They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

The Closest Best Picture Race In Years?

By J. Don Birnam

February 19, 2015

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It’s all come down to this: Boyhood or Birdman? This year, Hollywood’s most coveted award, the Best Picture Oscar, may be the hardest to predict. Or is it? One thing is certain: whichever of the two wins Best Picture, a streak will be broken. Since 2008, the Producers Guild of America and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts have awarded the same movie for Best Picture and that film has gone on to win the Oscar. But the PGA went for Birdman and BAFTA picked Boyhood. Something’s gotta give.

Not Nominated In the Field of Eight

The big story when the Best Picture nominations were announced was that the Academy listed eight movies for the first time since the rules changed in 2011 to allow anywhere between five and 10 Best Picture nominees. Of those that didn’t make the cut, the most perplexing exclusion has to be Foxcatcher, which landed Directing, Acting, and Writing nominations. One imagines it just missed out on that ninth Best Picture spot.

Oscar watchers had also looked to famous directors and wondered whether any of their big-tent productions - Interstellar, Gone Girl, and Unbroken - would emerge as a favorite. But Interstellar and Unbroken received mixed reviews from critics and had to settle for technical nominations, and Gone Girl did well with critics, audiences, and most major guilds but was essentially shut out by the Academy, landing its sole nomination in Best Actress.

Despite some of these questionable omissions, it’s hard to argue with the field of nominees that emerged as the finalists. All are good movies, and some are great. And it is refreshing, for once, to be discussing the best among the bunch as the likely winners. But before we anoint Boyhood or Birdman, let’s discuss the other nominees and whether any has a chance of playing the role of spoiler.


The Nominees Are…

Likely in last place this year is Selma. The controversy surrounding its omission from most categories has raged on, but no movie has won Best Picture with only two nominations in the modern history of the Academy. One wonders, in fact, how the movie even made it into the final eight - only the songwriters’ guild gave it a nod, for Best Original Song - so it’s almost as if the branches felt obligated to nominate it for Best Picture but none saw it worthy of an additional nomination anywhere else. The entire handling of the release - with screeners going only to Academy members and not to any other awards group - may be the ultimate explanation for its awards failure, or maybe the controversy surrounding the portrayal of LBJ did it in. We will never know, but Selma will likely walk away with a Best Song Oscar and call it a night.

Also way behind the pack is The Theory of Everything, which made a splash in Toronto but did not land a directing nomination. It did win at the BAFTAs, but it is obviously an inherently British movie. Overall, there’s little evidence that the movie is strong on this side of the Atlantic, ceding even the Writers’ Guild Prize to the other British film in the bunch. The movie will likely walk away with a Best Actor Oscar and even has a chance at Score, but that will be that.

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