In a little less than three weeks we will have a new Best Picture champion to celebrate. Last year's reigning champ, Birdman: Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, will hand over the coveted crown. . . but to whom? Will it be Steven Spielberg's latest, Bridge of Spies? Or will it go to a smaller indie film like Room or Spotlight? Will Alejandro G. Inarritu have back to back victories with The Revenant? Or will The Martian pull-off an upset, despite lacking a nomination in the directorial category for Sir Ridley Scott?
Usually by this time in awards season, the race is down to two frontrunner films. Birdman Vs. Boyhood (2015), 12 Years a Slave Vs. Gravity (2014), Argo Vs. Lincoln (2013), etc. However, this year you could make a solid case for at least four films, maybe five, out of the eight nominated, that stand a strong chance at taking home Academy gold on February 28th.
Here are your 2016 Academy Award Nominees for Best Picture, broken down, analyzed, and ranked in order of likelihood of winning. Enjoy!
3 Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Why It Could Win: It's a period piece, which Academy voters love. Also, it plays to the emotions which could win it passion votes.
Why It Might Not Win: It's a subdued film, which usually doesn't win as many votes as the more showier affairs. Also, a film typically needs a lot more votes than three to win. The more nominations you have usually indicates strong support throughout the categories; all of which are voting on Best Picture. The last Best Picture winner to have a small amount of nominations was The Departed back in 2006 with only five.
7: Bridge of Spies
6 Nominations: Best Picture, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Production Design.
Why It Could Win: Boasting a stellar cast and crew, Bridge of Spies is a well crafted thriller that stirs the American spirit inside of its viewers. It's a true story, which usually bodes well with the Academy, and it celebrates the underdog which gives it a strong rooting factor.
Why It Might Not Win: The Bridge of Spies awards steam has all but petered out, leaving it to drift aimlessly among its showier competitors. No one is talking about it, which is not a good sign heading into the home stretch. Look for this one to go home empty-handed come Oscar night.
6: The Martian
7 Nominations: Best Picture, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects, and Best Production Design.
Why It Could Win: Since The Martian premiered back in October it's been riding stellar reviews and strong box-office numbers straight into awards season conversations. It's a showy film with a well developed protagonist, witty dialogue, and beautiful visual effects. Also, it establishes an undeniably strong connection between the viewer and the main character's determination to survive, giving it a strong chance at winning some strong Academy support.
Why It Might Not Win: Much like Bridge of Spies, The Martian came bursting into awards season with a ton of momentum early on, but has since lost all of its traction in this year's awards conversation. As it picked up various nominations throughout the last few months, The Martian seemed to be keeping its head above the water, but just barely. The final wave that eventually submerged its Oscar hopes was the shocking lack of a nomination for its director, Ridley Scott, who, up until then, seemed like a veritable lock for a nomination and possibly for the win. Look for this film to go home on the 28th with no Oscar gold in hand.
4 Nominations: Best Picture, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Why It Could Win: Imagine this: The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road, two sweeping epics, split their votes between each other, essentially canceling one another out. Then the same thing happens with Spotlight and The Big Short, two political dramas playing to the same type of audience. That leaves a possible, if not far-fetched, avenue for Room to jump ahead in votes and pull an upset for the win. It has strong love in the Academy, and Brie Larson is pretty much a lock to take home the Best Actress prize, signaling strong support from one of the Academy's largest voting groups, the actor's branch. Also, it has the support of the Director's branch, who favored director Lenny Abrahamson over the likes of Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg.
Why It Might Not Win: Oscar history and statistics are working against Room and its campaign for Best Picture gold. Much like Brooklyn, the lack of multiple nominations sends up a red flag, signaling that the love for this film may not extend throughout the entire Academy.
4: Mad Max: Fury Road
10 Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects, and Best Production Design.
Why It Could Win: This film has been riding a momentous wave of awards buzz since its debut back in May. This is the quintessential comeback story: a dormant franchise, brought back to life in roaring fashion by a seventy year old director, George Miller, who is the current favorite to take home the Best Director prize. Mad Max is also expected to sweep the tech categories, which also signals strong support across the board. Combined with the fact that the Academy loves a good comeback story, and that the film boasts the second most nominations this year, Mad Max: Fury Road poses a real threat in the race for Best Picture.
