After seeing some of the year's most anticipated films at the Toronto International Film Festival, catching more debuts at the ongoing New York Film Festival and spending every other free moment in front of a screen, I’ve been having a lot of Oscars conversations lately. “What’s the best film of the year?” “Will Eddie Redmayne win Best Actor again?” “Does Mad Mad: Fury Road have a shot at Best Picture?” (Spotlight, with Carol at a close second, Yes, and probably not, for the record.)

This is the most exciting time of the year for film critics and journalists, and anyone who loves movies. The awards season frontrunners are already pretty clear, with the exception of a few anticipated titles yet to screen for press, including The RevenantThe Hateful EightJoyBy the Sea and Concussion. With that in mind, here’s what the 2016 Academy Awards categories will probably look like:

Best Picture

With new films from Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, David O. Russell, Tom Hooper, Ridley Scott, Danny Boyle and last year’s Oscar-winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the Best Picture category is going to be a heated one. The Danish Girl, Hooper’s best film to date which takes a gentle approach in telling a powerful transgender journey by way of a love story, is a definitely shoo-in for a nomination. Lenny Abrahamson’s emotional drama-thriller Room won the top prize at TIFF, an award that’s gone to multiple Best Picture winners in the past, including 12 Years a Slave, Slumdog MillionaireThe King’s Speech and American Beauty. Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight, a drama following the Boston Globe‘s investigation into the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse scandal, is a no-brainer nominee for its taut direction, strong performances, and precision in detailing the journalists’ work uncovering the corruption. Todd Haynes Carol, a 1950s drama about a romance between Cate Blanchett’s older woman and Rooney Mara’s young shop clerk, is the most beautiful, nuanced love story in decades. Scott’s stunning The Martian can easily wiggle its way into one of the Best Picture slots, along with the critically-praised Steve Jobs and Pixar’s beloved Inside Out. It’s likely that The Hateful EightThe Revenant, and Joy will also round out the list. But there are still possibilities for others to make their way in.

Spielberg’s Cold War drama Bridge of Spies, the immigrant period piece Brooklyn, Denis Villeneuve’s cartel thriller Sicario, Paolo Sorrentino’s gorgeously meditative Youth, the Johnny Depp-led Black Mass, Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth with Michael Fassbender, Charlie Kaufman’s 100-percent-on-Rotten-Tomatoes Anomalisa, and maybe even Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’By the Sea could be surprising nominees. And there are still some of us (myself included) rooting for Fury Road to make the cut. Other favorites that I’d love to see get some Best Picture attention include the magnificent and poignant Tangerine and Cary Fukunaga’s child soldier drama Beasts of No Nation. A hopeful long shot? Maybe Amy Schumer can pull a Bridesmaids and get a nomination for Trainwreck.

Most likely nominees: 

  • Carol
  • The Danish Girl
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Inside Out
  • Joy
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Room
  • Spotlight
  • Steve Jobs

Best Director

20th Century Fox

If only this category allowed for as many spots as Best Picture. McCarthy, Hooper and Tarantino seem like guarantees, while Boyle’s acclaimed directing in Steve Jobs will likely get him nominated along with the stunning camera work shown in the trailers for Iñárritu’s Revenant, though it’s unlikely the Mexican director will win back-to-back years. There’s still a high chance Spielberg will make the cut, along with Scott for The Martian, Haynes for his elegantly subtle directing in Carol and Russell for Joy. Angelina Jolie is the only female director this year with the potential to switch up the vast gender gap. In my own dream world, though, I have fingers crossed for German director Sebastian Schipper, who accomplished the impossible in Victoria, a 140-minute heist thriller comprised of one complete shot (Birdman, but for real).

Most likely nominees: 

  • Danny Boyle, Steve Jobs
  • Tom Hooper, The Danish Girl
  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant
  • Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
  • Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight

Best Actress


Nothing says Best Actress this year (especially a year sans Meryl Streep) like Cate Blanchett. The Carol actress will undoubtedly be nominated for her fantastic role in the 1950s romance, but her portrayal of 60 Minutes producer Mary Maples in Truth could also make her the first actress to get a double nomination in the same category (if she campaigns for Lead). Brie Larson in Room will pose some serious competition, along with last year’s winner Julianne Moore for Freeheld, Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn, and Oscar favorite Jennifer Lawrence in Joy. While Alicia Vikander’s career-defining role in The Danish Girl is more than worthy of a Best Actress nomination, publicists at Focus Features have told both The Playlist and Vulture that they plan to campaign her as a supporting actress, unfortunately.

