By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jan 10, 2016 at 11:16 AM

The first of the big entertainment awards will be dished out tonight at the Golden Globes – which has seemingly made steps toward legitimacy and away from its past star tongue-bathing ways ("The Tourist" for Best Picture, #neverforget).

That’s continued into this year’s nominations, with the Hollywood Foreign Press passing on some easy star sightings (no nominations for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s "By the Sea," for instance) and even placing Alicia Vikander in "The Danish Girl" and Rooney Mara in "Carol" in their more accurate category of lead actress rather than in supporting where the studios would like them. They even took a pass on Johnny Depp’s ballyhooed turn in "Black Mass" – and they’ll usually nominate him for anything (except for "Dark Shadows" because even the HFPA has its limits).

But what does that mean in terms of winners and losers? Let’s take some guesses before the red carpet is rolled out and Ricky Gervais starts making everyone in the ballroom uncomfortable. 

Best Picture – Drama

  • "Carol"
  • "Mad Max: Fury Road"
  • "The Revenant"
  • "Room"
  • "Spotlight"

Who will win: "Spotlight"
Who should win: "Mad Max: Fury Road"
Who should’ve been nominated: "Sicario"

The journalism drama "Spotlight" is the closest thing to a frontrunner we have right now in this wide open awards race, but it sure feels vulnerable. Its unexceptional exceptional-ness doesn’t make it the kind of movie you get passionate about. However, its closest competition – "The Big Short" – is in a different category, and while the eye-popping spectacles of "Mad Max: Fury Road" or "The Revenant" could wow enough voters to slide in for a steal, those violent action affairs don’t tend to win awards. Until another movie can prove otherwise – and I really wish the tense, terrific "Sicario" could be given a chance to try – "Spotlight" is your best bet. 

Best Actor – Drama

  • Bryan Cranston, "Trumbo"
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Revenant"
  • Michael Fassbender, "Steve Jobs"
  • Eddie Redmayne, "The Danish Girl"
  • Will Smith, "Concussion"

Who will win: Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Revenant"
Who should win: Michael Fassbender, "Steve Jobs"
Who should’ve been nominated: Michael B. Jordan, "Creed"

Listen, Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t drag himself around the frosty wilderness, eat raw bison liver, sleep inside an animal and gurgle like a mad man not to win awards. And while I have my doubts about his performance – once you get past the showy suffering, there’s not a whole lot actually there – I have no doubt he’ll win the first of many to come tonight. It’s a frankly weak field – Fassbender is my favorite of the bunch, but his movie has won over few, while Jordan’s great turn in "Creed" isn’t even nominated – so let the Leonardo DiCelebration begin.

Best Actress – Drama

  • Cate Blanchett, "Carol"
  • Brie Larson, "Room"
  • Rooney Mara, "Carol"
  • Saoirse Ronan, "Brooklyn"
  • Alicia Vikander, "The Danish Girl"

Who will win: Brie Larson, "Room"
Who should win: Brie Larson, "Room"
Who should’ve been nominated: Nina Hoss, "Phoenix"

The best actress field this year is one deep enough to make the Atlantic look like a kiddie pool – and it’s currently just as fluid. Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander are both here despite the fact their respective studios are campaigning them in supporting, and nobody knows if the Academy will follow the studios or go their own way like the HPFA did here. It’s usually pointless to take much away from the Golden Globes in terms of what it means for the Oscars, and in the Best Actress categories, it’s even more pointless than usual.

So what’s this all mean for tonight? Larson’s amazing turn in "Room" has been the frontrunner for a while, and despite some buzz that Academy voters are less than eager to watch the movie, considering "Room" got one of the five Best Picture slots here, it seems the HFPA was receptive. Ronan is Larson’s toughest competition, but considering this is the only nomination for "Brooklyn," it’s hard to say it’s earned much love. Vikander’s turn in "The Danish Girl" seems to be everyone’s second favorite performance of hers this year – after "Ex Machina" – and with Blanchett and Mara in the same category, "Carol" fans will be stuck splitting their votes. With that, the heart and the mind both point to Larson.

