Academy Award for Best Picture
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
If I was going to include my own personal opinion, then I would say that The Revenant does not deserve to win this award. Mad Max: Fury Road does. But I am not including my own opinion, and therefore I will try remain objective.
The Revenant will most likely win Best Picture, and that is something that many people have only recently come to turns with. For the first time in years, we were presented with a Best Picture category with no real front runner. Yes, there were some films that had a legitimate chance of winning (The Revenant, The Big Short, Spotlight, Mad Max: Fury Road) and the ones that should be happy with a nomination (Room, Brooklyn, Bridge of Spies and The Martian), but no film had dominated every single award ceremony as we have seen in recent years. So ultimately it came down to one factor. Which film had the story? Which film was aggressively campaigning itself as 2015’s masterpiece? That film was by far, The Revenant. When the nominations were announced (and Carol was surprisingly omitted), everyone scrambled to try and market their film as the film to beat. But over the following month that campaigning died out. Mad Max was the only film with any chance of overshadowing The Revenant’s pathos, and yet that film found itself in the odd position that all its fan support started to drift away when it needed it the most. Hello Star Wars and Deadpool and goodbye Mad Max. 2015’s crown jewel, a film that was able to dominate critically and somewhat in terms of box office, was suddenly forgotten, allowing The Revenant to begin its march. The Revenant, as I explained in my predictions for Best Director, became a film representing the idea of overcoming adversity, its producers and and directors spreading the word of how difficult it was to make such a film, how they used natural lighting to capture the environment and its intensity, how Alejandro Inarritu supposedly crafted a masterpiece. It was this story that blew up, running across every headline, seeping into the voter mentality. Poor Mad Max, a film that was just as difficult to make, lacked the awe and inspiration. Suddenly The Revenant won Best Film Drama at the Golden Globes and would go on to win at the BAFTAs plus Inarritu winning at the DGA. A front runner had emerged and the media loved it. It was the consistent campaigning that made this happen and for that reason The Revenant will win the Oscar.
So what happened to the other nominees? Well, quite a lot with The Big Short winning the coveted Best Picture award at the Producers Guild Awards, a guild that has correctly predicted the top Oscar prize every year in the last decade. But the films lack of wins anywhere else hurt it and was not able to take a stab at Leonardo DiCaprio’s prize boat. Spotlight won the Writers Guild Award, another significant precursor, as well as the SAG award for Best Ensemble, but like The Big Short, it failed to garner headlines and the two films lacked audience awareness. The Big Short and Spotlight do hold some chance of an upset, with the two films targeting the more political voters, the voters that want their Best Picture to represent something in the contemporary world, and that could have some effect. Many believe both films to have more passion, more importance than the Revenant and this could certainly help them. But in an era where the Oscars are continually criticised for being too conservative, too limited in perspective, how big of a chance does Mad Max: Fury Road, an genre action film, stand? While it will probably win nearly every single technical award available, as it has at the guilds, the best it really can hope for is to follow the line of Gravity, a similar genre film that snatched Best Director. There is a definite legitimate chance this could happen, as I explained in my Director article, but to also grab Best Picture, may be a leap too far. But do remember that while separate ‘groups’ vote for each technical category, everyone votes for Best Picture, and winning every technical category may mean those voters also want to give Mad Max the Best Picture as the majority of the time, the film with the most wins, wins the top award. Sadly however, the acting guild makes up the biggest contingent of voters, and with no acting nominations Mad Max will find it hard to win over this block (good news for Spotlight and The Big Short though?). The other four nominees have little to no chance at a victory, simply due to either a lack of nominations, lack of audience awareness, or lack of previous wins. Room could jump in, as we have seen across the board support for the film, but that would take a miracle.
On one final note, we must highlight that the voting is done by preferential vote. This means that voters list all nominees from 1-8. With 1 being their favourite. To win Best Picture, a majority of voters must put a film as number one. So using the example of The Revenant with say 100 voters (in reality there is 1000s), The Revenant must gain 51 first place votes. If it doesn’t, then the film with either no first place votes, or the fewest gets eliminated. We then move to the 2nd place votes, which add to the votes given in the ‘first round’. This process of elimination continues until a film gains over 50% of the votes. Putting this in context, it means a divisive film is less likely to win Best Picture, as while it may have many first place votes, it will also have many eighth place votes, meaning less in second and third. This could certainly be the case for a film like The Revenant which, at least with general film goers, is very divisive. In reality a film could gain few first place votes (though not the least), and a majority of second place votes and win Best Picture over the film that gained the most first place votes. Make sense? Its a difficult process but one that could drastically influence the ceremony. Such a method will help films such as Spotlight which are adored though maybe not loved.
So how do I choose a potential spoiler? Well while The Revenant will most likely win, and I do believe Mad Max has little chance of an upset, I am going to have to go for The Big Short, continuing the Producer Guild Award’s pattern of predicting the winner. A film that also may take many second and third place votes. But don’t be surprised if any film wins, because this is 2016 and if Alejandro can become the third person in history to win Best Director back to back for a poorly directed film, then bugger patterns.
Potential Spoiler: The Big Short