Academy Award Nomination Predictions

I don’t usually do this, because it’s a fool’s game to predict what the Academy is going to do. But I guess I decided it’s time to stop pretending I’m not a fool. Predictions are fun, and I like fun.

It feels like they say this every year, but this year’s Oscars genuinely feel like the most open race in years. No movie is ahead of the pack; no movie feels like a clear and obvious choice. Also, if it shakes out the way I predict, this may be the most diverse group of plots, genres, and target audiences among the nominees in a while. And variety makes everything better.

Best Picture

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Before Christmas, I didn’t really expect Bridge of SpiesMad Max: Fury Road, or The Martian to make the cut. I thought more awards-bait fare would keep them out, like RoomBrooklyn, or The Hateful Eight. But those movies have received less attention from critics and guilds alike, and the former three movies have gotten much more love. The outlier in this group, the movie that no one saw forcing its way into the conversation, is CreedCreed may not receive much attention in other categories, but the 5-to-10-nominee structure in this category means the most-loved movies make it in, and Creed is very well-loved. The favorites here are still Spotlight and Carol, though The Big Short has shown itself to have a surprising number of supporters in the industry.


For your consideration: Inside Out. Before Creed was the critical and box-office darling it became, I assumed Inside Out would get its slot as the well-loved crowdpleaser. Animated movies almost never get nominated for Best Picture- only Beauty and the BeastUp, and Toy Story 3 have managed the feat. But Inside Out was one of the most imaginative movies of the year, and it packed an emotional punch. It deserves to be in this group.

Best Actor

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

This one’s almost written in stone. Michael B. Jordan or Johnny Depp could squeak through in Damon’s or Cranston’s place, but it’s unlikely.


For your consideration: Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation. This group of performances is generally pretty weak. If the Academy was a little more adventurous with this category (as it has been in the past with Best Actress), they might have looked outside the awards bait for some independent gems. One such performance is Attah’s. He’s only a teenager, but he ages decades as a child soldier in Beasts.

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

This is the most stacked Best Actress pool in a while. I’m most confident in Blanchett and Larson, but Jennifer Lawrence, Maggie Smith, and Helen Mirren from JoyThe Lady in the Van, and Woman in Gold could easily supplant the other three.


For your consideration: Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road. The star of the most surprisingly feminist movie of 2015 deserves some love.

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale, The Big Short
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed


For your consideration: Benicio del Toro, Sicario. He achieved a new level of menace as a Colombian assassin with a hidden agenda.

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Helen Mirren, Trumbo
Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs


For your consideration: Mya Taylor, Tangerine. For Tangerine, a movie filmed on an iPhone and made for far less money than the next cheapest movie mentioned in this post, Taylor stands out the most as the likeliest candidate to get a nomination. Kitana Kiki Rodriguez won me over eventually in the lead role, but Taylor is magnetic from the very start.

Best Directing

Todd Haynes, Carol
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Ridley Scott, The Martian

McCarthy is the only unsure thing in this bunch, since Spotlight is much more notable for its cast and its screenplay than any visual style. Maybe Spielberg takes his spot for Bridge of Spies, or Ryan Coogler pulls off the coup of all coups for Creed.


For your consideration: Denis Villenueve, Sicario. It takes supreme control to maintain the modulated dread that permeates every frame of this movie.

Best Original Screenplay

Bridge of Spies
Inside Out


For your consideration: Ex Machina. Alex Garland’s twisted screenplay is both thought-provoking and engrossing.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Big Short
The Martian
Steve Jobs


For your consideration: Paddington. This a hill I’m willing to die on.


Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant


For your consideration: It Follows. David Robert Mitchell and his cinematographer, Mike Gioulakis, do things with symmetry and panning that make you forget you’re watching a low-budget horror movie.


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