Early Oscar Predictions, 2016

As most of you know, my first gig out of college was as a film critic, and since then I keep up with the field. So every year when the Oscar nominations come out I go ahead and make an early guess as to what’s the frontrunner for the statuette that year. It’s 2016, the Oscar nominations are out, let’s stop the filly-faddle and get to it.


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

As a general rule (Argo being a recent and notable exception), you can toss out the Best Picture nominees that don’t have an accompanying Best Director nomination, and this year I would definitely say that means so long to Brooklyn and Bridge of Spies. I’m hesitant to just chuck out The Martian, however. To be clear I think it’s a dark horse, but I’d be interested to see there’s any sort of groundswell of feeling for Ridley Scott. His movies are often nominated for (and even win) Best Picture, but he gets nominated for Best Director rather less so. If there’s a sense this year he needs to be recognized, it’s possible this movie has a chance, as he’s a nominated producer this year. See, again, Argo, and Ben Affleck. But again: Probably a dark horse.

(Note to the Academy: Give Scott an honorary Oscar, already. You can’t say he hasn’t earned it at this point.)

Of the remainder I think The Big Short is probably out first as the comedy (comedies tend not to do well in Oscar races), probably Mad Max next, although it’s my favorite, and then at this point it’s three-way between Spotlight, Room and The Revenant, with the twist being last year’s Best Picture and Best Director win were for Birdman and Alejandro G. Iñárritu, and it would be very unusual for the Academy to award a Best Picture to the same director back-to-back. Not impossible but unusual.

Put a gun to my head and at this moment I would nudge toward Spotlight, because it’s weighty, historical and has a great ensemble cast. But this is one of those times where I think you have to wait to see how things shake out.

My Bet: Spotlight
My Choice: Mad Max: Fury Road



The Big Short, Adam McKay  
Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller
The Revenant, Alejandro G. Iñárritu  
Room, Lenny Abrahamson  
Spotlight, Tom McCarthy

See above. Generally — but not always, and less in recent years — the Director nod is paired with the Picture nod, so depending on how things sort out, Iñárritu, Abrahamson and McCarthy are all in the running. Plus there’s a wrinkle, as I see it: As noted, the Academy is less fussy in recent years about pairing Director and Picture, and I think there’s some high regard for George Miller out there. He’s had a film nominated before as a producer (Babe, if you can believe it), won for an animated film (Happy Feet(!)) and otherwise had a career that’s best described as delightfully eclectic. Even though I think Mad Max is not a likely winner, it’s possible Miller sneaks in, and reasonably so, because Max is a hell of an impressive directorial effort.

Otherwise, you got me. The only one I’m certain is in the “just happy to be here” boat is Adam McKay; otherwise it’s up in the air for now. Right now, my very super mega tenuous nod is to McCarthy, but I’m not putting any money on it. We’ll have to see.

My Bet: McCarthy
My Choice: Miller



Cate Blanchett, Carol  
Brie Larson, Room  
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy  
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years  
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Saorise Ronan’s well-regarded and I see more opportunities in the future for her, but I’m not entirely sure Brooklyn is the right vehicle for Oscar gold. Charlotte Rampling must have been delighted to hear the news and it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility that she’s a winner, but she’s been out of Hollywood in any significant way for a while now. Cate Blanchett is becoming the new Meryl Streep and won very recently. Jennifer Lawrence will take up the Meryl Streep role should Blanchett falter.

Meanwhile there’s been a whole lot of love (not to mention a Golden Globe win) for Larson in Room, and the thought is that the Oscars is hers to lose this year. I’m inclined to agree; there’s also the wrinkle that it’s possible this will be Room’s Oscar, i.e., the one given to the film so the Academy voters feel fine about skipping over it in other categories. Which is good for Spotlight and The Revenant.

My Bet: Larson
My Choice: Larson



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

Redmayne won last year and Tom Hanks aside, I suspect the Academy is not keen on back-to-back awards in this category. Fassbender’s problem is his film was a flop. Damon I suspect will have to be happy with a Golden Globe. For my money it’s down to Cranston and DiCaprio, and who will win will depend on whether voters want to rub out the stain of the Blacklist from its history by celebrating by proxy its most famous victim (and, to be sure, Cranston’s fine performance), or give DiCaprio the Al Pacino Memorial Academy Award for Being Nominated a Lot So Fine, Here You Go Already. My money is on DiCaprio — hell, I want him to win myself! — but don’t count Cranston out.

