Oscar nominations will be revealed on Thursday, Jan. 14. We took a look at the likely contenders in the six glamour categories — and a few worthies who, alas, have only the likelihood of that proverbial snowball in hell.
Can it possibly be Oscar time already? Yes indeed: Nominations are announced on Thursday, Jan. 14, at the traditional ungodly hour of 5:30 a.m. PST (in order to catch the East Coast morning talk shows). We took a look at the likely contenders in the six glamour categories — and also those who, alas, have the likelihood of that proverbial snowball in hell.
Sure things: This is an unusually wide-open year, and the only two titles that we’d completely bet the farm on, if we had a farm, are “Spotlight” and “Carol,” both of which have been universally beloved by critics and awards groups.
A decent shot: Now things get interesting — and, with 10 spots on the list, there’s room for a few wild cards. You’ll likely see Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “The Revenant,” Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” and George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road,” though none necessarily seem a perfect fit with the Academy’s voters (which tend to skew older and more traditional). Perhaps that population might respond more to “Bridge of Spies” or “Trumbo”? Or to quiet, smaller-scale dramas, such as “Brooklyn,” “Room,” or (less likely) “The Danish Girl”? A box-office-topping crowd pleaser like “The Martian,” “Straight Outta Compton,” “Inside Out,” and/or (if the Force is with the Academy) “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”? A more under-the-radar choice, like “The Big Short” or “Beasts of No Nation”? The list will likely be made up of some subset of these titles …
The Academy Awards
The Oscar nominations will be announced Thursday, Jan. 14 at 5:30 a.m. in Los Angeles. The awards ceremony will be telecast live on Sunday, Feb. 28, starting at 4 p.m. on ABC.
Snowball in hell: … unless something unexpectedly zooms in from left field, like Andrew Haigh’s brilliant portrait of a marriage, “45 Years.”
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Sure things: “Carol” should usher Todd Haynes into the field of contenders for this award. Also, expect last year’s winner in this category, Iñárritu, to be nominated for his work in the bone-chilling “The Revenant.”
A decent shot: In his late 60s when he directed “Mad Max: Fury Road,” George Miller made the most kinetic, exciting action movie of the new century. Ridley Scott, another senior citizen (he’s closing in on 80), may get recognition for the summer’s out-of-this-world hit “The Martian.” Tom McCarthy is likely to get recognition for the masterly manner in which he drew terrific performances from a top-drawer ensemble cast in “Spotlight.” The well-regarded “Bridge of Spies” should earn Steven Spielberg his eighth directorial nomination. (He’s won twice, for “Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List.”)
Snowball in hell: Alex Garland, which is a shame, because “Ex Machina,” his debut directorial feature (he also wrote it), is one of the most polished, thought-provoking sci-fi movies to come down the pike in years.
Sure things: Leonardo DiCaprio, you’re the man to beat. Anybody who can overcome the attack of an enraged mama bear and then survive the frigid rigors imposed on his character by Iñárritu deserves the warming glow of an Oscar nomination. And Eddie Redmayne seems to be on a roll, following up his win last year, for his transformative performance as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” with his gender-bending work in “The Danish Girl.”
A decent shot: Michael Fassbender looks likely to get recognition for his performance in the title role in “Steve Jobs.” The picture didn’t do well at the box office, but his high-octane performance impressed his peers in the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), who included him among nominees for their annual award. Ian McKellen’s work in the title role of “Mr. Holmes,” a portrait of the genius sleuth in retirement slowly losing his battle with dementia, is quietly affecting and wholly Oscarworthy.
In the mix also is Bryan Cranston, who anchored “Trumbo” and, incidentally, impressed the late screenwriter’s daughter, Niki, who told The Times in an interview that “there are shots when I actually see my father there” on screen. Johnny Depp’s frighteningly lethal portrayal of gangster Whitey Bulger in “Black Mass” was a reminder, if one was needed, that he is one of Hollywood’s foremost actors. In terms of quality, one Whitey is worth a dozen flighty Capt. Jack Sparrows. And Michael B. Jordan, playing the title character in “Creed,” the son of boxer Apollo Creed who’s determined to follow in his father’s footsteps into the ring, brought both ferocity and tenderness to his performance that helped re-energize the “Rocky” franchise.
