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Oscar Watch: Directors Guild slate leads to our final Oscar nomination picks

Oscar Watch: Directors Guild slate leads to our final Oscar nomination picks
George Miller, director of "Mad Max: Fury Road," earned a Directors Guild nomination Tuesday. (Danny Moloshok / Invision)

This year's up-for-grabs best-picture Oscar race became a bit more defined with the Directors Guild of America's selection of its five award nominees.

The movies made by the DGA's nominated directors — Alejandro G. Iñárritu ("The Revenant"), Tom McCarthy ("Spotlight"), Adam McKay ("The Big Short"), George Miller ("Mad Max: Fury Road") and Ridley Scott ("The Martian") — are now all but certain to land Oscar nominations for best picture.

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Since the academy expanded the best picture category in 2009, it has shunned a DGA nominee's film just once, when Oscar voters snubbed David Fincher's 2011 sordid psychological thriller "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

That kind of rebuff probably won't happen again this year. Most of the DGA-nominated movies have deep support throughout the academy's branches, save for McCarthy's "Spotlight," a journalism procedural whose strength will be clearer when we learn if any member of its talented acting ensemble earns a nomination from the academy on Thursday.

The DGA's slate continues a rather dispiriting guilds run for Todd Haynes' romance "Carol," which failed to land nominations with the producers, editors and art directors groups last week.

The good news for Haynes, Steven Spielberg ("Bridge of Spies") and other directors left off the DGA's list is that the academy hasn't completely matched the guild since 2010. In the six years since the academy expanded the best-picture category, the DGA and Oscars have overlapped 23 out of 30 times.

So it would not be surprising to see Haynes or Spielberg sneak in ahead of, say, Miller or McKay.

With that key DGA indicator in hand, here's one last look at how the Oscar nominations might shake out Thursday morning.

PICTURE

"The Big Short"

"The Revenant"

"Spotlight"

"The Martian"

"Mad Max: Fury Road"

"Carol"

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"Bridge of Spies"

"Brooklyn"

"Straight Outta Compton"

"Room"

Possible surprise: The retro rush from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" never dissipated, and Oscar voters give J.J. Abrams' reboot a reward on top of its gazillion-dollar box office. (Or maybe, partly, because of its gazillion dollar return.)

INTERACTIVE: How to win an Oscar

Possible disappointment: Reports of squeamish academy members unwilling to give the harrowing "Room" a viewing prove to be true, and the film, which won the audience prize in Toronto, goes unrewarded.

DIRECTOR

Ridley Scott, "The Martian"

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, "The Revenant"

Tom McCarthy, "Spotlight"

George Miller, "Mad Max: Fury Road"

Todd Haynes, "Carol"

Possible surprise: McKay and "The Big Short" have a huge day, with McKay earning a nomination here and for adapted screenplay.

Possible disappointment: Haynes, one of our most gifted filmmakers, will be overlooked yet again by the directors' branch. (His only Oscar nomination: original screenplay for "Far from Heaven.")

LEAD ACTOR

Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Revenant"

Michael Fassbender, "Steve Jobs"

Eddie Redmayne, "The Danish Girl"

Bryan Cranston, "Trumbo"

Matt Damon, "The Martian"

Possible surprise: Michael B. Jordan joins "Creed" castmate Sylvester Stallone among the acting nominees for his empathetic portrait of the movie's troubled title character, a young boxer searching for identity.

Possible disappointment: Fassbender, away from awards-season events filming "Assassin's Creed," is also absent from voters' minds.

LEAD ACTRESS

Brie Larson, "Room"

Saoirse Ronan, "Brooklyn"

Cate Blanchett, "Carol"

Jennifer Lawrence, "Joy"

Charlotte Rampling, "45 Years"

Possible surprise: Vikander, being campaigned for supporting actress in her meaty turn in "The Danish Girl," wins a promotion to lead — and a possible double nomination. (See supporting actress.)

Possible disappointment: Not enough voters saw Rampling's subtle turn in the marriage-on-the-rocks drama "45 Years," and her name falls through the cracks.

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Sylvester Stallone, "Creed"

Mark Rylance, "Bridge of Spies"

Idris Elba, "Beasts of No Nation"

Christian Bale, "The Big Short"

Mark Ruffalo, "Spotlight"

Possible surprise: Paul Dano picks up a deserved nomination for his remarkable performance as the "Pet Sounds"-era Brian Wilson in "Love & Mercy."

Possible disappointment: The "Spotlight" actors — Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber — fail to earn individual nods, crippling the movie's best-picture hopes.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Alicia Vikander, "The Danish Girl"

Rooney Mara, "Carol"

Kate Winslet, "Steve Jobs"

Jennifer Jason Leigh, "The Hateful Eight"

Helen Mirren, "Trumbo"

Possible surprise: Vikander earns a nomination, but for her turn as the alluring android in "Ex Machina."

Possible disappointment: The Weinstein Co.'s gambit of campaigning co-lead Mara in supporting backfires and she fails to earn a nomination in either category.

Twitter: @glennwhipp

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