Oscar Nomination Predictions 2016

Oscar Punditry got absolutely toxic this time last year. “Birdman” was horribly polarizing, the reaction to “American Sniper” took a scary pulse of the nation, the snubs of David Oyelowo for “Selma” outed the Oscars as horribly white, and the loudest had to say why “Boyhood” really wasn’t that great yo.

It’s fitting then that this year’s crop of nominees is all over the place. The pundits have been outed in showing they really don’t know a damn thing. Not a single category has a frontrunner on par with a “12 Years a Slave,” and there’s no reason to think that this year’s Oscars couldn’t be equally white washed.

But if the Oscars are like the Super Bowl for movie lovers, making picks is like Fantasy Football. The critics who get steamed about the Oscars can be just as irritating as the pundits. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying the Oscars and wanting to play the horses because so long as it doesn’t disrupt your faculties to think about the movies critically, then who cares? It gets people talking about the movies, doesn’t it? And the Oscars are the only institution left capable.

These picks are quick and dirty, no more informed than anyone else’s, but we’ll see who comes out on top. After all, this year netted me two Fantasy Football titles.

Best Picture Predictions

  • Spotlight
  • The Big Short
  • Brooklyn
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Revenant
  • The Martian
  • Carol

On the Bubble

  • Bridge of Spies
  • Straight Outta Compton
  • Room
  • Sicario
  • Inside Out
  • Creed
  • Ex Machina
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Trumbo

Should be here:

  • Chi-Raq
  • Anomalisa

“Spotlight” is the closest thing to being a front-runner, but thankfully the narrative behind it is that it’s just a really good movie. You could say this is the type of movie that a studio would’ve put out back in the ’70s but is today relegated to Open Road, an indie. If it wins, it’ll mean that there’s a demand for Hollywood to look to more movies for thinking grown-ups, but then that’s the narrative for the Oscars every year.

Getting up to anywhere near 10 nominees seems unlikely this year, and it’s a year like this that makes predicting Best Picture extremely difficult. The way to go is to think of the movies that really have that passionate fan base. Who’s going to put this movie in that number 1 slot because they want to see it get nominated? I would argue that all of the picks certainly have that. “Bridge of Spies” is one that’s showing up on a lot of lists for the reason that it’s a Spielberg film and it is quite strong and universally loved, but does anyone see it as the best of the year? “Room” has that passionate support, but it doesn’t have the universal love that “Brooklyn” does. Expect it to fall short. “Straight Outta Compton” could be the token “black” nomination and the populist nominee, but I expect the Academy to have egg on their faces again Thursday morning. Their better bet would be to try and get “Creed” or “Star Wars” nominated, but neither of those is sticking with the guilds. “Sicario” has certainly gotten a boost from the critics, but they’ve put all their weight behind “Fury Road.” If “Ex Machina” gets in, it’ll be the biggest underdog surprise in a long time, and it will deserve it.


Best Actress

  • Brie Larson – Room
  • Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
  • Cate Blanchett – Carol
  • Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
  • Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road

On the Bubble

  • Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
  • Helen Mirren – Woman in Gold
  • Sarah Silverman – I Smile Back
  • Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl

Should Be Here

  • Teyonnah Parris – Chi-Raq,
  • Rooney Mara – Carol
  • Mya Taylor – Tangerine
  • Emily Blunt – Sicario

It sucks that this category isn’t deeper. Not just because of the state of the industry, but because this category is its own victim of category fraud this year. Rooney Mara should be in this category, and the Academy may still decide that too, but you won’t see both Blanchett and Mara in that case, who both deserve it. If it was a man and a woman in “Carol,” they would be nominated in Best Actor and Actress, but not so in a romance about two women. Charlize Theron is the other nominee who could easily suffer from a split vote in terms of which category she’ll show up. She’s the female lead of “Mad Max,” but then the reason there’s a category question at all lies right in that movie’s title.

For those on the bubble, it’s amazing to me that the Academy can’t think of another actress beyond Jennifer Lawrence or Helen Mirren for who should be worthy at another shot for an Oscar. Sarah Silverman got a surprise nomination from the Screen Actors Guild, so she could pull off a surprise, but would it have killed anyone to see “Chi-Raq” or “Tangerine” and get some color in this race?


