BY DYLAN ANDREW
- "Spotlight" (Open Road Films) - This was the big audience favorite coming out of the fall film festivals. I haven't seen the film and don't know whether it will be able to maintain its front-runner status as the season goes along and the inevitable backlash sinks in, but for right now it appears to be at the top.
- "Steve Jobs" (Universal) - I've offered up my enthusiastic thoughts about the film, and it is setting the box-office on fire in limited release. How it plays in wide release for mainstream audiences is yet to be seen, but "Steve Jobs" appears to be in the thick of the conversation.
- "The Martian" (20th Century Fox) - On-paper, "The Martian" wasn't seen as a major Oscar contender, but with some of the best reviews of the year and outstanding Box-office, the film has forced itself into the conversation in a big way. If the Academy can overlook their bias towards sci-fi (which they nearly did with the similarly low-key "Gravity"), then this populist, uplifting film has a real chance for the win.
- "The Revenant" (20th Century Fox) - The first of the sight-unseen contenders in my predictions. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, the helmer of reigning BP champ "Birdman", and this looks to be a similarly ambitious film, if not even more so. If the film delivers on expectations, it will be a major awards player.
- "Bridge of Spies" (DreamWorks) - The reviews have been very strong and, like much of Spielberg's work, this looks like it will play very well to the old-fashioned Academy audience. Don't know if it's a potential winner, but it's definitely a contender.
- "Carol" (The Weinstein Co.) - There have been suggestions that the film might be a bit chilly for audiences, but this looks like actors fodder with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara's performances. Also, this looks like the Weinstein's best play at the moment, and Harvey Weinstein is a pro at getting his horse in the race.
- "Room" (A24 Films) - The winner of the audience prize out of Toronto, which has been a benchmark for several previous Best Picture winners ("Slumdog Millionaire", "The King's Speech, "12 Years a Slave"), this has been a surprise entry into this Oscar season, given that it's a relatively small scale indie.
- "The Danish Girl" (Focus Features) - Received mixed responses out of the film festival circuit, but looks like it will play better to mainstream audiences. Mixed reviews certainly didn't hurt Tom Hooper's last Oscar contender, "Les Miserables".
- "Inside Out" (Pixar) - Easily the best reviewed Pixar film since "Toy Story 3", the last one to receive a nomination in this category. Will likely depend on how well the late entires play, but this looks like a strong possibility for a nomination.
- "Joy" (20th Century Fox) - David O. Russell's recent Oscar track record suggests I should put a lot of faith in this as a contender, but I'm still a little reserved on this one. With "The Martian" and "The Revenant" also on their slate, will Fox really be able to get 3 films in? And is this maybe more of a Best Actress play for Jennifer Lawrence.