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What happened as voters had ballots in hand Dec. 30 - Jan. 8?

It’s 5:00 p.m. on the West Coast, meaning it’s pencils down for Academy voters. Balloting for the first phase of the 88th annual Oscar season has drawn to a close and now, the hard-working folks of PricewaterhouseCoopers will tally the results, which will be revealed the morning of Jan. 14.

Here’s what happened when Academy members had ballots in hand (though it should be noted paper ballots were mailed out earlier than the official start date, which is when electronic ballots were made available).

– Ballots officially arrived on Dec. 30 as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” crossed the $600 million domestic box office mark on its way to becoming the all-time champ, which it did on Jan. 6.

– Also on Dec. 30, Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” transitioned out of its 70mm/roadshow limited engagement phase, adding another 1,858 screens across the country before beefing up with another 500 over the holiday weekend. (Tarantino also had his hands and feet immortalized in cement at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Jan. 5, on the heels of receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at the end of December.)

– On Jan. 1, “Creed” crossed $100 million domestic to start the new year. Two days later on Jan. 3, star Michael B. Jordan was the National Society of Film Critics’ surprise best actor winner. (Sylvester Stallone also graced Variety‘s Jan. 5 cover as part of our Golden Globes preview.)

– Also on Jan. 3, Variety hosted its annual Creative Impact Awards brunch at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in conjunction with its 10 Directors to Watch presentation. An intimate event with a number of Academy members in attendance, it saw “Concussion” star Will Smith and “Anomalisa” writer-director Charlie Kaufman accept awards, while honored directors from the list with films in play this season included Deniz Gamze Erguven (“Mustang”), Ciro Guerra (“Embrace of the Serpent”), Duke Johnson (“Anomalisa”), Peter Landesman (“Concussion”) and László Nemes (“Son of Saul”). Also honored was “Ex Machina” writer-director Alex Garland, who couldn’t attend.

– Speaking of Palm Springs, the festival’s annual awards gala was held the night before on Jan. 2. Honorees included Johnny Depp (“Black Mass”), Cate Blanchett (“Carol”), Bryan Cranston (“Trumbo”), Rooney Mara (“Carol”), Matt Damon (“The Martian”), Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl” and “Ex Machina”), Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs”), Brie Larson (“Room”), Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”) and countless others, as it seems the festival never runs out of hardware to hand out.

– On Jan. 4, the America Cinema Editors were the first industry group to announce nominees since the early Screen Actors Guild date in December. “Sicario” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” were the surprise inclusions, with “Spotlight” unexpectedly left off the list.

– Throughout the week, the art directors, producers, writers and costume designers guilds, as well as the American Society of Cinematographers, added to the equation. “Sicario” maintained an impressive streak throughout, showing strength where many had counted the September release out, while “Straight Outta Compton” added PGA and WGA nominations to its SAG ensemble berth, emerging as a serious best picture contender. “Ex Machina” also scored a surprise PGA nomination, while “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” — a film most expected to cruise to a nod — was ignored.

– Todd Haynes’ “Carol” managed some notices here and there (from the ASC, WGA and CDG), but remained in an extremely limited 180-screen theatrical holding pattern. That number finally increased to 525 on Jan. 8, with Harvey Weinstein no doubt holding off on going much wider until Oscar nominations (hopefully) pave the way.

– “Mad Max: Fury Road” emerged as the most lauded film throughout the industry groups circuit, netting mentions from six organizations. “Bridge of Spies,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant” and “Sicario” each managed five, while “The Big Short” and “Trumbo” landed four apiece.

– Finally, “Bridge of Spies” and “Carol” led the British Academy of Film and Television Arts’ nominations with nine each, followed closely by “The Revenant” with eight. Surprises of note included “Mad Max: Fury Road” missing out on best film and best director nominations; Alicia Vikander being nominated for both lead (“The Danish Girl”) and supporting actress (“Ex Machina”); and Matt Damon (“The Martian”) and Benicio Del Toro (“Sicario”) finally showing up after being on the bubble for most of the season.

Along the way, studios made their last serious pitches aimed at Academy membership, with soirees held in honor of films like “Beasts of No Nation,” “The Big Short” (with Steve Carell getting a Hollywood Walk of Fame star on Jan. 6), “Brooklyn,” “The Hateful Eight,” “The Hunting Ground,” “Steve Jobs” and “Trumbo,” among others.