My Bet: DiCaprio
My Choice: DiCaprio



Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol  
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight  
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Alicia Vikander is have a very nice year between The Danish Girl and Ex Machina (let’s quickly slide by The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), and I think the nomination itself is the topping on this particular cake. Likewise a very nice career bump for McAdams, who is moving to more Oscar-friendly roles in her career. Winslet has the same problem to a win that Fassbender has. For my money the race is between Leigh and Mara and which film the Academy decides it wants to honor more. I’d vote for Leigh, personally; I suspect the Academy might go the other way. Which is fine!

Also note: This is the category I historically have the worst luck in guessing, so maybe you should ignore me here.

My Bet: Mara
My Choice: Leigh



Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight  
Mark Rylance, Bridge Of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Look, I’m just going to toss everyone else off the side and say that I will be stunned as fuck if this doesn’t go to Stallone. At this point, it’s the “I Survived Everything And Am Still Around And You Just Have To Honor That” award, and why not. Also, you know. Rocky Balboa. And Creed was otherwise generally stiffed, so this will be a fine tip of the hat to that film.

And yes, we can have the discussion of why only Stallone is nominated in Creed, particularly in a year where there are very few people of color in major award categories (and none in the acting categories) — and should, because damn, Oscar, you really kind of showed your cranky whiteness this year. In this particular case, however, it’s worth nothing that there is literally no path to Creed without Rocky Balboa, and Stallone. While not disagreeing with the general side-eye being given to the Oscars this year at all, I think the Stallone nomination stands on its own merits. He should win this, period.

My Bet: Stallone
My Choice: Stallone

Thoughts in other categories: There’s no way Inside Out doesn’t win Best Animated, and delighted to see it get an Original Screenplay nod as well. On the topic of screenplays, if Spotlight wins the Original Screenplay award, that may be director Tom McCarthy’s Compensatory Oscar, given to directors who don’t get the Director award (see: Tarantino, Welles, Jane Campion, etc). Don’t feel too bad for him; an Oscar’s an Oscar. Suspect The Hateful Eight might win cinematography, not only for its own merits but also for Robert Richardson working with lenses they literally had to dust off to use. Finally, I don’t think I’ll be wrong in thinking that the Academy will find the combination of Diane Warren and Lady Gaga too tempting to resist for Best Original Song (“Til it Happens to You”).

Those are my first-pass guesses. As always, I’ll check in closer to the actual ceremony date with updates. In the meantime, head to the comments to tell me how wrong I am.

49 Comments on “Early Oscar Predictions, 2016”

  1. I am inclined to disagree on the cinematography choice – Mad Max was so visually overwhelming that I think it is apt to take that, as well as the VFX, editing, and sound design statuettes for which it was nominated, especially if Miller & Co. don’t get one of the biggies.

  2. I’d love to hear which movies/actors/etc you think SHOULD have been nominated since it’s clear that persons of color weren’t even considered (again) this year.

  3. Ex Machina was my favorite movie of the year and I and would like to see its brilliant original screenplay honored. (And speaking of Alicia Vikander, I adored The Man From U.N.C.L.E.)

  4. With regard to UNCLE, the issue is not whether it was a good film (or if she was good in it) but that it was a big ol’ flop which did no one in it any good, career-wise.

  5. This seems entirely reasonable to me as a first pass based on the ones that I’ve seen already and the academy’s history. Out of curiosity, John, how many of these have you seen yourself already? Do you make a point of watching the Best Picture nominees that you missed before the awards like a lot of people do?

  6. OK, that’s a fair point about UNCLE being a flop (which I caught up with recently and is delightful).

  7. I hadn’t even realized that was Vikander in both Ex Machina and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. She did a fantastic job in both roles (I haven’t seen The Danish Girl yet,but I imagine she excelled there as well). I think they’ll split the Picture/Director wins this year and Romero gets the Director and maybe Spotlight for the Picture. I’d say I think your other analysis is pretty spot on too.

  8. How is Mad Max not up for Best Original Score? The movie wouldn’t have been what it was without that score.

  9. Witness the Oscars! So Shiny, So Chrome.

    Loved the Mad Max nominations, really hoping it pulls off best picture this year, but I have my doubts, people who hate that movie, really really hate it and find it grating.

