The Oscars may not be until February, but the race is heating up with each passing weekend of new releases. Every week ScreenCrush will analyze the Oscar race using predictions, critical reactions, and box office numbers to gauge which titles will be the most remembered come awards season.

When it comes to the Oscars, boxing movies usually fare pretty well. Out of all sports films, ones about fighting for a dream within the perilous ropes of a ring tend to get the most love from the Academy. From classics like The Champ and Raging Bull, to Million Dollar Baby and The Fighter, the great boxing movies often go home with a gold statue or two. But what about the seventh installment in the most famous boxing franchise in movie history?

Creed, the latest film in the Rocky series, opens next week just in time to rake in some Thanksgiving box office dollars. A fantastic addition to the Rocky films, Creed proves spinoffs can breathe new life into a 40-year-old franchise. The film follows Adonis “Donnie” Creed, the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, Rocky Balboa’s former opponent and friend. No one knows that though, since Michael B. Jordan’s Donnie goes by the surname Johnson. The Fruitvale Station star gives a fantastic performance as the insatiable fighter everyone believes belongs at a good job instead of getting bloodied in the ring. Though the lead actor race is stuffed to the gills this year with Eddie Redmayne, Michael Fassbender and Leonardo DiCaprio practically guaranteed nominations, followed by Matt Damon, Johnny Depp, Michael Caine and Will Smith, it’ll be unlikely to see Jordan make the cut. However, a familiar face might be able to break into the ranks of Best Supporting Actor.

Sylvester Stallone reprises his role as Rocky Balboa for the seventh time in Creed, a role that could easily become as worn down as the character has himself. Creed could have easily been the perfect opportunity for Stallone to fall flat, but the strength in the film comes from putting the series’ star on the sidelines to give the newcomer proper support. Stallone is a great co-star, never overshadowing the young actor but instead, like Rocky does for Donnie, helping emphasize his talents. In Matt Singer’s review of the film here at ScreenCrush he wrote, “there is a beautiful sort of symmetry in seeing the former champ now passing on the knowledge that was imparted to him; not just about boxing but about life as well.”

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Director and writer Ryan Coogler also brings a fierce and fresh energy to the film, with the right amount of nostalgia for the past and hunger for the future. At multiple points Donnie says he wants to build his own legacy without coasting on the fame of his father. Creed works so well for just that reason, using the Rocky series as a jumping-off point to explore a new character’s journey. Now that Rocky older, Stallone focuses his talents beyond mere muscle and handles the film’s most emotional moments with great care.

Back in 1977, Stallone was nominated for Best Actor and Best Screenplay for the original Rocky. He lost both to Network and was never nominated for an Oscar again. With this performance Stallone could have a chance at making a comeback, especially since the Academy loves handing out first-time wins to actors late in their careers. Just think of Christopher Plummer, Judi Dench, Jeff Bridges and Helen Mirren, to name a few. Though Stallone would be a Rocky-esque long shot for a win, a nomination would be a nice nod to his career playing the Italian Stallion. And honoring an actor for a famed role could turn into a bit of a theme at this year’s awards. Last week, I wrote about Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ chances at the Oscars and chatter surrounding Harrison Ford’s shot at a nomination. Both Rocky and Han Solo are some of film’s most iconic characters and both returning to the big screen this year may charm voters.

That’s not to say there aren’t a surplus of other worthy actors. Both Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo are strong bets for Spotlight, with Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies, Benicio del Toro in Sicario, Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation and the 10-year-old Jacob Tremblay from Room all getting plenty of buzz as well. There’s also the entire male casts of The Big ShortJoy, and The Hateful Eight. It’s definitely a competitive bunch this year, but so far there’s no immediate frontrunner.

Warner Bros. might end up pushing Joel Edgerton in Black Mass over Stallone, and they also have the supporting male cast of In the Heart of the Sea and Billy Bob Thornton in Our Brand Is Crisis. But Stallone may be Creed’s best shot at an Oscar nomination. It’s far from likely Creed will get nods for Best Picture, Director, or Adapted Screenplay with those categories overflowing with stronger contenders. Warner Bros. would do best to play the nostalgia card with Stallone to give Rocky a proper send-off.

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