Oscar nominations predictions for 2016 show few surprises

A&E compiles lists of potential nominees based on Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes

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Oscars season is back, and this year looks like one of the craziest in recent memory. While several categories have clear front-runners and others like Best Actor may be all locked up, several top prizes are still uncertain.

While last year’s nominees drew controversy for a lack of diversity, this year’s movies show more diverse slate, even though the acting categories look like they will be almost entirely, if not entirely, comprised of white actors.

Without further ado, here are Arts & Entertainment’s picks for all the non-shorts categories — since predicting those is a lost cause. “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Martian” should lead in total nominations with around ten each. The nominees will be announced on the morning of January 16.

Best Picture

The Core Five: “The Big Short,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “Spotlight,” “Straight Outta Compton”

Other Contenders: “The Revenant,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Carol,” “Brooklyn”

Dark Horses:“Room,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Trumbo,” “Sicario”

Long Shots: “Ex Machina,” “Beasts of No Nation,” “Inside Out”

While there can be between five to ten nominees, about 20 specific movies could plausibly be nominated. While this is certainly a year that merits ten nominees, history suggests there will probably be nine. The Producers Guild of America nominees often match very closely to the Oscar picks, and assuming there are nine open spots, expect their list to nominate eight for nine this year.

“Spotlight,” “The Big Short,” and “Straight Outta Compton” are the only movies to get both Screen Actors Guild Ensemble and Producers Guild nods, placing them on the firmest footing. They should be joined by “The Martian” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” — two critically acclaimed, special-effects heavy movies showing strong potential as Best Directing nominees, alongside their Golden Globes notice. Beyond those five, “The Revenant” and “Bridge of Spies” are the most likely additions, because they both had PGA nominations and were made by highly respected directors and stars.

Beyond these seven, it’s open season. “Carol” was hit hard by missing out on a PGA nomination, but 2013’s “Philomena” — also from The Weinstein Company — skipped the PGA and received a Best Picture nomination anyway. For spot nine, “Brooklyn” surprised with a PGA nomination and could get in on a passionate base of support. Despite being omitted from the PGA list, “Room” could make the list ten by the same logic. It's prospects are shaky, though.

Since the PGA has more mainstream sensibilities than the Academy — see previous nods for “Star Trek,” “Skyfall,” and “The Dark Knight” — the absence of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is particularly troubling for its Best Picture prospects. There’s still hope since it wasn’t screened until halfway into the nomination period. “Sicario” scored a PGA nod and is a critical favorite, but it doesn’t have enough clear strength in other categories to guarantee a spot. While it lacks a PGA nod, “Trumbo” could still sneak in due to its Hollywood subject matter and strong performance in the SAG nominations.

Otherwise, the surprising best ensemble SAG nomination for “Beasts of No Nation” seems to be a fluke. While a surprise PGA nomination for “Ex Machina” gave the film a boost, it would be surprising to see the Academy follow suit and nominate this spring indie. Tragically, it looks like the animated “Inside Out” may be boxed out of the Best Picture race.

Best Directing

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

Dark Horse: Adam McKay – “The Big Short”

Long Shot: F. Gary Gray – “Straight Outta Compton”

Even though the Directors Guild of America has not pitched in yet, Scott, McCarthy and Miller are three very strong picks whose omission would be very surprising. Scott has shockingly never won an Oscar — despite directing Best Picture winner “Gladiator” — and is the closest to a sure pick here. McCarthy picked up several Best Director awards this year, and considering his movie’s strength in Best Picture he should expect a nomination. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is a massive directorial achievement. This category has tended to reward large-scale ambition in recent years — see previous wins for “Life of Pi” and “Gravity” — so Miller is a rock solid pick despite his movie’s May release date.

Expect reigning winner Iñárritu to score his second nomination in a row for “The Revenant.” Although Leonardo DiCaprio is getting the most attention, Iñárritu should be acknowledged for pulling off the most challenging shoot of the year. While it’s tempting to drop him after “Carol” missed out on a PGA nomination, Haynes still looks like a solid pick. All five received Golden Globe nominations, so although that list almost never matches completely with the Oscars, it may correspond this year. “The Big Short” has been mighty in precursors, so a nomination for McKay isn’t out of the question. Although he hasn’t gotten much directing notice, the strong guild performance of “Straight Outta Compton” could create an opening for Gray.

Best Actor

Core Contenders: Bryan Cranston – “Trumbo” as Dalton Trumbo, Matt Damon – “The Martian” as Mark Watney, Leonardo DiCaprio – “The Revenant” as Hugh Glass, Michael Fassbender – “Steve Jobs” as Steve Jobs, Eddie Redmayne – “The Danish Girl” as Lili Elbe / Einar Wegener

Dark Horse: Johnny Depp – “Black Mass” as James “Whitey” Bulger

Long Shot: Will Smith – “Concussion” as Dr. Bennet Omalu

While typically an all-out slugfest, this year’s Best Actor race is the first since 2012 with a clear frontrunner. Enjoy those DiCaprio Oscar memes while they last, because he’s the clear favorite not only for a nomination, but also for the win. Acting Oscars tend to reward performers who transform themselves or stretch their craft, and DiCaprio’s performance checks both boxes while also being the most intense screen performance of the year. Fassbender’s magnificent Steve Jobs, Redmayne’s latest transformation in “The Danish Girl,” and Cranston’s blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo should all receive recognition — all three won Screen Actors Guild nominations, which often line up very well with the Oscars.

