Oscars 2016: what will lead the nominations and who will surprise?

The Revenant

With the nominations for the 88th Academy Awards to be revealed on Thursday, here’s a look at what might make the cut, including some major surprises

The Revenant will lead, after sweeping the Golden Globes

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s follow-up to last year’s best picture winner Birdman surprised many by coming out ahead of Tom McCarthy’s assumed frontrunner Spotlight at Sunday’s Golden Globes, netting picture and director honors. Its best actor win for Leonardo DiCaprio was a given, and he’s sure to repeat at the Oscars, but going into the night, most awards pundits had pegged the best picture (drama) gong going to Spotlight, or the night’s most nominated film, Carol.

The Revenant has been expected to lead Thursday’s Oscar nominations even before its success at the Globes. Why? Because on top of assured major nods for picture, director and actor, the brutal thriller is sure to dominate the technical and craft categories as well, which will boost it to the front of the pack. Smaller films like Spotlight and The Big Short can’t compete, as they won’t factor into the extra two sections.

But that doesn’t mean it will win

The Globes are by no means a precursor for the eventual winners at the Oscars. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who vote for the Globes, often don’t go with the tide: last year, the eventual best picture Oscar winner, Birdman, lost to Boyhood; in 2010, they opted for The Social Network over The King’s Speech, which went on to sweep the Oscars.

Spotlight, The Big Short and The Martian, are all still considered formidable competition to The Revenant.

Bridge of Spies, Carol and/or Mad Max: Fury Road will receive the second most nominations

For the same reason that The Revenant will come out on top on Thursday, Bridge of Spies, Mad Max: Fury Road and Carol are sure to be awarded with a lot of Oscar love.

Carol, while not expected to win any major awards on the big night, will probably be nominated in three top categories: picture, actress for Cate Blanchett, and supporting actress for Rooney Mara. The Academy could also potentially pull a fast one on Harvey Weinstein by rewarding Mara with a best actress nod – although the distributor has her campaigning for a supporting one. On top of those four major nominations, expect Carol to also receive a few nods in the craft department, although it won’t match The Revenant in the technical categories (best sound editing, etc). A director nod for Todd Haynes is uncertain, as he didn’t make the cut for the Directors Guild of America’s nominations, which usually serve as a good indicator.

The same goes for Bridge of Spies helmer Steven Spielberg, who was also left out by the DGA. Like Carol, Bridge of Spies will in all likelihood net a picture nomination, on top of a supporting actor one for Mark Rylance, and a number of craft nods. It’s likely to miss out on screenplay, however, unlike Carol.

Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller is up for the DGA honor, and the film is pretty much assured a picture nod, in addition to a slew of craft and technical nominations.

Straight Outta Compton will defy the odds to receive a best picture nomination

Despite coming out in the summer, F Gary Gray’s hip-hop drama has maintained an incredible amount of momentum going into awards season, netting a Screen Actors Guild nod for best ensemble, which serves as a major precursor for a best picture nomination.

But don’t be so sure of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Star Wars franchise hasn’t netted a best picture nomination since its first installment, A New Hope, in 1977. Don’t expect that to change when this year’s nominations are read on Thursday.

No film has captured the zeitgeist more in the past 12 months than JJ Abrams’s seventh film in the sci-fi series: it’s currently the third-biggest global movie of all time, and stands a solid shot at claiming the top spot in the weeks to come. But unfortunately for the Force, financial success does not equal Oscar buzz. The fact is, even with 10 best picture nominees, the competition this year is too stacked for Star Wars to reasonably slide in.

The Academy has been known to reward critically approved populist fare in the past, giving major love to Avatar, Titanic and Gladiator. Expect those slots to go to Inside Out, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Straight Outta Compton this year.

There will be some major surprises

What would the Oscar nominations be without some hoodwinking? Few predicted Demián Bichir’s deserved best actor nomination for his little-seen independent drama A Better Life in 2011; the same goes for Marion Cotillard popping up in the best actress race for the French film Two Days, One Night last year, over Jennifer Aniston, who was expected to make the cut for Cake.

Major (and very welcome) surprises this year could come in the form of Michael B Jordan for best actor in Creed, and Charlotte Rampling for best actress in 45 Years. Although both failed to net SAG and Golden Globe nominations, their performances are too good to ignore, and stand a solid shot at creeping into the race. Rampling especially has a chance since she’s been campaigning hard all season long, putting in multiple Academy appearances in New York and Los Angeles.

Also watch out for Mya Taylor, who’s been hustling in recent months like Rampling. Were she to be nominated, Taylor would be the first transgender actor ever up for an Oscar, for her supporting turn in Sean Baker’s beloved comedy, Tangerine. She already won for best breakthrough actor at the Gotham Awards, on top of receiving a Spirit Award nomination.

Kristen Stewart could also shock by entering Taylor’s race, for her supporting work in Clouds of Sils Maria. Although she’s been shut out of the major awards shows thus far, Stewart has topped a number of critics polls in her category, and recently made history by becoming the first American actress to win a César, France’s equivalent for the Oscars.

Lady Gaga will probably be honored

The pop star, who impressed many with a performance of The Sound of Music at last year’s Oscars ceremony, is intent on returning to the Dolby Theater next month to perform her ballad Till It Happens to You, which appears in the campus rape documentary The Hunting Ground.

Gaga, together with the song’s co-writer Diane Warren and film-makers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, have been campaigning in recent weeks on behalf of the song, and the effort has struck a chord with Academy voters. The Guardian spotted a number of members visibly tearing during a recent performance of the song in Beverly Hills.

#OscarsStillSoWhite might not persist

Welcome to the 87th Oscars. Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest.

So said host Neil Patrick Harris at the very start of last year’s show – and he was right. Ava DuVernay’s Selma was up for best picture, but was surprisingly shut out of the director and actor races. In fact, no actor of color made any of the acting categories. And of all the best picture nominees, only Selma featured a black protagonist. As a result, #OscarsSoWhite emerged as the dominant hashtag on social media during the ceremony.

In all likelihood, history won’t repeat itself this year. Straight Outta Compton will probably be up for picture. And although it’s a longshot, Star Wars: The Force Awakens which features John Boyega in one of the lead roles, could also be up for the same award.

As for the actor categories, the aforementioned Michael B Jordan and Mya Taylor are definite possibilities. Even surer is Idris Elba, who is expected to a receive a nod for best supporting actor in Beasts of No Nation. That film also stands a shot at entering the best picture race following its surprise SAG nomination for best ensemble.

The final predictions for the major categories

Best Picture

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Carol
Inside Out
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton

Best Director

Alejandro G Iñárritu – The Revenant
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Ridley Scott – The Martian
Adam McKay – The Big Short or Todd Haynes – Carol

Best Actor

Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
Matt Damon – The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Eddie RedmayneThe Danish Girl or Michael B Jordan – Creed

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett – Carol
Brie Larson – Room
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Lily Tomlin – Grandma

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale – The Big Short
Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone – Creed

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara – Carol
Helen Mirren – Trumbo
Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

Best Original Screenplay

The Hateful Eight
Inside Out
Spotlight
Tangerine
Trainwreck

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
Room
Steve Jobs

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Nigel M Smith in Los Angeles, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 13th January 2016 12.37 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010