Now that the 2016 Academy Award nominations have been out for a few days, I’ve had some time to think through what I would have picked. I’m surprisingly happy with some of these nominations while others I am flabbergasted by (goes with the territory every year).

I too was somewhat disturbed with the lack of racial diversity on the nominations this year but unlike most Internet pundits, I don’t think this is because of some institutional racism (come one, the Hollywood culture falls over itself to be the most ridiculously PC of anyone in the world, practically, single-handedly driving the PC obsession in America). Instead, this is a bi-product of a bigger trend (which is slowly changing) where there’s just a general lack of diversity in Hollywood films in general (just look at how few Asian actors/actresses are in films today). I expect this will naturally change over the coming years as more and more walls are broken down. (Great to see so many different faces in a Star Wars for instance this year).

One of the common complaints about the Oscars is that the typical “important” films sometimes trump stuff that was more entertaining, interesting, and (usually) popular. And because I did this crazy movie watching thing in 2015, I’ve actually seen every film on the lists below!!! Yeah, nuts. But it also makes me somewhat qualified to give an opinion on each category (shocked at how many top lists and pundits online haven’t even seen half of these films but still made picks – doesn’t seem very fair).

So below are the nominations. My pick for who should win is in blue. My pick for who the academy will probably pick is in red. And if the picks match up, it will be in purple. Also, if a category was missing a nomination that should have been there, I’ve added that in green. And if I think something should not have been nominated at all, I struck it out.

Best Picture
“The Big Short”
“Bridge of Spies”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Ex Machina”


There’s space for up to 10 nominees so it’s curious that the academy missed Creed and Sicario which are both every bit as good as the other nominees that made it. As fun as The Martian was, it’s not a “best picture” film. It doesn’t belong here. Bridge of Spies was one of my favorite movie-going experiences this year and The Big Short took a complex (and pretty boring) subject and made it so, so real. Glad to see it made the list. Also, I loved Brooklyn. It was a great little story but not nearly important or even entertaining enough to be on this list. It’s just not on the same level as the others here. Room was really engrossing but I’m not sure it’s best picture level. The Revenant was a powerful piece of cinema that I was completely into and it’s the most serious challenger but because Alejandro González Iñárritu won last year for Birdman, I think the academy will want to spread the award somewhere else this year. Mad Max: Fury Road was the single greatest film experience this year and will still be talked about in 10 years while Spotlight (which was a solid film) will be completely forgotten (yet I think Spotlight is what the academy will go for).

Best Actor
Bryan Cranston in “Trumbo”
Matt Damon in “The Martian”
Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant”
Michael Fassbender in “Steve Jobs”
Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl”
Oscar Isaac in “Ex Machina”
Jason Mitchell in “Straight Outta Compton”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “The Walk”
Michael B. Jordan in “Creed”
Tobey Maguire in “Pawn Sacrifice”
Paul Dano in “Love & Mercy”

The more I see Eddie Redmayne’s performances, the more I think he isn’t that interesting and actually kind of terrible many times (hello Jupiter Ascending). Matt Damon was a delight in The Martian but really not being anything more than super-charismatic Matt Damon. Bryan Cranston was outstanding in Trumbo. I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled an upset on DiCaprio (who was great as always in The Revenant). Fassbender was excellent in Steve Jobs, a joy to watch. But I think Oscar Isaac blew me away in Ex Machina (one of the most complex characters I’ve seen in recent years). And Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E owned every scene he was in and had one of the toughest jobs of humanizing an enigma of a real guy. And despite his shaky accent, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was captivating in The Walk. Michael B. Jordan was powerful in Creed and should have been nominated. I’m usually not a fan of Toby Maguire but he was a force of nature in Pawn Sacrifice. And my jaw dropped watching Paul Dano’s wacky work in Love & Mercy. Still, this is probably DiCaprio’s year and I’m fine with that.

