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"And the Oscar for Best Picture goes to…" Well, it’s far too early to say with any certainty, isn’t it, but the conversation has to begin right about now.

Welcome, all, to the return of Awards Blend, CinemaBlend’s weekly conversation surrounding all things Oscar. The season officially is underway, launching each year as the triumphant trio of September film festivals – Venice, Telluride and Toronto – kick-start a bevy of campaigns that will position films, performers and behind-the-scenes talents for potential Oscar glory. The awards conversations will only heat up as we move into the meat of the New York Film Festival schedule. And Awards Blend will be your weekly one-stop shop for the latest angles on the upcoming Oscar movies (as well as a few worthy films that opened earlier this year that we will fight to put back on your radar).  

Recognizing that it’s still ridiculously early in the season to make any bold predictions, we have to start somewhere. Expect these charts to shift radically as the season progresses, with movies rising and falling as they are screened for wider audiences. But fortune favors the brave, so these – as of September 28 (!!) – are my candidates for the top Oscar categories. Tell me where I’m right (and wrong) in the comments section below.
oscar winner prediction
The Frontrunners

Steve Jobs
The Contenders

Ex Machina
The Hateful Eight
Inside Out
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
The Walk
The Dark Horses

Beasts of No Nation
The Big Short
Black Mass
Bridge Of Spies
By The Sea
The Danish Girl
The End Of The Tour
In The Heart of the Sea
Love & Mercy
The Martian
Straight Outta Compton
The Longshots

The 33
45 Years
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Our Brand Is Crisis
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Tom McCarthy is an interesting case study. He’s coming off the only real blemish in his nearly-spotless career -- The Cobbler. And yet, he has delivered a masterfully precise drama with Spotlight, which I assume will earn him his first Best Director nomination. Who will join him? There are a number of heavy hitters eager to throw their names into the Best Director race this year, and we’ll start to see their movies in the coming weeks. For now, here’s who I like in the still-developing marathon.

oscar winner prediction
The Frontrunner

Danny Boyle, Steve Jobs
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
The Contenders

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
David O. Russell, Joy
Ridley Scott, The Martian
Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies
Robert Zemeckis, The Walk
The Dark Horses

Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Ryan Coogler, Creed
Scott Cooper, Black Mass
John Crowley, Brooklyn
Cary Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation
Alex Garland, Ex Machina
F. Gary Gray, Straight Outta Compton
Todd Haynes, Carol
Tom Hooper, The Danish Girl
Ron Howard, In the Heart of the Sea
Angelina Jolie, By The Sea
Peter Landesman, Concussion
Jay Roach, Trumbo
Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight
The Longshots

J.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Peter Docter, Inside Out
David Gordon Green, Our Brand is Crisis
Adam McKay, The Big Short
Bill Pohlad, Love & Mercy
James Ponsoldt, The End of the Tour
Peter Sollett, Freeheld
Last season, Best Actor was a ridiculously competitive category, with just as many worthy candidates left on the outside of the category looking in as there was five eventual nominees. This year looks equally impressive, though there are a number of films yet to drop. Still, the buzz on the following performances has us ready to go with our guts and fill out the following chart.  

oscar winner prediction
The Frontrunners

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
The Contenders

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Johnny Depp, Black Mass
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
The Dark Horses

Steve Carell, The Big Short
Bradley Cooper, Burnt
John Cusack, Love & Mercy
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Walk
Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful Eight
O’Shea Jackson, Straight Outta Compton
Michael B. Jordan, Creed
Ian McKellen, Mr. Holmes
Brad Pitt, By The Sea
Edgar Ramirez, Joy
Will Smith, Concussion
The Longshots

Antonio Banderas, The 33
Michael Caine, Youth
Richard Gere, Time Out Of Mind
Jake Gyllenhaal, Southpaw
Tom Hardy, Legend
Chris Hemsworth, In The Heart of the Sea
No actress has laid claim to a Frontrunner status in the early stages of the Best Actress race though perennial contender Cate Blanchett is making a case with her much-lauded performance in Todd Haynes’ Carol. More people need to see that movie, and will in the coming weeks. As for the rest of the field, in my humble opinion, it’s beginning to look like this.

oscar winner prediction
The Frontrunner

None yet
The Contenders

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
The Dark Horses

Sandra Bullock, Our Brand is Crisis
Marion Cotillard, Macbeth
Angelina Jolie, By The Sea
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Julianne Moore, Freeheld
Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van
Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
The Longshots

Cate Blanchett, Truth
Emily Blunt, Sicario
Blythe Danner, I’ll See You In My Dreams
Helen Mirren, Woman in Gold
Carey Mulligan, Far From The Madding Crowd
Carey Mulligan, Suffragette
Amy Schumer, Trainwreck
Sarah Silverman, I Smile Back
Lily Tomlin, Grandma
News broke recently that the entire cast of Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight will contend in the Supporting Oscar categories. It makes sense, on the surface, as they are all part of one massive ensemble, and no one actor truly shines above the rest. But it does mean that someone isn’t going to make the cut, because there are only so many slots to be had, and the Academy can’t fill all five of its Best Supporting Actor nominations with Spotlight cast members. Right?

oscar winner prediction
The Frontrunners

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
The Contenders

Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
Michael Keaton, Spotlight
Seth Rogen, Steve Jobs
Liev Schreiber, Spotlight
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Jacob Tremblay, Room
The Dark Horses

Christian Bale, The Big Short
Jim Broadbent, Brooklyn
Albert Brooks, Concussion
Bradley Cooper, Joy
Tom Courtenay, 45 Years
Robert De Niro, Joy
Benicio Del Toro, Sicario
Bruce Dern, The Hateful Eight
Joel Edgerton, Black Mass
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Ryan Gosling, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina
Jason Mitchell, Straight Outta Compton
Brad Pitt, The Big Short
Kurt Russell, The Hateful Eight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Michael Shannon, Freeheld
Michael Sheen, Far From the Madding Crowd
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Billy Bob Thornton, Our Brand is Crisis
The Longshots

Alan Alda, Bridge of Spies
John Goodman, Trumbo
Harvey Keitel, Youth
Sir Ben Kingsley, The Walk
Robert Redford, Truth
Will the real Danish Girl, please stand up? Most going in to Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl likely expected to be blown away by Eddie Redmaye’s transformation. (And he is in top form, for sure.) But chatter continues to swirl around the devastating performance by Redmayne’s co-star, Alicia Vikander, who is having an incredible year – and one that, I believe, will be topped off by her first Oscar nomination. Who will join her? Let’s discuss.

oscar winner prediction
The Frontrunner

Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
The Contenders

Elizabeth Banks, Love & Mercy
Jane Fonda, Youth
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Kate Winslet, Jobs
The Dark Horses

Joan Allen, Room
Melanie Laurent, By The Sea
Melissas Leo, The Big Short
Helen Mirren, Trumbo
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Concussion
Ellen Page, Freeheld
Amy Ryan, Bridge of Spies
Marisa Tomei, The Big Short
Julie Walters, Brooklyn
Katharine Waterston, Steve Jobs
The Longshots

Jessica Chastain, The Martian
Dakota Johnson, Black Mass
Diane Ladd, Joy
Julianne Nicholson, Black Mass
Tilda Swinton, Trainwreck