Academy Award voting closed Friday evening [January 8, 2016]. Before that momentous event, there were several important awards season milestones, which likely swayed voters in new directions. This race is one of the tightest awards watchers have seen in a long time. There definitely will be some surprises when the Oscar nominations are announced January 14.

The nominations for this year’s BAFTA Film Awards were unveiled on January 7. Steven Spielberg’s Bridge Of Spies and Todd HaynesCarol each received nine nominations, further solidifying their chances. Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant was nominated for eight awards. The Big Short and Spotlight were also nominated for best picture. Ex Machina was nominated for five awards, which bolstered its Oscar odds. Its star Alicia Vikander was nominated for her work in both Ex Machina and The Danish Girl. She could snag Oscar noms in two categories next week.

On Tuesday, January 5, The National Board Of Review handed out its annual film awards at Cipriani Midtown. Mad Max: Fury Road was named the best film of the year, helping its Oscar odds. Straight Outta Compton and Creed were also named two of the best films of the year by the group, which added great buzz to their campaigns. Other favorites: Bridge of Spies, The Hateful Eight, Inside Out, The Martian, Room, Sicario and Spotlight were also honored by the 106 year old group. Compton also received a Producers Guild nomination earlier in the day.

On Monday, January 4, The New York Film Critics Circle hosted their 81st Annual Awards Ceremony at hotspot Tao Downtown. Best Supporting Actress went to Kristen Stewart for her work in Clouds Of Sils Maria. She has had a last minute surge in buzz for her performance and may be able to earn a Oscar nomination. Carol, Brooklyn, Spotlight and Bridge of Spies also received awards at the NYFCC Gala.

The Palm Springs International Film Festival’s gala highlighting Oscar contenders was Saturday night (January 2). Cate Blanchett accepted a Desert Palm Achievement Award for her performance in Carol. Matt Damon received the Chairman’s Award for his work in The MartianJohnny Depp, was presented the Desert Palm Achievement Award for playing ruthless gangster Whitey Bulger in Black Mass. The Big Short was honored with a best ensemble award. The film’s stars Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Jeremy Strong and Finn Wittrock were in attendance. The Spotlight Award went to Trumbo star Bryan Cranston. Jobs star Michael Fassbender won the International Star Award. Spotlight director Tom McCarthy was presented with the Sonny Bono Visionary Award. Rooney Mara also received a Spotlight Award for Carol and last but not least Brie Larson was honored with the Breakthrough Performance Award for her work in Room. 

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