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett in “Carol”
Brie Larson in “Room”
Jennifer Lawrence in “Joy”
Charlotte Rampling in “45 Years”
Saoirse Ronan in “Brooklyn”
Charlize Theron in “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Christina Hendricks in “Lost River”
Alicia Vikander in “Ex Machina”
Margot Robbie in “Z for Zachariah”
Emily Blunt in “Sicario” *
Tessa Thompson in “Creed”

This has to be the most mishandled category of all this year. My pick would have been Emily Blunt’s performance in Sicario. Just amazing and yet she wasn’t even nominated. Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years was unfortunately like watching paint dry. That film was catatonic and so was her performance. I can’t see the reasoning behind nominating her. The closest runner up to Emily Blunt was Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road. Wow, she did so much with her understated screen time. And again, not even nominated! I thought Christina Hendricks was excellent in Lost River and Alicia Vikander stole the entire movie in Ex Machina. Also need to give a shout out to  Tessa Thompson’s performance in Creed and Margot Robbie’s enigmatic character work in Z for Zachariah. All of that being said, of the actual nominees, I’d choose Brie Larson’s heartbreaking performance in Room. Definitely one of the best of the year and really showed her range. I felt what her character felt. Powerful work. That’s my pick of the nominees. But I think the academy will go with the eye-rollingly, socially-current, overly-politically-obvious choice of Cate Blanchett in Carol.

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale in “The Big Short”
Tom Hardy in “The Revenant”
Mark Ruffalo in “Spotlight”
Mark Rylance in “Bridge of Spies”
Sylvester Stallone in “Creed”
Ben Mendelsohn in “Lost River”
Chiwetel Ejiofor in “Z for Zachariah”
Benicio Del Toro in “Sicario”
John Cusack in “Love & Mercy”
Michael Keaton in “Spotlight”
Steve Carell in “The Big Short”

The biggest misstep here is that Benicio Del Toro wasn’t even nominated for Sicario. He should absolutely be on this list in place of almost any of the others. That’s how good he was. But let me hit the others. Christian Bale was intense as always in The Big Short. Tom Hardy almost upstaged DiCaprio in The Revenant. Mark Ruffalo was interesting in Spotlight but I didn’t feel it rose to nomination level. Mark Rylance was only in Bridge of Spies for a small amount of screen time but completely stole the show each time. And there’s Stallone reprising a role over 40 years old now and just as good as ever. Of the actual nominees, he’s my pick and I think the academy will go for him also because this award would be as much for the role as a recognition of his long career. There’s a few others worth mentioning though including Ben Mendelsohn’s scary and intense role in Lost River (he was also great in Mississippi Grind this year). Chiwetel Ejiofor was mesmerizing in Z for Zachariah. I’m not sure if John Cusack qualifies for Best Actor or Best Supporting but I’m putting him here because not enough people are talking about his performance in Love & Mercy. Although not as showy, Michael Keaton was brilliant in Spotlight (my favorite performance in that film along with Liev Schreiber as a close second) and I’m not sure why Steve Carell isn’t getting huge accolades for his career-best work in The Big Short. Still, I think Stallone wins this and I’ll be so happy to see him finally with a statue.

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Jason Leigh in “The Hateful Eight”
Rooney Mara in “Carol”
Rachel McAdams in “Spotlight”
Alicia Vikander in “The Danish Girl”
Kate Winslet in “Steve Jobs”
Lake Bell in “No Escape”
Malin Akerman in “The Final Girls”
Jessica Chastain in “Crimson Peak”
Joan Allen in “Room”

I wasn’t a big fan of The Hateful Eight, but I’d love to see Jennifer Jason Leigh win for her bizarre, bad girl role in that film. She is my pick for this category. It’s one of the most interesting female performances in years. Rooney Mara was very solid in Carol but also, pretty much what you would expect. I’m so happy Rachel McAdams got a nomination because she was so good in Spotlight. Although I really like Alicia Vikander, to me, The Danish Girl was Oscar-bait rubbish and I don’t think it deserved the nominations it received. Kate Winslet won a Golden Globe for Steve Jobs (deservedly so) but I think the academy will go for Rooney Mara because her performance feels the most inline with the type of roles the voters usually go for. As for actresses that were missed, I loved Lake Bell in No Escape. I don’t think any actress made me feel more on the edge of my seat this year. And it’s non-obvious but Malin Akerman really brought out the emotion in a comedy/horror movie of all things (of course the academy virtually ignores all genre fare, especially horror films). As great as Jessica Chastain was in Crimson Peak, I also need to mention her excellent work in The Martian as well. Finally, I wonder why Joan Allen is not getting more recognition for her strong supporting work in Room.