The last spot is a bit of a wildcard, but expect goodwill towards “The Martian,” giving Damon a spot for his surprisingly funny solo performance. However, his lack of a SAG nomination might be a red flag. While Depp received a SAG nomination for his performance in “Black Mass,” he doesn’t have the benefit of starring in a movie with broader Oscar prospects. Although Smith received a Golden Globe nomination for “Concussion,” his lack of a SAG nomination and the movie’s lack of buzz suggests he’s a long shot for his third nomination.

Best Actress

- Cate Blanchett – “Carol” as Carol Aird

- Brie Larson – “Room” as Joy “Ma” Newsome

- Jennifer Lawrence – “Joy” as Joy

- Saoirse Ronan – “Brooklyn” as Eilis Lacey

- Charlize Theron – “Mad Max: Fury Road” as Imperator Furiosa

Dark Horse: Charlotte Rampling – “45 Years” as Kate Mercer

Long Shot: Helen Mirren – “Woman in Gold” as Maria Altmann

Wildcards: Rooney Mara – “Carol,” Alicia Vikander – “The Danish Girl”

While Best Actress has clear frontrunners in Larson’s magnificent and deep performance in “Room” and Ronan’s delightful work in “Brooklyn,” this category is surrounded by uncertainty. The question is whether Mara and Vikander will end up here or in Supporting Actress for their performances in “Carol” and “The Danish Girl,” respectively. They are being marketed as Supporting Actresses, but their roles are arguably leads. They should end up where their campaigns want them, but the uncertainty could dramatically shift the actress races.

In addition to Larson and Ronan, 2016 SAG nominee (and winner, in 2014, for “Blue Jasmine”) Blanchett is a strong picks for bringing gravitas to “Carol.” While “Joy” has fizzled in other categories and missed out on a SAG nomination, Lawrence is one of the biggest stars today, so she will likely be recognized again. While Rampling has garnered a lot of critical attention for “45 Years,” Theron may gather a surprise nomination for creating an instantly iconic feminist action hero in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” despite missing out on basically every precursor award. While she hasn’t gotten much buzz for Oscar attention in this category, it’s hard to ignore Mirren’s SAG nomination for “Woman in Gold.” The movie’s early release makes her addition unlikely.

Best Supporting Actor

- Christian Bale – “The Big Short” as Michael Burry

- Idris Elba – “Beasts of No Nation” as Commandant

- Mark Ruffalo – “Spotlight” as Michael Rezendes

- Mark Rylance – “Bridge of Spies” as Rudolf Abel

- Sylvester Stallone – “Creed” as Rocky Balboa

Dark Horse: Jacob Tremblay – “Room” as Jack Newsome

Long Shot: Michael Shannon – “99 Homes” as Rick Carver

Considering how dramatically different the SAG and Golden Globes lists are, this category is a puzzle and is certainly the most competitive acting race. However, Rylance, Elba and Bale should have no trouble following up their SAG nominations for their standout roles. Expect Stallone’s inclusion based on his buzzy and heartfelt reprise of Rocky Balboa in “Creed.” He missed out on a SAG nomination, but the quality of his work and sentiment towards his long career should give him a nomination. While the large male ensemble in “Spotlight” hasn’t produced many individual acting nominations, it would be surprising if one member of the standout cast isn’t recognized. While Keaton is the veteran of the group and missed out on a Best Actor win last year, Ruffalo’s performance is the flashiest and as a result is the likeliest nominee.

A reappearance by nine-year old SAG nominee Tremblay would not be frowned upon, as he is the light at the heart of “Room.” Despite Shannon’s SAG and Golden Globe nominations and critical acclaim for “99 Homes,” it came and went too quietly — a standout performance in a movie seen by few could be nominated in such a competitive year.

Best Supporting Actress

- Rooney Mara – “Carol” as Therese Belivet

- Rachel McAdams – “Spotlight” as Sacha Pfeiffer

- Helen Mirren – “Trumbo” as Hedda Hopper

- Alicia Vikander – “The Danish Girl” as Gerda Wegener

- Kate Winslet – “Steve Jobs” as Joanna Hoffman

Dark Horse: Jennifer Jason Leigh – “The Hateful Eight” as Daisy Domergue

Long Shot: Alicia Vikander – “Ex Machina” as Ava

As mentioned earlier, this category ultimately depends on where Mara and Vikander end up. They both received SAG nominations for Supporting Actress but also received Best Actress nominations from the Golden Globes. Previous stars have campaigned for one category only to be nominated in another, such as when Kate Winslet campaigned for Supporting Actress in “The Reader,” but was nominated for Best Actress and won. Assuming they end up here, they will be the frontrunners. As for the other spots, Winslet should claim one for her wonderful work as Steve Jobs’s voice of reason. After her SAG nomination, McAdams should see more recognition as the sole female member of the Spotlight team. For the last spot, Mirren should repeat her SAG nomination for her fear-mongering portrayal of real-life Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in “Trumbo.”

