ByJason Travis, writer at
Jason Travis

In the dwindling days leading up to the 2016 Academy Awards, we're still in a tight hold for which man is going to win the Best Director Oscar- and further more, which film will win Best Picture.

The nominees for the prestigious prize are

  • Lenny Abrahamson, Room
  • Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant
  • Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
  • Adam McKay, The Big Short
  • George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

With the weekend coming up, the Director's Guild of America will announce their choice- which usually goes on to win the Oscar. There have been exceptions to this rule, most recently when Ben Affleck won for Argo and wasn't even an Oscar nominee. But Affleck fell into the "pity award" category where the industry felt sorry for the snub (and saw Ben feeling sorry for himself), and therefore awarded his film top dice while giving Ang Lee the helmsman award for Life of Pi.

2015 has been a curious and albeit odd year for the best director and picture race. The critics seemed to love George Miller for Mad Max, and thus he was the earlier consensus- along with Ridley Scott (The Martian). But the latter didn't get an Oscar nomination (his slot went to Abrahamson's intimate work for Room) and the former failed to receive BAFTA (British Academy Award) citations for directing or picture, which in the past has usually been lauded to future Oscar winners.

Then there's Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who just won an Oscar last year for directing Best Picture winner Birdman and recently took home Best Picture (Drama) and directing honors for helming the Leonardo DiCaprio bloodbath epic. But it's very VERY rare for a director to win back to back directing Oscars, as well as best picture. Many pundits think Inarritu won the Globes as a makeup for dissing him last year at the Globes in favor of Richard Linklater (Boyhood) for directing, and The Grand Budapest Hotel for Best Picture (Comedy/Musical). So in that case, is he out?

Now let's focus on the two frontrunners (in my eyes) for the Best Picture race. The Big Short and Spotlight. Both movies have little-known directors that are a bit vanilla compared to their competition. But both of their movies are getting more awards attention. Adam McKay directed Big Short, and it just won the Producer's Guild of America's prize for best picture. I was one of the ONLY people to predict this victory at, coming in 7th place out of about 1,000 people and accurately forecasting this victory earlier after seeing the movie. The reason I think Big Short has an edge over Spotlight is it just FEELS more important: Housing Market Crisis > Corrupt priests. Elections are coming up, everyone is bitching about rents increasing and mortgage rates- and this movie will tell you how that all came to be. It also has a fresher cast with more zing. By winning the PGA, it is slightly in first place; since the change to the preferential ballot system in 2009, every film that has won the PGA award has gone on to win Best Picture at the Oscars.

Spotlight did just upset Big Short for the Best Ensemble award at the SAGs last Saturday, but winning Best Ensemble doesn't always = Best Picture. American Hustle recently won this in 2013, and still lost to 12 Years a Slave at the Oscars.

The question is- will there be a best picture/director SPLIT? Splits are rare in the over-all history of the Oscars that date back to 1927, but in the past 15 years they have occurred five times:

  • 2000 - Gladiator wins Best Picture/ Steven Soderbergh wins Director for Traffic
  • 2002 - Chicago wins Best Picture/ Roman Polanski wins Director for The Pianist
  • 2005 - Crash wins Best Picture/ Ang Lee wins Director for Brokeback Mountain
  • 2012 - Argo wins Best Picture/ Ang Lee wins Director for Life of Pi
  • 2013 - 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture/ Alfonso Cuaron wins Director for Gravity

So 33% of the time since 2000, we have seen a split. And this year COULD be that again if voters feel compelled to give George Miller the honor for Mad Max, a movie I am 90% certain WON'T win best picture. It's failure to get BAFTA nods was telling, it's split reviews with average moviegoers is also telling (some people just don't get it, and say it's one big long car chase).

If Alejandro wins Best Director, I see The Revenant also winning Best Picture. I don't see this movie being a split.

If Spotlight wins Best Picture, I see George Miller prevailing in the director category. I don't see Tom McCarthy winning at all.

If The Big Short wins Best Picture, I also see Adam McKay winning best director.

So there are three main scenarios I see occurring:

The Revenant wins both Picture & Director

The Big Short wins both Picture & Director

Spotlight wins Picture, Mad Max wins Director

I can't see anything else playing out. You have to go by statistics and logic. And this year both of those things might go out of the window anyways. But as of now I am going to predict The Big Short and McKay go all the away at the Oscars, and DGA will also go for McKay. We shall see!


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