The Race for Gold: Predicting the Winners on Oscar Night


The biggest night in Hollywood, Oscar night, is coming up to award the best films of the 2015 year nominated in each of the 24 categories. This is the wrap up of the awards season and the Academy Award is the most prestigious award in all of film.


As nominations came out on Jan. 14, the films still in contention vie for their chance to be awarded the Oscar. The most important award of the night arguably being Best Picture, where this year eight films are nominated: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, and Spotlight.


This year the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences nominated eight films in the Best Picture category, where in years prior they have nominated up to ten films such as in 2009 and five in 2008. However, the need for eight films this year is entirely for economic purposes.


The film industry is the highest grossing entertainment market and when January rolls around and films are nominated for Academy Awards, they are put back in cinemas for movie goers to see these films and for the film to make more money after its initial release date.


It is easily visible this year the eight nominations are purely for the economic purpose of the industry because the Best Picture category is quite weak this year.


The Academy can nominate up to 10 films and at least five films every year. This year, the eight films nominated can easily be lowered to five by dropping three of the films nominated. Those films being “Bridge of Spies,” “Brooklyn,” and “Mad Max: Fury Road.” These films all share a common trait: they lack financial promotion. And why financial promotion is key to winning the race of Best Picture, is because the Academy does not require its members to view every film nominated. Therefore, films that are not well known risk the chance of losing votes during ballot casts and are out of the race before it even starts.


Despite “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the other two films were not promoted well during their theatrical run. “Bridge of Spies,” a historical fiction film, was critically acclaimed but died off in theaters in the United States. The film was not promoted nearly as much as other nominees to the point when it first came out, I really did not know what I was getting myself into. As for “Brooklyn,” this film was very clear for audience members going into even if they did not see the trailers or read a synopsis. The film keeps a direct and simplistic structure which is great for the period piece, but combines an indie film style with historical romance-drama. Despite the stellar performances of Saoirse Ronan, Domhnhall Gleeson, and spectacular set design by François Seguin, this film does not stand a chance up against some of the bigger contenders in this category. “Brooklyn” is an indie film that did not promote the film enough early on when it needed it during its original theatrical run.


“Mad Max: Fury Road” however faces an entirely different issue. That issue being it is an action film. The last action film to be nominated and stood a great chance at taking home Best Picture was “Avatar” in 2009. However, “Mad Max: Fury Road” is no “Avatar.” The film’s plot is where it kills the chances of taking home the Oscar. It is a very basic and almost teenage boyish fantasy of an action film, one where the story is that there is no story, only car chases through cataclysmic storms and pretty women fighting. Nevertheless, the visuals of the film are phenomenal along with some of the incredible feats overcome with the cinematography, quick paced edits, and direction by George Miller which makes him a contender to easily take home Best Director. But the film offers nothing that the Academy could see as worthy of Best Picture because in most occurrences,  the Academy looks for films with a strong social message to initiate change or a blockbuster that holds a strong story and plot. In this case, “Mad Max: Fury Road” is neither of those two.


Now that those three films that don’t stand a chance of taking home Oscar are out of the way, now we are left with the five films the Academy could have just nominated. And with these five films, the winner really depends on what I said earlier: the Academy looks for films with a strong social message to initiate change or a blockbuster that holds a strong story and plot. It really depends on the type of Academy that votes this year. And it can go any way for these next five films, but there are some which obviously are bigger contenders and are projected to win the category.


“Spotlight” if any of these final five would be the next to not stand a chance at winning. Not to say this film is well done and has that strong social message that the Academy looks for which is  shedding light on molestation within the Catholic Church. This film would be next to be out because of how boring it is. For an audience to be engaged in a film, it needs to seem dynamic and something must always be happening on screen. “Spotlight” however does the opposite and the film seems as if it was shot on the same angle with the same lens for the entire film. The cinematography makes the film drag and seem dry and the lack of a score that stands out really make cinematic moments in the film less dramatic. It is a well written and acted film, but due to pacing and keeping the audience engaged, it’d be no surprise that Academy members would not cast their vote for this film.


With four films left in contention, any of these realistically could win. They’ve either got the financial promotion to make the film well known, are a blockbuster with a great story, or have that push for social change embedded in the films meaning.