    My bet is it sweeps the technical categories, maybe a best director win for Miller and then it loses in best picture to something more traditional, probably the Revenant. But I hope I’m wrong.

  10. “in a year where there are very few people of color in major award categories (and none in the acting categories) — and should, because damn, Oscar, you really kind of showed your cranky whiteness this year.”

    How much of this do you think is because of the Academy, and how much do you think it’s Hollywood’s fault for not making more movies with non-white actors and actresses?

  11. While we’re talking about the lack of any people of color in the acting categories, can we also talk about Charlize Theron getting snubbed? She should have gotten nominated for Best Actress (not Best Supporting, as she was the real protagonist of the film). Genre films often have a hard time getting Oscar attention. Even the LoTR trilogy, which won eleven Oscars for its third film, got only one nomination for acting, and that was for the first film. How Sean Astin and Andy Serkis didn’t get nominated for the next two films, I will never understand.

  12. I’m pleased to see Saoirse Ronan getting some coverage. She’s been really good for a long time. Watching Americans fumble around her name is pretty amusing as well. :)

  13. Quick note: typo in the “Thoughts in other categories” paragraph, “Don’t feel TOO bad for him…”

    Otherwise looks like a decent list. I actually haven’t really been going to the movies a lot this year and I haven’t seen most of these films. It would be great to see The Martian (and by extension Ridley Scott) take home something, but I’m not holding my breath. SF’s Oscar wins are usually hard-earned, and smart money’s on Mad Max over The Martian.

    Besides, I feel like Mad Max deserves it more. Though ostensibly part of a franchise, it’s a completely unique take and story for that particular universe. The Martian is artfully done and had me on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next, even though I’d read the book a few times before… but it was a book first. Adaptational qualities are important to consider, but I feel like comparing an adaptation against an original film (even if it’s part of a franchise) should probably weigh the original more favorably.

    That’s just me, though, and I know nothing of film criticism.

  14. I’m hopeful for The Martian winning best adapted screenplay. To be fair, I haven’t seen the competition (I don’t see that many movies and those tend to be geekish in nature) – but most movies adapted from books I love require me to say “Movie different from book, accept the differences and enjoy it as its own work”. The Martian felt like the book (other than having Commander Lewis channel her inner Kirk at the end), really good job of bringing the book to life.

  15. Do you mean that Stallone is a person of colour? Isn’t his family from Italy? I don’t really understand this part, perhaps because I’m not American.

  16. @AnnaH: Creed is notable as a film in which several actors of colour, in particular Michael B. Jordan, are generally considered to have turned in Oscar-worthy performances. The fact that Sly – worthy though he is – is the only person associated with the film to get a nod in a major category is this year’s most notable symptom of the Academy’s tendency to shit on non-white actors in general.

  17. I can’t stand watching commercials, which makes the theatre-going experience pretty much unbearable. That and skyrocketing ticket prices. As such, I’m way behind in seeing nearly all of these movies.

    As a SF writer and lifelong fan, as well as a feminist, I suppose the checkboxes should point to my favoring Mad Max, but I have to say that movie left me flat, and I would rank it somewhere just above Thunderdome in that series. Great performances (and I’m a huge fan of , but a thin story with a lot of and then, and then, and then.

    Of the other Best Picture nominees, the only other I’ve seen is The Martian, which was enjoyable, if a bit by the numbers. Matt Damon carried that movie, but the supporting cast also brought a lot to the tale.

    My big disappointment is that Ex Machina wasn’t even nominated. That was a disturbing, thought provoking movie that challenged assumptions about intelligence, humanity, empathy, the male gaze, patriarchy, sexual obsession … and Alicia Vikander was simply sensational in it. (Is her performance in The Danish Girl that much better?)

    The absence of color and queerness, especially in the Best Picture noms, is disappointing, but I chalk that up as a reflection of the old white men who dominate the voting. Interesting how, for example, Carol gets Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara noms, along with screenplay and art categories, but this “woman’s film” doesn’t rate for Best Picture or Best Director. (Also interesting that Mara, who plays the main character in the original book, gets relegated to supporting actress. I guess that’s a result of the balance of star power.)

    With two empty slots in potential Best Picture nods, I wonder what happened to lead to these omissions. I guess it’s an Old Man’s Awards.

  18. Of all of the films in the categories under discussion, I have seen only two: Creed and The Martian. I think Damon was fine in The Martian, and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, but there were one or two directorial, screenwriting, and/or acting choices that took it out of Best Picture or Best Actor territory for me.