Snowball in hell: Shameik Moore. From out of nowhere, or so it seemed, this young actor came to take command of the coming-of-age dramedy “Dope” with a smart and funny performance as a bright kid from the inner city who metamorphoses into a focused and fearless man.
Sure things: Cate Blanchett, winner of this category two years ago (for “Blue Jasmine”), will surely get another nod for her mesmerizing work in “Carol.” As should her equal partner in that movie, Rooney Mara, but the studio is campaigning Mara in the supporting category. (Oscar voters may designate a performance in whatever category they wish, but studios try to influence that decision.) Also seeming certain: Saoirse Ronan, nominated as a teen in “Atonement” and beautifully grown up in “Brooklyn,” and Brie Larson, so devastating in “Room.”
A decent shot: The Academy loves Jennifer Lawrence, but not everyone liked “Joy” — she’s less of a sure thing than usual, but don’t count her out. Alicia Vikander was remarkable in “The Danish Girl,” but is also being campaigned in the supporting category (a joke; her role is clearly a lead) and may end up there. Charlotte Rampling should make the ballot, as a devastated wife in “45 Years.” In the more longshot department, don’t rule out Charlize Theron (“Mad Max: Fury Road”); Helen Mirren (recognized by SAG for “Woman in Gold”), Lily Tomlin (“Grandma”), or wild-card Sarah Silverman (“I Smile Back”).
Snowball in hell: While it’s unlikely that there’s been much of an Oscar campaign for “Diary of a Teenage Girl,” Bel Powley, utterly remarkable as a 15-year-old trying to take control of her life, shouldn’t be overlooked. But she likely will be.
Best Supporting Actor
Sure thing: Mark Rylance’s performance as Russian agent Rudolf Abel in “Bridge of Spies” is a masterpiece of quiet understatement.
A decent shot: Sylvester Stallone. Don’t laugh. His portrayal of Rocky Balboa in the winter of his years in “Creed” is very affecting. (Lest we forget, Stallone is no stranger to the acting categories; he was nominated in 1977 for “Rocky.”) Steve Carell gives an intensely energized performance as a hedge-fund manager with a conscience in “The Big Short”; however, building buzz seems to suggest Christian Bale is that movie’s nomination front-runner. Maybe Michael Keaton will get some love for his work as an editor in “Spotlight” in compensation for having been left high and dry in last year’s Oscar tsunami for “Birdman.” Then again, Mark Ruffalo was awfully good playing a reporter in “Spotlight.” Idris Elba’s portrayal of a guerrilla commandant in “Beasts of No Nation” is the kind of forceful performance that’s catnip for Oscar, and for the members of the Screen Actors Guild.
Snowball in hell: In a small but crucial role as a lawyer representing victims of sex abuse by Catholic priests, Stanley Tucci turned the spotlight in “Spotlight” onto himself in every scene he was in.
Best Supporting Actress
Sure things: If Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander don’t end up in the lead actress category (see above) for “Carol” and “The Danish Girl,” respectively, they’ll surely be here. Also certain: six-time nominee Kate Winslet (a winner for “The Reader” in 2009) for “Steve Jobs.”
A decent shot: Rachel McAdams, who stood out as the only woman in the stellar ensemble of “Spotlight,” should turn up here, as might Jennifer Jason Leigh (“The Hateful Eight”), Helen Mirren (whose wildly hatted Hedda Hopper lit up “Trumbo”), and Jane Fonda (“Youth”).
Snowball in hell: Life would be so perfect if Phyllis Smith, the wet-sponge voice of Sadness in “Inside Out,” could get nominated. But she won’t.