Previously, I discussed the radical(ish) Best Picture nominees, but did not address the burning question of what will win? The strong contenders can be determined by other awards and nominations. The Revenant and The Martian won Best Picture at the Golden Globes for, respectively, Drama and Musical or Comedy. The Big Short won Outstanding Producer at the Producers’ Guild of America. Spotlight won Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the Screen Actors Guild and The Revenant was awarded Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film by the Directors’ Guild of America. The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Spotlight and The Revenant are up for Best Film at the BAFTA awards as well, and there is significant overlap between the memberships of the academies.
In addition, Best Picture winners tend to win other Oscars as well, especially Directing, Writing and Editing. With that in mind, consider those that are up for all these awards. While Mad Max: Fury Road is a surprise nomination, it is extremely unlikely that a science fiction action sequel will win, despite George Miller’s nomination for Directing. The same goes for The Martian, which is doubly unlikely to win without a Directing nomination. This absence also makes Bridge of Spies and Brooklyn unlikely winners.
The only Best Picture nominees up for Directing, Writing and Editing are The Big Short and Spotlight, which makes them strong contenders, along with The Revenant with its existing awards. These results narrow the likely winners down to Spotlight, The Revenant and The Big Short. All these films display the tendency I mentioned before of being about “America,” and cast something of a critical eye on that peculiar, pervasive myth. The Big Short is the most critical, casting the banking industry and America’s massive social inequality as an absurdist tragicomedy. Spotlight is more ambivalent, portraying the interconnectivity of American society as responsible for terrible events as well as being capable of addressing them. The Revenant is thematically conservative, presenting a bootstrap story of one man surviving against overwhelming odds. I love all three films, and while I think The Revenant is the most likely winner, were I a member of AMPAS, I would probably vote for Spotlight, for its finely balanced and non-judgemental approach to controversial subject matter.