You can almost hear the studio engines revving up as the 2016 Oscar race begins. There’s the screen veterans, rising talent, the overdue, and past nominees all putting their hats in the ring. Here’s a rundown of the performances  to watch out for as the award season begins.


[photo: Focus Features]

Eddie Redmayne and Alicia VikanderThe Danish Girl

Starring last year’s best actor winner Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander The Danish Girl is the incredible story inspired by the lives of artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. As one of the pioneering transgendered Redmayne is said to give a fantastic performance as Lili, but the one to watch out for is Vikander who’s coming off a breakthrough year. Both are top contenders in the lead categories. If Redmayne were to win back-to-back best actor Oscars it would be the sixth time for that to happen in the Academy’s history.


[photo: Warner Bros.]

Johnny DeppBlack Mass

Black Mass is sleeper of a movie that not a lot of people saw coming from director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart). Johnny Depp’s portrayal of criminal Whitey Bulger is said to be a career best. Depp who has been nominated three times in the lead category might finally get an overdue recognition.


[photo: Fox Searchlight]

Michael CaineYouth

Look for Michael Caine to possibly receive a seventh acting nomination for Youth. From the looks of the superb trailer it looks like solid work. If his performance is well received by the Academy it might help give a boost to the strong supporting cast that includes Rachel Weisz, Harvey Keitel, and Jane Fonda.


[photo: Sony Pictures Classics]

Tom Hiddlestone and Elizabeth OlsenI Saw The Light

From the Coal Miners Daughter to Walk the Line the Oscars love a good musical biopic, and I Saw The Light about the lives of country singers Hank and Audrey Mae Williams looks inspiring. Both Tom Hiddlestone, and Elizabeth Olsen have been on the Oscar radar for a few years, and this movie will probably garner a lot of praise for the pitch perfect casting of the couple.


[photo: Focus Features]

Carey MulliganSuffragette

By the looks of the trailer Carey Mulligan will probably receive a second best actresses nomination –if not a first win- for this inspiring film that chronicles the early feminist movement. It’s Oscar worthy material has oddly never had justice on the big screen until now. Coming off a strong performance in Far From the Maddening Crowd earlier this year, and Suffragette will peak interests for voters. Helena Bonham Carter, and Meryl Streep could possibly be major supporting players here too.


[photo: The Weinstein Company]

Marion CotillardMacbeth

Has there ever been a Shakespeare film adaptation quite as intense as Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth? With Michael Fassbinder and Marion Cotillard playing lead roles it doesn’t get any better. Cotillard is said excel in the role of Lady M, and the film has Harvey Weinstein on its side to give it the extra award push. As the original Game of Thrones this big screen treatment of Macbeth will be much talked about.


[photo: Bleeker Street Media]

Idris ElbaBeasts of the No Nation

The buzz from the Toronto Film Festival is that Idris Elba has officially entered the best actor race for his role in Carey Fukunaga’s Beasts of the No Nation. The Netflix released film about the experiences of a child soldier fighting in an African civil war is said to be powerful. It already holds an impressive critical score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Idris Elba has been doing the rounds in Hollywood blockbusters (Prometheus, Pacific Rim) for the past few years, and it’s a wonder why a role like this hasn’t found him sooner.


[photo: Warner Bros.]

Sandra Bullock Our Brand is In Crisis

Ten years back who would have thought Sandra Bullock would be in the award circuit for hard-hitting roles in movies like Our Brand is Crisis? Based on the acclaimed documentary the film focuses on the use of American political campaign strategies in South America. It’s been a long haul getting the film made- it made 2008’s Blacklist of “most liked” unmade scripts of the year. Bullock has a good shot at entering the best actress race for her ball busting performance as the campaign strategist. She also has producing partner George Clooney on her side.


[photo: The Weinstein Company]

Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, and Samuel L. Jackson The Hateful Eight

It’s likely Quentin Tarantino’s new film The Hateful Eight will Oscar nominate most of its main cast. All are overdue for nominations, and wins. Jennifer Jason Leigh has the Patricia Arquette factor going on. An outstanding working actress with decades of solid work who’s never had an Oscar nomination. By the looks of her character it could be one to nominate her.

Tarantino has a reputation for revitalizing an actor’s career in a role tailor made for them, and this could be the case with Kurt Russell. In his Grizzly Adams furs, and mountain man mustache it has all the likings of an iconic role in the making. Also, who wouldn’t want to see this beloved actor win?

Samuel L. Jackson probably should have won best supporting actor for Pulp Fiction, and this film could make up for it. Talent like Jackson is always overlooked by the Academy, but he might be hard to ignore here. It will be a win that’s a long time coming for this BAMF.


[photo: The Weinstein Company]

Rooney Mara and Cate BlanchettCarol

The Cannes Film Festival best actress winners are always ones to watch out for, and Rooney Mara walked away with that high honor back in June. Todd Haynes’s 1950’s love story between a young New York department store clerk, and an older married woman looks heartbreaking. No word yet if Mara will be campaigned in the lead or supporting category. It’s safe to say the great Cate will probably get another nomination.


[photo: Sundance Selects]

Kristen StewartClouds of Sils Maria

Kristen Stewart’s effortless performance in Olivier Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria is a career-defining role. She walked away with the Cesar Award for best supporting actress earlier in the year, which is a first for an American actress. An Oscar nod might be a long shot, but more unusual roles have received nominations in the past.


[photo: Universal Pictures]

Jason MitchellStraight Outta Compton

While on the subject of dark horse nominations Jason Mithchell’s breakout role portraying Easy-E in Straight Outta Compton is a performance that’s worth of recognition. The film was a massive hit this past summer, and Mitchell is singled out in nearly every review. Nominating him for best supporting actor would be just the breath of fresh air the Oscars needs.


[photo: A24]

Brie LarsonRoom

Brie Larson is said to be exceptional in Room, which is adapted from the bestselling novel by Emma Donoghue. The film follows the journey of a mother, and son who escape from captivity from a room in which they were held for five years. Larson has had a career of impressive roles, and Short Term 12 should have got her a nomination back in 2013. Room showcases what a great actress she is.

Others to pay attention to: Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy in The Reverent; Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies; Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro in Sicario; Michael Fassbinder and Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs; Lilly Tomlin in Grandma; Saorise Ronan and Julie Walters in Brooklyn; Chiwetel Ejiofor and Nicole Kidman in Secret in Their Eyes; Jennifer Lawrence in Joy; Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road; Rachel McAdams in Spotlight; Elizabeth Banks in Love & Mercy; and Naomi Watts in About Ray.