You know it’s a crazy year when even the pundits can’t agree on which movie is going to win Best Picture. Usually by now we have a consensus. If there is any disagreement, usually it’s over one or two films, not three. My best argument for and against each of the three frontrunners winning.
As surprising as it all seems, if any of these three wins Best Picture, it won’t be that surprising. The Revenant? Not a surprise; it won the DGA. Spotlight? Not a surprise; it won the SAG Ensemble award. The Big Short? Not a surprise, it won the PGA. No one is really helping us out here — any kind of traditional stat hunt supports a win for The Big Short. Yet it seems to go against the grain of common sense and the winds of the moment. Here is a quick for and against:
- The Big Short is still the only frontrunner that has hit with every group in the industry – SAG Ensemble nomination, ACE Eddie (won), PGA (won), DGA, WGA (likely winner), BAFTA Picture and Director. It’s funny, it’s horrifying, it’s brilliantly written, acted, and directed. It’s timely, especially since its director Adam McKay has gone above and beyond the Oscar race and been invited to show his film to Congress. This makes favorable waves in an election year when most people out there are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore. Box office: $64 million to date.
Against It: Did not win the SAG Ensemble award or the DGA. Also, not everyone loves it (I love it, though, in case you didn’t hear. Beyond any sort of reasonable amount, too. But everyone knows my favorite movie never wins. (Not since No Country and The Departed, back-to-back happiness.)
Precedent for The Big Short winning (in terms of normally unbreakable stats): 12 Years a Slave, The King’s Speech, Gladiator.
- Spotlight is the only frontrunner that has virtually no bad reviews. It’s a a film no one hates. It has hit most of the guild nominations. It’s also important – it screened at the Vatican and has inspired quite an important op-ed in the New York Times. It won over the SAG with its 160,000 voters. It also has a DGA nomination and is expected to win the WGA for original screenplay this weekend. It’s probably more loved and liked than any movie in the race. B.O.: $36 million to date.
Against It: Up against flashier movies like The Revenant, Mad Max, and The Big Short, Spotlight might seem a little less “dynamic” cinematically.
Precedent for Spotlight winning: Driving Miss Daisy, (if you take out ACE nom, Crash and Shakespeare in Love).
- The Revenant won the DGA. With 12 Oscar nominations, $150 million at the box office, it’s a Valentine to the beleaguered “lost man” in modern society. Big, beautiful, swirling epic – the kind the Academy often goes for. It seems like it can’t lose.
Against It: No SAG Ensemble award nomination, no screenplay nomination. One or the other is hard enough to overcome, but both together is unprecedented, coupled with Academy history that says no film directed by same person has ever won Best Picture in back-to-back years. But Iñárritu has already made history with his two consecutive DGA wins and the film could poised to make more history. What keeps me from predicting it is the large number of negative reviews it has, especially from the critics who matter most. It’s Rotten Tomatoes negative review count is at 50. Crash holds the record with 57 negative reviews. This is Les Misérables territory in terms of divisiveness. Divisive films aren’t favored to win a majority consensus vote on a preferential ballot.
Precedent for The Revenant winning: None. No film by the same director has ever won in consecutive years. Also no film has ever won without either a screenplay nomination or a SAG Ensemble award nomination since the beginning of the SAG Awards.
Let’s take stats out of it and look at the types of films these three represent and how often those kinds of movies win Best Picture.
- The Revenant – An epic with a central male figure. These win a lot, like Braveheart.
- Spotlight – Hard to find any film that compares that has won. Some say Ordinary People is the best example.
- The Big Short – I think American Beauty is the precedent – funny, unconventional and a mix of comedy, biting social commentary, and tragedy.
As we head into the BAFTAs on Sunday, we might not even fine clarity there, being that the BAFTAs have only five nominees for Best Film and use a plurality ballot where the film with the most votes after one round of voting wins. For most people, The Revenant seems to be an easy choice for the win. Weirdly, it doesn’t have a screenplay nomination at the BAFTAs, while Spotlight doesn’t have a directing or editing nomination there — so that once again leaves The Big Short as the film that hits all markers. Does that mean it will win? Most are saying no. Peter Bradshaw says no. The Last Word on Earth says no. They both say The Revenant takes it, along with Director and a great many other BAFTAs. So if The Revenant sweeps the BAFTAs, it stands to make Oscar history by becoming the first film by the same director to win Best Picture in back-to-back years, while also defying the SAG Ensemble award nomination or screenplay nomination prerequisites for Best Picture. But breaking those traditions may have been the easy part. Some movie was going to do it sooner or later. Maybe The Revenant is the one that can break all three in one fell swoop.
