It’s 116 days till the Oscars. It’s early November, and yet we do not have our champion for Best Picture. Well, we may have several. Usually we will have our frontrunners by now, but at present, anybody could win the big one. Last year, it was always a straight shoot between Birdman and Boyhood. Despite its early lead, and more-than-deserving credentials, Birdman overtook the latter in the final month. Now let’s get to this year – who is the frontrunner?
This is the big question that has no definitive answer. Yet. Usually the festival season and October releases in the US should provide us with our leaders, but the problem/joyous reality is that there’s too many competitors vying for the crown. The extraordinary quality of 2015 means we are facing one of the most intriguing battles for Best Picture ever seen.
In October, the potential pack leaders had a semi-stumble when it came to taking in customers. Steven Spielberg‘s Bridge of Spies – on paper – held plenty of potential. With Best Director, Best Actor (Tom Hanks), and Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance) all nailed on for nominations, it could have built its pathway to Best Picture glory. Yet with just $45 million raised in its three weeks of release, Spielberg faces one of his lowest-grossing film of the past two decades; only Munich saves the Spies.
Mystifyingly, Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs has suffered an even worse fate. The film has only just cracked $10m but it needs to make around $120m to break even. Fassbender and co. are actually in a race to the bottom, with Ashton Kutcher’s terrible Jobs, for box office revenue.
Yet finance does not equate to Oscar glory or an absence of quality; see Munich – nominated for Best Picture. In recent years, it may even be a positive sign as all five of the all-time lowest-grossing Best Picture nominees have come in the past decade. However, this year, box office performance has slowed the charges of Beasts of No Nation, Youth and Black Mass.
The only two films that came out swinging from the all-important October were Room, and The Martian. The slow and subtle limited release of the former is leading to a world where Brie Larson will hopefully and finally have her excellence recognised. The positive murmurs are likely to grow as February dawns on us, and we’re more than fine with that.
The Martian, now embraced worldwide and critically adored, is looking very healthy. Of all the films listed it has a narrative that the Academy can get on board with: Ridley Scott‘s never won an Oscar and “it’s about time”. As seen with Best Director for Martin Scorsese (The Departed), and Best Actor for Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman), there comes a time when someone’s done enough for an Oscar. Yet is that argument strong enough to seal The Martian a Best Picture Oscar? Probably not, but a nomination is surely a guarantee and its popularity must not be underestimated.
One problem/blessing is that the biggest players have not shown their faces to the public. Thank goodness for November. We’ll see whether Todd Haynes’ astounding Carol will receive a deserving boost from a loving audience. The same too with Spotlight and Brooklyn, where a ground movement could transform them from contenders into frontrunners. Let’s not forget the potential powerhouse that is Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl. The Academy loves Hooper, and the narrative has a popular zeitgesty relevancy, so if it performs well, it’ll be “The British are Coming!” all over again.
Beyond even these beauties, there are films yet to see the light of day. The late releases of some huge contenders means we’re unlikely to see our winner until the last minute. Still to come, we’ve got Peter Landesman/Will Smith’s Concussion, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant, Angelina Jolie’s By The Sea, Adam McKay’s The Big Short, Ron Howard’s In The Heart of Sea, David O. Russell’s Joy and Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. What a year of film, eh? All of these stand a chance. A genuine chance. On top of this, you’ve got the dark horses of Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Inside Out.
So to answer the opening question: who is the frontrunner for Best Picture in 2016? It’s quite hard to say considering 35% of the strongest contenders have not seen the light of day. Still, it’s time for a good stab. Spotlight remains the favourite (so far) as it’s received incredibly positive coverage, and the all-star cast will draw strong votes for it. Yet it’s scoring at fours rather than fives, meaning the door remains open. The same goes for the likes of Bridge of Spies, The Danish Girl and Room meaning they’ll suffer as well. Inside Out won’t win – despite its quality – as it’s not Pixar’s finest piece. Steve Jobs and The Martian suffer (potentially) from their box office – one for being too poor, and the other for being too successful/’blockbuster’-y. The Revenant, Carol and Joy are riding strong hype trains, and that could barrel roll them into Oscar glory. Again they’ve got big weaknesses – too angry, too arty, too Russell-y – but as it stands, they’re your big three.
Even after all that, it’s still difficult to identify a true champion. 116 days is a long time in cinema. Let’s just sit back, and enjoy the ride.
2016 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture (ranked in order of likelihood of victory)
- The Revenant
- Bridge of Spies
Next In Line
- Steve Jobs
- Inside Out
- The Martian
- The Hateful Eight
Waiting In The Wings
- The Danish Girl
- The Big Short
- By The Sea
- Son of Saul