesky Short Film categories, which strike me as immune to speculation and should therefore be discussed only after they are nominated and viewed. Also note the dividing line between the films to be nominated versus the films just on the outside (in Best Picture, I am currently predicting a total of nine nominees).

Here’s where we stand today, 7 days away (!) from the announcement of the 88th Academy Award nominations…

Best Picture

  1. Spotlight – The surest thing.
  2. The Big Short – The hottest thing of the moment. But I imagine infatuation will fade as we progress through Phase Two.
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road – Some are saying the film can’t win Best Picture. But 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 for the win?
  4. The Martian – A very vanilla-but-agreeable choice. Never believed it as a winner, but feels like a shoo-in nominee in multiple categories.
  5. The Revenant – Complex in its making, dumbfoundingly simple in its storytelling. I think the technical complexity weighs out in this case…a multiple nominee in the making.
  6. Bridge of Spies – The classical choice from the old master has held up for industry folks.
  7. Brooklyn – All of the buzz centered on Saoirse Ronan…until the Producers Guild stepped up and nominated the film proper. Its chances of landing a Best Picture nomination are suddenly bolstered just a bit.
  8. Room – Came up empty with the Producers Guild, which is consistent with the hot-then-cold trend for the film’s awards fervor this season. Larson is a sure thing and Tremblay is a potential player, but is the film a Best Picture nominee? 50/50 chance at this point.
  9. Straight Outta Compton – Universal came on strong all season and it may just pay off for F. Gary Gray’s film. SAG + PGA is likely to equal a Best Picture nomination.
  1. Carol – Seems wrong to envision this Best Picture category without Todd Haynes’ masterpiece, yet it may be leading the pack for “First Film Out” recognition. But the Weinsteins have to get one of their movies in, don’t they?
  2. Inside Out – Probably a shoo-in for a nomination if it was released in November. But may be the victim of time and distance.
  3. Sicario – A somewhat surprising PGA nominee has been a muted Oscar threat all season.
  4. Ex Machina – A more surprising (and more deserving) PGA nominee will likely represent one too many on the genre front, with Fury Road and Martian already certain nominees.
  5. Trumbo – Never underestimate the industry’s desire to consume films about itself. That desire has kept this one in the race.
  6. The Hateful Eight – Can’t ever count QT out, especially with Weinstein driving the carriage, but the film’s polarizing nature likely will result in a BP miss.


Best Director

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Ridley Scott, The Martian – He’s the respected director of a top-five Best Picture contender. Nuff said.
  4. 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.
  5. Adam McKay, The Big Short – If the “shiny new toy” sensation effect of the film holds sway, McKay could actually land this nomination. Weird.
  1. Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies – In an uncertain and limited field of tangible contenders, the old master would be a solid fallback.
  2. Todd Haynes, Carol – A miraculous cinematic experience by a genius who will likely once again be left on the outside of the Oscar party.


Best Actress

  1. Brie Larson, Room – Still the favorite, even if the race is tighter than we once thought.
  2. Saiorse Ronan, Brooklyn – Brie’s chief competition…and apparent BFF.
  3. Cate Blanchett, Carol – The film has two brilliant lead performances…Blanchett seems most likely to land here thanks to Category Confusion.
  4. Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years – Shut out of SAG and Golden Globes. Critics are standing their ground…we will have to wait and see.
  5. Jennifer Lawrence, Joy – The film’s central, and best, performance is likely its best shot at a major nomination. And I actually think it could end up on the outside.
  1. Rooney Mara, Carol – Yes, this is the year where you see the same names pop up as candidates in multiple categories. Category Confusion reigns…
  2. Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl – Ditto.
  3. Sarah Silverman, I Smile Back – SAG’s surprise choice also happens to be the year’s most incredible performance. Let this happen…
  4. Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road – If this nomination happens, we will know just how highly the Academy regards Fury Road.


Best Actor

  1. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant – Coronation time?
  2. Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs – Even as the film has faded, Fassbender’s performance has held strong.
  3. Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl – SAG and Golden Globes confirmed him as a player, even when it looked like he could fade.
  4. Bryan Cranston, Trumbo – The most likely to benefit from the industry’s embrace of the film.
  5. 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.
  1. Matt Damon, The Martian – This nomination would make sense, given that Damon’s star power carries the film.
  2. Steve Carell, The Big Short – Lead or supporting? Carell could split his favor.
  3. Will Smith, Concussion – Strong work in a film that seems to have fizzled.
  4. Ian McKellen, Holmes
  5. Michael Caine, Youth


