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The 2016 Oscars guessing game begins

The Oscars for the best films of 2014 were just handed out Sunday, but speculation has already begun about who will be nominated for the 88th Academy Awards next year!

Will this be the year Leonardo DiCaprio finally snares Oscar gold? Will another Sundance Film Festival indie darling — “Me & Earl & the Dying Girl” — be part of the 2015 awards season? Will two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett tie Meryl Streep’s triple-win record by playing a woman in a lesbian affair?

Here’s what Hollywood insiders are saying.

DiCaprio stars in “The Revenant,” directed by newly minted “Birdman” Oscar winner Alejandro G. Inarritu and shot by Emmanuel Lubezki, whose cinematography Oscar for “Birdman” was his second win in that category two years running. Set in the mid-1800s, it’s the story of a fur trapper who was left for dead after being mauled by a bear. Tom Hardy also stars in the film, which falls into the “survival” category of movies that Oscar tends to favor with nominations. (Remember “Cast Away,” “Into the Wild” and “127 Hours.”)

As for the big Sundance grand prize and audience prize winner “Me & Earl & the Dying Girl,” it comes from director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, best known for his directing on “American Horror Story” and “The Carrie Diaries.” Starring Jon Bernthal (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Fury”), Nick Offerman, Olivia Cooke and Molly Shannon, it’s about a teenage filmmaker who becomes friends with a girl dying of cancer. Sundance has in recent years become a big predictor of films slated for other awards. Over the past few years, Sundance winners have included “Whiplash,” “Fruitvale Station,” “Winter’s Bone,” “Precious,” “Frozen River,” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

Other buzzed-about films that premiered at Sundance include: “Brooklyn,” starring Saoirse Ronan as a recent Irish immigrant to New York; “Grandma,” starring Lily Tomlin in a family-bonding drama; and James Ponsoldt’s “The End of the Tour,” starring Jesse Eisenberg as a magazine journalist recounting his travels with author David Foster Wallace on a book tour. Jason Segel’s dramatic turn as Wallace already is already stirring Oscar buzz.

“Carol” stars Cate Blanchett as a 1950s-era housewife going through a divorce who finds love with a younger woman, played by Rooney Mara. It’s being dubbed a female “Brokeback Mountain.” The film is directed by Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven,” “I’m Not There”) and is based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith.

Chicago’s own Michael Shannon — himself a former Oscar nominee — stars in “Midnight Special,” directed by Jeff Nichols (“Mud”). Shannon portrays a father on the run after learning his son has special powers.

There also could be award offerings from some familiar names, including those who already have an Oscar or two sitting on their mantels.

Martin Scorsese has done a new adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s novel “Silence,” which stars Andrew Garfield as a Jesuit missionary sent to Japan in the 1700s find his mentor (Liam Neeson), who’s been accused of straying from the basic tenets of Catholicism.

David O. Russell has again reunited his “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle” team — including Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper — for “Joy.” It’s based on the true story of Long Island housewife Joy Mangano (Lawrence) who invented the miracle mop and actually still holds a lot of household goods patents to this day.

Veteran filmmaker Werner Herzog may get the attention of the Motion Picture Academy for “Queen of the Desert,” starring Oscar winner Nicole Kidman in another true tale. It’s focused on Gertrude Bell, a British woman who was instrumental in crafting the political borders of the Arab world after the British invaded Mesopotamia during World War I, leading to the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Gus Van Sant directed “The Sea of Trees” with Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe, set in Japan’s “Suicide Forest.” It also has people talking award potential. Ditto for Steven Spielberg’s much-anticipated “St. James Place,” which is the working title (likely to change) for the Oscar winner’s movie (cowritten by Ethan and Joel Coen). Another true story, it stars Tom Hanks as American lawyer James Donovan, who was in charge of the negotiations to release Francis Gary Powers, the U2 spy plane pilot shot down by the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War.