Oscar races used to be so predictable, at least for the top honors.
It was “Birdman” versus “Boyhood” for best picture last year, and “12 Years a Slave” versus “Gravity” the year before. The list goes on. With few exceptions, film industry observers can usually narrow down the front-runners to one or two films.
FOR THE RECORD:
SAG Awards: In the Dec. 10 Calendar section, an article about the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations said that voters had received free Netflix subscriptions in order to watch the streaming service’s film “Beasts of No Nation” for consideration. Nextflix has since said that it did not provide free subscriptions to SAG voters.
With the Golden Globes and SAG Awards nominations announced this week, however, the 2015 Oscar race is shaping up as anything but certain. There are a lot of strong movies and performances, and critics groups and awards voters have yet to reach any consensus on the best of the best.
“There’s not a film this year that people really have a crush on,” says awards consultant Tony Angellotti, an academy member. “Every group seems to like a lot of different things, but you’re not seeing that emphatic stamp of approval.”
WINNER: miniseries actress - Lady Gaga
NOMINATED: miniseries(Suzanne Tenner / TNS)
NOMINATED: motion picture comedy; comedy actor - Christian Bale, Steve Carell; screenplay(Paramount Pictures / TNS)
NOMINATED: motion picture drama; drama actress - Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara; director - Todd Haynes; original score(Courtesy of The Weinstein Compan / The Weinstein Company)
NOMINATED: drama actor - Eddie Redmayne; supporting actress - Alicia Vikander; original score(Agatha A. Nitecka / Focus Features)
WINNER: drama actress - Taraji P. Henson
NOMINATED: drama series(Chuck Hodes / FOX)
NOMINATED: miniseries; miniseries actress - Kirsten Dunst; miniseries actor - Patrick Wilson(Chris Large / FX)
WINNER: comedy actress - Jennifer Lawrence
NOMINATED: motion picture comedy(Merie Weismiller Wallace / 20th Century Fox)
NOMINATED: drama series; drama actor - Wagner Moura(Daniel Daza / Netflix)
NOMINATED: motion picture drama; director - George Miller(Jasin Boland / TNS)
WINNER: supporting actor - Christian Slater; drama series
NOMINATED: drama actor - Rami Malek(Sarah Shatz / USA)
NOMINATED: comedy series; best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a series, limited series or motion picture made for television - Uzo Aduba(JoJo Whilden / Netflix / TNS)
NOMINATED: drama series; drama actress - Caitriona Balfe; supporting actor - Tobias Menzies(Ed Miller / Starz Entertainment)
WINNER: drama actress - Brie Larson
NOMINATED: motion picture drama; screenplay(George Kraychyk / A24)
NOMINATED: motion picture drama; director - Tom McCarthy; screenplay(Kerry Hayes / TNS)
WINNER: supporting actress - Kate Winslet; screenplay
NOMINATED: drama actor - Michael Fassbender; original score(Francois Duhamel / Universal Pictures)
WINNER: comedy actor - Matt Damon; motion picture comedy
NOMINATED: director - Ridley Scott(Giles Keyte / 20th Century Fox / TNS)
WINNER: director - Alejandro González Iñárritu; drama actor - Leonardo DiCaprio; motion picture drama
NOMINATED: original score(Kimberley French / 20th Century Fox)
NOMINATED: motion picture comedy; comedy actress - Amy Schumer(Mary Cybulski / Universal Pictures)
NOMINATED: comedy series; comedy actor - Jeffrey Tambor; supporting actress - Judith Light(Beth Dubber / Amazon Studios)
NOMINATED: comedy series; comedy actress - Julia Louis-Dreyfus(Handout / TNS)
NOMINATED: miniseries actor - Mark Rylance; supporting actor - Damian Lewis(Giles Keyte / Masterpiece / BBC)
“There’s no clear front-runner, and that makes it interesting,” adds director Pete Docter, whose “Inside Out” earned a Globes nomination for animated feature. “Who doesn’t love a little suspense at the Oscars?”
Nearly every contender could look at the last two days and foresee scenarios of glory. Or doom.
“Spotlight” earned nominations for SAG ensemble and Globe drama, but, individually, its male actors have gone unsung.
“The Martian” and “Joy” found love from the Globes’ Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. voters, but both wiggled their way into the group’s comedy categories, where the competition is softer.
“Straight Outta Compton” scored with SAG but not the Globes. “Mad Max: Fury Road” continued its critics group momentum — the film and its well-liked director, George Miller, won prizes from the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and the National Board of Review — with the Globes.
Meanwhile, “Steve Jobs” earned four Globes nods — tied for second-most — but the film flopped at the box office, and Oscar voters rarely reward failure. “Jobs’ “ nominations also did not include that of best picture. Perhaps it should have petitioned the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. to be considered a comedy — it has as many laughs as “Joy” and “The Martian.”