Best Actor

  • Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
  • Matt Damon – The Martian
  • Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
  • Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
  • Michael B. Jordan – Creed

On the Bubble

  • Steve Carell – The Big Short
  • Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl
  • Johnny Depp – Black Mass
  • Will Smith – Concussion
  • Tom Hanks – Bridge of Spies

Should Be Here

  • Michael Caine – Youth
  • Michael Keaton – Spotlight
  • Ian McKellen – Mr. Holmes
  • Samuel L. Jackson – The Hateful Eight
  • Jacob Tremblay – Room
  • Abraham Attah – Beasts of No Nation
  • Jake Gyllenhaal – Southpaw
  • Tom Hardy – Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Channing Tatum – Magic Mike XXL

Best Actor is almost never this light. People like Michael Caine, Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen and Jake Gyllenhaal were on people’s lists early in the Oscar cycle, so why did everyone forget about them?

This is Leo’s year but only because it doesn’t seem like anyone else’s year. His win will be overdue, but his victory will be a makeup call, as Spike Lee once called it. It’s frustrating that Eddie Redmayne is in the conversation at all, solely based on the movie’s pedigree and the fact that he’s a runner-up. Hopefully the Academy will come to its senses and recognize another young rising star in Michael B. Jordan instead. If they’re really going to nominate Sylvester Stallone in Supporting, why overlook “Creed’s” lead? “Trumbo” has more support than anyone could’ve anticipated, so I expect Cranston is in. “Steve Jobs” has far less support than anyone could’ve expected, but Fassbender still seems likely even if the movie itself doesn’t.


Best Supporting Actress

  • Rooney Mara – Carol
  • Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
  • Kristen Stewart – Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

On the Bubble

  • Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
  • Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
  • Joan Allen – Room

Should be Here

  • Elizabeth Banks – Love and Mercy
  • Rachel Weisz – Youth
  • Jane Fonda – Youth
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh – Anomalisa

If Rooney Mara does show up in this category, expect her to win. Sadly this category isn’t that deep either, although that’s only for lack of looking. Alicia Vikander is this year’s breakout star, and although every critic’s group has recognized her for “Ex Machina” and not “The Danish Girl”, the pundits still seem to think it’s the latter movie for which she’ll get nominated. The BAFTAs gave her the right nomination, and here’s hoping the Academy does the same. Rachel McAdams and Joan Allen don’t seem like big enough roles in either of their respective movies to deserve a nod, but then stranger things have happened. Jennifer Jason Leigh is excellent in two movies this year, although in one she’s a clay puppet, so guess which one the Academy will pick. Who knows what happened to the support for “Youth” or “Love & Mercy.”


Best Supporting Actor

  • Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
  • Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
  • Paul Dano – Love & Mercy
  • Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation
  • Christian Bale – The Big Short

On the Bubble

  • Sylvester Stallone – Creed
  • Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
  • Jacob Tremblay – Room
  • Tom Hardy – The Revenant

Should Be Here

  • Harvey Keitel – Youth
  • Jason Segel – The End of the Tour
  • Oscar Isaac – Ex Machina
  • Liev Schreiber – Spotlight
  • Stanley Tucci – Spotlight
  • Benicio Del Toro – Sicario

This year’s “Should Be Here” list is arguably better than the five who will get nominated, but they are all very good. Rylance gives as understated of work as Tom Hanks, but he’s going to be the one to get a nod. Ruffalo is consistently good in just about anything, so it’s good to see that at least someone in “Spotlight’s” stellar cast will get nominated, especially for a movie that’s considered the frontrunner. Same goes for “The Big Short,” in which you could nominate Carell, Bale or Gosling. Idris Elba seems like the most likely African American nominee in any of the acting categories, but he’s no lock. Stallone is one a lot of lists, but that’ll likely be the surprise snub of the morning.


