I’ve never understood why, every year and without fail, one comes across so many articles called something like “Biggest Oscar Snubs.” Actually, I do. It’s called click bait, and I usually fall for it despite my profound disagreement with whatever is in the article.
See, I have a problem with any list of, say, “ten actors who got snubbed at this year’s Oscars.” At least as far as acting nominations go, only five slots are open to the myriad actors and actresses eligible for a nomination in any given category. For someone to get “snubbed,” one is basically suggesting that Individual A deserved—indeed, was a lock for—a nomination, and instead was passed over for Individual B. Of course, all of our opinions are subjective, and maybe our favorite performance wasn’t honored with the recognition we think it deserves. But that doesn’t mean the Academy just arbitrarily nominated some hack instead. Everyone who received a nomination in the major categories today was forecasted to at least be a dark horse. You aren’t going to find anyone who is absolutely undeserving of recognition, even if that means one of your favorite 2015 performances or films was left out.
Look, I’m sorry if you personally thought Johnny Depp deserved a nomination for Black Mass, or even if you want to argue that Adam Sandler’s performance in Pixels changed your life. This does not change the fact that critics guilds and prior awards shows (like this week’s Golden Globes) help forecasters determine which individuals are most likely to receive a nomination.
A good place to look for Oscar predictions is Gold Derby, which has edited its Oscar nominations odds to show where the Academy defied the consensus with its moninations. Indeed, there are a few surprises, but very few snubs.
Let’s take a look at the major nominees, and maybe play a quick game of Oscar forecasting while we’re at it.
- “The Big Short”
- “Bridge of Spies”
- “Mad Max: Fury Road”
- “The Martian”
- “The Revenant”
Generally (and by that I mean “almost always”), a Best Picture nominee needs a Best Director nominee to accompany it to have a decent shot at a win. As we will see below, that weeds out a few films here. I don’t realistically see the Academy giving “Mad Max” a Best Picture award, despite the fact that it was the best-reviewed movie of the year. Likewise, “Room,” while a critical darling and the highlight of this year’s independent crop, is unlikely to walk away with the night’s biggest award.
That leaves us with three major contenders: The Big Short, The Revenant, and Spotlight. Spotlight has been seen since October as the film to beat, but if recent years have taught us anything, it’s that a new film will emerge in January-February as the frontrunner. The Revenant’s big win at the Golden Globes certainly can’t hurt its chances, but the Globes aren’t always a great indicator of Oscar glory. Then there’s The Big Short, which is quietly becoming an audience favorite.
As of right now, I give The Revenant the edge. It performed better than expected at the box office and has awards momentum. Spotlight will need to pick up steam—preferably at the SAG awards or the Producer’s Guild, to regain the lead. Meanwhile, The Big Short is in prime position for a dark horse victory.
- Adam McKay, “The Big Short”
- George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”
- Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “The Revenant”
- Lenny Abrahamson, “Room”
- Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”
Again, this award comes down to more common knowledge of how the Academy tends to vote—and for what sort of films—than anything, with one major exception. While I think Abrahamson will “just be happy to be there,” I can see George Miller making serious waves. This is a man whose singular, unique vision for Mad Max has been realized over the course of four decades, and though the film itself may not come away victorious, Miller could find himself a prime candidate for a consolation prize.
The same could be said for McKay, who has reinvented himself as a “prestige” comedy director, rather than merely the guy who helmed Anchorman. It remains to be seen whether the Academy will see him as a filmic rags-to-riches success or as a potential imposter.
McCarthy and Iñárritu will be duking it out for the lead position in this race. Their respective films scream “Oscar,” and if the Academy is feeling generous toward either picture, we could see a sweep of the Best Director and Best Picture categories. My money is on Iñárritu for now, in spite of the fact he won last year. The Revenant is bold filmmaking, and I can see it being rewarded in this category as a consolation prize if it doesn’t take home Best Picture.
- Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo”
- Matt Damon, “The Martian”
- Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”
- Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs”
- Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl”
This one shouldn’t even be close. As far as the predictions go, Leo will finally get his due. Gold Derby lists him as the 8/5 favorite to win, but that number should lean eve more heavily in his favor over the coming weeks.
- Cate Blanchett, “Carol”
- Brie Larson, “Room”
- Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy”
- Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years”
- Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”
Like the Best Actor category, this one has been dominated of late by Brie Larson for her bravura turn in “Room.” We know from recent history (see Jennifer Lawrence) that Oscar is unafraid to award Best Actress to young performers, and Larson’s team has been marketing her in the best ways possible. She seems a lock as of right now to win.
- Christian Bale, “The Big Short”
- Tom Hardy, “The Revenant”
- Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”
- Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”
- Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”
Throughout the year, I became aware of the fact that virtually every noteworthy performance I’d seen on film would fall under the “supporting actor” category. So much so, that it appeared every other acting category would be deficient. While the other three categories eventually took shape, I’ve kept my eye on the absolutely stacked lineup at Supporting Actor, because it was inevitable a few great actors would be left out. In addition to the five worthy actors mentioned above, this year’s batch included Idris Elba for “Beasts of No Nation,” Jacob Tremblay for “Room,” Michael Keaton for “Spotlight,” Paul Dano for “Love and Mercy,” Benicio Del Toro for “Sicario,” and Jason Segel for “The End of the Tour,” among others.
As of this article, Rylance seems the tentative frontrunner. His performance was lauded from day one, but his visibility and a surprising lack of a strong campaign could tip the scales when it comes to voting. His biggest competition is probably Stallone, who is riding the wave of adulation and comeback glory that we saw with actors like Mickey Rourke and Nick Nolte in recent years.
- Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”
- Rooney Mara, “Carol”
- Rachel McAdams, “Spotlight”
- Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”
- Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”
If Supporting Actor is the most exciting acting category, this is probably the least. Rooney Mara is the odds-on favorite to win for “Carol,” and her role is substantial enough to help out in the voting process (for a time, the studio was considering submitting it as a Best Actress candidate). Despite Kate Winslet’s Globes win, nobody really seems like a threat here, and none of the performances, in this reviewer’s opinion, are flashy enough to steal away the win.
Aside from the major categories, I’ll have my eye on the Cinematography award. This year’s nominees are all truly deserving, with some of the best camerawork in recent memory, and all have a different claim to the award. Carol was famously shot on 16mm film, while The Hateful Eight shot on Ultra Panavision 70mm lenses that hadn’t been put to use in almost a half century. Mad Max is the most inventive of the bunch. Sicario is absolutely gorgeous, and its famous cinematographer Roger Deakins has now secured his thirteenth nod in the category, with no wins to date. The Revenant is currently the favorite to win, and would certainly be deserving, but its cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki has won two years in a row (for Gravity and Birdman, respectively) and voters may be wary of a three-peat.
What are your thoughts? Who would you liked to have seen nominated, and what are your early predictions? Let me know in the comments!