Best Supporting Actress

  1. 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.
  2. Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl – Ditto the above comment.
  3. Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs – A safe choice, confirmed by SAG and the Globes.
  4. Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight – She becomes especially dangerous if Category Confusion costs Mara and/or Vikander votes.
  5. 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.
  1. Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina – A double nomination is not out of the question. Or voters could opt to nominate Vikander only in this film rather than The Danish Girl.
  2. Helen Mirren, Trumbo – An unexpected contender with surprisingly strong footing in the industry.
  3. Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria – Could still happen; the critical wave post-dated the SAG and Globe nomination deadline.
  4. Jane Fonda, Youth
  5. Elizabeth Banks, Love & Mercy


Best Supporting Actor

  1. Sylvester Stallone, Creed – Very quietly, Sly has taken the lead in Supporting Actor wins from the regional critics groups. This eventual Oscar win just seems obvious to me.
  2. Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies – If the Stallone thing doesn’t happen, it’s likely Rylance’s award to lose.
  3. Christian Bale, The Big Short – Bale is the go-to default nominee from this massive, celebrated ensemble.
  4. Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation – SAG support is legit.
  5. Jacob Tremblay, Room – SAG support is crucial. Still vulnerable with Shannon and the Spotlight guys on his heels.
  1. Michael Keaton, Spotlight – Still a possibility, though lessened.
  2. Michael Shannon, 99 Homes – A great scenery-chewing performance that has already earned a lot of industry accolades. Wouldn’t be surprising to hear his name called on Nomination Morning.
  3. Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight – He has the one big actor-y moment in the film, yet his chances to score a nomination seem the lowest of the group.
  4. Jason Mitchell, Straight Outta Compton – I feel like this could be a tandem nomination with Best Picture. The big surprise of Nomination Morning.
  5. Paul Dano, Love & Mercy – Figuring prominently in the critics awards…but the industry has yet to chime in.
  6. Benicio Del Toro, Sicario – Even as the film surges, this performance seems to be fading.
  7. Steve Carell, The Big Short – Again, Lead or Supporting?


Best Original Screenplay

  1. Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer, Spotlight – Your winner.
  2. Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight – QT’s bonafides in the screenplay category likely yields him a nod here.
  3. Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Inside Out – Welcome back to the Oscar game, Pixar.
  4. Matt Charman, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Bridge of Spies – A deserving nomination for the film’s strongest aspect.
  5. Taylor Sheridan, Sicario – It’s the least successful element in the film, but it may wind up sneaking into this category since Joy has fizzled.
  1. Annie Mumulo, David O. Russell, Joy – This could still make it in, I suppose…but there’s enough (valid) dislike that it seems less likely.
  2. Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, Straight Outta Compton – If the film takes hold, this could happen.
  3. Alex Garland, Ex Machina – A great screenplay that would be a worthy semi-surprise.
  4. Ramin Bahrani, Amir Naderi, 99 Homes


Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. Adam McKay, Charles Randolph, The Big ShortAs the heat emanates off this one, it seems more and more like an Adapted Screenplay win is almost preordained.
  2. Emma Donaghue, Room – Still a threat to win. And it’s been marinating longer.
  3. Phyllis Nagy, Carol – Brilliant screenwriting – and a legitimate contender.
  4. Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs – Great work, but lack of enthusiasm for the film lowers its chances.
  5. Drew Goddard, The Martian – A clever and funny script like this one is likely to attract a nomination.
  1. Nick Hornby, Brooklyn – For a film so beloved, I’m surprised this screenplay from a high-profile writer didn’t generate more heat.
  2. Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa
  3. Andrew Haigh, 45 Years


Best Cinematography

  1. John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road – The year’s grandest technical achievement may yield a winner here.
  2. Roger Deakins, Sicario – Possibly the most brilliant work in this category. And Deakins has never won…can you believe it??
  3. Edward Lachmann, Carol – The visual palette is an essential part of the film’s enormous power. A possible winner.
  4. Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant – Can Chivo three-peat?
  5. Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight – Richardson should almost count himself as the auteur of The Hateful Eight. But will the use of 70mm compel voters to nominate him, or will it be seen as a black eye that 70mm was applied to what amounts to a filmed play?
  1. Janusz Kaminski, Bridge of Spies – Hard to imagine a genius like Kaminski being left off…but who does he replace?
  2. Dariusz Wolski, The Martian – Not a next-level visual film, though it is nothing if not professional, and if the Academy fully embraces it, this could happen.
  3. Maryse Alberti, Creed – Brilliant work, even beyond that amazing single take.
  4. Danny Cohen, Room
  5. Alwin H. Kuchler, Steve Jobs