How much will all of that figure into things? “Creed” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” caught consumer strides at the perfect time. “Ex Machina” and “Sicario” did well enough to perhaps embolden closet fans. It’s quite a gumbo heading into the nominations announcement next week, and no doubt, the postmortem will be an interesting one.

We’re not quite ready for final predictions yet, but for now, this is what we’re thinking around these parts. Further illumination will come from the directors and makeup & hairstylists guild next week, along with the cinema audio and visual effects societies.

Nominations for the 88th annual Academy Awards will be revealed on Thursday, Jan. 14.

Latest Predictions:

Spotlight Picture
  1. "The Big Short" Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner

  2. "Spotlight" Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin and Blye Pagon Faust

  3. "The Revenant" Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Mary Parent and Keith Redmon

  4. "Bridge of Spies" Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger

  5. "The Martian" Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer, and Mark Huffam

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Best Director Oscar Preview Director
  1. Alejandro G. Inarritu "The Revenant"

  2. Adam McKay "The Big Short"

  3. Tom McCarthy "Spotlight"

  4. George Miller "Mad Max: Fury Road"

  5. Lenny Abrahamson "Room"

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One of the year's most critically acclaimed films was also a major B.O. disappointment. After failing to gross $20 million domestically, "Steve Jobs" was pulled from U.S. theaters after less than three weeks. Actor
  1. Leonardo DiCaprio "The Revenant"

  2. Bryan Cranston "Trumbo"

  3. Michael Fassbender "Steve Jobs"

  4. Matt Damon "The Martian"

  5. Eddie Redmayne "The Danish Girl"

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Best Actress Oscar Contenders Actress
  1. Brie Larson "Room"

  2. Saoirse Ronan "Brooklyn"

  3. Cate Blanchett "Carol"

  4. Charlotte Rampling "45 Years"

  5. Jennifer Lawrence "Joy"

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Oscar Nominations Reactions Sylvester Stallone Supporting Actor
  1. Sylvester Stallone "Creed"

  2. Mark Rylance "Bridge of Spies"

  3. Mark Ruffalo "Spotlight"

  4. Christian Bale "The Big Short"

  5. Tom Hardy "The Revenant"

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Carol Rooney Mara Supporting Actress
  1. Alicia Vikander "The Danish Girl"

  2. Rooney Mara "Carol"

  3. Kate Winslet "Steve Jobs"

  4. Jennifer Jason Leigh "The Hateful Eight"

  5. Rachel McAdams "Spotlight"

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(Nov. 4, Fox Searchlight)
Fox Searchlight, the reigning back-to-back best picture champ, has an interesting pair of contenders in this and Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth.” But John Crowley’s coming-of-age portrait of the immigrant experience is the warmer feel-good player. Adapted Screenplay
  1. "The Big Short" Adam McKay, Charles Randolph

  2. "Room" Emma Donoghue

  3. "Carol" Phyllis Nagy

  4. "Brooklyn" Nick Hornby

  5. "The Martian" Drew Goddard

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Walt Disney
Pixar’s family-friendly head trip is the sort of emotional powerhouse that, like “Up” and “Toy Story 3” before it, could crack the best picture race. A nomination for animated feature should be assured, but an original screenplay mention could also be in the cards (“original” being the operative word). Original Screenplay
  1. "Spotlight" Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer

  2. "Inside Out" Josh Cooley, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve

  3. "Ex Machina" Alex Garland

  4. "Bridge of Spies" Matthew Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

  5. "Straight Outta Compton" Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus

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Josh Brolin Sicario Cinematography
  1. "The Revenant" Emmanuel Lubezki

  2. "Mad Max: Fury Road" John Seale

  3. "The Hateful Eight" Robert Richardson

  4. "Carol" Edward Lachman

  5. "Sicario" Roger Deakins

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Focus Features
Reteaming with “The King’s Speech” director Tom Hooper, Eddie Redmayne follows his Oscar-winning turn as Stephen Hawking with an entirely different acting challenge, projecting the inner soul of transgender pioneer Einar Wegener. As in that earlier film, his understanding onscreen wife, Alicia Vikander, could be recognized for the stability she provides. Costume Design
  1. "Mad Max: Fury Road" Jenny Beavan

