When the 88th Academy Award Nominees are announced on Thursday, we will officially be just over one month away from the big night. Since our last update on the Oscar race, we’ve seen the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild announce nominees for the best of 2015, while The Revenant won big at the Golden Globes.
Whether you’re a devoted Oscar-watcher who keeps close eye on the race–participates in office pools and hosts the party every year–or the cynical type who insists it all comes down to which studio was willing to pump the most money into marketing campaigns and swanky screening parties, the Academy Awards undeniably influence the course of the film industry for months, if not years, down the line. Every year, careers are coronated and trends are established. Like it or not, the Oscars can make a difference.
The 88th Academy Awards will take place on February 28th, with host Chris Rock.
We’ve tallied up the major award wins (W) and nominations (N) that have been announced in the awards season thus far to give you a sense of where the year’s most critically praised films currently stand.
* denotes a 2016 Golden Globe win
George Miller, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD – 20W – 12N
Thomas McCarthy, SPOTLIGHT – 5W – 20N
Todd Haynes, CAROL – 4W – 16N
* Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, THE REVENANT – 4W – 18N
Ridley Scott, THE MARTIAN – 3W – 17N
These five directors seem to be the most likely to fill out this category, with few others earning quite as much universal praise over the course of 2015. Ridley Scott, who has had a series of misfires in recent years, came roaring back to life with the crowd-pleasing The Martian, while long-respected veteran Todd Haynes made what many believe to be his best–and most accessible–film in ages. George Miller is probably the category’s ‘underdog’, leaving Spotlight director Tom McCarthy–who managed to make a movie about journalism and pedophilia both exciting and uplifting–and The Revenant’s Inarritu, who won for last year’s Birdman. Inarritu may now be the favorite to repeat in this category after taking home the award for Best Director at this year’s Golden Globes.
* Leonardo DiCaprio, THE REVENANT – 18W – 14N
Michael Fassbender, STEVE JOBS – 7W – 17N
* Matt Damon, THE MARTIAN – 2W – 16N
Bryan Cranston, TRUMBO – 1W – 15N
Eddie Redmayne, THE DANISH GIRL – 0W – 14N
Is it Leo’s year? That’s the big question of the 88th Academy Awards. But Bryan Cranston could get a win just going off of the love, respect and good-will he earned through his run on AMC’s Breaking Bad. Eddie Redmayne was an early favorite, but it would be surprising to see such a young actor take home the trophy two years in a row. That said, he’s earning rave reviews for another challenging performance that is undeniably incredible–not to mention Oscar-baity–which means he become the first actor since Tom Hanks to take home back-to-back Best Actor statues (Hanks pulled this off in the early nineties for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump). Michael Fassbender’s uncompromising portrait of Steve Jobs and Matt Damon’s intensely, and hilariously, human performance should secure their nominations, but the Academy could shake things up by rewarding Johnny Depp for his Whitey Bulger in Black Mass or Will Smith for his timely depiction of Dr. Bennet Omalu in Concussion.
With the exception of Brie Larson and Cate Blanchett, the rest of the category is up in the air. Alicia Vikander and Rooney Mara are both technically leads in their films, but so far, they’ve been pushed to supporting roles in the early awards season. Despite lackluster critical response to Joy, Jennifer Lawrence seems to be that film’s saving grace–and she took home another Golden Globe this year–while Carey Mulligan gives an excellent performance in Suffragette, though few have actually seen it. The early-touted Emily Blunt could still get a nom for Sicario, while Lily Tomlin’s performance in Grandma is still getting the iconic actress plenty of love. And leaving room for a possible upset in this category: Bel Powley could get a nomination for Diary of a Teenage Girl.
Best Supporting Actor
Whether enough voters have seen Dano’s Love & Mercy or Shannon’s 99 Homes will determine their fate, but Mark Rylance is probably the best chance Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies has to pick up an Oscar. Mark Ruffalo has gained steam for Spotlight, a bigger performance than his co-stars Michael Keaton and Liev Schrieber. Christian Bale’s work in The Big Short has had critics split, and will likely do the same for Oscar voters. And never count out Sylvester Stallone, who won a Golden Globe for his reprisal of Rocky Balboa in Creed–though who can say how much of that HFPA love exists among Oscar voters.
