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Sunday 4 December 2016

Oscar predictions: Paul Whitington on the front runners

Fevered Oscar speculation starts in earnest tomorrow with the announcement of the nominees in all categories. Our film critic on the actors and movies he believes have earned a place on the list of award hopefuls

Paul Whitington

Published 13/01/2016 | 02:30

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn
Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn
Leonardo DiCaprio in Revenant.
Kate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in Carol.
Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs
Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson in Room

The 2016 Oscar nominations will be announced tomorrow with the usual fanfare, and Sunday night's Golden Globe results have cast doubt on the chances of some of the frontrunners. Tom McCarthy's well-regarded clerical sex abuse drama Spotlight, for instance, didn't win anything at the Globes, and the wind appears to have gone out of its sails.

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Similarly Todd Haynes' Carol, which sits near the top of most critics' films-of-the-year list, didn't win any of the five categories it was nominated in, and may now fare worse at the Academy Awards than it might originally have expected.

Are the Globes good indicators of where the Oscars will go? They are, though they're not infallible: Eddie Redmayne, Julianne Moore, JK Simmons and Patricia Arquette all won acting Oscars last year after winning Golden Globes, though Birdman's Best Picture and Best Director wins were not predicted by the Globes.

Prediction, as we know, is a fool's game, but here I go with my guesses as to who is going to get nominated tomorrow, and might go on to win on February 28, when the great and good of Hollywood gather for their annual orgy of shameless mutual congratulation.

Best Picture

Some shoe-ins to begin with, films that will be impossible to ignore. Top of the pile is Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu'sThe Revenant, an extremely powerful western adventure that seems to have arrived in cinemas at exactly the right time. George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road came out almost a year ago but its visual excellence will surely be rewarded with a nomination, as will Carol, the sumptuous adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's lesbian love story. Ridley Scott's beautifully made space thriller The Martian was one of the best mainstream films of 2015, and must feature in the Best Picture shortlist. And though I don't think it will win, Spotlight should also get a nomination.

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Since 2009, Academy members have been allowed include up to 10 movies on their shortlist, leaving them free to vote for blockbusters unlikely to triumph in the end. Star Wars: The Force Awakens may get a nod, therefore. Steve Jobs and Bridge of Spies may also make the cut, though they seem out of fashion despite their high quality. Financial satire The Big Short is gaining ground, and while Irish hopefuls Room and Brooklyn have a decent chance, Room is more likely to prevail. And in the end, I think The Revenant will win Best Picture, but don't quote me!

Best Director

This category is inextricably linked with the previous one, though the awards don't always go to the same picture. Only five candidates can make this shortlist, so you can pencil in Todd Haynes, George Miller and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu straight away. No doubt 78-year-old Ridley Scott would be a popular nominee for his work on The Martian, while Tom McCarthy is likely to be given the fifth slot for his brilliant dramatisation of the Boston sex abuse scandal, Spotlight. But there is an outside chance that either Steven Spielberg or Danny Boyle will get the nod for Bridge of Spies and Steve Jobs.

Best Actor

We are pretty sure Michael Fassbender will be nominated in this category for his intense portrayal of computer guru Steve Jobs in Danny Boyle's very fine biopic, but I don't think he's going to win the gong. The Academy loves Eddie Redmayne, who won last year for The Theory of Everything and seems likely to get nominated again for his performance in the deadly dull The Danish Girl. He won't win, and Matt Damon probably won't, either, should he get nominated for his portrayal of a stranded astronaut in The Martian. Bryan Cranston was the surprise nominee at the Golden Globes for his strong performance in the very average biopic Trumbo, so he may miss out tomorrow at the expense of either Christian Bale or Steve Carell for The Big Short. But this is Leonardo DiCaprio's year, I think, and I'll be shocked if he doesn't win for The Revenant.

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Best Actress

After the Golden Globes, all bets are off in this category. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara were the early favourites to dominate the awards season with their performances as 1950s lovers in Carol, but were both pipped by Brie Larson in the Best Performance in a Motion Picture: Drama category at the Globes. So Larson now becomes the frontrunner in the Best Actress Oscar race, though she'll be joined by a star the Academy absolutely loves. Many were surprised by Jennifer Lawrence's Best Performance: Musical or Comedy Golden Globe for her very solid work in David O Russell's Joy. At just 25, Miss Lawrence already has two Oscars, and seems intent on giving Meryl Streep a run for her money. Saoirse Ronan will also, I hope, be nominated for Brooklyn, but at the moment it looks like a head-to-head between Larson and Lawrence.

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Best Supporting Actor

Until quite recently, Paul Dano was many people's favourite for this award, given his superb work playing a young and increasingly unstable Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy, but then came Creed, and a rejuvenated Sylvester Stallone. It would take a hard heart to begrudge the veteran he-man his Golden Globe award for playing an older, wiser and funnier Rocky Balboa in Ryan Coogler's hugely entertaining series reboot, and Sly is now the runaway favourite for this Oscar. His other contenders are likely to Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies, Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation, Christian Bale for The Big Short and, possibly, Benicio del Toro for Sicario, Tom Hardy for The Revenant or even young Jacob Tremblay for Room. But this is Sly's award to lose.

Best Supporting Actress

Kate Winslet came from nowhere to win the Supporting Actress Golden Globe playing Michael Fassbender's long-suffering assistant in Steve Jobs, and is now a strong contender to grab this Oscar. Alicia Vikander will provide strong opposition if she's nominated for either Ex Machina or The Danish Girl, and Helen Mirren and Jennifer Jason Leigh may also get nods for Trumbo and Hateful Eight, though neither were particularly good in those films. Rachel McAdams was so-so in Spotlight, but could be nominated, and if Rooney Mara gets nominated for Carol in this category instead of Best Actress, that could really set the cat among the pigeons. Hard to call, this one, and I for one would love to see Julie Walters getting a nod for her hilarious turn in the film Brooklyn.

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Best Screenplay

This award is split into two categories, Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay, and Emma Donoghue stands a real chance of triumphing in the latter category with Room. Nick Hornby's adaptation of Colm Toibin's novel Brooklyn could also get nominated here, but Donoghue's real competition is likely to come from Aaron Sorkin's brilliant screenplay for Steve Jobs. In the Best Original Screenplay category, Matt Charman and Joel and Ethan Coen will surely figure for their very clever writing on Bridge of Spies, as should Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer for Spotlight. Quentin Tarantino will be nominated for Hateful Eight, I would think, and Amy Schumer may be honoured for her romantic comedy Trainwreck. But the writers of Pixar's brilliant animation Inside Out might just prevail here.

Best Animated Feature

I liked Pixar's family comedy The Good Dinosaur. The Peanuts Movie was not without its charms, nor was Shaun the Sheep. But Pixar's mid-summer blockbuster Inside Out was an outstanding animation, and one of the company's very best efforts. Surely this one has to win this category - though Charlie Kaufman's adult animation Anomalisa has been getting rave reviews in America and could be a dark horse contender for the gong.

Irish Independent

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