Over at Gold Derby, most are predicting The Revenant, but not all. Some have Spotlight, some have The Big Short. This is true of their experts, their users and their top predictors.
Over at Movie City News, the Gurus, normally aligned by this time of year, are truly all over the map for both Picture and Director. Only Steve Pond and Dave Karger have The Revenant out front, but this will likely change if it wins the BAFTA:
I’ll give you this much – if I were walking around out there in the world and I didn’t know anything about Oscar history and Oscar “stats,” I would say, it’s a no-brainer, The Revenant has this thing sewn up. And indeed, Pete Hammond told Tom O’Neil that very thing. He said, The Revenant is the safe choice. But then he said he was going with The Big Short anyway. So we’re right back where we started from.
Why, one wonders, are Anne Thompson, Greg Ellwood, David Poland and Mark Olsen still predicting George Miller for Best Director when Alejandro G. Iñárritu just won the DGA?
Let’s look at a few times in DGA history when the Best Director Oscar went a different way (leaving out Ben Affleck for now because obviously he was not nominated):
1995 – Braveheart
2000 – Traffic
2002 – The Pianist
These are the most recent examples. Chicago won Best Picture and Rob Marshall won the DGA, but The Pianist was seen as having more gravitas and surged after its BAFTA wins for Film and Director. In 2000, Ang Lee deservedly won the DGA for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, while Steven Soderbergh took the Oscar for his two movie nomination. I don’t think Traffic deserved it over Crouching Tiger, but it’s a worthy win. Finally, Ron Howard won the DGA for Apollo 13 but wasn’t nominated for director — in an 11th hour shocker, Braveheart won. Braveheart is actually a pretty good precedent for The Revenant. Both are loved and hated equally. Both are about survival, revenge, horses, wilderness, man/warrior.
We have to go back, always, to the preferential ballot. The reason it matter is that three different movies have won the three major guilds. That shows that at least three, maybe four films are pushing to the top of the ballot. Probably The Revenant, The Big Short and Spotlight all came in with a pretty good amount of #1 votes. Somehow, The Big Short ended up the winner at the PGA, which means, at the very least, it came in probably second or third on ballots in addition to being listed in first on most.
There is no argument I can make for The Big Short winning the BAFTA. The only thing I have on that score is that it’s less likely they will pick a film that doesn’t have a screenplay nomination.
It’s all academic at this point, and none of that tells you whether most people in Hollywood think The Revenant deserves to win Best Picture. We just don’t know.
Herewith, current predictions:
Best Motion Picture of the Year
- “The Big Short” Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers
- “The Revenant” Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Mary Parent and Keith Redmon, Producers
- “Spotlight” Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin and Blye Pagon Faust, Producers
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” Doug Mitchell and George Miller, Producers
- “Room” Ed Guiney, Producer
- “The Martian” Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer and Mark Huffam, Producers
- “Bridge of Spies” Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producers
- “Brooklyn” Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers
Achievement in Directing
- “The Revenant” Alejandro G. Iñárritu
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” George Miller
- “The Big Short” Adam McKay
- “Spotlight” Tom McCarthy
- “Room” Lenny Abrahamson
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
- Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant”
- Matt Damon in “The Martian”
- Michael Fassbender in “Steve Jobs”
- Bryan Cranston in “Trumbo”
- Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl”
Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
- Sylvester Stallone in “Creed”
- Mark Ruffalo in “Spotlight”
- Christian Bale in “The Big Short”
- Mark Rylance in “Bridge of Spies”
- Tom Hardy in “The Revenant”
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
- Brie Larson in “Room”
- Saoirse Ronan in “Brooklyn”
- Charlotte Rampling in “45 Years”
- Cate Blanchett in “Carol”
- Jennifer Lawrence in “Joy”
Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
- Alicia Vikander in “The Danish Girl”
- Rooney Mara in “Carol”
- Kate Winslet in “Steve Jobs
- Jennifer Jason Leigh in “The Hateful Eight”
- Rachel McAdams in “Spotlight”
- “The Big Short” Screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
- “Carol” Screenplay by Phyllis Nagy
- “Room” Screenplay by Emma Donoghue
- “Brooklyn” Screenplay by Nick Hornby
- “The Martian” Screenplay by Drew Goddard
- “Spotlight” Written by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy
- “Straight Outta Compton” Screenplay by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff; Story by S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff
- “Inside Out” Screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; Original story by Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen
- “Bridge of Spies” Written by Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
- “Ex Machina” Written by Alex Garland
Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
- “Inside Out” Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera
- “Anomalisa” Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson and Rosa Tran
- “When Marnie Was There” Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura
- “Shaun the Sheep Movie” Mark Burton and Richard Starzak
- “Boy and the World” Alê Abreu
Achievement in Cinematography
- “The Revenant” Emmanuel Lubezki
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” John Seale
- “Carol” Ed Lachman
- “Sicario” Roger Deakins
- “The Hateful Eight” Robert Richardson
Achievement in Costume Design
- “Carol” Sandy Powell
- “Cinderella” Sandy Powell
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” Jenny Beavan
- “The Danish Girl” Paco Delgado
- “The Revenant” Jacqueline West
Best Documentary Feature
Again, just making a roll of the dice prediction here. Don’t you be like me.
