They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?
The Revenant Leads Oscar Nominations
By J. Don Birnam
January 14, 2016

All my suffering better win me this Oscar.

After months of endless speculation, the Academy finally announced the nominees for the 88th Academy Awards of Merit. There were fewer surprises than in other years, to be honest. The Revenant led with a stunning 12 nominations, and is now clearly in a tight race with Spotlight, which also showed some muscle, for Best Picture.

If you follow us on Twitter , you saw some of the action as it happened live, including the Internet’s continued meltdown for Leonardo DiCaprio. Meanwhile, on Instagram, we’ve put up some pictures of the nominees.

The Best Picture Picture

In the end, the Academy made the world in eight pictures. I expected the first seven of them to be in: Spotlight, The Revenant, Mad Max, The Big Short, The Martian, Bridge of Spies, and Brooklyn. I thought the next two would be Straight Outta Compton (which missed despite PGA and SAG nods) and Carol (which, to be fair, had very little guild support). Alas, it was the Toronto winner Room that made it in. Despite the absolute lack of guild support, Room’s popularity could not be denied—as I said back in September, a TIFF People’s Choice winner almost always guarantees a slot here.

Who is in the lead? It is hard to tell. The Revenant and Mad Max lead the pack in terms of nominations (12 and nine apiece). Stunning even the wiliest of predictors, The Revenant received nods including editing, cinematography, art direction and even Visual Effects! On the other hand, The Revenant is lacking a key screenplay nod. Still, Alejandro González Iñárritu pulled it off last year without the supposedly crucial Best Editing nod. Indeed, the Screenplay races were way off from Best Picture - with Carol and Compton (as well as Inside Out, happily) finding space there despite missing for the top award. The voting system and the 5% threshold rule clearly have something to do with the misses for some movies.

Thus, I think Spotlight is right now the clear and unequivocal frontrunner. It checked all the boxes - Picture, Director, Screenplay, Writing, plus two acting awards, as well as editing. It has, in other words, support from the overwhelming majority of the main Academy, even if it does not have technical nods. It was never a tech-heavy movie, but many, including Crash, The Departed and Argo, have won under such circumstances.

The Martian, meanwhile, likely saw its Best Picture hopes end with the lack of a Best Director nod. The only thing that could revive it would be an Argo/Ben Affleck like-explosion of sympathy for the veteran who has never won an Oscar. He could then win the DGA and then the Best Picture Oscar.

The other big question mark is The Big Short. It seems to have cooled off a bit in the face of stiff competition. Will the Academy really go for the more comedic style? I have a hard time seeing them do this, particularly given some of the obvious editing errors in the picture.

And, alas, that was the end of the road for Star Wars hopefuls. The movie got five nominations, including a frankly very surprising Best Editing nod, but that was the end of the road for the movie there.

So, the guilds will have, as always, the final say. Starting with SAG in two weeks, then PGA followed by DGA, if something can win two out of three there, the race will be over. The SAG win seems assured for Spotlight at this point, and on the basis of that alone it is ahead.

Biggest Surprises and Snubs

In a show of strength, Spotlight took two supporting acting nods for Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo. In doing so, Ruffalo arguably took Idris Elba’s spot in a very tight category. Supporting Actress was a bit more confusing, probably allowing McAdams to get in. Not to be outdone, however, The Revenant also had its surprise acting nominee of its own: Tom Hardy made it in for his deserving performance, showing that the actors, along with the rest of the Academy, loved the movie.

The biggest story of the day, however, has to be the surprising inclusion of Lenny Abrahamson for directing Room in that category. We thought one DGA nominee would miss, and I even expected it to be Ridley Scott, but I did not expect it to be in favor of Room instead of Carol or Bridge of Spies. The Academy does not like Todd Haynes’ work, that is for sure.

Outside of that, I would argue there were relatively few surprises. I nailed Best Actor 5/5, and, as expected, The Danish Girl and Star Wars got a bunch of tech nods. Arguably, the very low showing for The Hateful Eight and Joy is somewhat stunning, though not really surprising given the tenor of those movies.

Nominees in Major Categories and Early Picks

The obvious early picks are DiCaprio and Larson for lead acting. Larson was happy that Vikander made it into supporting, and DiCaprio does not really have any viable competitor. The screenplay races also seem locked in favor of the two Best Picture contenders Spotlight and The Big Short.

You can check my predictions and laugh about how badly I did, here . Overall I got 74/106 in the main categories, which raises to 82 if you count my alternative picks. As usual, I got three or four of the tech races, and four or better in the major categories except Supporting Actor, where Hardy and Ruffalo both threw me.

Our full early Power Rankings in the major categories are here.

The Academy has provided a full list of nominees here . We will show you the only ones you are really interested in, below. Links to individual power rankings are also provided.

Best Picture
Spotlight(early pick)
The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Bridge of Spies

Best Director
Todd McCarthy – Spotlight(early pick)
Adam McKay – The Big Short
George Miller – Mad Max
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson – Room

Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant (early pick)
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
Matt Damon – The Martian
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

Best Actress
Brie Larson – Room (early pick)
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Cate Blanchett – Carol
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy

Best Supporting Actor
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies (early pick)
Sylvester Stallone – Creed
Christian Bale – The Big Short
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
Tom Hardy – The Revenant

Best Supporting Actress
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl (early pick)
Rooney Mara – Carol
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Rachel McAdams – Spotlight

Best Original Screenplay
Spotlight (early pick)
Bridge of Spies
Inside Out
Straight Outta Compton
Ex Machina

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Big Short (early pick)
The Martian

Best Foreign Language Film
Son of Saul (Hungary) (early pick)
Mustang (France)
A War (Denmark)
Theeb (Jordan)
Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia)
The leader is Son of Saul, of course, while the entire branch saved the nominating committee from itself by looking to two nominees outside of their usual Euro-centric nominations.

Best Documentary Feature Film
Amy (early pick)
The Look of Silence
Cartel Land
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire
I was surprised at the snub for the Marlon movie, but it seems as if the Indonesian genocide story will once again fall to a musical biopic, this time the acclaimed Amy Winehouse piece

Best Animated Feature Film
Inside Out (early pick)
Shaun The Sheep
Boy and the World
When Marnie Was Here
I went 3/5 again here, missing out on the most artsy picks in the end

Other Early Picks

Editing: Spotlight
Cinematography: The Revenant
Score: The Hateful Eight
Production Design: Mad Max
Sound Editing: Mad Max
Sound Mixing: Mad Max
Visual Effects: The Revenant
Costumes: The Danish Girl
Make Up: Mad Max

As in past years, we will have full awards and category-by-category coverage from now until February 28th. Welcome to the final stage.