Best Director
“The Big Short” Adam McKay
“Mad Max: Fury Road” George Miller
“The Revenant” Alejandro G. Iñárritu
“Room” Lenny Abrahamson
“Spotlight” Tom McCarthy
“It Follows” David Robert Mitchell
“Ex Machina” Alex Garland
“Straight Outta Compton” F. Gary Gray
“Sicario” Denis Villeneuve
“The Martian” Ridley Scott
“The Walk” Robert Zemeckis
“Bridge of Spies” Steven Spielberg
“Creed” Ryan Coogler
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” J.J. Abrams
“The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared” Felix Herngren

Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but with the massive consensus building over the past 8 months for Mad Max: Fury Road, and the fact that anyone watching that film had to be astounded by the technical directing achievement on display, I think George Miller wins this. Adam McKay had such a tough job with the material in The Big Short and yet, delivered on every level so he absolutely deserves to be on this list. The technical directing work in The Revenant by Alejandro was staggering but because he won last year, I hope the academy skips picking him this time around. Lenny Abrahamson is not showy at all in Room which really helped the story but still, it isn’t at the same level as the others. Spotlight is another film where the directing is purposefully hidden and because it will probably win best picture, it won’t win here. Others that I would have liked to have seen on this list include It Follows (more dread than any other film I saw this year), Straight Outta Compton had a tough job telling that story and did it brilliantly, and Sicario was one of the best directed films of the year. Can’t believe that didn’t make the list. The best thing The Martian had going for it beyond the story was the brilliant directing. I can’t believe Ridley Scott was ignored. The Walk was one of the most exhilarating experiences in theaters this year. So was Bridge of Spies and it would have done the academy a lot of favors to at least put a nod towards Ryan Coogler’s ground-breaking work in Creed. Although Star Wars: The Force Awakens has a lot of issues, I have to give huge credit to J.J. Abrams for doing such awesome work with a ridiculously tight timeline. Finally, even though no one has seen it, The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out The Window had some of the most energetic directing work I saw this year.

Best Adapted Screenplay
“The Big Short” Screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
“Brooklyn” Screenplay by Nick Hornby
“Carol” Screenplay by Phyllis Nagy
“The Martian” Screenplay by Drew Goddard
“Room” Screenplay by Emma Donoghue

Now we get to the secondary categories so not as much to say here. Since I’m not sure which of the films I liked were adapted, I’ll just stick with the nominees here. Of these, I haven’t read all of the novels so it’s harder to choose. I know The Martian was perfectly adapted to film (book is still more fun though). That being said, I think The Big Short had to be the hardest to bring to screen so I’m picking that. My hunch is the academy will go for Brooklyn just because it feels more like their type of pick.

Best Original Screenplay
“Bridge of Spies” Written by Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
“Ex Machina” Written by Alex Garland
“Inside Out” Screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; Original story by Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen
“Spotlight” Written by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy
“Straight Outta Compton” Screenplay by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff; Story by S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff

So glad to see Alex Garland here for Ex Machina. That’s my pick. One of the freshest and most complex science fiction stories in years. I’d also be happy to see the Coen’s win for Bridge of Spies. But I think the academy will go for Straight Outta Compton if nothing else, to save face with the vociferous PC crowd online who is demanding more diversity in the awards.

Best Animated Feature
“Anomalisa” Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson and Rosa Tran
“Boy and the World” Alê Abreu
“Inside Out” Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera
“Shaun the Sheep Movie” Mark Burton and Richard Starzak
“When Marnie Was There” Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura
“The Peanuts Movie” Steve Martino

While Anomalisa was a marvel of technical animation, the story was rubbish, horrible people being horrible to each other while masquerading as some transcendent commentary on existence. Pixar almost always wins this category but I’d love to see Ardman finally get some love with Shaun the Sheep Movie. That’s my pick. Still, I think the academy might actually go for Anomalisa because it’s considered “important.” The biggest gaping hole here is The Peanuts Movie which was amazingly well done and I actually liked better than Inside Out.