- “What Happened, Miss Simone?” Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby and Justin Wilkes
- “Amy” Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees
- “Cartel Land” Matthew Heineman and Tom Yellin
- “The Look of Silence” Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
- “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” Evgeny Afineevsky and Den Tolmor
Best Documentary Short Film
- “Chau, beyond the Lines” Courtney Marsh and Jerry Franck
- “Last Day of Freedom” Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman
- “Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah” Adam Benzine
- “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness” Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
- “Body Team 12” David Darg and Bryn Mooser
Achievement in Film Editing
- “The Big Short” Hank Corwin
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” Margaret Sixel
- “The Revenant” Stephen Mirrione
- “Spotlight” Tom McArdle
- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey
Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
- “Son of Saul” Hungary
- “Mustang” France
- “Theeb” Jordan
- “Embrace of the Serpent” Colombia
- “A War” Denmark
Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
- “The Revenant” Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin
- “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared” Love Larson and Eva von Bahr
Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)
- “Carol” Carter Burwell
- “The Hateful Eight” Ennio Morricone
- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” John Williams
- “Bridge of Spies” Thomas Newman
- “Sicario” Jóhann Jóhannsson
Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)
- “Til It Happens To You” from “The Hunting Ground”
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga
- “Writing’s On The Wall” from “Spectre”
Music and Lyric by Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith
- “Manta Ray” from “Racing Extinction”
Music by J. Ralph and Lyric by Antony Hegarty
- “Simple Song #3” from “Youth”
Music and Lyric by David Lang
- “Earned It” from “Fifty Shades of Grey”
Music and Lyric by Abel Tesfaye, Ahmad Balshe, Jason Daheala Quenneville and Stephan Moccio
Achievement in Production Design
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” Production Design: Colin Gibson; Set Decoration: Lisa Thompson
- “The Revenant” Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Hamish Purdy
- “The Martian” Production Design: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Celia Bobak
- “Bridge of Spies” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo and Bernhard Henrich
- “The Danish Girl” Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Michael Standish
Best Animated Short Film
- “Prologue” Richard Williams and Imogen Sutton
- “World of Tomorrow” Don Hertzfeldt
- “Sanjay’s Super Team” Sanjay Patel and Nicole Grindle
- “We Can’t Live Without Cosmos” Konstantin Bronzit
- “Bear Story” Gabriel Osorio and Pato Escala
Best Live Action Short Film
- “Shok” Jamie Donoughue
- “Day One” Henry Hughes
- “Stutterer” Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage
- “Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)” Patrick Vollrath
- “Ave Maria” Basil Khalil and Eric Duponty
Achievement in Sound Editing
- “The Revenant” Martin Hernandez and Lon Bender
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” Mark Mangini and David White
- “The Martian” Oliver Tarney
- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Matthew Wood and David Acord
- “Sicario” Alan Robert Murray
Achievement in Sound Mixing
- “The Revenant” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom and Chris Duesterdiek
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo
- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson
- “The Martian” Paul Massey, Mark Taylor and Mac Ruth
- “Bridge of Spies” Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Drew Kunin
Achievement in Visual Effects
- “The Revenant” Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith and Cameron Waldbauer
- “Mad Max: Fury Road” Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver and Andy Williams
- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould
- “The Martian” Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence and Steven Warner
- “Ex Machina” Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett