Johnny Depp "Black Mass"
Leonardo DiCaprio "The Revenant"
Michael Fassbender "Steve Jobs"
Tom Hanks "Bridge of Spies"
Eddie Redmayne "The Danish Girl"
Other Contenders - Matt Damon "The Martian", Ian McKellen "Mr. Holmes", Michael Caine "Youth", Jake Gyllenhaal "Southpaw", Ben Foster "The Program", Paul Dano "Love & Mercy", John Cusack "Love & Mercy", Chris Hemsworth "In the Heart of the Sea", Michael B. Jordan "Creed", Joseph Gordon-Levitt "Snowden", Michael Fassbender "Macbeth", Colin Firth "Genius", Brad Pitt "By the Sea", Tom Hiddleston "I Saw the Light", Bradley Cooper "Adam Jones", Tom Hardy "Legend", Tom Hardy "Mad Max: Fury Road", Ethan Hawke "Born to Be Blue", Jason Segal "The End of The Tour", Bryan Cranston "Trumbo", Mattias Schoenarts "A Bigger Splash", Tom Courtenay "45 Years", Antonio Banderas "The 33", Jack O'Connell "Money Monster", Robert Redford "Truth", Miles Teller "Bleed for This", Jonathan Rhys-Meyers "Stonewall", Thomas Mann "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl", Nat Wolff "Paper Towns", Al Pacino "Danny Collins", Shameik Moore "Dope", Chris Pratt "Jurassic World", Woody Harrelson "Triple 9", Joel Edgerton "Life", Dane DeHaan "Tulip Fever"
Commentary - It seems like every year there is a newcomer to this race, someone who crashes the party. At this moment though it is hard to tell who that will be, as so many previous nominees and winners are stacking the decks early on, starting with last year's winner Eddie Redmayne playing a transgender in a Tom Hooper historical biopic. If that doesn't scream Oscar, I don't know what does. Michael Fassbender broke through two years ago with 12 Years a Slave, and hopes to score his first lead nomination playing Steve Jobs. He may not look as much like Jobs as Ashton Kutcher, but I have no doubt he will turn out a much better performance. Johnny Depp has had a rough streak lately (Into the Woods was too slight of a role to really count). But he is breaking away from Tim Burton (a much needed break for both of them), and is going way out of his comfort zone playing Whitey Bulger in Black Mass. The trailer looks fantastic, and the film is premiering at Venice, so it looks like Depp may finally be back in top form. At least we can all hope. Tom Hanks was royally screwed out of a nomination for Captain Phillips (okay so the top five were great, it was a tough year), but he has another shot this year when he teams up with Steven Spielberg in a Cold War thriller Bridge of Spies. Finally, after being the bridesmaid way too many times, maybe this is the year that Leonardo DiCaprio finally wins an Oscar. The Revenant has had some production issues regarding safety, but the cast and crew are top notch and Inarritu has not made a bad film in years. But there are plenty of Oscar veterans on the outside looking in. Matt Damon could pull a Sandra Bullock with The Martian, Jake Gyllenhaal could get the nod he was robbed of last year for Southpaw if voters can get past the lackluster total product, Ian McKellen could be the latest actor to get hardware for playing Sherlock Holmes, and Michael Caine could get in once again for Youth. Paul Dano and John Cusack should be in the conversation for Love & Mercy, Bradley Cooper, Ethan Hawke, Jason Segal, Bryan Cranston, Brad Pitt, Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, Robert Redford, Chris Hemsworth, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hiddleston, and the great Al Pacino are also in for a variety of projects that look promising.