2016 Academy Awards Nominations Predictions: Anything goes?

This is the toughest year to predict in recent memory

The halfway point in the race for Oscar is officially here. The Academy will reveal the nominations for the 88th Academy Awards tomorrow morning and you can almost guarantee there will be a significant jaw-dropping nominee or omission in a major category. It’s probably the only thing we can safely predict in this year of award season twist and turns.

Predicting this year’s nominees was harder than I can ever remember and I’ve been on this beat for quite awhile. That hasn’t taken the fun out of it, but it’s absolutely made it more nerve wracking. Still, let’s focus on the Best Picture field for just a moment. It’s evident that there is a lot of support for a lot of films among the guilds this season. Some other pundits have speculated this means only a few nominees will make the field, but my instinct is that it will actually bring us back to nine nominees as too many pictures have passionate pockets of support (I’m not convinced 10 can occur with the current tabulation system, however). And, obviously, a number of worthy films will miss out (more than usual). A slight tease before you reach the end of this post, “Carol,” “Room,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Inside Out” are all borderline Best Picture nominees this year (scary, isn’t it?).

The other difficulty with predicting this has been with regard to the acting categories. By now there is usually one category that is too close to call and the other three are pretty easy to guess. That’s certainly not the case this year. While there is some consensus on the frontrunners for Leading Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Lead Actress (Brie Larson), the other players in the four races could line up in a multitude of different scenarios. This is partially due to category confusion, but also many contenders appearing in films that were simply not beloved by the Academy.

Of course, there are a lot of easy individual nominees across the board, but overall? I haven’t felt this unsure of my predictions since I was a teenager. And, trust, I’m not the only one. Every consultant, publicist, studio head and potential nominee is likely battling frayed nerves as you read this. So, keeping all this in mind, my “these aren’t necessarily locks” predictions for the 2016 Oscar class.

Actor in a Leading Role

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

If not: Steve Carell, The Big Short or Michael B. Jordan, Creed
Lowdown: Johnny Depp could also make something of a late comeback here for Black Mass, but that seems like a stretch. The question is whether The Big Short has enough momentum to knock Damon out of the five.

Actress in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

If not: Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Lowdown: It pains me not to include Rampling in the five, but the buzz from most Academy members I’ve heard from is that Andrew Haigh’s excellent drama is too long or they stopped watching the screener halfway through (perhaps its because subject matter spoke to close to home?). The SAG and BAFTA omissions were also major red flags.  Moreover, Lawrence may not want to earn another Oscar nomination before  she turns 30, but that doesn’t mean the Academy doesn’t want her to.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Christian Bale, The Big Short
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

If not: Michael Shannon, 99 Homes
Lowdown: The only three locks here are Bale, Ruffalo and Rylance. Elba and Stallone could easily fall out of the mix with Shannon filling out the five or even Benicio Del Toro for “Sicaro” or Jacob Tremblay for “Room.”

Actress in a Supporting Role

Jane Fonda, Youth
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

If not: Helen Mirren, Trumbo or Kristen Stewart, The Clouds of Sils Maria
Lowdown: It’s really going to come down to how much the Academy currently appreciates Fonda or not. She deserves to be in, but do they simply like Mirren more?


Adam McKay, The Big Short
Todd Haynes, Carol
Ridley Scott, The Martian
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant
Todd McCarthy, Spotlight

If not: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road or Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies
Lowdown: Let’s just say I hope I’m really wrong and George Miller somehow makes it into the mix because it might be breaking my heart just a little if he misses out.  History tells me I’m probably not wrong.


Janusz Kamiński, Bridge of Spies
Edward Lachman, Carol
John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road
Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant
Roger Deakins, Sicario

If not: Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight
Lowdown: Probably one of the easiest picks this year (now watch Richardson make the cut).

Costume Design

Odile Dicks-Mireaux, Brooklyn
Sandy Powell, Carol
Sandy Powell, Cinderella
Paco Delgado, The Danish Girl
Jenny Beavan, Mad Max: Fury Road

If not: Kate Hawley, Crimson Peak or Courtney Hoffman, The Hateful Eight or Kasia Walicka-Maimone, Bridge of Spies
Lowdown: Tough. Hawley’s work in “Crimson Peak” is superb, but in a competitive year does it get overshadowed? Does this branch push three 20th century period pieces? And if so, is “Bridge of Spies” really not one of them?

Production Design

Adam Stockhausen; Rena DeAngelo, Bernhard Henrich, Bridge of Spies
Judy Becker; Heather Loeffler, Carol
Colin Gibson; Katie Sharrock, Lisa Thompson, Mad Max: Fury Road
Arthur Max; Celia Bobak, Zoltan Horvath, The Martian
Rick Carter, Darren Gilford; Lee Sandales,  Star Wars: The Force Awakens

If not: Eve Stewart; Michael Standish, The Danish Girl
Lowdown: A gut pick here. Even though I much prefer “Brooklyn’s” 1952 New York department store to “Carol’s” something tells me it will sneak by “The Danish Girl” in the end.

Film Editing

Hank Corwin, The Big Short
Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road
Pietro Scalia, The Martian
Stephen Mirrione, The Revenant
Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”

If not: Tom McArdie, Spotlight or Michael Khan, Bridge of Spies
Lowdown: An incredibly interesting race. My predictions are your ACE nominees, but will the Academy’s branch actually go with Star Wars?  Could The Revenant miss the cut?

