88th Academy Awards: Predictions for Nominations

The nominations for the 88th Academy Awards, honoring the best of film in 2015, are going to be released in a matter of hours – at 530 AM PST today.  That’s like, less than an hour from now.  Count on me to wait until the last hours to do this…

For this year, I decided to come up with my own predictions lists for the eight most important awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Adapted Screenplay.  I based my predictions off Awards Circuit, Gold Derby, The Hollywood Reporter, and Variety, as well as my general gut senses, having followed the ups and downs of awards season.

Speaking of which, unlike previous years where there were always two or three frontrunners from the get-go, this year’s field is wide open in most categories, leading to a race that’s a little more exciting than usual.  There are also more “mainstream” movies in contention than usual; most of these movies were showing at my local multiplex instead of being exclusive to arthouse theaters.  Going hand-in-hand with that is the relatively high attention being paid to movies that were released before the conventional start of Oscars season in October.

Anything I’ve already seen as of this writing (January 14 2016) will be in bold.  I’ll also throw in my own opinions about what should be nominated, but won’t be.




Best Picture

For this category, I’ll order the movies by the likelihood of them being nominated, with 1 being the most likely and 10 being the least likely. (For all other categories, I’ll list them in alphabetical order.)

There can be anywhere from 5 to 10 nominees, depending on how the votes line up.  For a year as wide open as this, I’m predicting there will be 10 nominees.

  1. Spotlight
  2. The Revenant
  3. Carol
  4. The Martian
  5. The Big Short
  6. Bridge of Spies
  7. Room
  8. Mad Max: Fury Road
  9. Inside Out
  10. Straight Outta Compton


Here are the same movies, ordered alphabetically:

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies


Inside Out

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant



Straight Outta Compton


For good measure, here are the movies ordered by how much I liked them, from most to least.  This is just off the top of my head, gut feeling; I’m not even going back and looking at any reviews and ratings I’ve given them.  I’ve excluded the ones I haven’t seen yet.

Mad Max: Fury Road


The Martian

Inside Out


The Revenant

Bridge of Spies

The Big Short


Should be nominated: Ex Machina, Joy

I found Ex Machina to be a fascinating but ultimately depressing movie when I first watched it, but as time has gone by it’s been growing on me, to the point where it might be one of the top five movies I’ve seen all year.  It definitely deserves to be a Best Picture nominee.  It’s innovative and it says something, which can’t be said for several of my predictions.  I liked Joy a lot better than many critics gave it credit for.  I also think it stands equally among several of the predictions.

Of the actual predictions that I’ve seen, I feel like only Mad Max: Fury Road and Room really impressed me.  The others ones are at best, “eh it was good, but nothing mind-blowing”.

The 9th and 10th spots were a battle between Inside Out, Straight Outta Compton, and Brooklyn, and clearly Brooklyn lost the musical chairs game.  I just haven’t seen Brooklyn getting enough buzz and nominations/wins in the precursors to see it securing a Best Picture nomination.  Straight Outta Compton is also iffy, and Inside Out’s fortunes have plummeted in recent weeks.  I can actually see the Academy just doing nine nominees and cutting out all but one of these three.

Spotlight has the strongest claim to frontrunner status, and even then it’s pretty weak.  The Revenant and The Martian are probably next in line.




Best Director


Todd Haynes for Carol

Alejandro G. Iñárritu for The Revenant

Tom McCarthy for Spotlight

George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road

Ridley Scott for The Martian


Iñárritu would be a major contender if he hadn’t just won last time.  I see this race coming down to Miller versus Scott: two old geezers better known for mainstream/blockbuster action-y type movies, neither of whom have won the Best Directing Oscar before.




Best Actor in a Leading Role


Matt Damon for The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant

Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl

Will Smith for Concussion

Should be nominated: Jacob Tremblay for Room


Tremblay is being talked up for Supporting Actor, which makes no sense as the story is told from his perspective and he’s literally in every scene of the movie.  Tremblay is very good and he deserves a nomination in the Leading category.  Smith is the weak link here and could get knocked out by either Bryan Cranston for Trumbo or Johnny Depp for Black Mass.  If he does make it though, his performance, in my opinion, is stronger than any of the other ones I’ve seen besides DiCaprio’s.  This race is DiCaprio’s to lose.




