Predicting the 2016 Academy Award Nominations

See who'll win Oscar nods before Thursday's announcement.

Predicting the 2016 Academy Award Nominations
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The nominations for the 2016 Academy Awards will be announced tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM EST. This year, more than others, is tough to predict. Pundits are scrambling. Gene Shalit is freaking out. But then there are people like me: level-headed, brilliant individuals who've seen every 2015 movie and know exactly what'll happen. 

Sure.

But I'll do my best. Every year the Guilds, BAFTAs, and Golden Globes help make the Oscar nods somewhat predictable. Like Leonardo DiCaprio, for instance—It's his year for Best Actor. If he doesn't win, it'd be a shocker. So what surprises will happen? 

Here are our picks for the top categories at the 2016 Oscars:

[And here are our ridiculously early predictions from a year ago for these awards.] 

Best Picture

Let's start at the top. This category, since expanding to include 10 possible films in 2009, has only filled the quota twice (2009, 2010). Since then, there have been nine nominees each year until last year, when there were eight. There were two clear favorites at this time last year: Birdman and Boyhood. In 2016, it's really anyone's guess. So what does that mean for the nominations?

Predicting the 2016 Academy Award Nominations

There are a lot of cases to be made. I like The Revenant the most. It's stacked with talent and seems set to earn the most nominations. The Golden Globe - Best Drama winner has real momentum. Other locks: Spotlight has been highly respected all of Awards Season; Mad Max: Fury Road has Critics' Choice love and legions of admirers—it's the Ben-Hur of today; and The Martian is a box office favorite with the director of Gladiator and Alien, Ridley Scott, at the helm. These are the favorites. One of them will win. 

Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies, Sundance favorite Brooklyn, and the funniest contender, The Big Short, are all Producer's Guild nominees and critics' faves. And Carol, which had the most Golden Globe nods, was ignored by that guild, but it's too good

Predicting the 2016 Academy Award Nominations

That leaves two slots for some wild cards (if the Academy does go to 10 films). A lot of people are high on Straight Outta Compton, but I don't see it. Inside Out was one of the best-reviewed films of the year, but animated movies never get in. I think the Oscar voters will go for The Danish Girl, since there's always a British film and Tom Hooper's been there before. And I think the other one is Room, which has the likely Best Actress winner, Brie Larson. It feels like an Oscar movie. In order of likelihood:

Predicting the 2016 Academy Award Nominations
oscars.go.com

The Revenant
Spotlight
The Martian
Mad Max: Fury Road
Brooklyn
The Big Short

Bridge of Spies
Carol
The Danish Girl
Room

The Next 10: Sicario, Straight Outta Compton, Inside Out, Creed, Ex Machina, Joy, Steve Jobs, Beasts of No Nation, The Hateful Eight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Actor

Predicting the 2016 Academy Award Nominations
oscars.go.com

Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant
Michael Fassbender - Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne - The Danish Girl
Matt Damon - The Martian
Johnny Depp - Black Mass
 

Both the SAG and BAFTAs nominated DiCaprio, Fassbender, Redmayne, and also Bryan Cranston for Trumbo. I've got Cranston on the outside at the Oscars because I can't imagine these voters have seen Trumbo. Know what they've seen? The Martian and Black Mass, Damon and Depp both get in. But watch out for Michael B. Jordan for Creed. People love that movie. He could knock either one out.

Runners up: Michael B. Jordan - Creed, Bryan Cranston - Trumbo, Will Smith - Concussion, Tom Hanks - Bridge of Spies

Predicting the 2016 Academy Award Nominations

Best Actress

Predicting the 2016 Academy Award Nominations
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Brie Larson - Room
Cate Blanchett - Carol

Saoirse Ronan - Brooklyn
Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl
Jennifer Lawrence - Joy

Larson, Blanchett, and Ronan were all nominated by the SAG, BAFTAs, and Golden Globes. They'll all get in. The final two spots are where things get interesting. Rising star Vikander gives a showy performance in The Danish Girl which should get her in despite Focus Features' campaign for her in the Supporting category. The last spot will go to Lawrence, an Academy favorite, who's great once again in another David O. Russell film, Joy. I'm rooting for Charlize Theron to replace Vikander or Lawrence, but it seems like a long shot.