Original Screenplay

Alex Garland, Ex Machina
Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight
Josh Cooley, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Inside Out
Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer, Spotlight
Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus, Straight Outta Compton

If not: Amy Schumer, Trainwreck or Matthew Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Bridge of Spies
Lowdown: Schumer could surprise, but these are your likely five.

Adapted Screenplay

Adam McKay, Charles Randolph, The Big Short
Nick Hornby, Brooklyn
Phyllis Nagy, Carol
Emma Donoghue, Room
Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs

If not: Drew Goddard, The Martian
Lowdown: If this were the broader Academy membership voting Goddard would find a way in over Donoghue, but the Writer’s Branch is the branch that is known for its good taste and elevating smaller films.  That “should” get Donoghue in.

Foreign Language Film

The Brand New Testament
Labyrinth of Lies
Son of Saul

If not: Theeb or The Fencer
Lowdown: Outside of “Mustang,” “Son of Saul” and “Labyrinth” this is a very tough call this year. “Viva” should be emotional enough to make the final five. The questions is whether “Brand New Testament” can overtake “Theeb,” “The Fencer” or “A War.”  Outside of “Son of Saul” this is one category that feels almost like a pick ’em.

Makeup and Hairstyling

Joel Harlow, Gloria Casny, Black Mass
Lesley Vanderwalt, Damian Martin, Elka Wardega, Mad Max: Fury Road
Graham Johnston, Adrien Morot, Robert Pandini, The Revenant

If not: David Elsey, Mr. Holmes
Lowdown: “Black Mass” is borderline at this point, but I’m sticking with it.

Sound Editing

Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

If not: Bridge of Spies or The Hateful Eight
Lowdown: Surprisingly a tougher category to call than previous years. “Jurassic World” could crack either of the sound categories, but it’s hard not to see it making at least one of them.

Sound Mixing

Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

If not: Jurassic World
Lowdown: These were four of your CAS nominees and five of your BAFTA nominees. Let’s see if they match up.

Animated Feature Film

Inside Out
Kahlil Gilbran’s The Prophet
The Peanuts Movie
Shaun the Sheep Movie

If not: The Good Dinosaur
Lowdown: Going out on a slight limb with “The Prophet,” but something tells me the animation branch is more impressed by the good in that film than the disappointing “Dinosaur.” If the latter gets in, however, Pixar and Disney can push almost anything through.

Visual Effects

Tim Alexander, Glen McIntosh, Tony Plett, Michael Meinardus, Jurassic Park
Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver, Andy Williams, Mad Max: Fury Road
Richard Stammers, Chris Lawrence, Anders Langlands, Steven Warner, The Martian
Rich McBridge, Matt Shumway, Jason Smith, Cameron Waldbauer, The Revenant
Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan, Chris Corbould, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

If not: Ant-Man or The Walk (excuse the lack of nominee names)
Lowdown: This is gonna be interesting. Reports from the Visual Effects Bake-off Saturday night say “Mad Max” was the biggest hit, but “The Revenant” may have impressed the most.

Music (Original Score)

Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies
Carter Burwell, Carol
Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight
Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sicario
John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

If not: Howard Shore, Spotlight or Alexandre Desplat, The Danish Girl
Lowdown: Honestly going with a sentimental pick with Burwell for “Carol.” I haven’t always been the biggest fan of his work (he’s slightly overrated), but his score for Todd Haynes’ drama was one of the highlights of the movie. And, or course, he’s never been nominated. It’s worth noting that the fact “The Revenant” was deemed ineligible in this category is embarrassing.

Music (Original Song)

“Til It Happens To You” from “The Hunting Ground”
“See You Again”  from “Furious 7”
“Simple Song #3” from “Youth”
“I’ll See You In My Dreams” from “I’ll See You In My Dreams”
“Earned It” from “Fifty Shades of Grey”

If not: “The Light That Never Fails” from Meru
Lowdown: Going out on a limb here that the Academy music branch can’t say no to the great track from The Weeknd just like they couldn’t as Grammy award voters. We’ll see.

Documentary (Feature)

Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
Listen to Me Marlon
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

If not: Best of Enemies

Lowdown: There is a slim shot “He Named Me Malala” could make the five, but I just don’t see it.

Best Picture

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

If not: Room or Inside Out
Lowdown: Do we live in a world where “Room” doesn’t get nominated, “Mad Max” does while George Miller gets shafted from the Directing five?  We just might. That being said, my guess is at least one of these is wrong.

Who are you predicting for this year’s Oscar nominees? Share your thoughts below.

Academy AwardsAdapted ScreenplayAnimated Feature FilmBest ActorBest ActressBest Adapted ScreenplayBest CinematographyBest DirectorBest DocumentaryBest EditingBest Makeup and HairstylingBest Original ScoreBest Original ScreenplayBest Original SongBest PictureBest Sound EditingBest Sound MixingBest Supporting ActorBest Supporting ActressHomeMoviesNewsOscars 2016The Academy

With over a decade of experience in the movie industry, Ellwood survived working for two major studios, has written for Variety, MSN and the LA Times and co-founded HitFix, Inc. serving as its first Editor-in-Chief and President. Ellwood spends his time relaxing hitting 3’s on the basketball court and following his beloved Clippers.

Awards Campaign provides commentary and insight on the movie industry. It's also the current online home of Gregory Ellwood, an industry veteran who has covered the movie business and Oscar campaigns for over a decade. For more information including partnerships and advertising opportunities please E-mail info@awardscampaign.com.