Best Cinematography
“Carol” Ed Lachman
“The Hateful Eight” Robert Richardson
“Mad Max: Fury Road” John Seale
“The Revenant” Emmanuel Lubezki
“Sicario” Roger Deakins
“Lost River” Benoît Debie
“Ex Machina” Rob Hardy
“Everest” Salvatore Totino
“The Walk” Dariusz Wolski
“Crimson Peak” Dan Laustsen
“Bridge of Spies” Janusz Kaminski
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Daniel Mindel
“Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter” Sean Porter

Please let this be Roger Deakins year. He’s been passed by for way too long. Part of me worries that The Revenant comes from behind to snatch this away again. I could also see The Hateful Eight getting a win just because it was holding onto the dying medium of film. There’s also a ton of films that deserved to be nominated that were passed by. I’m going with Deakins work on Sicario though. Tough one to call.

Best Costume Design
“Carol” Sandy Powell
“Cinderella” Sandy Powell
“The Danish Girl” Paco Delgado
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Jenny Beavan
“The Revenant” Jacqueline West

Because the nominations are so light on genre fare, I’m going to say Cinderella gets some love here. My pick would be Mad Max: Fury Road though.

Best Editing
“The Big Short” Hank Corwin
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Margaret Sixel
“The Revenant” Stephen Mirrione
“Spotlight” Tom McArdle
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey
“Sicario” Joe Walker

How did Star Wars: The Force Awakens make it onto this list? That’s one of the weakest parts of that film, the sometimes unintelligible editing. Weird. This one probably goes to The Revenant because (hopefully) it loses in some of the other important categories. My pick is Mad Max: Fury Road again. An astounding achievement in editing for all of film history. Really next level stuff.

Best Makeup & Hair
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin
“The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared” Love Larson and Eva von Bahr
“The Revenant” Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini
“Bridge of Spies” Mitchell Beck

I’m going with The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared because that old man makeup was some of the best I’ve ever seen. There isn’t another standout here but hardly anyone has seen that film so I think the academy may go with The Revenant.

Best Original Score
“Bridge of Spies” Thomas Newman
“Carol” Carter Burwell
“The Hateful Eight” Ennio Morricone
“Sicario” Jóhann Jóhannsson
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” John Williams
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Tom Holkenborg

As sad as I am to say this, John Williams score for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a big disappointment. He is only on this list because of his career. Didn’t deserve it this time around. The giant glaring miss here is Mad Max: Fury Road. That was the best score this year and didn’t even get nominated. Of the nominees, I’d go with The Hateful Eight (solid work). I think the academy will go with it as well because of Morricone’s long, influential career.

Best Production Design
“Bridge of Spies” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo and Bernhard Henrich
“The Danish Girl” Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Michael Standish
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Production Design: Colin Gibson; Set Decoration: Lisa Thompson
“The Martian” Production Design: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Celia Bobak
“The Revenant” Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Hamish Purdy

Because I hope Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant win other categories, I’d love to see Bridge of Spies get some love and I think the academy may come to the same conclusion.

Best Visual Effects
“Ex Machina” Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver and Andy Williams
“The Martian” Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence and Steven Warner
“The Revenant” Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith and Cameron Waldbauer
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould

It’s interesting to note that no Marvel films (or any other superhero pictures) received a nomination for anything. This would have been the most obvious category but they are gone. That’s a pretty big statement on how shaky Marvel’s effects work has been this past year. I certainly noticed the dip in quality especially in Avengers: Age of Ultron. So glad to see Ex Machina on this list. That’s my pick. Brilliant, next level work there. I think the academy may throw a bone to Star Wars: The Force Awakens in light of A New Hope’s win back in 1977, which would be fine. That being said, there’s an outside chance The Revenant wins it because of the bear attack scene (which was admittedly astounding).

Best Sound Editing
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Mark Mangini and David White
“The Martian” Oliver Tarney
“The Revenant” Martin Hernandez and Lon Bender
“Sicario” Alan Robert Murray
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Matthew Wood and David Acord

I think The Revenant may win it here and I’d be fine with that. The bear attack’s sound alone could clench it.

Best Sound Mixing
“Bridge of Spies” Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Drew Kunin
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo
“The Martian” Paul Massey, Mark Taylor and Mac Ruth
“The Revenant” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom and Chris Duesterdiek
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson

Not as qualified to make a call here even though I saw all of these. I’m rooting for Mad Max: Fury Road because of the organized chaos.

It’ll be interesting to see how these picks shake out compared to what really happens on February 28th, 2016.