The end of every year naturally leads into the next, but it also marks the start of a very important time in Hollywood: awards season. The critics have chimed in with their top 10 picks throughout December, and now the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences members will chime in with their picks for the best of the best in 2015. The nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 15, but what's the fun of just waiting for the Academy to tell us what is right? While we wait for the Oscar nominations to roll in, we have pored over all of this year's critical darlings, and, through a highly-scientific method (i.e. educated guessing), we're presenting our predictions for the 88th Annual Academy Award nominations and winners.

Now, even the most esteemed of pundits aren't usually 100% correct. There isn't actually any "highly-scientific method" of predicting the nominees. Every year there are surprises, but even those who try to predict the surprises get surprised themselves. This isn't an exact science, but it sure is fun to speculate about beforehand... and then complain about afterwards. Still, there are several things to take into consideration, especially considering what kinds of movies the Academy typically favor... and what movies they don't.

Movies based on true stories are generally surefire Oscar bait, as far as nominations go, although there are certainly no guarantees. Last year, four of the nine Best Picture nominees were based on true stories (American Sniper, Selma, The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything), but an original movie about a washed up movie star mounting a Broadway comeback (Birdman) wound up taking home Best Picture. This year, there will be plenty of movies based on a true story to choose from, like Mad Max: Fury Road. OK, I'm kidding, but that blockbuster does provide a nice segue.

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On its surface, Mad Max: Fury Road doesn't look like your typical Oscar movie, but we reported in October that Warner Bros. was planning to mount an Oscar campaign for this summer blockbuster. As it turns out, that campaign actually paid dividends, as it was named the best movie of the year by the National Board of Review, the first Oscar season indicator, and it has been raking in awards and nominations since then, including a Golden Globe nod for Best Picture - Drama. Can this be the year that a big-budget movie breaks through and takes the top prize? The last movie of that ilk to win Best Picture was The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King back in 2003, so perhaps the blockbuster is overdue.

It's also quite possible that this will be the first year that a Netflix original movie gets some Oscar love with The Ridiculous 6... sorry, I just couldn't help myself. Beasts of No Nation, the streaming service's first original narrative movie, has been getting rave reviews since debuting in October, with Idris Elba getting some serious Oscar buzz for his performance. Netflix has earned Oscar nominations in back to back years for documentaries The Square and Virunga, but its foray into original narrative movies could change the Oscar landscape once again. Later this year, Netflix will debut War Machine starring Brad Pitt, which could very well be in the Oscar hunt next year.

On the acting side, there are plenty of worthy picks in all four categories (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress), but only a handful of "locks." But, there are also just as many dark horse candidates as there are front-runners. While Brie Larson is considered by most to get a nomination for the indie drama Room, but some think that her nine-year-old co-star Jacob Tremblay could be a surprise nominee for Best Supporting Actor. Also, while none of the actors from Straight Outta Compton have been garnering any serious awards buzz, the entire cast was nominated for a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that it's really anybody's guess who will be nominated and who won't, but, below, you'll find our guesses.

Below you'll find our picks for all of the major categories, along with a few potential sleeper picks thrown in to boot. Now, these aren't, per se, our personal picks, because if that was the case, you'd probably find Mad Max: Fury Road getting every nominee for every category, including Best Documentary, Best Animated Feature and Best Live-Action Short Film, just because. No, these picks are based on the intangible amount of "buzz" swirling around each category, and represent our best educated guesses as to what the esteemed members of the Academy may choose for the nominees and winners. So, without further ado, take a look at our predictions for the 2016 Oscar nominations and winners.



Ever since expanding the Best Picture field to a possible 10 nominees instead of five, the Academy has only picked 10 nominees twice, in the first two years of this new rule, in 2010 and 2011. This would be the perfect year to fill out the field completely, but it also sheds light on an intriguing development. If these are, in fact, the 10 nominees, Mad Max: Fury Road will be the only "original" movie in the bunch... and even that movie is set in a previously-established universe with a new rendition of a well-known character. Straight Outta Compton and Spotlight aren't technically adapted from any source material, but they are both based on true stories, while all of the other potential nominees are adaptations. While this doesn't necessarily have any bearing on any of these movies' chances, it's some interesting food for thought. Sleeper Picks: Inside Out, Sicario, The Hateful Eight, Ex Machina, The Danish Girl.