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COLUMN: One sure-fire winner in Oscar nominees

Posted at 12:21 PM, Jan 14, 2016

There aren't many things that get me out of bed this early on a Thursday, but it's Oscar nomination day. Let the countdown to the big Sunday begin!

Here are a few of my first thoughts after the announcement of the nominees:

Big Night for Big Movies

"The Revenant" comes up with 12 nominations to lead the way, not really a big surprise there. "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" also earned a spaceship-load full of nods.

It's clear that bigger may be better this year. While those films will clean up in all of the technical categories, look for both "Revenant" and "Fury Road" to be in the conversation all night long.

Writers Rule

All 10 nominees in the screenplay category are fantastic. In going back over my notes for seeing those movies, I see a lot of 'great dialogue' and 'fascinating word play' among them.

Great to see "Straight Outta Compton" get a spot here. That movie may have deserved a couple more nominations, including Best Picture.

The Adapted Screenplay category is a powerhouse group. Four of the five movies also made the Best Picture list, with "Carol" being a noted exclusion.

Hello Ladies

It was an incredible year for female performances, especially in the Best Supporting Actress category.

The five nominated women have such a wide range of characters here, that it will be interesting to see in which direction the voters go.

I think Rachel McAdams in "Spotlight" could be the longshot, only because the other 4 nominations went to women who played these big, dynamic roles.

Alicia Vikander in "The Danish Girl" is probably my early pick here. She probably could just have easily landed in the Best Actress category, but this spot gives here a solid shot in winning.

A-List Actors

What a list the Academy voters put together here! While it looks like Leonardo DiCaprio may finally get his Oscar, don't just get ready to hand it over to him just that quickly.

The other four performances here are all great. And consider this: DiCaprio spends more than half of his film saying nothing, while these other men are putting together some stretches of dialogue that will knock you back in your seat.

And here's my quick "other 5 list" for Best Actor, to give some idea how tough this category was:
Idris Elba, "Beasts of No Nation"; Michael Keaton, "Spotlight"; Johnny Depp, "Black Mass"; Jason Segal, "End of the Tour"; Paul Dano, "Love and Mercy."

Go see any of those movies, and tell me those guys didn't deserve a shot at Best Actor. It's a night when only 5 nominees is clearly not enough.

Lock It Up

I'm only going with one sure-fire winner at this point. That would be Brie Larson in "Room." That movie absolutely owned me, it is an amazing piece of film. I think it'll be a strong contender for Best Picture (or should be), and it's mostly because of Larson's performance.

She IS that entire movie for the first hour. Her young co-star, Jacob Tremblay (who also should have been considered for Best Supporting Actor), is adorable in his role as the young son.

After watching Larson completely lose herself in this role of a trapped mother, you have a hard time picking any of the other four nominees in that category. They are all fantastic, for sure, but Larson's role was the first one during the movie year when I walked out of the theater and said "Oscar".

Best of the Best?

So who will take that Best Picture Oscar? This one will be tough for me to decide, because my favorites of the bunch and my thoughts on 'best' might fall into different columns on the fan ballot I fill out.

A small surprise that Star Wars' latest outing missed the cut. Be honest, you've seen it, and it's very good.
I'll have to give some more thought into my Best Picture pick in the weeks ahead, but that's the fun in waiting now.

We all have several weeks to be movie fans, and maybe go see some of our favorites again.

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