Best Picture – Musical or Comedy

  • "The Big Short"
  • "Joy"
  • "The Martian"
  • "Spy"
  • "Trainwreck"

Who will win: "The Big Short"
Who should win: "The Big Short"
Who should’ve been nominated: "Magic Mike XXL"

Yeah, that’s right: "Magic Mike XXL." I can feel you judging me, but here’s the thing: "Magic Mike XXL" is freaking delightful, a joyful, funny and inclusive celebration of pleasure. Plus, it sure as hell is more of a musical or comedy than "The Martian." That egregious display of category fraud will probably cost Matt Damon’s space venture, as nobody will want to honor the film as the best musical or comedy of 2015 when it is neither of those things (though props for a strong use of disco music). The more populist HFPA might lean "Trainwreck," but my guess would be "The Big Short," which will keep the fire burning on its late push for gold.

Best Actor – Musical or Comedy

  • Christian Bale, "The Big Short"
  • Steve Carell, "The Big Short"
  • Matt Damon, "The Martian"
  • Al Pacino, "Danny Collins"
  • Mark Ruffalo, "Infinitely Polar Bear"

Who will win: Matt Damon, "The Martian"
Who should win: Steve Carell, "The Big Short"
Who should’ve been nominated: Taika Waititi, "What We Do in the Shadows"

No offense to Taika Waititi’s funny and rather sweet turn as the housemom to a pack of vampires in "What We Do in the Shadows," but I had to seriously scour to find a sixth nominee here. Maybe Bill Hader in "Trainwreck" too? Seriously, leading guys; 2015 was not your finest effort.

Anyways, Bale and Carell – whose emotionally pained performance is most deserving of the two – on their own would be frontrunners, but just like "Carol" in actress, the two will likely end up splitting votes, leading Damon to swipe likely his lone win this season. Meanwhile, Pacino will be just happy to be there, and Ruffalo will probably be too focused on his other movie to even care he’s nominated here. Fair enough.

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy

  • Jennifer Lawrence, "Joy"
  • Melissa McCarthy, "Spy"
  • Amy Schumer, "Trainwreck"
  • Maggie Smith, "The Lady in the Van"
  • Lily Tomlin, "Grandma"

Who will win: Jennifer Lawrence, "Joy"
Who should win: Jennifer Lawrence, "Joy"
Who should’ve been nominated: Bel Powley, "The Diary of a Teenage Girl"

It’s a shame "The Diary of a Teenage Girl" came out too early in the year for real awards consideration – and that that is even a factor for awards – because the Sundance indie should’ve earned itself some discussion for its breakout star lead Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgard and Kristen Wiig. All are great – and I know it’s probably not really a musical or comedy, but if "The Martian" qualifies, so can this. And while we’re category fraud-ing, how about some love for Daisy Ridley in "Star Wars"?

Back to the actual nominees. BFFs Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence will find themselves in casual battle here. I could see the HFPA giving the nod to 2015’s it girl Schumer, but it’s hard to vote against the more awards-friendly Lawrence – who, after a spat of arguably overrated performances, is actually quite good in "Joy."

Best Supporting Actress

  • Jane Fonda, "Youth"
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh, "The Hateful Eight"
  • Helen Mirren, "Trumbo"
  • Alicia Vikander, "Ex Machina"
  • Kate Winslet, "Steve Jobs"

Who will win: Alicia Vikander, "Ex Machina"
Who should win: Alicia Vikander, "Ex Machina"
Who should’ve been nominated: Kristen Stewart, "Clouds of Sils Maria"

There’s a nice late push coming through for Alex Garland’s sneaky, sexy sci-fi thriller "Ex Machina," and Vikander’s mesmerizing performance is the thing leading the charge. While her "Danish Girl" turn gets bogged in category controversy – the most innocuous of controversies – her fans have seemingly rallied around her "Ex Machina" turn. There’s a chance that’s the role that will nab her an Oscar nomination this year – and that would be awesome.  

