They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

Final Oscar Nominations Predictions

By J. Don Birnam

January 12, 2016

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The moment of truth is finally upon us. The major guilds have all spoken. Now it’s the turn of the mother of them all. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences will reveal the nominees for the 88th Annual Academy Awards of Merit on Thursday morning, and the third and final phase of the awards season will be under way. I’ll be live blogging the nominations on Twitter and Instagram, as usual. And here is the last complete set of power rankings of the pre-nominations phase. Individual links are provided in each major category as well.

Globes and DGA: Final Precursors

Although the DGA nominees and Globes winners can’t affect the Oscar nominations (voting for those closed before the former two were announced), they do tell us where the industry is going, sort of. As I mentioned in my Golden Globes predictions, the Globes have diminished predictive value for several reasons. This year, it was clear to me that they were playing catch-up to the Oscars by showering praise on Alejandro González Iñárritu and his film The Revenant, which they did not do last year. Thus, my prediction for him to win Director at the Globe panned out where others considered it a surprise. Still, I did not see the film ousting Spotlight for the main prize. On the other hand, the wins at the Globes for Brie Larson and Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead drama acting races do show us that they are the ones to beat this year. Elsewhere, Stallone won the first round in Supporting Actor, even though he did not get a SAG or BAFTA nomination, which means that race will remain tight.

Meanwhile, the Directors Guild of America announced their five nominees this year as the five I expected them to: Spotlight, Big Short, Martian, Mad Max, and Revenant. The Oscars lineup tends to be identical or 4/5, except that crazy Argo year where the Academy went elsewhere. And, the winner of the DGA tends to win the Oscar, except, again, in that wacky Argo year. I'm guessing this year may be a 5/5 year, unless Carol sneaks in--but who would Todd Haynes knock out?

Oscar nominations predictions

I can guarantee you one thing and one thing only about Thursday’s nominations: the Academy always has surprises up its sleeve. Critics pick movies they like and help focus Academy voters into what movies to see. But what they like is always different than what the critics and guilds like. Most main races always have one or two nominees that few people see coming. In that way, the nominations are more fun and suspenseful than the eventual and much more predictable winners.

Here are my nominees in 21 categories (all but the shorts), as well as a summary of what guilds have given out awards or nominations to which movies. This summary helped me reach my predictions for the Best Picture nominees. I assigned arbitrary weights to each guild, giving more importance to the major ones - Producers, Directors, and Screen Actors. The Writers’ Guild is also important, but with the lack of eligibility for some key scripts, the predictions are more skewed. As you can see, only The Big Short and Spotlight scored with all major guilds, and will battle it out for Best Picture to the last moment. If you go by my numbers, you are all but guaranteed to miss out on one or two Best Picture nominees - for example, Room has not done well at all with the guilds, placing lower than Star Wars, but is still very much a crowd-pleaser that can very much get in.

The question remains whether we will have 10, as I discussed a while back, or whether given the crowded field of potential nominees, there will be fewer because fewer movies will reach that 5% threshold in the first rounds needed to stay alive. I’m still saying 10.


Best Foreign Language Film
Son of Saul (Hungary)
Mustang (France)
Labyrinth of Lies (Germany)
Viva (Ireland)
A War (Denmark)
Alt: Theeb (Jordan)

Best Documentary Feature Film
The Look of Silence
Cartel Land
Listen to Me, Marlon
Heart of a Dog
Alt: Where To Invade Next

Best Make-Up And Hairstyling
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Black Mass
Alt: Carol

Best Visual Effects
Star Wars
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Walk
The Martian
Jurassic World
Alt: Ant-Man

Best Sound Mixing
Star Wars
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Straight Outta Compton
Love & Mercy
Alt: The Revenant

Best Sound Editing
Star Wars
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
The Hateful Eight
Alt: Sicario

Best Original Song
Simple Song #3 – Youth
See You Again – Furious 7
So Long – Concussion
Writing's on the Wall – Spectre
Waiting for My Moment – Creed
Alt: Love me Like you do – Fifty Shades of Grey

Best Original Score
The Hateful Eight
The Danish Girl
Star Wars
Alt: Bridge of Spies

Best Costume Design
Crimson Peak
The Danish Girl
Alt: Mad Max

Best Production Design
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
The Martian
Crimson Peak
Star Wars
Alt: Bridge of Spies

Best Cinematography
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Bridge of Spies
Alt: The Hateful Eight

Best Film Editing
The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Steve Jobs
Alt: The Martian

Best Animated Feature Film
Inside Out
Shaun The Sheep
The Peanuts Movie

Best Original Screenplay
Bridge of Spies
Straight Outta Compton
The Hateful Eight
Alt: Joy

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Big Short
The Martian
Steve Jobs
Alt: Anomalisa

Best Supporting Actor
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone – Creed
Christian Bale – The Big Short
Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation
Paul Dano – Love & Mercy
Alt: Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight

Best Supporting Actress
Rooney Mara – Carol
Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Helen Mirren – Trumbo
Alt: Kristen Stewart – The Clouds of Sils Maria
This is a nutty category because we don’t know where they will put Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander for their performances—so the entirety of the category is really up for grabs

Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
Matt Damon – The Martian
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl
Alt: Michael B. Jordan – Creed

Best Actress
Brie Larson – Room
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Cate Blanchett – Carol
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
Alt: Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
I’m going out on a crazy limb and predicting Lawrence to miss out and Rampling to somehow make it despite missing at SAG, Globes, and BAFTA. Crazier stuff has happened

Best Director
Todd McCarthy – Spotlight
Adam McKay – The Big Short
Ridley Scott – The Martian
George Miller – Mad Max
Alejandro González Iñárritu – The Revenant
Alt: Todd Haynes – Carol

Best Picture
The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Bridge of Spies
Straight Outta Compton
Alt: Star Wars
Star Wars actually has a lot more guild support than I thought, including a stunning nomination by the Editors. The Academy knows it has broken all records, and may feel the need to nominate it if only for ratings boost. Again, crazier stuff has happened.

Check back for a nominations post-mortem.

Major Guild Nominations 2015-2016
Weighed Chances
Big Short X X X X X X X 85%
Spotlight X X X X X X 79.5%
Revenant X X X X X X X X X 72%
Martian X X X X X X X X 66%
Mad Max X X X X X X X X X 65%
Bridge of Spies X X X X X X X 54.5%
Compton X X X 50%
Sicario X X X X X 45%
Trumbo X X X X 31%
Brooklyn X X 28%
Carol X X X X X 26.5%
Beasts of No Nation X X 20.5%
Star Wars X X X X X 16.5%
Trainwreck X X X 15%
Joy X X X X 13.5%
Room X 2%



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