The only thing predictable about the Oscars is this: Someone you didn’t even consider will be nominated.
Every year, there’s some wild card acting entry who winds up in the final five. In some years (Marisa Tomei, Kevin Kline, for example) that wild card actually wins.
This year, the acting surprise could come from any number of films. Could it be Harrison Ford from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”? Or Michael Shannon from “99 Homes”? What about Tom Hardy from any number of films or Alicia Vikander from “The Danish Girl” or “Ex Machina”? The possibilities are endless because no single film – or actor – has accomplished a sweep this year. Next week’s nominations should produce plenty of a-ha moments.
Among the most likely: Several nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for “The Revenant,” a film just hitting most theaters this weekend. Early reviews say Leonardo Di Caprio delivers the best performance of his career, which could made him the frontrunner quite quickly. Last year’s Best Director, Alejandro Inarritu, has a good shot at doubling up for the gritty work he did here.
But, then, what about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”? Will it finally have the clout to win Best Picture? The original film scored a nomination but the others have largely found their strength in technical categories. Could that record-setting box office spell success?
A string of indie films may figure in here and there, but it’s unlikely this year’s field will be dominated by them. The reason? The Best Picture category has been reduced to five nominees and big studios had some major films that won critical acclaim.
Eddie Redmayne looms as the only 2015 acting winner who could repeat (he’s likely to be nominated for Best Actor for “The Danish Girl”). Past recipients -- like Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett and Charlize Theron -- could also be back in the hunt.
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When the nominations are announced Thursday morning, expect to be surprised. That’s just the way the game is played.
Likely to be nominated:
BEST PICTURE: “The Martian,” “Spotlight,” “The Revenant,” “The Big Short,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and, maybe, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Carol,” “The Hateful Eight” or “Bridge of Spies.” Spoiler: “Straight Outta Compton.”
BEST ACTOR: Leonard DiCaprio, “The Revenant”; Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs”; Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl”; Matt Damon, “The Martian”; Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo.” The others: Johnny Depp, “Black Mass”; Will Smith, “Concussion”; Steve Carell, “The Big Short.” Spoiler: Geza Rohrig, “Son of Saul.”
BEST ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, “Carol”; Brie Larson, “Room”; Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”; Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy”; Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years.” Spoiler: Lily Tomlin, “Grandma” or Charlize Theron, “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”; Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”; Idris Elba, “Beasts of No Nation”; Christian Bale, “The Big Short”; Michael Shannon, “99 Homes.” Spoilers: Paul Dano, “Love and Mercy”; Michael Keaton, “Spotlight”; Jacob Tremblay, “Room.”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Rooney Mara, “Carol”; Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”; Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”; Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”; Helen Mirren, “Trumbo.” Spoilers: Alicia Vikander, “Ex Machina”; Jane Fonda, “Youth”; Rachel McAdams, “Spotlight.”
BEST DIRECTOR: Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”; Alejandro Inarritu, “The Revenant”; George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”; Ridley Scott, “TheMartian”; Danny Boyle, “Steve Jobs.” Spoilers: Todd Haynes, “Carol”; Lenny Abrahamson, “Room”; Steven Spielberg, “Bridge of Spies.”