Mirren and Fonda aren’t in their respective movies very long, and Winslet might feel overshadowed by her titular co-star. That leaves Leigh and Vikander to duke it out, and based on her impressive 2015 body of work – including the rarely mentioned but equally impressive "Testament of Youth" – I say Vikander takes it.

And why yes that is Kristen Stewart up there as being worthy of a nomination in "Clouds of Sils Maria." Don’t knock it until you’ve seen it; prepare to have your preconceived notions of the "Twilight" star proven wrong.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Paul Dano, "Love & Mercy"
  • Idris Elba, "Beasts of No Nation"
  • Mark Rylance, "Bridge of Spies"
  • Michael Shannon, "99 Homes"
  • Sylvester Stallone, "Creed"

Who will win: Sylvester Stallone, "Creed"
Who should win: Sylvester Stallone, "Creed"
Who should’ve been nominated: Jacob Tremblay, "Room"

While the leading actor category is skimpy this year, the supporting side is where some of the best male performances showed up in 2015. Tremblay in "Room – arguably a lead role – gets my nod here, but Walton Goggins in "The Hateful Eight," Benicio del Toro in "Sicario," the "Spotlight" guys and even Harrison Ford in "Star Wars" are all worthy of consideration as well.

As for the actual winner, it’s basically a two-man race between Rylance and Stallone, and I imagine the HFPA will go with the bigger star and the better story with Stallone. As anyone who’s seen "Creed" knows, this isn’t just a lifetime achievement award either; Stallone is quietly, truly great in the movie, less playing a role than seemingly just himself.

Lastly, props to Idris Elba, who will likely be the only performer of color nominated for an Oscar on Thursday. Unfortunately, #OscarsStillSoWhite.

Best Director

  • Todd Haynes, "Carol"
  • Alejandro G. Inarritu, "The Revenant"
  • Tom McCarthy, "Spotlight"
  • George Miller, "Mad Max: Fury Road"
  • Ridley Scott, "The Martian"

Who will win: Ridley Scott, "The Martian"
Who should win: George Miller, "Mad Max: Fury Road"
Who should’ve been nominated: Ryan Coogler, "Creed"

With "Carol" keeping many distant and Inarritu winning last year, the director race is a three-man contest between McCarthy, Miller and Scott. McCarthy might win as a tribute to the overall quality of "Spotlight," but there’s little exemplary about his work. Nothing bad, but nothing that catches you particularly either. I imagine screenplay is where most groups will give "Spotlight" its credit.

So that leaves Miller and Scott. Miller deserves it for creating the miracle that is "Mad Max: Fury Road." A movie like that shouldn’t have been made – much less by the 70-year-old director of the "Happy Feet" movies – but it was, and it rides eternal, shiny and chrome. However, there’s a strong movement to make this year the one Ridley Scott finally wins an Oscar (you’d think he’d have won for "Gladiator," but nope – Soderburgh for "Traffic"). It’s a tight race, but I think the HFPA leans toward Scott.

Best Screenplay

  • "The Big Short"
  • "The Hateful Eight"
  • "Room"
  • "Spotlight"
  • "Steve Jobs"

Who will win: "Spotlight"
Who should win: "Spotlight"
Who should’ve been nominated: "Inside Out"

There are a lot of big screenwriter names in this category – Tarantino, Sorkin – but the hardest charger right now is the one who co-wrote "Anchorman": Adam McKay, along with his co-writer Charles Randolph, for "The Big Short." Did his economic collapse dramedy, however, start collecting its buzz in time for the HFPA to give it the nod? I’m not so sure, so I go toward "Spotlight" as a kind of body of work win. As for who’s missing, where’s "Inside Out," the most inventive and emotional screenplay of the year? It’s hard to imagine when the Oscar nominations come around that Pixar’s achievement will be forgotten.

