You know, it’s always a good thing when the Oscar punditry world is shaken up a bit to be reminded of what the industry is really like. It happens sometimes. Not often, but it happens. This is such a wide open year and we’ve said all along that anything can happen. There are a few facts to take from this morning’s announcement. The first is that probably no other film can win Best Picture except Spotlight. Of the five in ensemble it’s the only one that can build any sort of momentum with the larger industry. With The Martian taken out of the race (people will love to smear that pie all over my face for an eternity), at least unless it can Braveheart its way to an Oscar win, it’s Spotlight’s to lose as there are no other challengers in that ensemble lineup unless we’re all out of our minds, which is entirely possible:
BEASTS OF NO NATION (Netflix)
THE BIG SHORT (Paramount Pictures)
SPOTLIGHT (Open Road Films)
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (Universal Pictures)
TRUMBO (Bleecker Street)
If we were thinking that it was going to be a “big studio year ” — or some of us were — we’re wrong. It’s not. In fact, it’s going to be the first year since 2009 that an independent studio release will win Best Picture, and that’s Open Road. It’s great news for Netflix today because first they crashed the Emmy party and then they crashed the Oscar party, at least for now.
The diversity of the nominees is a beautiful thing — it must be said up front. Two major motion pictures with all black cast made it in (though, sadly, neither of them Creed). That’s pretty great. Straight Outta Compton is probably going to be a stronger contender than it was before (hi Scott Feinberg!). I will quietly keep my fingers crossed for Beasts of No Nation and be really depressed that Ridley Scott’s The Martian was completely shut out. I think that’s bunk, sorry, but I do. Matt Damon, at the very least, that incredible cast. Still, it’s hard to find much to complain about when Beasts of No Nation gets two nominations. That’s the one thing that brightens an otherwise bizarre list.
As for the individual acting categories, the only explanation I can offer up is that publicists — who once relied on the pundits to help bring in nominations — are likely going straight to the source and bypassing “our” world. Which means we have to be smarter about “dumbing down” our predictions. Or at least remembering what the awards race is really about: publicists. Just kidding. No, really though. If Sarah Silverman can’t catch a break with people like us — fuck it, go to the actors themselves.
Other than that, I offer up no other explanation except that 1) Spotlight will be the only film that can win Best Picture unless by some miracle Straight Outta Compton or Beasts of No Nation can. I don’t imagine the Big Short can win (although I suppose it’s possible). I don’t know what to say about Trumbo except that the actors really like it, clearly. They like it better than Brooklyn, Room, The Martian, Creed — man oh man.
Okay, it’s really time to stop thinking so hard about all of this and pop open the champagne. Or bourbon, as the case may be.
So I guess the lesson to take away from all of this? Nobody knows anything, even Scott Feinberg who knows a lot. The second lesson: don’t listen to people like me because we know least of all.