Oscar predictions: Are we underestimating ‘Trumbo,’ ‘Sicario,’ Charlize Theron, Steve Carell … ?

As the precursors roll in, guild balloting opens up and academy screenings continue, the view of what will and won’t be nominated at the Oscar this year comes into clearer focus. While many of the contenders already appear to be “locks” for nominations, we must keep in mind that each year brings its own surprises. Last year, our Experts, drawn from major media who cover this beat year-round, had an overall accuracy of 71% at predicting the eventual nominees across the 24 categories. While impressive, that means we missed almost 30% of those that reaped bids. 

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Forum posters are already speculating as to who might earn the “Laura Dern spot” this year; she was nominated last year for her featured turn in “Wild” despite being snubbed by the Golden Globe/SAG/Critics Choice trifecta and having 50/1 odds at Gold Derby. 

Among those others that we underestimated: Bennett Miller (“Foxcatcher) was nominated for Best Director despite 80/1 odds while 2007 champ Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose”) returned to the Best Actress race with “Two Days, One Night” (it hadn’t made the Foreign-Language Film shortlist) even with 100/1 odds.

Also making the cut with the academy despite 100/1 odds: “Ida” (Best Cinematography), “Inherent Vice” (Best Costume Design), “Song of the Sea” (Best Animated Feature), “The Salt of the Earth” (Best Documentary Feature) and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (Best Visual Effects).

Below, profiles of contenders, all at 100/1 odds as of this writing, with the potential to still reap Oscar bids. Lock in some of these predictions now and benefit from maximum points in the prediction contest!

Be sure to click on each category to see the full list of odds & rankings.

Best Picture
Trumbo” has already caused waves in acting races, with (arguably) surprise bids for Best Ensemble, Actor (Bryan Cranston) and Supporting Actress (Helen Mirren) with SAG. And both performers earned Globes and Critics’ Choice nominations as well. If the actors branch of the academy throws their support behind it, a Best Picture nomination doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

Sicario” also picked up some Best Picture heat recently when the National Board of Review named it as one of their Top Ten Films.

And don’t count out “Beasts of No Nation” with its SAG Ensemble nod or “Son of Saul,” an exceptionally strong Foreign-Language Film frontrunner that could cross over into the general fields.

Dish all the Oscar races in our red-hot forums with Hollywood insiders

Best Director
Prior to his bid last year, Miller already had one Best Director nomination (“Capote”) and two Best Picture nominations (“Capote” and “Moneyball”) under his belt. Likewise, Quentin Tarantino (“The Hateful Eight”) and Tom Hooper (“The Danish Girl”) are both filmmakers with previous Oscar wins and nominations but remain long shots so far in this race.

And there’s a lot of love for both “Room” and “Brooklyn” which could mean Lenny Abrahamson and John Crowley snag their first Oscar nominations just like up-and-coming directors Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game,” 2014) and Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild,” 2012) did in recent years.

Click here to see ups and downs of Oscar races over entire awards season

Best Actress & Best Supporting Actress
All four acting races seem to be in a constant state of upheaval so far this season, with many performances being recognized at various precursors in either lead or supporting. As such, no categories seem more vulnerable to surprise nominees than these.

On the actress side, 2003 Best Actress winner Charlize Theron (“Monster”) could ride the wave of “Mad Max: Fury Road” support to her third nomination in the category while ingénue Alicia Vikander could find voters promoter her to lead for “The Danish Girl” to make room for her “Ex Machina” performance in the supporting category. If “Brooklyn” continues to gain momentum, it’s possible that Julie Walters could reap her third Oscar nomination

Best Actor & Best Supporting Actor
After sharing in the SAG Ensemble nomination and getting a Golden Globe nomination of his own, Steve Carell could be factor if “The Big Short” continues to make headway in the general fields.

At one point Ian McKellen (“Mr. Holmes”) and two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks (“Bridge of Spies”) both looked like safe bets for Best Actor nominations but have slipped to 100/1 odds.

In the supporting field, the race is spread among 10 names before getting to the longshots, but don’t underestimated past category champs Benicio Del Toro (“Traffic,” 2000) for “Sicario” and Robert De Niro (“The Godfather, Part II”) for “Joy.”

Click here to see odds and rankings of our Oscar Experts

Best Costume Design
Cinderella” failed to make the shortlist for Best Makeup & Hairstyling, calling into question whether its as strong of a frontrunner in costumes as our odds suggest. If it falters, there may be room in the field for “Macbeth” or “The Assassin,” both of which feature ornate, fighting garb. Among period romances, consider “Far from the Madding Crowd” and “Testament of Youth.”

Best Score
“Sicario” is a dark horse candidate in a number of fields including Original Screenplay and both Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. And one of its best bets could be composer Johann Johannsson, who was nominated for the first time last year (“The Theory of Everything”). 

David Lang could contend for both his score for “Youth” and the original tune “Simple Song #3.”

And “Steve Jobs” composer Daniel Pemberton got a boost with a Golden Globes nomination.

Make your Oscar predictions using the menu to the right or below beginning with Best Picture. 

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Trumbo” photo credit: Bleecker Street

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