Runners up: Charlize Theron - Mad Max: Fury Road, Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years, Sarah Silverman - I Smile Back, Helen Mirren - The Woman in Gold

Predicting the 2016 Academy Award Nominations

Best Supporting Actor

Predicting the 2016 Academy Award Nominations
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Christian Bale - The Big Short
Mark Rylance - Bridge of Spies
Benicio Del Toro - Sicario
Michael Keaton - Spotlight

Tom Hardy - The Revenant

A huge category with serious competition this year, the Best Supporting Actor favorites include Rylance, Bale, and Elba, all nominated by the SAG, BAFTAs, and Globes. I've got Elba losing out to Hardy in The Revenant, which I think will get the most nominations. 

Sylvester Stallone is a sentimental favorite, but I'm taking a chance against him. There's too much competition. I'm going with Keaton, who was a favorite in the category much of the season but has lost momentum. And I love Del Toro in Sicario. It's a powerful character in a timely film.

Runners up: Idris Elba - Beasts of No Nation, Sylvester Stallone - Creed, Paul Dano - Love and Mercy, Mark Ruffalo - Spotlight, Michael Shannon - 99 Homes, Steve Carell - The Big Short, Jacob Tremblay - Room, Oscar Isaac - Ex Machina, Jason Mitchell - Straight Outta Compton

Predicting the 2016 Academy Award Nominations

Best Supporting Actress

Predicting the 2016 Academy Award Nominations
oscars.go.com

Kate Winslet - Steve Jobs
Rooney Mara - Carol
Jennifer Jason Leigh - The Hateful Eight
Rachel McAdams - Spotlight
Alicia Vikander - Ex Machina

After her Golden Globe win, Winslet is the leader in the category. She's been nominated everywhere. As long as the Oscars keep her in this category, Mara also seems assured of a spot. She's a co-lead in Carol and could end up in the Best Actress category but I'm betting she's here. Leigh, nominated by the SAGs and Globes, should also get in for her filthy performance in Quentin Tarantino's latest. And the last two spots are tougher to pick. I like a first nomination for McAdams, a beloved actress who's paid her dues. And the last nomination will go to Vikander, who deserves two nods this year, and will get at least one. I think two. She's going to be huge.

Runners up: Jane Fonda - Youth, Helen Mirren - Trumbo, Kristen Stewart - Clouds of Sils Maria, Mya Taylor - Tangerine, Elizabeth Banks - Love and Mercy, Jessica Chastain - Crimson Peak, Katherine Waterston - Queen of Earth

Predicting the 2016 Academy Award Nominations
oscars.go.com

Best Director

Predicting the 2016 Academy Award Nominations
oscars.go.com

Alejandro G. Iñárritu - The Revenant
Ridley Scott - The Martian
George Miller - Mad Max: Fury Road
Tom McCarthy - Spotlight
Todd Haynes - Carol

Love this group. GEORGE MILLER. He's in. Hopefully. He could even win it. He's the force behind the greatest action film in years and years and years. Fury Road is a huge accomplishment. Golden Globe winner and last year's defending champion for Birdman, Iñárritu, will also get in. He's the favorite along with Ridley Scott. Many consider him the leader. The Director's Guild nominated all three and gave the last two slots to McCarthy, whom I like, and Adam McKay, whom I love but I sense a snub. I'm going with Todd Haynes and betting the Academy loves Carol as much as critics do

Runners up: Adam McKay - The Big Short, Steven Spielberg - Bridge of Spies, Tom Hooper - The Danish Girl, John Crowley - Brooklyn, Denis Villeneuve - Sicario

Best Animated Film

Inside Out
Anomalisa
Shaun the Sheep Movie
The Good Dinosaur
The Peanuts Movie

Best Adapted Screenplay

Steve Jobs
The Big Short
The Revenant
Room
Carol

Best Original Screenplay

Spotlight
Ex Machina
Inside Out
The Hateful Eight
Bridge of Spies

Best Documentary Feature

Amy
The Look of Silence
Listen to Me Marlon
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
Cartel Land

Best Foreign Film

Son of Saul
Mustang
The Brand New Testament
Theeb
The Fencer

Best Cinematography

The Revenant
Mad Max: Fury Road
Sicario
Carol
The Martian

Best Costume Design

Carol
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Hateful Eight
Cinderella

Best Film Editing

Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
The Big Short
Spotlight
The Martian

Best Production Design

Mad Max: Fury Road
Carol
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Bridge of Spies
Room

Best Original Score

The Hateful Eight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Inside Out
Carol
Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Song

Spectre
Furious 7
The Hunting Ground
Youth
Pitch Perfect 2

Best Visual Effects

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

Senior Editor at Zimbio. I'll take Johnny Clay, the Rev. Harry Powell, and Annie Savoy. You can have the rest.
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