Why It Might Not Win: Despite all of its incredible achievements, Mad Max: Fury Road is still viewed as a genre film; a revamp of a dead franchise that until now, never even appeared on the Academy's radar. Mad Max is not considered to be your typical Oscar fare, and because of this, may lose some votes to the more "prestigious" films in contention this year. Also, the film is missing a nomination in the screenplay and acting categories, two nominations that are considered key to an eventual Best Picture win.
3: The Revenant
12 Nominations: Best Picture, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects, and Best Production Design.
Why It Could Win: With the highest number of nominations for a single film this year, The Revenant has set itself apart as a true cinematic achievement worthy of Oscar gold. From shooting in the natural elements, to enduring harsh conditions and exposure, the cast and crew bring to life a gruelling true story that demands the respect of its viewers. Leonardo DiCaprio is all but a foregone conclusion to take home the Lead Actor prize, as is Emmanuel Lubezki in the Cinematography category. Combined with the strong support throughout the Academy, and the harrowing story behind the making of this film, The Revenant stands as a fierce opponent to its Best Picture rivals.
Why It Might Not Win: Although The Revenant is arguably the showiest of all the competitors this year, it is undeniably hard to watch because of its subject matter and intensity. This may cause some voters to abstain from viewing it and thus cast their vote for something a little less harsh. Also possibly working against The Revenant is that its Director, Alejandro G. Inarritu, won the Oscar for Best Director as well as the Oscar for Best Picture last year. To win back to back Oscars is a rare feat and the Academy may take this into consideration as they cast their votes. And finally, like Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant is missing a key precursor nomination in the form of Best Adapted screenplay. For reference, the last Best Picture champ to win without a screenplay nomination was Titanic, way back in 1997.
2: The Big Short
5 Nominations: Best Picture, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.
Why It Could Win: The Big Short came into the Oscar race as a late-bloomer. However, as soon as it arrived, it landed with a glorious bang and positioned itself as a major contender and force to be reckoned with. Not only does The Big Short boast a strong cast, it also showcased director Adam McKay as a type of directorial revelation. Known mostly for directing comedy films such as Anchorman and Step-Brothers, McKay wowed voters with his mature balance of seriousness and comedy, using this special blend to bring the story of Wall Street's recent financial crisis to the masses. Also, the storyline of The Big Short feels relevant, and that is something that sticks out to Academy voters. Combine that with its recent PGA win, and The Big Short stands out as huge threat to take home the big prize come Oscar night.
Why It Might Not Win: As of right now, not much stands in the way of The Big Short and the Oscar stage. The one thing that could detract from its votes is that the Academy does like it's serious films, and The Big Short's comedic overtone may cause it to lose some of the more prestigious Academy voters looking to bestow their vote on something with a bit more gravitas. Also working against The Big Short is its recent loss to Spotlight in the Best Ensemble category at the Screen Actor's Guild Awards, an award that has gone to ten out of the last twenty eventual Best Picture winners.
6 Nominations: Best Picture, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.
Why It Could Win: On paper, Spotlight is everything the Academy looks for in a Best Picture winner. An impressive ensemble, exquisite direction, a profound script, and a relevant and weighty subject matter. Since the beginning of awards season, Spotlight has been a serious contender across the board. It did however lose some steam before Oscar nominations were announced, seemingly capsizing in the wake of its flashier competitors. However, it came back with a vengeance when it scored six Oscar nominations, showing strong support from Academy voters. Now, combined with its recent win at the SAG awards for Best Ensemble Cast, and a resurgence in popularity, Spotlight has pulled slightly ahead of its competitors, and now looks to capitalize on its impressive momentum come Oscar night.
Why It Might Not Win: Like The Big Short, not much seems to stand in the way of Spotlight and a Best Picture win. However, its recent loss to The Big Short at the Producer's Guild Awards is cause for some concern. Statistically, the PGA has predicted the last eight out of ten eventual Best Picture winners, which does not bode well for Spotlight. Also, voters may become slightly weary of Spotlight since it has been the frontrunner in the Best Picture race for months now. The same thing arguably happened to longtime Best Picture frontrunner, Boyhood, last year, which eventually lost the Oscar to Birdman: Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance. Could we see something similar play out this year? Only time will tell.
So. What do I think of this year's Best Picture nominees?
This has been such an incredible year for film. I wish there was room on the Oscar ballots to recognize even more films for their incredible achievements. Sadly, that is not the case (I still love you Ex Machina), and the aforementioned eight films are the special few chosen to be recognized.
Each nominee this year is different and completely justifiable for a win. Unfortunately, there's only room for one film in that final Academy envelope, sealed and ready for Oscar night. But who will it be? *drum roll