Since my last post, more awards have been given out, most notably the Critics’ Choice Awards. This has shifted the race in a number of fascinating ways. Before we take a look, here once again are the nominations:
The Big Short
Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers
Bridge of Spies
Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producers
Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers
Mad Max: Fury Road
Doug Mitchell and George Miller, Producers
Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer and Mark Huffam, Producers
Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Mary Parent and Keith Redmon, Producers
Ed Guiney, Producer
Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin and Blye Pagon Faust, Producers
The Nothing to See Here Films
Bridge of Spies
- Already at the bottom of the heap, nothing has changed for either of these, so let’s just move on.
Don’t Count This Film Out Yet
- Not much change for Room either, but it is worth noting that Brie Larson picked up Best Actress at the Critics’ Choice Awards, and Jacob Tremblay picked up the Best Young Actor/Actress. The response to both was quite positive, and Room is likely to be a part of the awards conversation for at least any acting awards they are up for, so that is going to keep this movie on everyone’s mind. Room is still not a likely contender for Best Picture, but stranger things have happened.
Can This Film Pull an Argo? So far, no…
- Still stinging from missing out on both Best Director and Best Editing Oscar nomations, The Martian took yet another awards campaign body blow when, despite nine nominations, this film was shut out of the Critics’ Choice Awards. If it is going to go on a run, it needs to start real soon. It’s not just momentum that is against The Martian but history as well, considering only four films have ever won the big award without having a directing nomination. True, the last one was Argo in 2013, but considering the other three were Driving Miss Daisy (a poster child for bad Best Picture picks among those who don’t realize the film is a horror movie), the very first Best Picture winner, Wings, and 1932’s Grand Hotel, which occurred when there were only three Best Director nominations), Argo is a true aberration, and I sense if the Academy had a do-over, they just would have nominated Ben Affleck. More bad news for The Martian: only ten films have won Best Picture without having a Best Editing nomination. (The most recent one to do so, last year’s Birdman, shouldn’t really count, considering its one-take gimmick; before that was Ordinary People in 1980, which was 36 years ag0.) There is no intersection between these lists, either, other than the technicality that the Best Editing category didn’t exist until 1934, so films like Wings and Grand Hotel could not in fact be nominated for a non-existent category. So all this means The Martian would have to defy a lot of history in order to win Best Picture, and nothing so far is suggesting that it can even come close to doing so.
The Next Rung Contenders
The Big Short
- So this is when the shake-up starts (at least temporarily). It’s not so much that The Big Short had a bad few days as much as Mad Max: Fury Road had some really good days. Still, how much this shake-up ultimately means is questionable–The Big Short did get some good press, winning the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Comedy and Best Actor in a Comedy (Christian Bale). But the real advantage it has is that, unlike The Revenant or Mad Max: Fury Road, this film has a nomination for screenwriting. Only two films have ever won Best Picture without a writing nomination: The Sound of Music and Titanic. So The Big Short is going to benefit from being one of the only two films that checks all the boxes generally needed to win Best Picture. The problem is, the other film is Spotlight, and every strength The Big Short has, Spotlight shares and then some. For now, The Big Short is stuck in the back of the contender line, but as the race continues that could certainly change fast.
Mad Max: Fury Road
- Mad Max has had a good run. It won nine Critics’ Choice Awards, including Best Director and Best Editing, and The London Film Circle named it film of the year. More importantly, Mad Max looks to be the favorite to win Best Editing, and the current frontrunner to win Best Director (or at worst, co-frontrunner with The Revenant). This is a big deal, because of the 35 films that have won both the Best Editing and Best Directing Oscars, only five have failed to win Best Picture as well (1951’s A Place in the Sun, 1972’s Cabaret, 1999’s Saving Private Ryan, 2000’s Traffic, and 2013’s Gravity). So if Mad Max can pull this duo victory off, it ups the film’s chances immensely. That said, it is hard to move this movie any higher, for several reasons. It has no acting or writing nominations, and no film has ever won Best Picture without at least one of the two. The Revenant shares some of Mad Max‘s strengths while possibly garnering more buzz in the Academy. Finally, as good as Mad Max did at the Critics’ Choice Awards, it didn’t actually win Best Picture.
The Knocked Off Its Perch Contender
- This is super close, but the fact that this film can no longer be considered the outright favorite for Best Directing, that it is likely to lose Best Editing, and that it still lacks that writing nomination drops this film down ever so slightly in my predictions. Leonardo DiCaprio kept up his end of the bargain by winning at the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Actor, and The Revenant is still doing quite well at the box office, but the buzz isn’t quite as high this week as it was last week. This type of ebb and flow in the rankings is likely going to continue until one of these films starts consistently winning the guild awards and the BAFTAS.
Presenting Our New King of the Hill
- The only thing keeping Spotlight from the top initially was that it hadn’t been winning as much as you would expect. Instead it was just nominated by everything. That changed with its Critics’ Choice Award win for Best Picture. Now admittedly, it’s a valid question how much stock we should put into a group of pop culture journalists voting for a movie about journalism, but that doesn’t change the fact that Spotlight is finally on the board. This film checks all of the boxes, and has finally gotten a small amount of momentum. The big things going against Spotlight are that it is just a very understated film, which makes it not the sexiest film to support. (The best analogue for this film might be another understated film about real life journalism–All the President’s Men, which was nominated in 1976 for eight Oscars but only won two, losing Best Picture to Rocky. – Ed) There is a good chance that in five to ten years people may wonder why this film won over likely more memorable films like Mad Max, The Revenant, or possibly even The Big Short. The other issue is there is a real chance this film may win just Best Picture without any other wins, which is historically a very rare occurrence. Now, I think it has a strong chance to win for Best Screenplay or Best Supporting Actress, so this may be moot, but that doesn’t change the fact that this film’s best bet is Best Picture. If this happens, it would really be an appropriate nod, considering how this movie is such a group effort, but it would be something that the Oscars don’t generally do. Of course, at this point just about every contender has some kind of historical limitation against it, so something has to give. Right now it looks like it will give for Spotlight.
So here is how things are looking as of January 21st, 2016:
Current Predicted Winner: Spotlight
- The Revenant
- Mad Max: Fury Road
- The Big Short
- The Martian
- Bridge of Spies
What Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Have Been Nominated (Okay, I am just going to have fun with this, and highlight different films): Inside Out
That’s it for now. I’ll be back with more in the future, so keep checking in for my continued coverage during Oscarathon 2016.