First 2016 Predictions
Cate Blanchett "Carol"
Sandra Bullock "Our Brand is Crisis"
Jennifer Lawrence "Joy"
Emma Stone "Irrational Man"
Meryl Streep "Ricki and the Flash"
Other Contenders - Saoirse Ronan "Brooklyn", Lily Tomlin "Grandma", Rooney Mara "Carol", Charlotte Rampling "45 Years", Amy Schumer "Trainwreck", Melissa McCarthy "Spy", Carey Mulligan "Suffragette", Carey Mulligan "Far From the Maddening Crowd", Sally Field "Hello, My Name is Doris", Naomi Watts "Demolition", Angelina Jolie "By the Sea", Jessica Chastain "The Martian", Marion Cotillard "Macbeth", Emma Watson "Regression", Alicia Vikander "The Danish Girl", Alicia Vikander "The Light Between Oceans", Alicia Vikander "Tulip Fever", Margot Robbie "Z for Zachariah", Maggie Smith "The Lady in the Van", Rachel McAdams "Spotlight", Tilda Swinton "A Bigger Splash", Carmen Ejogo "Born to Be Blue", Brie Larson "Room", Nicole Kidman "Genius", Blythe Danner "I'll See You In My Dreams", Gugu Mbatha-Raw "The Whole Truth", Charlize Theron "The Last Face", Drew Barrymore "Miss You Already", Anna Kendrick "The Last Five Years", Anna Kendrick "Pitch Perfect 2", Greta Gerwig "Mistress America", Cate Blanchett "Knight of Cups", Juliette Binoche "Clouds of Sils Maria", Michelle Williams "Suite Francaise", Nicole Kidman "The Secret In their Eyes", Ellen Page "Freeheld", Emily Blunt "Sicario", Jennifer Lopez "Lila & Eve", Viola Davis "Lila & Eve", Lily James "Cinderella", Judi Dench "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", Shailene Woodley "Insurgent", Helen Mirren "Woman in Gold", Cara Delevingne "Paper Towns"
Commentary - Will Meryl Streep continue her streak and reach that magic number of 20 nominations? You never know how things are going to turn out, but she is always a safe bet to place. Plus she is teaming up with Jonathan Demme, Diablo Cody, and Kevin Kline, all Academy Award winners. Until I hear otherwise, she is in. Cate Blanchett could return to the race as well, just two years after winning for Blue Jasmine. Todd Hayne's latest Carol is getting a ton of buzz and she also has Cinderella to boost her profile. Speaking of Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen has incredible luck with his female actors, and a year after getting her first nomination Emma Stone is now on the Oscar map. Allen's latest Irrational Man could be another hit, and Stone up against Joaquin Phoenix looks to be juicy acting material. Sandra Bullock, with a win for The Blind Side, and another nomination for Gravity, is now in the Academy's good graces after years of being American's sweetheart in light comedies. Our Brand is Crisis looks to be a mix of drama and comedy, and Bullock is a naturally talented performer who has finally gotten some recognition. Plus, with the Oscars, once you're in, you're in. Bullock will certainly be on a lot of people's minds heading into the fall. Finally, I have to ask the question: is it possible for Jennifer Lawrence to earn her fourth nomination in five years? The answer is yes, and Lawrence is teaming up with David O. Russell yet again in the upcoming Joy, a film that looks to be another hit for the pair. She may be Katniss and Mystique to the world, but she has really stretched herself, and shown just how versatile of an actor she is in now two David O. Russell films (and her work in Winter's Bone). If she is even half as good as she was in previous efforts, she will be a force to be reckoned with come next February. Early in this race it is important to play it safe, and picking four previous winners and a previous nominee is the way to do it. But there are plenty of other folks, previous winners and nominees, and plenty who have not quite gotten there yet to pick from in this year's race. I hope that all of them end up being as good as we hope so that people can finally stop commenting on how weak the Best Actress race is year in and year out (as I pointed out in an article last year, there were over 50 great picks for Best Actress, but the Academy, the critics, and the industry is so narrow-minded). At the top of that list is Saorise Ronan for the Sundance breakout Brooklyn, Marion Cotillard (who finally got that second nomination this year) as Lady Macbeth, Naomi Watts in Jean Marc-Vallee's Demolition (his last two films earned two acting nominations each), and Carey Mulligan in two potentials: Suffragette and Far From the Maddening Crowd. Angelina Jolie could rebound, after Unbroken failed to make much of an impact, with By The Sea. Jessica Chastain could overcome the sci-fi trappings of The Martian, and veterans such as Sally Field, Maggie Smith, Tilda Swinton, Anna Kendrick, Juliette Binoche, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Michelle Williams, Charlize Theron, Ellen Page, Viola Davis, and Lily Tomlin, who apparently is one to watch for in Grandma, could all come into play. But it is not just the previous winners/nominees that are angling for one of those slots. Alicia Vikander, a talented young actress who turned a lot of heads in Anna Karenina, has three potentials this year. Emma Watson has made a name for herself in a post-Harry Potter world, and could make even more gains with Regression. Amy Schumer could be this year's Melissa McCarthy or Robert Downey Jr. in the already beloved Trainwreck. Speaking of Melissa McCarthy, early word is that her third feature with Paul Feig, Spy, is awesome, and McCarthy is her best yet. Could she pull off the same feat she did with Bridesmaids? Brie Larson could get the nod they owe her from Short Term 12 with adaptation of Room, and talents like Margot Robbie, Carmen Ejogo, and the incredible Gugu Mbatha-Raw all are on the verge of Academy recognition. There is also a slew of veteran actresses who are looking for that Michael Keaton-type nomination late in their careers. Blythe Danner, Charlotte Rampling, and yes, Drew Barrymore all have projects that look like real potentials. Finally, Rooney Mara and Greta Gerwig are flirting with lead/supporting, as always at this early stage it is hard to tell how their campaigns will handle them, so things could get flipped around depending on where they land.