It is premature to discuss any film winning at this point because essentially we’ve had the appetizers. They were really good appetizers. They might even better than the main course but we can’t make that call until we’ve had the whole meal, dessert, coffee and all. The main course is almost always the Big Oscar Movies that come out in Fall and Winter. Sometimes they fly, sometimes they don’t but they are still the films most people think of as the “Oscar movies.” Those are The Revenant, Joy, The Hateful Eight, The Big Short, By the Sea, etc.
But the thing is, yy Abrahamson’s Room is having a surprising impact on audiences starting in Telluride and heading on through the festival season. Its reviews from critics are off the charts. While it isn’t going to be the best reviewed film of the year, it will certainly be one of them.
So why isn’t anyone except Jenelle Reilly (who independently wrote her own piece about Room today) currently predicting Room to win Best Picture? There are a couple of reasons for this. But first, let me explain one important factor Room has in its favor: it’s flying WAY under the radar with pundits while at the same time they are doing a lot of publicity. It will have to survive through word of mouth to make a dime at the box office. It definitely will have its detractors but will they be enough to sink the ship?
Here are the reasons no one sees it as a frontrunner:
- It’s about women, mostly. The strongest performance in the film is Brie Larson. Room’s story is told through the eyes of her son, Jacob Tremblay, but she’s really the center of the film and it’s a strong, unforgettable performance. 2002’s Chicago was the last time a film about a woman or women won, unless you could Million Dollar Baby, which you probably could.
- The film is about a kid too. Movies about kids don’t win Best Picture usually. How far back do you have to go to find a Best Picture winner about a kid? 1968’s Oliver! That doesn’t mean it can’t win, just that its win would be unusual.
- It doesn’t FEEL like a Best Picture winner. Neither did Birdman. All a Best Picture winner means now is that people like the movie better than the others – or more to the point, they feel passionately about voting for the movie. It made them feel something exceptional so they return the favor with a vote.
- The director isn’t a somebody yet. This is kind of a non-issue since recent Best Picture winners have won with a virtually no-name director. On the other hand, the director is Irish so there is none of that self-hating American thing going on.
- Will the steak eaters go for it? That’s the general makeup of the Academy – middle aged white men. Might they go for Room or is it too “girly” for them? It keeps winning awards and those voters can’t all be women.
Do I personally think Room could win? I don’t think so but I’m not ruling it out. It’s one of the strong contenders this year, maybe along the lines of Precious, which could mean a surprise screenplay win for Emma Donoghue, and an acting win for either Larson or Tremblay.
It would be kind of wild if the Best Picture lineup was all films about women, including Room, Mad Max, Carol, Joy, Brooklyn and even Suffragette. We know this is probably not going to happen. History tells us that with five nomination slots, two movies about women at the most get in. With ten nomination slots, up to four could get in.
Right now, the films that seem most likely to win Best Picture would be: The Martian, Spotlight, Steve Jobs (if it can overcome the negative press of late), and yes, Room. There are many more films to come that will change the conversation but for now, that’s what it looks like.