They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?
Handicapping the Impossible Best Picture Race
By J. Don Birnam
February 22, 2016
It’s all come down to this. Six months of guessing later, eight movies are still standing. Only one of them will emerge victorious. Guilds, precursors, critics. Sure, they all tell us something; they all give us clues. But, in the end, the Academy, as always, will vote for what it likes.
Today, we will try to handicap the supposedly impossible Best Picture race. It is, without a doubt, one of the most confounding in years. In The Big Short’s prologue, Ryan Gosling voiceovers that the heroes of the movie succeed because they “did what no one else bothered to do. They looked.” Perhaps when we look closer, it is not as confusing as it seems.
Indeed, a clear front-runner has emerged. The only question is whether we can overcome those lingering doubts and just accept the obvious: Best Picture is The Revenant’s to lose.
Throughout the season we have been handicapping the various races. They are here: technical Oscars, Part I, Technical Oscars, Part II, the Shorts, animated, foreign, and documentary, lead acting and the writing races, and directing and supporting acting.
We will have Oscar coverage all week, with final predictions and power rankings on Thursday. We will also be updating rumors and predictions on Twitter and Instagram.
Nominations: The Road to Getting There.
The big question in this year’s Oscar race was how many they were going to nominate in a year where there were a lot of great movies. None of the finalists is perhaps a timeless masterpiece, but it did seem at times as if over 20 movies had a real shot at a nomination. The fact that for the SAG ensemble alone you saw three casts that did not make Best Picture shows you how broad the year was.
In the end, there were eight. And there was nothing really surprising about them. The nominees were Spotlight, The Big Short, The Revenant, Brooklyn, Bridge of Spies, The Martian, Mad Max, and Room. The first seven of these had received Producers Guild nominations and recognitions from critics and industry groups alike. The last one, Room, had not done well with precursors, but had won the People’s Choice at Toronto. Most of us saw most of these nominees coming, and in hindsight it should have been obvious that Room was going to make it in.
A bit more shocking to some people was what missed. To me, it was disappointing that Carol did not make it in, and somewhat surprising given its six nominations (serious Best Picture contenders like Room and The Big Short only got five). The Academy just does not like Todd Haynes. The omission of Straight Outta Compton after scoring both PGA and SAG wins refueled the infamous #OscarsSoWhite debate that culminated in dramatic changes to Academy voting rules.
So, the field being set, what could win?