Best Supporting Actress
Alicia Vikander, THE DANISH GIRL / EX MACHINA – 15W – 11N
Rooney Mara, CAROL – 4W – 18N
Jennifer Jason Leigh, THE HATEFUL EIGHT – 3W – 16N
Kristen Stewart, CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA – 6W – 16N
* Kate Winslet, STEVE JOBS – 2W – 18N
Vikander and Mara are almost guaranteed nominations here–assuming, that is, they’re not bumped up to the more crowded Best Actress field. Jennifer Jason Leigh’s comeback role in The Hateful Eight is spurring plenty of buzz, and Kristen Stewart seems to have finally stepped out from the shadow of Twilight to deliver a performance that many insist is the best of the year in Clouds of Sils Maria. Kate Winslet, who won for Best Actress for The Reader in 2009, could sneak in with her chameleon-esque performance in Steve Jobs. But here’s an odd bit of trivia–because an actor cannot be nominated twice in the same category, Vikander and her reps are undoubtedly calculating for which of her two breakout performances they should lobby. Do they push for The Danish Girl or the lesser-seen, and therefore riskier, role in Ex Machina make Supporting Actress? It’s a tricky, but crucial, calculation that should be interesting to watch. From the Academy Awards Rules, Rule Six, paragraph 5 (oscars.org):
In the event that two achievements by an actor or actress receive sufficient votes to be nominated in the same category, only one shall be nominated using the preferential tabulation process and such other allied procedures as may be necessary to achieve that result.
Best Original Screenplay
Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy’s script for Spotlight is the hands-down favorite at this point, although Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay for The Hateful Eight actually made headlines long before the film even came out (remember that whole thing about the script leaking and QT threatening to never make the movie? Yeah, about that…). Alex Garland’s Ex Machina certainly impressed critics and audiences alike, but this is the category where the Academy tends to actually honor comedies for once, and Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck could be this year’s Bridesmaids–at least as far as original screenplays are concerned.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Aaron Sorkin, who previously won this category for The Social Network, could make a run for his script for Steve Jobs. Although the film underperformed at the box office, Sorkin won a Golden Globe for the script. The Big Short, based on Michael Lewis’s book, saw Adam McKay somehow convince audiences to root against the global economy, and Room pulled off a Carol is certainly a strong contender here, but if the Academy shuts out The Martian in other categories, it’s very likely Drew Goddard, who masterfully handled Andy Weir’s science-jargon filled novel with deft and seeming ease to make a crowd-pleasing adventure, will walk away with Oscar gold.
SPOTLIGHT – 23W – 18N
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD – 10W – 23N
* THE MARTIAN – 2W – 22N
CAROL – 2W – 23N
* THE REVENANT – 1W – 17N
ROOM – 0W – 12N
THE BIG SHORT – 0W – 10N
* INSIDE OUT – 0W – 13N
BROOKLYN – 0W – 14N
SICARIO – 0W – 15N
Spotlight, The Martian, The Revenant, and Carol appear to be the shoe-ins for the Best Picture category, and despite Mad Max: Fury Road’s unrelenting, bombastic action–something stuffier Academy voters would typically thumb their noses at–it has performed too well early on to simply be ignored. And if that’s true, Fury Road would certainly be one of the most unorthodox choices in recent memory. Pixar’s Inside Out will obviously make the Best Animated Feature category, if not dominate it, but whether or not it’s rare blend of powerful insight and brilliant humor will push it into the Best Picture category remains to be seen. The recent critical response to The Big Short and its powerful ensemble seem to suggest its nomination is all but secure, while Room and Sicario’s September release dates–a distant memory given the incredibly crowded December field–could impact their chances of landing a coveted Best Picture nomination come tomorrow.
Straight Outta Compton has made a massive push during the campaign season, but has failed to gain much traction. The Danish Girl, Joy, and Black Mass are all still in contention (perhaps in that order) for a remaining spot in the Best Picture category. Tarantino’s Western hasn’t performed as well as some had expected, both with audiences and critics.
Sources: Hollywood Stock Exchange, MetaCritic, Rotten Tomatoes, IMDBPro