    Of course, I generally have no interest in seeing the thing that eventually wins Best Picture … since 2001, of the winners I’ve only seen Chicago, Slumdog Millionaire, The Artist, and Argo.

    As to Mr. Stallone, I was genuinely impressed with the performance and would be very happy for him to win.

  19. I completely agree that Sly should get the Oscar. He’s just fricken amazing! As for the whiteness of the Oscar noms this year, it’s a puzzle and should be interesting with Chris Rock hosting the awards. It’s sad though that we even notice color. I share MLK’s dream, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I hope in my lifetime I get to live in a colorblind world.

    Karen aka Kacy Jey Author of Jolene, You’re Not a Monster

  20. Not much to argue with here, though I’m rooting for George Miller for Best Director; Fury Road is a pure blast of insanity.

  21. How do you feel about the lack of diversity in these nominations and in the movies in general? It actually really bothers me and I feel like the offers are becoming very boring.

  22. Having seen not a single one of these, I must ask WHERE IS STAR WARS?!??! Huh?!?! (I’m kidding, that seems to be a consistent all caps comment on every Oscar story so far, now that it has been done maybe no one else will feel the need to replicate it here)

  23. Well, Scott is responsible for GI Jane, and I think it’s too early to forgive him. Also other terrible movies (Prometheus, ahem), and the Blade Runner Directors cut that is way inferior to the original. So no, I hope he gets nothing for a while longer.

  24. How much of this do you think is because of the Academy, and how much do you think it’s Hollywood’s fault for not making more movies with non-white actors and actresses?

    A bit of both. Hollywood and theatre simply don’t consider actors of color for leading roles. Both NY and LA don’t cast actors of color unless the script specifically says they are. And when they do manage to get meaty roles, I have a feeling the powers that be underrate them. The noms for CREED and OUT OF COMPTON were for the most part for the white artists, even though these two pictures are in Oscar favored genres.

    (And for the record….I’m getting a little sick of people saying we shouldn’t notice color. Sorry, but if you don’t notice my friend’s black and I’m Asian, I gotta wonder about your observational skill…and if you don’t notice all of the baggage that color gives to people (like the additional fear black men get), then I don’t think you’re being helpful at all. And that’s something Martin Luther King Jr. (the real one, not the mythic one) would try to point out)

  25. As someone who lived in Boston at the time Spotlight covers, I was blown away about how well they portrayed the city (and should get an award for not mangling accents!!!) My journalist friends say it’s also a very accurate portrayal of journalism.

    As to Room – it was a fantastic movie. I wish the actor who played the young boy had gotten a nod, because he did an amazing job. It felt like watching him live the events in real life – an exceptional even for someone much older than him.

  26. I’m disappointed that Crimson Peak didn’t get any more in the technical categories. It was, by far, the most visually striking movie I saw last year.

  27. Yes, can we hear more love for Room? That was an amazingly powerful film.
    I agree, the kids performance was astonishing.

  28. John – any thoughts on increasing the number of allowed nominees in the other major categories? Looking at Best Picture recently it’s apparent that there are often more than 5 worthy contenders and I wonder if that’s generally true for other categories too. At the least, it would reduce even further the wiggle room for excluding PoC nominees.

  29. Only real thought I have is that Anomalisa might be a dark horse in Animation because of Charlie Kaufman, but in general the Academy treats that particular Oscar as the Pixar Award.

    I honestly think they should consider retiring that Oscar; it’s clear the Academy isn’t ever going to have the expertise to judge animation, so why pretend they do? No-one begrudges them for not having a Best Videogame award.

  30. I think Miller should definitely take Best Director – Fury Road was one of the only movies where I’ve actually noticed and appreciated the quality of the *direction*, as opposed to the acting or special effects or music or whatever. It was really well paced.

    As for others, I don’t know enough to say.

  31. @Merus It’s less that the academy favors PIxar and more that the award generally goes to whichever film grossed the most domestically. So, yeah. Inside Out has it in the bag.

    The nomination process for animated films is far more interesting than the actual win. They selected a good slate this year.

  32. The Academy tends to snub films about black people that aren’t about racism or civil rights, which reveals a lot about how white people who think they’re progressive think about race in America, I guess. Straight Outta Compton and Creed both deserved some nominations for their directors and lead actors. Might not win, but a nod was deserved, even though they weren’t about magical blacks helping white people become better humans.

