Oscarathon 2016 Preview: Best Picture Nomination Predictions

In All, Movies by David

Tomorrow morning the Oscar nominations will be announced. Time for some last minute predictions on the noms for Best Picture.

The 2015 Best Picture Oscar race has been one of the most wide open in quite some time. A number of films have received praise, but none have truly stood out as a real frontrunner, necessarily. This is the kind of year that the 2009 nomination limit increase (from 5 to a possible 10) was really made for, as this is one of those years that could deservedly have ten films. But the way the voting works, actually getting ten nominations is incredibly difficult. I don’t really want to get into the math, but the number of “best” preference rankings a film gets really matters, and in a year without a consensus, it may actually be more difficult for the films to get to the numbers needed to secure a nomination. That is why there are even people who think this could be a year where things go in the opposite direction and we get the minimum instead of the maximum number of nominations. Oscar math gets really screwy.

I, however, think that this year feels like a big movie year, and that generally has meant something since the new voting rules. So I think there will in fact be nine nominations this year, as quite a number of films have the voter base necessary to make the ballot. Now the only question is, which nine movies?

The Locks

Reasoning: In a year without true consensus, the only thing it seems most people agree on is that Spotlight and The Big Short are two of the best films of the year. Spotlight has basically been nominated by every awards group possible, and The Big Short has done nearly as well. The guilds especially loved Spotlight, and mostly loved The Big Short. The ensemble nature of both has stopped either from becoming true frontrunners, but at this point they are the only two movies where I would be legitimately stunned if they don’t get a nomination, because every group that has a vote seems to love them.

The Surging Narrative

Reasoning: This film got a bit of a late start, but after The Revenant‘s triumph at the Globes, its momentum can’t be denied. Sure, it is possible that the echo chamber that is the Hollywood Foreign Press is just trying to be different, but Leo is very likely to win an Oscar for his role, and the technical guilds have shown great support for this movie. Add in that everyone loves director Alejandro González Iñárritu, and this film could be revving up to have a Birdman-like run to a win. At the very least, it seems like a solid pick for nomination.

The Near Locks, Because The People That Love These Movies Really, Really Love These Movies

Reasoning: All of these films have received huge amounts of praise, but not as universally as Spotlight or The Big Short. All feel like movies that will benefit in the Oscar math because the people who like them think they are the best films of the year–exactly the kind of vote a movie needs to get nominated. This especialy helps Room; besides Brie Larson’s great performance, it has the added benefit of being the indie film that could, which is always worth a lot of Oscar love and momentum.

The Feels Too Much Like An Oscar Nominee Not to Be One Nominee

Reasoning: Carol is certainly beloved, but never seems to get as much fervor as the films above it. Still, it looks and feels like an Oscar nominee. The industry loves Todd Haynes, not to mention talky period dramas. This feels like the movie that gets a lot of nominations but no wins (as it did at the Globes), which generally always happens to at least one best picture nominee.

So that leaves two spots, and here are the contenders.

I’ll admit I may have missed one, but those seem like the main contenders. Of those, it is pretty easy to eliminate a few. Inside Out will probably miss out because the industry is reticent to nominate animated films in general for Best Picture, and only do so during ‘weak’ years when forced to nominate ten films. Beauty and the Beast‘s nomination in 1991 helped spur the creation of the Animated Feature category so that it would be much harder for this to happen again, and since then, only two animated films have made it to the Best Picture nomination list. (That said, those films–Up and Toy Story 3–were also Pixar films, so Inside Out might have a slim chance.)

Son of Saul is also out because, like animation, foreign films also rarely get their due. Sicario has only been allowed to stick around because of PGA, Critic, and American Editing nominations, but that is likely not going to be enough–which is a real shame, so I really hope I am wrong. The Hateful Eight just doesn’t have the support Tarantino’s last two films did; nor does Joy have the same level of support O. Russell’s last two films did, so both of those seem out. The Danish Girl and Brooklyn feel more like movies that will get acting nominations, but nothing else; and it feels like the people who like them like Room or Carol better. Beasts of No Nation is doomed, because being released on Netflix before its theatrical run means that the politics are heavily against it being recognized.

This leaves four contenders for two spots. Trumbo because of its SAG nomination, and the fact that this is exactly the kind of movie that might have won the Oscars in the 1990s. Bridge of Spies because of Spielberg. Star Wars because, well, not having Star Wars would make this year seem really silly in a lot of ways, considering it is the most important film of 2015.

Finally, Straight Outta Compton is a possibility because of its SAG and PGA nominations. Trumbo I think is still an easy cross off, because it just isn’t good enough, and Brian Cranston will still get rewarded with a Best Leading Actor nomination. But the last three are tricky. If this vote had concluded two weeks ago I think Star Wars would have had it, but support has somewhat cooled, so I think it would need either to displace one of the other blockbuster movies (The Martian or Mad Max) to make the cut, or the list needs to make it to the full ten nominations (unlikely). So that leaves Bride of Spies–I just don’t see the Academy leaving Spielberg off the list, even if they should–and Straight Outta Compton, which has a lot of support and has run a very good campaign to keep it fresh in people’s minds, so I say it sneaks in for the surprise nomination.

So that means my picks for Best Picture Nominations are the following:

  1. Spotlight
  2. The Big Short
  3. The Revenant
  4. Mad Max: Fury Road
  5. The Martian 
  6. Room
  7. Carol
  8. Bridge of Spies
  9. Straight Outta Compton

Will this prove to be true? We’ll all find out tomorrow.