Magazine article Variety

The Noms Are All in, but Who Will Win?

Magazine article Variety

The Noms Are All in, but Who Will Win?

Article excerpt

Nominations have finally been revealed for the 88th Academy Awards, and as ever, the best picture category represents a fascinating snapshot of both the industry and the here and now. We may be more than a month away from the ceremony, but seeing as there's something real to work with, let's dig in, handicap the race and try to determine who will be holding the best picture Oscar aloft on Feb. 28.

The Big Short

The market seemed bearish at the start for "The Big Short." But prior to an AFI Fest premiere, Paramount got the ball rolling with industry-only screenings in October. The film went on to be a passionate favorite with the Academy, landing key nominations for director, adapted screenplay and film editing. It's also a movie that could survive the preferential balloting system, which favors films acceptable to a broad voting pool. Consider this a dark horse.

Bridge of Spies

"Bridge of Spies" had a strong showing on the industry awards circuit, picking up nominations from the art directors, producers, screen actors and writers guilds, as well as the cinematographers, sound mixers and visual-effects artists groups. But while popularity across disciplines is key in an Oscar race, the movie did show some weakness, failing to score a director nomination for Steven Spielberg.

Brooklyn

Fox Searchlight won back-to-back best picture Oscars for "12 Years a Slave" and "Birdman," but this year, the distributor seemed to find its footing in the season a bit more slowly. "Brooklyn" ended up surviving the long haul all the way from a Sundance premiere a year ago, picking up supporters along the way for its resonant depiction of the immigrant experience. It's sure to land a lot of votes, but plenty have been left underwhelmed by its modesty all the same. Mad Max: Fury Road

"Mad Max: Fury Road" was second only to "The Revenant" in total nominations, netting 10. Such big tallies can be a harbinger of best picture success, though in recent years, that has proven more of a guideline than a rule. And while George Miller's opus rallied plenty of zealous supporters, it's hard to imagine this "Mad" appeal ranging across a spectrum wide enough to claim the big prize. Plus, genre bias is always lurking: Just ask "Gravity."

The Martian

"The Martian" came into the race after its Toronto Film Festival premiere as a "maybe" - an entertaining film with enough on its mind to make it a player, but perhaps one in need of a little help. As ever, a number of would-be contenders fell by the wayside, sending Ridley Scott's film into orbit, with plenty of backing throughout the crafts. Like "The Big Short," it's a film that could perform very well on a preferential ballot. All that said, the exclusion of Scott in the best director category is one of the year's biggest puzzlers, and perhaps indicative that some voters aren't taking the film seriously in the prestige space.

The Revenant

"The Revenant," with a trio of Golden Globes in its pocket and an impressive amount of box office coin to jingle, goes into phase two loaded for bear. It scored the highest nominations total, with 12 across the board, and is clearly saddled up to make a strong run. However, no filmmaker has won best picture two years in a row. Is the Academy really ready to make Alejandro G. Inarritu the first, or will that be reason to spread the love elsewhere?

Room

Things started to look dire for "Room" down the stretch, as no industry group joined the Screen Actors Guild in recognizing the film, and BAFTA didn't fall hard for it, either. …

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