Best Director

  • Thomas McCarthy – Spotlight
  • Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu – The Revenant
  • George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Todd Haynes – Carol
  • Ridley Scott – The Martian

On the Bubble

  • Adam McKay – The Big Short
  • Denis Villeneuve – Sicario
  • Steven Spielberg – Bridge of Spies
  • F. Gary Gray – Straight Outta Compton
  • Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight

Should Be Here

  • Spike Lee – Chi-raq
  • Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson – Anomalisa

This morning the DGA went with Adam McKay over Todd Haynes, but Haynes is definitely the auteur in this bunch, and he doesn’t have a directing nomination to his name yet. Ridley Scott has three nominations in this category, and his movie has even won Best Picture, but he never has. He’s arguably a director-for-hire on “The Martian” and thankfully didn’t screw it up, but he’s still more likely than the Academy handing another token nomination to Spielberg or Tarantino.


Best Adapted Screenplay

  • The Big Short
  • Steve Jobs
  • Carol
  • Room
  • The Martian

On the Bubble

  • Brooklyn
  • Trumbo
  • The Revenant
  • Anomalisa

Should Be Here

  • Chi-Raq
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  • The End of the Tour

Good, good crop. Don’t expect too much variation here or surprises. “Anomalisa” probably would’ve fared better in the Original category, but it’s based on Kaufman’s own play, so it has to go up against some heavy-hitting adaptations, including a non-fiction book by Michael Lewis, a novel by Patricia Highsmith written by a first time screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, an Aaron Sorkin screenplay that probably should be an “original,” another screenplay written by the novelist herself (Emma Donoghue’s “Room”) and a huge best seller in Andy Weir’s “The Martian.” “Brooklyn” is another one that falls into that category of a big novel adaptation, but it’ll either be this or “Room” that makes the cut.

Inside Out

Best Original Screenplay

  • Spotlight
  • Inside Out
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Ex Machina
  • Bridge of Spies

On the Bubble

  • Trainwreck
  • Sicario
  • Straight Outta Compton

Should be Here

  • Tangerine
  • It Follows

In another year there’s no reason why Amy Schumer wouldn’t be in play for an Oscar, but Ex Machina will likely get that “quirky” slot this year. It’d be hard to bet against “Spotlight,” Tarantino, Pixar or the Coens, so this category seems pretty stacked as well.





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  1. re best actor: i’m with you, brian–should be michael b. jordan, no contest … though samuel l. jackson would be amusing: “academy ratings plunge as tighty whitey population tunes out!”–or would they?

    unfortunately there’s not a movie on your list of contenders i’d consider for “best picture”–even sorrentino’s YOUTH, arguably “better” than all of ’em, wouldn’t likely make the cut in a “good” academy year * (CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA?–also a cut above the rest, though not oscar material by a long shot) * my only other stake in the game is in the best supporting categories: both kate winslet (who shows how adaptably clever she can be: i mean, who’da thunk it?) and jeff daniels (of all people, especially after snoozing through his role in THE MARTIAN: like, give this man a heart attack!) for their work in danny boyle’s STEVE JOBS–though boyle as best director (o no, not again!!!) wouldn’t be a bad idea either; at least he beats the present company …

    though actually for best director–and i’m only half kidding about this–i’d be tempted to plop for david robert mitchell of IT FOLLOWS * (so: IT FOLLOWS for best picture?–let’s not press our luck there …) * and as darkest of dark horses in the best supporting category, how about kevin corrigan in andrew bujalski’s RESULTS?–or cobie smulders for best actress in same? * so many many awards and the pickin’s aren’t exactly prime–but somebody’s gotta get this stuff!


  2. ooops, one more suggestion that no one will take: in best supporting actor category, liev schreiber as former world chess champion boris spassky in PAWN SACRIFICE * an incredible likeness, and schreiber really nails it, though hardly anyone knows anymore (assuming anyone ever did) who spassky is or was * the gesture of standing and applauding his victorious opponent after game 6 of the ’72 world championship match–which damn near choked me up–was echt spassky, and schreiber gives it a graciousness worthy of his largely forgotten subject * the rest of the film’s not much (and i think game 6 actually went on a few moves longer than the movie’s willing to allow), but schreiber’s all but indelible in what’s otherwise a largely thankless task


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