Best Actress in a Leading Role


Cate Blanchett for Carol

Brie Larson for Room

Jennifer Lawrence for Joy

Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn

Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl


Charlotte Rampling is also mentioned a lot for 45 Years, but I feel like that movie hasn’t been getting enough play to vault Rampling past any of my predictions.  2015 was the Year of Alicia Vikander in particular and while some predictions websites have her out, I can’t imagine the Academy snubbing her.  This race is Larson’s to lose.




Best Actor in a Supporting Role


Christian Bale for The Big Short

Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation

Tom Hardy for The Revenant

Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone for Creed

Should be nominated: Oscar Isaac for Ex Machina


Isaac gave one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, just melting into his role.  Holy shit.

Jacob Tremblay was in contention in Supporting for what was actually a Leading Role in Room, but even for Supporting he’s getting squeezed out of what is becoming a very packed field.  This might be the most crowded acting field, with Michael Shannon for 99 Homes, Benicio del Toro for Sicario, Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton for Spotlight, and Paul Dano for Love & Mercy all clawing for a spot.

Ultimately though, this is a case of a rich field of underwhelming performers.  Of the four predictions I’ve seen, I wasn’t impressed with any of them, especially those of Rylance and Stallone, who are the two leading contenders (Rylance is number one, Stallone is number two).  Everyone is giving Rylance and Stallone rave reviews and I’m like, huh???  I barely noticed them at all…




Best Actress in a Supporting Role


Jennifer Jason Leigh for The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara for Carol

Rachel McAdams for Spotlight

Alicia Vikander for Ex Machina

Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs


This is a weird field this year because a number of these contenders, like Mara, could actually be considered Leads.

Continuing with the Year of Alicia Vikander, she has been talked up as Supporting for both The Danish Girl (in which it sounds like she’s really a Lead) and Ex Machina, in which she’s arguably a Lead as well, but the Supporting case can be plausibly made.  I foresee the Academy giving us Maximum Vikander by putting her in Leading for The Danish Girl and getting her a Supporting nomination for Ex Machina (and she is quite good in Ex Machina, I can say).

Many websites have Helen Mirren up for Trumbo but I don’t see Trumbo being strong enough to get anyone besides Bryan Cranston a nomination.  Early on there was also buzz for Joan Allen in Room but I think she’ll ultimately be left behind.

McAdams does fine in Spotlight but it’s a pretty understated role.  She may get a boost here because everyone else in the movie could end up being shut out.

If the field does turn out as I predicted, it’ll be a pretty open race.  The winner probably won’t be Leigh or Vikander, but it could be any of the other three.




Best Original Screenplay


Bridge of Spies

Ex Machina

Inside Out


Straight Outta Compton

Should be nominated: Clouds of Sils Maria


Man I’m gonna be such a happy camper if Ex Machina is really nominated, and even more so if it actually wins.  It deserves it.  It’s one of the smartest and most provocative scripts I’ve seen in a long time.  Clouds of Sils Maria is also a very intelligent and mind-stimulating movie.

I’ve heard a lot of predictions for The Hateful Eight, and I struggled with choosing between that and Straight Outta Compton.  While I will say that The Hateful Eight has probably one of the best Quentin Tarantino scripts (and is, consequently, one of the most tolerable Tarantino movies), I get the sense that the Academy might be sick of him.  We’ll see though; I can easily see The Hateful Eight taking over Straight Outta Compton’s spot.

This would be a rather strong field.  I can’t say I dislike any of the scripts for the movies I’ve seen (and that would remain so if The Hateful Eight were nominated).  Even the boring Bridge of Spies had a pretty good script.  Spotlight will probably win, especially if it’s also winning Best Picture.




Best Adapted Screenplay


The Big Short




Steve Jobs


In contrast to Original Screenplay, this field is annoying, as it’s anchored by the highly overrated scripts of The Big Short and especially Steve JobsSteve Jobs’s script is the epitome of talking a lot without actually saying anything, but it still managed to win the Best Screenplay Award at the Golden Globes, beating out The Big Short, The Hateful Eight, Room, and Spotlight.  Of the three predictions above that I’ve seen so far, Room is easily the best.

There’s also talk about The Martian slipping into this category.  The Martian is in a way stronger awards position overall than Steve Jobs, which has largely fallen off the radar and can only hope for acting and screenplay nominations at this point.  If The Martian continues to pick up momentum, it could do us all a favor and sweep Steve Jobs right out of this category.

If this is the field we do end up with, the race will probably come down to The Big Short versus Steve Jobs in a titanic battle of mediocrity.