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Which early year releases will remain Oscar players throughout 2015?

Life of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys in LOVE & MERCY

Now that we’ve got just a shade over six months of the year out of the way, you can start to figure out which films and performances from he first half of 2015 have the potential to sustain awards buzz and which won’t. Below you’ll see a rundown of the major categories, with some notes about who and what could contend for some attention when the precursors start in the winter. Now, there’s a chance that nothing will break through from January through the end of June, but there’s a chance that a few things could as well, so let’s run that down now!

Here we go…

Best Picture is first up, and really only applies to Inside Out, if we’re being realistic. There’s an outside chance for Love & Mercy as well as Ex Machina and Mad Max: Fury Road, but that’s about it. Trust me, I’d love for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl to be a player, but it won’t be one in this category. That’s just how it is. We won’t have a winner, but if you’re looking for a contender from the first half, Inside Out is the one to pin your hopes on.

Best Director is the least likely of the bunch to have an early year contender, though some will try to push George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road. Aside from him (and barely him), no one really has a shot worth speaking of, unless you think Pete Doctor and Ronaldo del Carmen are making history with Inside Out. I don’t though, so that eliminates them. Don’t expect anyone from the first part of 2015 to wind up truly in play when we reach the end of the precursor season.

Best Actor right now has a potential player in Paul Dano for Love & Mercy, but the category is shaping up to be another bloodbath, so he could struggle to get in. That being said, he has the best shot of a group that’s pretty slim, likely only including Mark Ruffalo as a long shot for Infinitely Polar Bear. Dano is certainly deserving, so he’ll hang around, but I don’t know that he can ultimately get in.

The best shot for an early year acting citation is probably Best Actress. Here we have Helen Mirren for Woman in Gold, Carey Mulligan for Far from the Maddening Crowd, and Alicia Vikander for Ex Machina. The first two could certainly be players for a while, while the last one is a dark horse potentially worth keeping an eye on. Again, I don’t know that anyone gets in, but Mirren at least will definitely have a campaign to keep track of.

Best Supporting Actor will depend a lot on how the late year titles shape up, but pushing John Cusack supporting for Love & Mercy should keep him in play for a while. There’s also Michael Fassbender for Slow West, Oscar Isaac for Ex Machina, and Michael Sheen for Far From the Maddening Crowd to take note of, though the first half contender you should set your sights on is Cusack. He’s overdue, basically a lead, and could easily slip in if things break the right way for him.

If Best Supporting Actress turns into a wasteland like some years, we could see someone slip through. Elizabeth Banks for Love & Mercy, Olivia Cooke for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, as well as Kristen Stewart for Clouds of Sils Maria should be in play, with Stewart already having an award under her belt. Banks could ride her film’s potential success a long way, but in the end, I think if it happens for someone here, it happens for Stewart.

Best Adapted Screenplay isn’t one to bet on, but there’s fringe contenders to be found with Far From the Maddening Crowd, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Of the group, it could be Me and Earl and the Dying Girl or bust, which makes me sadly think that it’s a bust for the early year hopefuls here.

Finally, we have Best Original Screenplay, which has one real strong contender in Inside Out. There’s also Dope, Ex Machina, and Love & Mercy, but none can boast that they’re likely nominees like Inside Out can. Love & Mercy might surprise, so there’s that, but Inside Out would almost be an upset if it doesn’t make it in…

Stay tuned to see if anyone/anything can hold on throughout the second half of the year!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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