Best Animated Film

  • "Anomalisa"
  • "The Good Dinosaur"
  • "Inside Out"
  • "The Peanuts Movie"
  • "Shaun the Sheep Movie"

Who will win: "Inside Out"
Who should win: "Inside Out"
Who should’ve been nominated: "World of Tomorrow"

Charlie Kaufman’s claymation drama "Anomalisa" could make things interesting … but come on. This is a win for "Inside Out" in the bag. The only thing it needs to be worried about is if people didn’t get to watching it because they walked out during "Lava."

While we’re on the topic of short animated films, have you seen "World of Tomorrow"? It’s currently on Vimeo for about $5, and it contains more imagination, ideas, emotion and humor in less than 20 minutes than most animated movies – and live-action movies, for that matter – have in six times that length.

Best Foreign Language Film

  • "The Club"
  • "The Brand New Testament"
  • "The Fencer"
  • "Mustang"
  • "Son of Saul"

Who will win: "Son of Saul"
Who should win: "Son of Saul"
Who should’ve been nominated: "The Tribe"

The Hungarian Holocaust drama "Son of Saul" has been earning raves ever since it premiered at Cannes – where it won the Grand Prix (basically the festival’s silver medal). As you’d expect from the "Hungarian Holocaust drama" description, the movie is a punishing experience, so there’s a chance something just slightly lighter could sweep in. But other than maybe "Mustang," I don’t see anything here with the oomph to do so.

While we’re on the topic of punishing films – how’s that for a selling point?! – I must recommend "The Tribe." The Ukrainian drama, about miscreants at a boarding school for the deaf, showed at the 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival, and at its first screening, somebody actually passed out in the crowd – not because it’s a foreign film told exclusively told in non-subtitled sign language but because of the unpleasant depths it unblinkingly goes to. So yes, it’s a challenging watch, but you won’t see a more fascinating filmmaking feat. 

Best Score

  • "Carol"
  • "The Danish Girl"
  • "The Hateful Eight"
  • "The Revenant"
  • "Steve Jobs"

Who will win: "The Hateful Eight"
Who should win: "The Hateful Eight"
Who should’ve been nominated: "Sicario"

It only seems fair that, after I pummeled his "The Theory of Everything" score with words like "maudlin" and "treacle" last year, I give credit to Johann Johannsson this year for having one of 2015's best scores. His haunting, imposing work in "Sicario" made the movie's slow walk into the nightmarish murk of the border and cartel wars even more tense and unsettling.

Alas, he's not nominated here – and neither is "Star Wars" amazingly; don't expect the Oscar nominations to follow suit with that oversight. While the more conventional prestige picks are out there – "Carol," "The Danish Girl" – I imagine the Golden Globes will go with the legend Ennio Morricone and his gorgeously eerie, unsettling score for "The Hateful Eight." In a movie with a lot looking for your attention – the script, the performances, the cinematography, the exploded heads – the score managed to snag a lot of the spotlight. 

Best Song

  • "Love Me Like You Do" from "Fifty Shades of Grey"
  • "See You Again" from "Furious 7"
  • "One Kind of Love" from "Love & Mercy"
  • "Simple Song #3" from "Youth"
  • "Writing’s On The Wall" from "Spectre"

Who will win: "See You Again" from "Furious 7"
Who should win: "One Kind of Love" from "Love & Mercy"
Who should’ve been nominated: "Til It Happens to You" from "The Hunting Ground"

Are you prepared to hear the phrase "Oscar-nominated ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’"? You should, because there’s a strong chance "Love Me Like You Do" nabs a Best Song nomination. As for a win? Well, I don’t even think the HFPA or the Academy can go that far. Instead, the usually star-friendly Golden Globes – who incredibly didn’t nominate Lady Gaga’s "Til It Happens to You" – will probably go for the other popular hit, "See You Again" from "Furious 7." "Award-winning ‘Furious 7’" sounds just a little less absurd – and it certainly sounds better than Sam Smith’s mopey Bond theme.

Let’s be real, though: The obvious winner should be the TripleDent gum jingle from "Inside Out." 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.