Top 8 Best Picture Contenders- February 2016 (LESS THAN 1 WEEK TO GO!)

The Best Picture nominees (clockwise from left): The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Room, The Big Short, and Spotlight.

As we head into the final stretch of awards season, its time to look at how we stand as far as the Best Picture race is concerned. We have had all of the major precursors pick their Best Picture winners, and the only consensus is that it is between 3 films: The Golden Globes went for The Revenant (and The Martian in Comedy), SAG went for Spotlight, PGA went for The Big Short, BAFTA went for The Revenant, and Critics’ Choice went for Spotlight. The wealth has been spread out more than most years, with recent winners such as The Artist and Slumdog Millionaire dominating pretty much every ceremony. That being said, in recent weeks the path looks a lot clearer, and a Best Picture champion is emerging.

  1. The Revenant– This time last month, Alejandro G. Inarritu’s action-adventure epic looked like it was lagging behind in the race, with it languishing in 3rd place. Since then, it has reignited its chances, winning the British Academy Film Award for Best Film on Sunday, and, more significantly, Best Director at the Directors Guild of America, with Inarritu becoming the first director to win that award twice in a row. That, along with its Best Motion Picture- Drama win at the Golden Globes, solidifies its reception across the organisations, which often leads to a Best Picture triumph. That being said, it still lost PGA, it didn’t get a SAG Ensemble nomination, and it didn’t receive a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination at BAFTA or the Oscars. A BAFTA and Golden Globe combination didn’t end lead to a Boyhood victory last year. The DGA win is crucial, as it cements Inarritu’s victory in Best Director, while Leonardo DiCaprio and Emmanuel Lubezki are both locks to win. That should push it over the line, despite its divisiveness (it has the lowest critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes of the Best Picture nominees).
  2. Spotlight– Another film that has had its ups and downs this awards season is this indie drama from Tom McCarthy. The frontrunner since its premiere at TIFF in September, the film has been gradually falling away from its status as the favourite, with losses at BAFTA, DGA, PGA, and the Golden Globes, with the latter two being lost to contenders with far inferior odds. Its SAG Ensemble victory did restore some pride, especially as it was up against close rival The Big Short, but those defeats, plus some major snubs (ACE Eddie miss and Tom McCarthy missing in Best Director at BAFTA), has meant that The Revenant has been able to rise up. That being said, it’s a critical darling (it won Best Picture at Critics Choice), and it won’t be towards the end of many voters ballots. It could be the #2 votes that decides the race, and that would help Spotlight immensely.
  3. The Big Short– While it hasn’t been able to sweep any of the precursors like its rivals have, what The Big Short has in its favour is support across the board, with the film being the only one with citations at all of the major guilds (PGA, DGA, SAG, WGA, and ACE), winning at 3 of them (PGA, WGA, and ACE). Granted, the competition at both WGA (the Adapted Screenplay category was missing both Room and Brooklyn), and ACE (where it benefitted from being in a Martian-free Comedy category), but it does mean that it doesn’t fall under the pressure of being the frontrunner, like Spotlight has at times. But the main reason its in the race is its PGA victory, a precursor that has predicted Best Picture every time in the expanded field era. However, there are rumours that it won that due to the producers’ branch mutual love for Brad Pitt and his Plan B group. Can it be a fluke? The Golden Globes, BAFTA, and SAG defeats suggests it. Also, it may lack a consensus, as, like The Revenant, it does split opinion, and we all know the Academy’s bias against comedy.
  4. Mad Max: Fury Road– One of the year’s best reviewed films, Mad Max: Fury Road only has a chance if it completely sweeps the technical categories. It is likely going to be the biggest winner of the night, and if it somehow takes Best Director (which it certainly deserves to), you could be looking at a shock. It would definitely be a popular choice, but the question is how much the Academy likes it. It managed to get 10 nominations overall, which is much higher than Spotlight’s 6 and The Big Short’s 5, and if voters are putting it down multiple times on their ballots, then surely it must rank highly on the Best Picture ranking. That being said, it does lack the gravitas of something like The Revenant, and, like The Big Short and its comedy, the Academy does have a bias towards genre films.
  5. Room– The critical and indie darling of the year, Room could be the film that benefits from a preferential ballot system, with a lot of people having a lot of adoration for the film. A lock to win at least one award, Best Actress for Brie Larson, it, in many eyes, exceeding expectations in the nominations, even though it picked up only 4. But what is notable about those 4 nominations is that all of them came in the ‘big 5’ categories, getting into Picture, Director, Actress, and Adapted Screenplay, only missing in Best Actor, which it would have probably gotten into if A24 hadn’t stupidly campaigned Jacob Tremblay in Supporting. No other film managed to get 4 out of 5, even though all major contenders, except Spotlight, were eligible for at least 4. That being said, its PGA,  BAFTA, and Indie Spirit snubs in Best Picture did hurt it, and it can be considered too small to go all the way.
  6. The Martian– At one point considered to be one of the major threats to win Best Picture, particularly as both Scott Feinberg and Sasha Stone were both predicting it to win a couple of months back, The Martian has lost a whole lot of momentum since the nominations came out. While it did do pretty well, receiving an impressive 7 nominations, it missed 2 major citations that it was expected to get: Best Director for Ridley Scott, and Best Editing, missing out to non-Best Picture nominee Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That is something that is difficult to come back from, which has shown since it has yet to pick up a single major award since its controversial victory in Best Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes. In fact, I think that win has damaged the film’s reputation as a serious film, and now no one takes the film seriously (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7Wwiv1LAQI). It’s also not a particularly popular film anymore, and its likely leaving the ceremony without a single win.
  7. Bridge of Spies– A film that has had its ups and downs this awards season, one thing you can say for Bridge of Spies is that is right up the Academy’s ally, playing perfectly for the white, old, male, average voter. Whenever this film looks out of the race, it has managed to pull itself back up again: after missing SAG Ensemble and Best Drama Golden Globe nominations, it got PGA and Critics’ Choice Best Picture nods; when it missed DGA and ACE, it got BAFTA Best Film and Best Director nominations; resulting in 6 Oscar nominations. Let’s be frank, it’s not going to win, and it would probably be the least popular winner since Crash, but many still hold it in high regard, and may still cause 1 or 2 upsets along the way (I’m looking at you, Mark Rylance).
  8. Brooklyn– While it is likely going to finish last, one argument that can be made for this sweet Irish drama is that it is ‘the apple among the bag of oranges’ with it standing out as a film very different to its fellow nominees. 1) It’s the only film with a romantic link, appealing to the more sentimental voter. 2) It’s the only British film of the nominees, and will have support from the European members of the Academy (as shown by its Best British Film win at the BAFTAs). 3) It is, along with Room, a female-centric film, and the only film told from a female perspective. I’d like to think it has a shot, be the likelihood is that it is too small, and lacks the prestige necessary to challenge, and it will be the first film knocked out of voting. Alas…
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