But the list of talented women continues. Warner Bros. could run Charlize Theron for Fury Road (a choice I’d fully support), Lily Tomlin could be a surprise nominee for Grandma, while Carey Mulligan in Suffragette, Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years, Angelina Jolie in By the Sea, and perhaps Emily Blunt for Sicario are still viable possibilities. Two others I’m personally championing are Juliette Binoche in one of the year’s best films, Clouds of Sils Maria, and one of this year’s breakout stars, Laia Costa, for her literal non-stop tour de force in Victoria.

Most likely nominees: 

  • Cate Blanchett, Carol
  • Brie Larson, Room
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
  • Julianne Moore, Freeheld
  • Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Best Actor

Focus Features

Eddie Redmayne has practically already been nominated for The Danish Girl, and hell, he might even win for the second year in a row; his tenderly respectful portrayal of Lili Elbe is even more powerful than his Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. But Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs (not to mention his upcoming Macbeth) will also definitely get a nomination. Two other spots will most likely be filled by Leonardo DiCaprio in survival epic The Revenant (will he finally get his statue?) and Matt Damon in The Martian, as long as his recent comments don’t hurt his reputation with voters. But who will fill that fifth and final slot?

A Johnny Depp comeback could be on the way after many critics have already praised his Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, but the Academy might be over the Depp-mega-makeover gimmick. Michael Caine is another hopeful, as his turn as a retired composer in Youth is nothing less than awards worthy, but ironically enough, the final nominee could easily go to a young actor. The 14-year-old Abraham Attah, who won the Best Young Actor award at Venice, fully carries Beasts of No Nation as West African child soldier in Beasts of No Nation. There’s also Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies to consider, along with Bryan Cranston in TrumboWill Smith in Concussion, and Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis in Miles Ahead. (Here’s to hoping we’re not in for another Whitest Oscars Ever.)

Most likely nominees: 

  • Matt Damon, The Martian
  • Johnny Depp, Black Mass
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Best Supporting Actress

The Weinstein Company

Like Best Actress, the supporting category has a surplus of potential nominees. Rooney Mara is a definite lock for Carol, along with Alicia Vikander from The Danish Girl. Kate Winslet might need to make room in her bathroom in case she earns another statue, this time for Steve Jobs, while Rachel McAdams is likely to get recognized for Spotlight, as well as Jennifer Jason Leigh for The Hateful Eight.

Other strong potentials include Joan Allen in Room, Ellen Page in Freeheld, Amy Ryan in Bridge of Spies, Julie Walters in Brooklyn, and Elizabeth Banks in Love & Mercy. While a lot of critics have been heralding a Jane Fonda nomination for her brief but delightfully memorable appearance in Youth, my vote would go to Rachel Weisz, who gives one of the best performances in the Paolo Sorrentino film.

Most likely nominees: 

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
  • Rooney Mara, Carol
  • Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
  • Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
  • Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Best Supporting Actor


Predicting the Supporting Actor race is a total guessing game at this point. There are numerous films with great ensemble casts (and multiple potential nominees), and tons of talented men in the running. Going with my gut, I think Spotlight’s Michael Keaton will likely trump co-star Mark Ruffalo, and Samuel L. Jackson could take a spot from Kurt Russell for The Hateful Eight (but then again, perhaps one of the films will nab a pair of nominations). Tom Hardy in The Revenant may also make the top five, along with a fantastic Benicio Del Toro in Sicario, Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak in Jobs, and Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation.

Some other potentials include eight-year-old Jacob Tremblay, who gives an astounding performance in Room, as well as Harvey Keitel in Youth, Joel Edgerton in Black Mass, Jason Segel in End of the Tour, Robert De Niro or Bradley Cooper in Joy, Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies, Robert Redford in Truth, and Paul Dano in Love & Mercy. Let’s also not forget about Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, and Ryan Gosling in Adam McKay’s The Big Short either.

Most likely nominees: 

  • Benecio Del Toro, Sicario
  • Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
  • Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful Eight
  • Michael Keaton, Spotlight
  • Seth Rogen, Steve Jobs