Leigh stood out in a packed and colorful ensemble as outlaw Daisy domergue in “The Hateful Eight” and would be the biggest beneficiary of Mara and Vikander being bumped up to lead category. In a perfect world, Vikander would be nominated for her astonishing performance as Ava in “Ex Machina.” It was a role totally unlike any other in contention and would provide some great variety. However, she can only be nominated once per category, and her role in “The Danish Girl” has gotten more attention.

Best Original Screenplay

- “Bridge of Spies” – Matt Charman and Joel & Ethan Coen

- “The Hateful Eight” – Quentin Tarantino

- “Inside Out” – Pete Doctor, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley

- “Spotlight” – Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer

- “Straight Outta Compton” – Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff

Dark Horse: “Ex Machina” – Alex Garland

Long Shot: “Trainwreck” – Amy Schumer

Best Adapted Screenplay

- “The Big Short” – Adam McKay and Charles Randolph, based on “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis

- “Brooklyn” – Nick Hornby, based on “Brooklyn” by Colm Tóibín

- “The Martian” – Drew Goddard, based on “The Martian” by Andy Weir

- “Room” – Emma Donoghue, based on her book “Room”

- “Steve Jobs” – Aaron Sorkin, based on “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson

Dark Horse: “Carol” – Phyllis Nagy, based on “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith

Long Shot: “Trumbo” – John McNamara, based on “Dalton Trumbo” by Bruce Cook

Best Animated Feature

- “Anomalisa”

- “The Good Dinosaur”

- “Inside Out”

- “The Peanuts Movie”

- “Shaun the Sheep Movie”

Dark Horse: “When Marnie Was There”

Long Shot: “Minions”

Best Documentary Feature

- “Amy”

- “Cartel Land”

- “He Named Me Malala”

- “The Hunting Ground”

- “The Look of Silence”

Dark Horse: “What Happened, Miss Simone?”

Long Shot: “Best of Enemies”

Best Foreign Language Film

- “Embrace of the Serpent” – Colombia

- “Mustang” – France

- “Labyrinth of Lies” – Germany

- “Son of Saul” – Hungary

- “Theeb” – Jordan

Dark Horse: “The Brand New Testament” – Belgium

Long Shot: “A War” – Denmark

Best Visual Effects

- “Jurassic World”

- “Mad Max: Fury Road”

- “The Martian”

- “The Revenant”

- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Dark Horse: “Ex Machina”

Long Shot: “The Walk”

Best Original Score

- “Bridge of Spies”

- “Carol”

- “The Danish Girl”

- “The Hateful Eight”

- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Dark Horse: “Sicario”

Long Shot: “Steve Jobs”

Best Original Song

- “Love Me Like You Do” – from “Fifty Shades of Grey”

- “See You Again” – from “Furious 7”

- “Simple Song #3” – from “Youth”

- “Til It Happens to You” – from “The Hunting Ground”

- “Writing’s On the Wall” – from “Spectre”

Dark Horse: “Pray 4 My City” – from “Chi-Raq”

Long Shot: “Earned It” – from “Fifty Shades of Grey”

Best Sound Editing

- “Mad Max: Fury Road”

- “The Martian”

- “The Revenant”

- “Sicario”

- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Dark Horse: “Beasts of No Nation”

Long Shot: “Jurassic World”

Best Sound Mixing

- “Love & Mercy”

- “Mad Max: Fury Road”

- “The Martian”

- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

- “Straight Outta Compton”

Dark Horse: “The Revenant”

Long Shot: “Beasts of No Nation”

Best Film Editing

- “The Big Short”

- “Mad Max: Fury Road”

- “The Martian”

- “The Revenant”

- “Spotlight”

Dark Horse: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Long Shot: “Steve Jobs”

Best Cinematography

- “Carol”

- “Mad Max: Fury Road”

- “The Hateful Eight”

- “The Revenant”

- “Sicario”

Dark Horse: “The Martian”

Long Shot: “Creed”

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

- “Black Mass”

- “Mad Max: Fury Road”

- “The Revenant”

Dark Horse: “Mr. Holmes”

Long Shot: “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared”

Best Production Design

- “Bridge of Spies”

- “Cinderella”

- “Mad Max: Fury Road”

- “The Martian”

- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Dark Horse: “Brooklyn”

Long Shot: “The Danish Girl”

Best Costume Design

- “Brooklyn”

- “Carol”

- “Cinderella”

- “The Danish Girl”

- “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Dark Horse: “The Revenant”

Long Shot: “Trumbo”

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