    Also, I think the Revenant is being really overhyped. It’s okay. It’s not one of the best movies produced this year.

  33. I will be very disappointed (although not necessarily surprised) if ‘The Martian’ doesn’t take home Best Adapted Screenplay. As one of millions who loved the book I was thoroughly satisfied with the movie and considered it essentially a textbook for ‘how to adapt a book to the screen’. Although it does help I suppose that book was pretty much gift-wrapped for a screenwriter.

    Re ‘not seeing colour’ – MLK said he hoped people would not be *judged* by the colour of their skin, not that it would be ignored altogether. Race/ethnicity/cultural background is part of everyone’s identity, including myself as a whitey-mcwhite. To say that you want ignore a part of someone’s identity almost says that you consider it something dangerous or shameful.

    To me an ideal world is not one where we have to ignore our differences to perceive each other as human but one where we recognise and celebrate our differences as part of what *makes* us human. To see that someone is of different skin colour/gender identity/region/political stripe/musical taste to yourself and say “you are a human being and I respect you” is the ultimate triumph of rationalism and human ethics over tribalism and ego.

  34. Re: Laura Lis Scott, I agree, Ex Machina is unjustly overlooked. It’s a great movie, evenly made. I wonder why it had such bad luck. I’m no insider of all things Oscar, so I am truly puzzled.

  35. I’m curious which Pixar winners people thought were undeserved. It seems like their weaker movies don’t get nominated and while the studio dominates the category, it’s not a given that they will win.

  36. I really enjoyed Man from UNCLE and personally think the soundtrack deserved an oscar nod. Costume design was quite nice, too…but Mad Max deserves that, regardless (and if they give it to yet another British period-piece…well…).

    I have no idea about Creed (since I haven’t seen it), but I wonder if the reason that “Straight Outta Compton” didn’t get nominated due to the concerns over its content…or rather how it glosses over elements of the past, like the accusations of misogyny and violence against women. I suspect many voters avoided nominating it for that very reason. Skipping Creed seems like a mistake, if Jordan’s performance was worthy.

    Obviously part of the problem is the diversity (or lack thereof) of the Academy voters. They need to address that as part of the issue if they wish the Oscars to remain relevant.

  37. I’d looooove to see Mad Max sweep the board, but I have a sneaking suspicion it’ll lose best picture/director to something boring and more Oscar friendly (i.e. “Two and a half hours of Leo wading through rivers.” Ex Machina definitely should have been more widely recognized, especially in the acting categories, so hopefully it’ll take best screenplay as a consolation.

    Given that Max and The Martian got a decent amount of love, I can’t say that Star Wars got genre snubbed. It’s an awesome movie for sure, but the only (HUGE) thing it really excelled at was being a great Star Wars movie. I’m sure Disney will be happy to settle for its truck-loads of cash.

    And oscarsowhite two years running is a damn embarrassment.

  38. You know what, I just realized that we *did* see “Ex Machina.” I’m sorry, I kind of hated it (except that SPOILER ALERT she gets away in the end, which I did not expect) which is probably why I did a brain-wipe right after. The rest of it was (IMO) both predictable and a really repugnant treatment of the captive-woman trope.

  39. Is The Big Short a comedy? If so, it’s a drama-tragi-comedy. Like, the kind of comedy where you feel so depressed and rage-filled that all you can do is laugh. It’s a comedy in about the same way that The Wolf of Wall Street is a comedy, except that it features protagonists who are marginally less monstrous than Leo’s character in TWoWS. It won’t win the Oscar because it hasn’t had much exposure and because it’s necessarily didactic given the subject matter and because it’s filmed idiosyncratically. Not because it’s a comedy.

  40. Ok, so whats the deal with the bleach white oscars? Is everyone who votes white? I dont even know how one gets picked to vote. Is it just institutional lag?

    I dont go to many movies, so I dont even know what the people had to choose from for movies. Do they usually pick from like the top 10 money makers for the year? If so, was the top ten money maker movies all white last year? I just dont even.

  41. I nearly walked out of The Revenant. Gritty realism, combined with a character who could be in a marvel comic. The “Unbelievable Survival Man”. Couldn’t suspend my disbelief. They also could have cut about 20 minutes of stunning, but redundant landscape footage. Great start, great finish, the middle was a mess. Leo was great.

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