(This article will be constantly updated as we get closer to the Academy Awards on February 28.)
After the Golden Globes, you may have thought the Oscar winners were set in stone: The Revenant takes Best Picture, Kate Winslet wins Best Supporting Actress and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu walks away with Best Director two years on the trot. But if you take a closer look at the science behind the Academy Awards, you’ll know that matching the Golden Globes to the Oscars is about as simple as Leo trying to secure that elusive gold statue.
Here’s how we see it playing out in 2016:
1. The Revenant won’t win Best Picture...
As we explained in our ‘yeah, science!’ piece, you can’t win Best Picture without a Best Ensemble nomination from the Screen Actors Guild. In 1996, Braveheart unconventionally marched its way to Best Picture glory. The reason this was such a surprise? No SAG nomination. And what do The Revenant and Braveheart have in common? By jove, you’ve got it. In fact, if anything other than Spotlight or The Big Short comes out on top, it will be the first time a non-Best Ensemble SAG nominee won Best Picture in 20 years.
(The remaining SAG Best Ensemble nominees - Beasts Of No Nation, Straight Outta Compton, Trumbo - were not nominated for Best Picture by the Academy.)
2. ...but it will give Emmanuel ‘Chivo’ Lubezki his third Oscar in a row
Sorry 13-time nominee, zero-time winner Roger Deakins.
3. Mad Max: Fury Road won’t win Best Picture
George Miller is currently sweeping the awards circuit. Critics’ Choice? Nailed it. London Film Critics? Nailed it. Valhalla’s Shiny and Chrome Awards? Ok, so maybe that one’s not legitimate... While Miller’s Best Director chances look increasingly rosy, this isn’t likely to help his Best Picture hopes.
The reason? Well, apart from no Best Ensemble nod from SAG (yes, that again), another key issue is the Academy not recognising its screenplay. This may sound rather trivial, but it’s actually very important. In the last five decades, just one film has won Best Picture and not been nominated for Best Screenplay. The film in question? A tiny indie called Titanic. (We all know how “I’ll never let go” panned out…)
Only seven films have ever broken this steadfast rule which also dashes Iñárritu’s hopes: The Revenant, too, missed out on a writing nod.
4. The Best Picture winner will need an editing nomination
Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman walked away with four Oscars at last year’s ceremony, including Best Picture. But did you know the director broke the system due to Birdman not receiving an editing nomination? You have to head back to 1981 winner Ordinary People for the last Best Picture to achieve that feat.
This keeps four of this year’s Best Picture nominees in the frame: The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, and Spotlight.
5. Acting nominations boost your Best Picture chances
Question: what was the last film to win Best Picture without a single acting nomination? Answer: Slumdog Millionaire. Alright, so the 2009 Oscars weren’t all that long ago, but it’s incredibly rare to take the grand prize without at least one actor in contention.
It’s worth remembering that actors make up just shy of one-quarter of the Academy’s 6,000 members - that’s a powerful branch you definitely want on side. So, while Fury Road may be up for Best Picture, it would probably help if it had an acting nomination, too. Here’s looking at you, Spotlight (Mark Ruffalo; Rachel McAdams), The Big Short (Christian Bale) and The Revenant (Leonardo DiCaprio).
(Bridge Of Spies, The Martian, Room and Brooklyn also boast acting nominations, but, for the reasons explained above and here, we’re placing them well outside the Best Picture frame.)
6. Critics’ groups tend to show us where the acting love lies
Remember when we said the Critics’ Choice Awards had a pretty great track record for forecasting the bigger Oscar categories (and that their Best Picture prediction rate was better than that of SAG, BAFTA and the Golden Globes)? This year they handed their shiny acting prizes to Leonardo DiCaprio, Brie Larson, Sylvester Stallone and Alicia Vikander - a motion the Academy looks set to replicate.
(Interestingly, Vikander all but sweeped the 40+ regional critics’ ceremonies for her role as Ava in Ex Machina. Her Critics’ Choice win was for Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl.)
7. The guilds hold the answers
It’s hard to predict the way Best Picture will swing before two specific guilds - and SAG - have their say. Receiving critical buzz and regional awards in the earlier parts of Oscar season is all well and good, but while they may be a handy indicator, critics’ awards (besides the Critics’ Choice, as mentioned above) and the Golden Globes mean diddly squat in the grand scheme of things.
It’s all about the choices of the DGA (Directors Guild of America - Best Director), PGA (Producers Guild of America - Best Producer) and SAG (Screen Actors Guild - Best Ensemble). Win all three and you’re positively golden. But if the trio find themselves split? Well, things might just get a little complicated: see the 1996 Oscars where the SAG, PGA, and DGA-winning Apollo 13 lost Best Picture to Braveheart (the last film to win the holy trifecta and not go on to take the Academy’s big prize, fact fans).
This is where those supporting Boyhood last year got it wrong. Birdman - yes, you guessed it - took the SAG, DGA and PGA’s top honours. Therefore, Birdman was never going to lose. If Iñárritu wins Best Director again this year he will be the first director with back-to-back wins since Joseph L. Mankiewicz for A Letter To Three Wives (1950) and All About Eve (1951).
8. The Big Short is your current frontrunner. (Just)
Taking the above and our more comprehensive Oscar science into account, as of January 31, The Big Short is your current Best Picture frontrunner, ladies and gentlemen. But only just.
Spotlight may have received SAG’s highest honour on January 30, but The Big Short’s PGA win on January 23 is more significant. Why? Because the PGA’s top prize has matched the eventual Best Picture winner 70% of the time over the past 15 years - it actually got the last eight spot on (even if they tied Gravity with eventual Oscar winner 12 Years A Slave in 2014). SAG’s Best Picture success rate is a much lower 50%, compared to the DGA whose main award has aligned 75% since 1996.
So, though Spotlight was leading the pack after sweeping the regional critics’ awards (with Mad Max: Fury Road revving at its heels, it must be said), and taking the Critics’ Choice’s main prize, The Big Short’s rather surprising PGA win now makes it the one to beat. All that’s left is to see how the Directors Guild respond on February 6.
9. Here’s how we see it panning out on February 28
PICTURE: The Big Short
DIRECTOR: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
ACTOR: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
ACTRESS: Brie Larson, Room
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Spotlight
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: The Big Short
DOCUMENTARY: Amy (Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look Of Silence has been its only other competition)
ANIMATION: Inside Out
FOREIGN: Son Of Saul (The Hungarian entry has only found itself threatened by Timbuktu, a film that was Oscar-nominated last year. No worries there, then)
EDITING: Mad Max: Fury Road
CINEMATOGRAPHY: The Revenant
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mad Max: Fury Road
SCORE: The Hateful Eight (Ennio Morricone’s return to Western territory has reigned supreme over John Williams’ return to a galaxy far, far away on this year’s circuit)
VISUAL EFFECTS: Mad Max: Fury Road
COSTUME: Cinderella (We told you never to bet against Sandy Powell…)
HAIR AND MAKEUP: Mad Max: Fury Road
SOUND EDITING: Mad Max: Fury Road (Mad Max looks set to sweep the technical categories)
SOUND MIXING: Mad Max: Fury Road
SONG: Til It Happens To You, The Hunting Ground (This is songwriter Diane Warren’s eighth Oscar nomination)
SHORT: Ave Maria (Nominated for the Best Short Palme d'Or)
ANIMATED SHORT: Sanjay’s Super Team (Pixar’s short film preceded The Good Dinosaur)
DOCUMENTARY SHORT: Body Team 12