  2. "The Danish Girl" Paco Delgado

  3. "The Revenant" Jacqueline West

  4. "Carol" Sandy Powell

  5. "Cinderella" Sandy Powell

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Director: Adam McKay 
By Terry Gilliam 
At last... a smart, funny and beautifully directed film about something important. I wish it had been mine, but sadly it’s the handiwork of Adam McKay who really knows what he is doing and has the clout to gather a great cast who entertain, educate, and immerse us in the foolish, greed-driven world that arrogantly marched our economy off the cliff. His flair at telling the tale gets my vote for hero of the year. Film Editing
  1. "Mad Max: Fury Road" Margaret Sixel

  2. "The Big Short" Hank Corwin

  3. "The Revenant" Stephen Mirrione

  4. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey

  5. "Spotlight" Tom McArdle

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mad max fury road Makeup & Hairstyling
  1. "Mad Max: Fury Road" Lesley Vanderwalt, Damian Martin, Elka Wardega

  2. "The Revenant" Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini

  3. "The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared" Love Larson and Eva von Bahr

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(Dec. 25, Weinstein)
Quentin Tarantino (“Inglourious Basterds,” “Django Unchained”) offers an incentive to experience films in the theater, with a limited 70mm roadshow engagement that’s sure to seduce celluloid purists. Original Score
  1. "The Hateful Eight" Ennio Morricone

  2. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" John Williams

  3. "Carol" Carter Burwell

  4. "Bridge of Spies" Thomas Newman

  5. "Sicario" Jóhann Jóhannsson

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Lady Gaga Best Original Song
  1. "Til It Happens To You" from "The Hunting Ground"

  2. "Writing's on the Wall" from "Spectre"

  3. "Earned It" from "Fifty Shades of Grey"

  4. "Simple Song #3" from "Youth"

  5. "Manta Ray" from "Racing Extinction"

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Touchstone
Steven Spielberg is never one to be counted out of the top categories, especially when there’s a resonant history lesson involved. Tom Hanks’ performance is as laudable as the film’s Coen brothers-polished script, but the revelation here is Mark Rylance, considered a lock for his richly understated supporting turn as a Soviet spy. Production Design
  1. "Mad Max: Fury Road" Colin Gibson; Katie Sharrock, Lisa Thompson

  2. "The Danish Girl" Eve Stewart; Michael Standish

  3. "The Revenant" Jack Fisk; Hamish Purdy

  4. "Bridge of Spies" Adam Stockhausen; Rena DeAngelo, Bernhard Henrich

  5. "The Martian" Arthur Max; Celia Bobak, Zoltan Horvath

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star wars the force awakens bb8 Sound Editing
  1. "The Revenant" Martin Hernandez and Lon Bender

  2. "Mad Max: Fury Road" Mark Mangini and David White

  3. "The Martian" Oliver Tarney

  4. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Matthew Wood and David Accord

  5. "Sicario" Alan Robert Murray

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Matt Damon The Martian Sound Mixing
  1. "The Revenant" Chris Duesterdiek, Frank A. Montaño, Jon Taylor, Randy Thom

  2. "Mad Max: Fury Road" Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo

  3. "The Martian" Mac Ruth, Paul Massey, Mark Taylor

  4. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson

  5. "Bridge of Spies" Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Drew Kunin

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Golden Globe Nominees 2016 Reactions Animated Feature
  1. "Inside Out" Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera

  2. "Anomalisa" Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson and Rosa Tran

  3. "Shaun the Sheep Movie" Mark Burton and Richard Starzak

  4. "Boy and the World" Ale Abreu

  5. "When Marnie Was There" Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura

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Oscar Documentary Contenderts 2016 Documentary Feature
  1. "Amy" Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees

  2. "Cartel Land" Matthew Heineman and Tom Yellin

  3. "What Happened, Miss Simone?" Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby and Justin Wilkes

  4. "The Look of Silence" Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sorensen

  5. "Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom" Evgeny Afineevsky and Den Tolmor

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Son of Saul Cannes Film Festival Foreign Language
  1. "Son of Saul" Lazlo Nemes; Hungary

  2. "Mustang" Deniz Gamze Erguven; France

  3. "Theeb" Naji Abu Nowar; Jordan

  4. "A War" Tobias Lindholm; Denmark

  5. "Embrace of the Serpent" Ciro Guerra; Colombia

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Original Screen Play Oscar Race Visual Effects
  1. "The Revenant" Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith and Cameron Waldbauer

  2. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould

  3. "Mad Max: Fury Road" Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver and Andy Williams

  4. "The Martian" Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence and Steven Warner

  5. "Ex Machina" Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett

See Full Listing

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