Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu "The Revenant"
Tom McCarthy "Spotlight"
David O. Russell "Joy"
Ridley Scott "The Martian"
Steven Spielberg "Bridge of Spies"
Other Contenders - Danny Boyle "Steve Jobs", Lenny Abrahamson "Room", Quentin Tarantino "The Hateful Eight", Laszlo Nemes "Son of Saul", George Miller "Mad Max: Fury Road", Todd Haynes "Carol", John Crowley "Brooklyn", Tom Hooper "The Danish Girl", Ryan Coogler "Creed", Adam McKay "The Big Short", Denis Villeneuve "Sicario", Ron Howard "In the Heart of the Sea", Scott Cooper "Black Mass", F. Gary Gray "Straight Outta Compton", J.J. Abrams "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens", Bill Pohlad "Love & Mercy", Sarah Gavron "Suffragette", Jay Roach "Trumbo", Robert Zemeckis "The Walk", Paolo Sorrentino "Youth", James Vanderbilt "Truth", Justin Kurzel "Macbeth", Bill Condon "Mr. Holmes", Angelina Jolie "By the Sea", Andrew Haigh "45 Years", Cary Joji Fukunaga "Beasts of No Nation", Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen "Inside Out", Alfonso Gomez-Rejon "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl", Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman "Anomalisa", Brian Helgeland "Legend", Sam Mendes "Spectre"
Commentary - This, like most years, is a race that is far from over, and as always, I keep waiting for the surprise nominee that no one was thinking about. Tom McCarthy is going to go from indie director to Oscar nominee with Spotlight, this year's Oscar front runner. For a long time, I had not included Ridley Scott, because I didn't think The Martian would be getting this kind of buzz and support. For the record, The Martian is beloved by all those who see it, and Scott is an extremely overdue film maker. Even if say Spotlight wins Best Picture, I could see them splitting to finally give Scott the Oscar he deserves. Bridge of Spies is apparently hitting all the right notes with Oscar voters, and I don't think they will pass up another opportunity to reward Steven Spielberg, who is clearly still at the top of his game. Finally, I am still holding slots for two of the three big unknowns left in this season. David O. Russell and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's new films look fantastic, and both are recent nominees/winners with incredible track records. But this leaves out Danny Boyle who captures the energy of Sorkin's script in Steve Jobs. It leaves out Lenny Abrahamson, who has brought this season's breakout hit Room. It leaves off Quentin Tarantino, the great George Miller's revisionist mind in Mad Max, and Todd Haynes, John Crowley and Tom Hooper for their extraordinary romantic films Carol, Brooklyn, and The Danish Girl. This leaves out Laszlo Nemes who hopes to join the likes of Julian Schnabel, Pedro Almodovar, and Michael Haneke as the foreign contender. Ryan Coogler has revived the Rocky franchise, Adam McKay has brought comedy into economics, F. Gary Gray made Straight Outta Compton a huge success, Denis Vileneuve brought intensity in Sicario, and Ron Howard brings Moby Dick to life in In the Heart of the Sea, and that doesn't even cover them all. There's J.J. Abrams, Bill Pohlad, Paolo Sorrentino, Bill Condon, Jay Roach, Robert Zemeckis, Andrew Haigh, and the Inside Out duo, all still there looking to make the cut.