Best Costume Design

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. Jenny Beavan, Mad Max: Fury Road – Another possible winner for the year’s most awe-inspiring craft achievement.
  4. Odile Dicks-Mireaux, Brooklyn – A potential first-time nominee.
  5. Paco Delgado, The Danish Girl – Delgado trying for his second nomination from a Tom Hooper film.
  1. Kate Hawley, Crimson Peak
  2. Jacqueline West, The Revenant
  3. Courtney Hoffman, The Hateful Eight


Best Film Editing

  1. 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?
  2. Tom McArdle, Spotlight – The lack of an Eddie nominations is concerning, but I’m still betting this makes it in for the Oscar.
  3. Hank Corwin, The Big Short – Corwin’s work in this newly hot Best Picture commodity is already gaining traction.
  4. Stephen Mirrione, The Revenant – Mirrione back in the race after failing to receive a nomination for Birdman last year.
  5. Pietro Scalia, The Martian – A possible inclusion for the two-time Oscar winner, who did solid work in a likely Best Picture nominee.
  1. Michael Kahn, Bridge of Spies
  2. Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  3. Joe Walker, Sicario


Best Production Design

  1. Bridge of Spies – Stockhausen trying for a repeat win after taking home the Oscar for Grand Budapest Hotel last year.
  2. 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.
  3. The Danish Girl – Lavish décor may lead three-time nominee Stewart to her first Oscar.
  4. Crimson Peak – Sometimes beautiful craft is undeniable…even in a bad film.
  5. The Revenant – Detailed and compelling period work could result in another nod for Inarritu’s film.
  1. Carol
  2. Cinderella
  3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Best Animated Feature

  1. Inside Out – Like a runaway freight train…
  2. Anomalisa — …unless Charlie Kaufman can disrupt the charted path.
  3. Shaun the Sheep Movie – Really well-liked, and Lionsgate is campaigning.
  4. The Peanuts Movie – Such a wonderful throwback. I hope this nomination happens.
  5. Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet – The year’s token GKids entry could outshine the B-level Pixar entry.
  1. The Good Dinosaur
  2. Boy and the World
  3. Minions


Best Documentary Feature

  1. The Look of Silence – Surely Joshua Oppenheimer gets his Oscar this time, right?
  2. Amy – And yet this film is likely the true frontrunner. Still brilliant work, though.
  3. Cartel Land – Powerful and relevant. Seems like a sure thing.
  4. Listen to Me Marlon – This beloved profile of an icon could land a nomination here easily.
  5. 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.
  1. Where to Invade Next – Maybe it’s silly for me to not include a high-profile Michael Moore film in the presumed Best Doc lineup. I just wonder if people will expect too much and buck against the film if it doesn’t fully deliver.
  2. What Happened, Miss Simone?
  3. Winter on Fire
  4. Best of Enemies
  5. He Named Me Malala
  6. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief


Best Foreign Language Film

  1. Son of Saul (Hungary)
  2. Mustang (France)
  3. Labyrinth of Lies (Germany)
  4. Viva (Ireland)
  5. Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia)
  1. The Brand New Testament (Belgium)
  2. A War (Denmark)
  3. Theeb (Jordan)
  4. The Fencer (Finland)


Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Revenant
  3. Holmes
  1. Black Mass
  2. Concussion


Best Visual Effects

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. The Walk
  4. The Martian
  5. Ex Machina
  1. Jurassic World
  2. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  3. The Revenant


  Best Sound Editing

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. The Martian
  4. The Revenant
  5. The Hateful Eight
  1. Everest
  2. Spectre
  3. Jurassic World
  4. Inside Out


Best Sound Mixing

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. The Revenant
  4. The Martian
  5. The Hateful Eight
  1. Spectre
  2. Everest
  3. Jurassic World
  4. In the Heart of the Sea


Best Original Score

  1. The Hateful Eight, Ennio Morricone
  2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, John Williams
  3. Spotlight, Howard Shore
  4. Bridge of Spies, Thomas Newman
  5. Carol, Carter Burwell
  1. The Danish Girl, Alexandre Desplat
  2. Inside Out, Michael Giacchino
  3. Sicario, Johann Johannsson
  4. The 33, James Horner


Best Original Song

  1. “See You Again” from Furious 7
  2. “Til it Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground
  3. “Simple Song #3” from Youth
  4. “Writing’s On the Wall” from Spectre
  5. “Love Me Like You Do” from Fifty Shades of Grey
  1. “One Kind of Love” from Love and Mercy
  2. “So Long” from Concussion
  3. “Feels Like Summer” from Shaun the Sheep Movie
  4. “Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey
  5. “Mean Ol’ Moon” from Ted 2
  6. “I’ll See You in My Dreams” from I’ll See You in My Dreams

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.