Top 8 Best Picture Contenders- January 2016

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In my first look at the Best Picture post-nominations, I am looking solely at who’s in the best position to actually win the award at the Academy Awards on 28th February 2016. So, what did we learn from the nomination stage? Well, there were quite a few presumed contenders that missed out, mainly due to the Academy, once again, only picking 8 Best Picture nominees instead of a more sensible 10. That meant that there wasn’t room for Todd Haynes’ Carol, that scored 6 nominations overall (the most for a film in the expanded era not to get a BP nomination), F. Gary Gray’s N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, which is nominated only for Original Screenplay, and Pete Docter’s animated comedy-drama Inside Out, which scored 2 nominations. There’s a good range in this year’s nominees, so let’s check them out.

  1. The Big Short– After its victory at the Producers Guild of America Awards last Saturday, it’s pretty safe to say that this is our new frontrunner. The comedy-drama, directed by Anchorman helmer Adam McKay, is nominated for 5 Academy Awards, including nominations for McKay in Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as a Best Supporting Actor nod for Christian Bale. As you analyse the Oscar race more closely, the more it makes sense for this film to be the victor: it’s prestigious, it’s very smart, and showcases some of Hollywood’s biggest names at their very best, and not in a crass sort of way that The Wolf of Wall Street, a film that has been compared with The Big Short, did. If it wins Editing and Adapted Screenplay, expect its name to be called as the winner.
  2. Spotlight– Right on the heels of The Big Short, is Spotlight, the journalism drama directed by Tom McCarthy. While the film, which has been the frontrunner in this category since September, has had a bit of a rough time so far, with surprise defeats at both the Golden Globes and PGA, it’s looking for a way to bounce back, and it was boosted massively by its Best Picture win at the Critics’ Choice Awards. If it wants to make a comeback, it needs to be soon, and big, and the ideal place for that would be with victory over The Big Short at SAG in the Ensemble category this Saturday.
  3. The Revenant– Despite leading the nominations with an incredibly impressive 12, this revenge thriller has seen its Oscar odds plummet in the last week, mainly due to the rise of The Big Short. That being said, it is well and truly in the race, but it does need a place to dominate, aside from in Best Actor, where Leonardo DiCaprio is a lock to win. I’m looking at BAFTA, where it is the favourite to pick up Best Film, and it could repeat its Golden Globe success by winning in the 3 major categories that it is up for. Other than that, it will be hoping for a win at DGA, which would be a second consecutive win for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
  4. Mad Max: Fury Road– Very much Joe Popcorn’s pick of the bunch, Mad Max: Fury Road has gone from an acclaimed action-sci-fi blockbuster to awards heavyweight, and could easily dominate the tech categories at the Guilds, BAFTAs, and eventually at the Oscars. But does that mean that it could translate to a Best Picture win? It’s definitely possible, especially if George Miller wins at DGA, and also wins Best Director at the Oscars, which I am currently predicting him to do. It’ll almost certainly win the most Oscars overall, so why can’t it win?
  5. The Martian– Starring the Best Actor-nominated Matt Damon, Ridley Scott’s sci-fi epic (sorry, I obviously meant HILARIOUS COMEDY) had an indifferent nominations morning. While it was successful in 7 categories, including major recognition in Picture, Actor, and Adapted Screenplay, it missed out in Best Director (where Scott was the favourite to win), and Best Editing, which are things that you crucially need to win Best Picture. That being said, it isn’t getting noticed across the board by the guilds, showing support and strength in depth. It’s unlikely to win anything on the night to be completely honest, but it managed to beat The Big Short to win Best COMEDY at the Golden Globes, so it is possible.
  6. Room– With 4 nominations to its name, Room is the indie hit of the season, with all 4 nominations being in major categories, with Brie Larson extremely likely to win Best Actress for her emotional performance. While these films don’t tend to challenge, and its PGA snub doesn’t help the cause, but its nomination for Lenny Abrahamson in Best Director gives you the idea that there is core support for it. That being said, it looks like its going to be another Beasts of the Southern Wild, which also surprisingly got into Director, and not be a particularly big threat anywhere but Best Actress.
  7. Bridge of Spies– The most prestigious and classic ‘Oscar-bait’ of the group, Bridge of Spies has manage to succeed this season by picking up nominations when it needed them: when it only got into Supporting Actor at SAG and Globes, it came back with multiple citations at Critics’ Choice and BAFTA; when it missed at DGA, it got into WGA and PGA. You could tell that this was going to be a Best Picture contender as soon as it was announced, and with Steven Spielberg continuing fine work behind the camera, it’s deserving of its place. It should be pleased with the nomination, and its best hope of winning is in Production Design.
  8. Brooklyn– The British, and Sundance, representative of the group, Brooklyn is also the nominee with the least overall nominations, with its only other nods coming in Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actress for the brilliant Saoirse Ronan. I’d love for it to be in contention, but it doesn’t look likely. It’s very remote chance comes from the preferential ballot system, where very few are likely to rank it 8th in their ballot. However, one would think that it’s too subtle to challenge.
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