Oscars 2016: Best Picture Analysis

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OSCAR WATCH 2016: BEST PICTURE ANALYSIS

The Big Short

Big Short poster

The Big Short felt like this year’s American Hustle – nominated for a crap load of awards, but destined to go home empty handed.  That all changed when it claimed the PGA win a few weeks ago.  The last time the PGA and Best Picture winners didn’t match up was 2006 with Little Miss Sunshine (PGA) and The Departed (Best Picture), so it’s been a while.  This automatically makes The Big Short one of the main contenders.  While the PGA win is impressive, the movie still has a lot of hurdles.  While mostly a comedy, it still packs an emotional punch, but feels like it’s missing that Oscar Best Picture panache.  It’s too scatter-brained and clunky to actually take top prize.  The Big Short is a front runner, but on the low end of the front runners.

Chances of Winning: High

Is The Movie Worthy of Being Heralded Best Picture?  Yes

Bridge of Spies

This is on the low end of being a viable candidate for Best Picture, but viable nonetheless.  Unlike Spielberg’s previous efforts that were painfully mediocre (Lincoln, War Horse), Bridge of Spies delivers good conflict and good character.  For a movie about an insurance lawyer negotiating an exchange, it’s about as entertaining as you’re going to get.  It also doesn’t hurt to have Tom Hanks spearheading the effort.  The Academy made up their minds about this movie months ago because it’s Spielberg, as well as a very Oscar bait film.  At least he deserves it this time, even if it does have zero chance of winning.

Chances of Winning: Low

Is The Movie Worthy of Being Heralded Best Picture?  Yes

Brooklyn

The Academy tends to save one spot in the Best Picture race for the cute little character piece, ala Philomena a couple years ago.  This year it’s Brooklyn.  Thirty years ago this may have taken the top prize, but not anymore.  It’s a great movie that deserves to be mentioned, but that’s all it’s going to get – mentioned.

Chances of Winning: Low

Is The Movie Worthy of Being Heralded Best Picture?  Yes

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max poster 2

I said all along that the Academy would never nominate this film.  When you watch the ceremony last year, every speaker seemed to give a subtle shot towards franchise filmmaking.  Even though Mad Max is a small franchise, it’s still a reboot/requel/franchise/everything the Oscars hate type of film.  We’ve seen these movies get Guild nominations before, such as The Dark Knight and Skyfall, but still no Best Picture nomination.  I have no problem being wrong on this one though, as Mad Max is one of my favorite movies of last year.  The Academy took baby steps in nominating this film.  Not only were they able to recognize the technical marvels, but the movie’s emotional impact as well.  It’s there.  Not only is Mad Max nominated, but it’s got a realistic shot at winning, albeit a small one.  It will run neck and neck with The Revenant for all the technical/minor awards.  No nominations in Screenplay or Acting hurts though, and it’s definitely an off kilter selection for the Academy, but who knows?  Maybe they get a little “mad” this year.

Chances of Winning: Middle of the Pack

Is The Movie Worthy of Being Heralded Best Picture?  Yes

The Martian

Coming out of the Golden Globes, I had this as a front runner right along with The Revenant.  As soon as Ridley Scott was denied a Best Director nomination though, it all came to a screeching halt.  The film certainly got a lot of nominations, but it’s clear the Academy sees this as a crowd pleaser worthy of being recognized, but nothing more.  The likability of the film probably willed it to a Best Picture nomination, but The Martian seems destined to be stranded with the audience all night, and not on stage.

Chances of Winning: Middle of the Pack

Is The Movie Worthy of Being Heralded Best Picture?  Yes

The Revenant

Revenant poster

There’s no doubt The Revenant is the film to beat going into the ceremony.  Epic filmmaking?  Check.  Nominations across the board?  Check.  Financially viable?  Check.  The Revenant is such a visceral filmmaking experience, it’s going to be real hard for voters to ignore it.  I suppose the Inarritu two years in a row factor could hurt, but doubtful.  I had this movie pegged as an Oscar contender for a year.  It’s an absolute beast, or bear I should say.

Chances of Winning: High

Is The Movie Worthy of Being Heralded Best Picture?  Yes

Room

This seemed like an Oscar darling when it first came out, but other than Brie Larson, Room got quiet on the awards front fast.  I guess Guild nominations don’t mean everything.  The film is nearly flawless, and even if you don’t like it, you have to admire the craft that went into creating it.  It’s a powerful movie that certainly leaves you in silence as the credits roll on.  At the end of the day though, it’s just too small for the Oscars.  With Lenny Abrahamson getting a Director nomination, we can’t totally rule it out, but the mountain is high.

Chances of Winning: Middle of the Pack

Is The Movie Worthy of Being Heralded Best Picture?  Yes

Spotlight poster

Spotlight

This is the movie that has the best chance of upsetting The Revenant.  As great as The Revenant is, it has detractors.  Spotlight on the other hand is universally praised.  Everybody loves it.  It’s the consensus “we can all agree” pick.  The only aspect working against Spotlight is history.  It’s not an epic.  It doesn’t have that feeling of grandeur that Best Picture winners tend to have.  It’s why movies like Good Will Hunting or American Hustle never win.  The ensemble is great.  The writing is excellent.  The only question is did enough voters feel that sense of astonishment when it ended, just as they did for The Revenant?  We’ll find out soon enough.

Chances of Winning: High

Is The Movie Worthy of Being Heralded Best Picture?  Yes

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.