The period romance “Brooklyn” couldn’t find any takers except for its lead actress, Saoirse Ronan, whose name isn’t quite the tongue-twister Dennis Quaid made it out to be when announcing her Globes nomination. (It’s pronounced Sir-shuh, Mr. Quaid.)
Steven Spielberg’s Cold War thriller “Bridge of Spies” is also off to a slow start, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see academy members, who packed its screening in Beverly Hills, give it momentum. Spielberg and the film’s star, Tom Hanks, remain two of Hollywood’s most popular figures.
All these contradictory signals have created an air of uncertainty around this year’s awards races. Nobody in the industry — or watching it — knows what to think.
“It’s all over the place,” says Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, which saw four of its films — “Son of Saul,” “Grandma,” “The Lady in the Van” and “Infinitely Polar Bear” — each win a single Globes nomination.
“Looking at the race, I had predicted five movies I thought were surefire best picture nominees, and only one of them won a SAG ensemble nomination,” Barker says. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is going to be a tough year to predict.’ ”
But what about “The Martian”? Click to see the 22nd Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination snubs and surprises.(Fox, Bleecker Street, FX, Twentieth Century Fox)
Many predicted the strong performance of “The Martian’s” big-name cast would lead to both an ensemble nomnation and a nod for lead actor Matt Damon. The film was not recognized in any category.(Aidan Monaghan / Twentieth Century Fox)
While early reviews are mixed for “Joy,” many assumerd Jennifer Lawrence’s strong performance would lead to a fourth individual SAG Award nod. Neither Lawrence nor the film earned any nominations.(20th Century Fox)
Sarah Silverman left her comedic comfort zone for her role in “I Smile Back” and it paid off with a surprise nomination in the lead female actor category.(Broad Green Pictures)
“Beasts of No Nation” earned both an ensemble nod and a supporting actor nomination for Idris Elba. That Netflix’s first foray into film earned an ensemble nomination over a movie like “The Martian” is a feat worth noting.(Netflix )
Both Helen Mirren and Bryan Cranston have very deep SAG Awards resumes, but “Trumbo’s” ensemble performace nomination, on top of the individual recognition for both actors, still came as a surprise.(Hilary Bronwyn Gayle / Bleecker Street Media)
In a double surprise, Helen Mirren also earned a lead actress nomination for “Woman in Gold.”(Robert Viglasky / The Weinstein Company)
While the cast of “Spotlight” earned a nomination in the ensemble category, the lone individual performace to be recognized was Rachel McAdams’, for supporting actress.(Kerry Hayes )
Many considered “Straight Outta Compton” a long shot in the awards race, but the film earned a coveted ensemble performance nomination.(Jaimie Trueblood / Universal Pictures)
While not entirely unexpected, “The Hateful Eight” came away with no nominations.(Andrew Cooper / The Weinstein Company)
The SAG Awards completely overlooked “Empire,” including Taraji P. Henson, whose performace as fan-favorite Cookie Lyon lead to a 2015 Emmy nomination.(Chuck Hodes / FOX)
Although the SAG Awards recognized the ensemble of one that is Tatiana Maslany with a 2015 nomination, she was crowded out this year from the lead drama actress field.(BBC America)
That sketch-comedy series “Key and Peele” earned its first comedy ensemble nomination may not necessarily be surprising but is definitely notable as one of two newcomers in a field of returning favorites.(Danny Feld / Comedy Central)
There was no love for “Fargo” from the SAG Awards, which had to compete in the drama series category (for the 2015 awards “Fargo” was considered a miniseries).(Chris Large / FX)
The SAG Awards drama ensemble nods all went to previously nominated series, meaning new shows like “The Leftovers” were left out of the race.(Paul Schiraldi / HBO)
Two things to remember: The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. is made up of 82 members who are journalists and fans. By and large, the academy loathes this group and isn’t inclined to follow any of its dictates, though sometimes, by coincidence, the groups’ choices match. Last year, the HFPA, following the lead of most critics groups, lauded “Boyhood” and its director, Richard Linklater. But it was “Birdman” and its writer-director Alejandro G. Inarritu holding Oscars at the Academy Awards.
SAG, meanwhile, votes early, and its deadline seems to penalize movies that arrive late and don’t provide voters DVD screeners. Academy members have more of a chance to watch the December films, take in the entire field and nominate late releases — recent examples include “American Sniper” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
“So few people I know have seen ‘The Revenant,’ ” Barker says. “It’s just way too soon for most people to make their way through all these movies.”
The holidays will provide that opportunity. After we’ve rung in the New Year, the Producers Guild will announce its 10 picture nominees on Jan. 5 and the Directors Guild will follow with its list of five on Jan. 12. Two days later, Oscar nominations will be announced.
It’s a long time to wait for answers. But look at it this way: Everyone still has a little hope (or hell) to hang on to for five more weeks.
5:20 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional reporting.
This article was originally posted at 9:10 a.m.