But the next two to go for different reasons are “The Big Short” and “Room.” Not that there is anything wrong with either of these films, they both are two of the year’s best films. But from an analytical point of view, there are things the Academy could decide to deviate their votes from one of these films for. In “The Big Short’s” case, it faces a film very similar and in the same vein nominated for Best Picture only two short years ago: “The Wolf of Wall Street.” With a film taking a comedic approach to a serious drama, it feels as if this film has already been here before. No matter how well written and directed and performed this film is, the Academy will recognize the similarities to “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “The Big Short” will fall short of taking home the Oscar.


The issue facing “Room” is not nearly the same as the one “The Big Short” faces. It is the same issue “Brooklyn” faces being the financial promotion lacking. “Room” came out theatrically in September of last year and not many would know that. But unlike “Brooklyn,” “Room” has three things going for it keeping it alive in this competition. The main actress, Brie Larson, gives the performance of her career where she outshines everyone in the Best Actress category and is a shoe in to win. That instantaneously boosts the film up into the upper bracket. And out of “Room,” the performance of Jacob Tremblay outshines performances of Haley Joel Osment in “The Sixth Sense” and Thomas Horn in “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” There is so much grit and soul in this child throughout this film that it is impossible to notice this film. And the last thing going for “Room” is just the story. It is based on true events which is something the Academy tends to to have a soft heart for and even despite that, it is such a refreshing and seemingly original film where you cannot believe what you are watching. As depressing and heavy as the subject matter in this film is, you cannot deny how tremendously and beautifully made this film is. That’s why you cannot count this film out of contention.


With two films left, these are what the Academy will most definitely be casting most of their votes towards, but it seems pretty obvious which will take home Best Picture from here: “The Revenant.”


This film had one of the best financial promotions throughout the entire theatrical release and was released right at the end of the year to maintain eligibility to be nominated while being one film impossible to forget about during the nomination process. With heavyweight director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu who won Best Director last year, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki who won Best Cinematography the past two years, and Leonardo DiCaprio in best contention to win Best Actor for the first time, it seems as if the odds are stacked in favor of this film.


Yet, for how much this film has been promoted, the performances given, and the style of long takes in which this film is told in, “The Revenant” is not all that riveting. Seeing this film twice, it is evident that this film is great because the critics say it is great. A very dynamic film as are all Lubezki and Inarritu collaborations, but the pacing in the film is quite slow at times where the long and breathtaking shots really sum up to be long shots of snow and forest without much more than that. And even for the cinematography, it is not Lubezki’s best work by any means and it is not Inarritu’s either. This film really seems as if it was made for the sake of pleasing the Academy than for the love of the story and filmmaking, almost nearing pretentious. DiCaprio as well does not deliver his best performance by any means. He happened to get lucky and sign on a project where he was the lead in a film acclaimed by critics in a year where the Best Actor category is quite weak. If there is one thing to take from this film where it absolutely is spectacular and lives up to its critical acclaim is Tom Hardy’s performance. Without a doubt Tom Hardy will bring home some of his own Oscar hardware that night in the Best Supporting Actor category. The man in phenomenal and such a versatile actor, where he captures the rough and rugged fur trapper frontiersman better than anyone. Hardy’s performance is one similar to J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash” last year, it will not go unnoticed at the 88th Academy Awards and will not be forgotten for years to come.


That being said, the final film which by all means the best film of the year is one from director Ridley Scott, and that is “The Martian.”


This film just like “The Revenant” is a survival story, but unlike “The Revenant,” is actually extremely engaging. From the opening shots on Mars to the end of the film, “The Martian” takes off and never stops. Despite being a science-fiction blockbuster, this film offers so much through its scientific and academic style infused with witty writing, performances by an all-star cast on Mars and Earth, Scott’s specialty of the genre directed well to the point there is not a moment you find yourself in that film and wish time would pass. Extremely dynamic and Matt Damon steals the show as much of the film is on his shoulders, and he carries it well through his emotion which has not been seen since “Good Will Hunting.”


“The Martian” is the only film that has the greatest chance at stealing the show on Feb. 28 from “The Revenant” because it actually deserves the award. The goal of the Academy in choosing Best Picture is to pick the best film of the year and that goal has changed over the years to fit the needs of social change and find a film that has meaning. It is time the Academy goes back to its roots and picks the year’s best film, and hand the award to the producers of “The Martian” at the 88th Academy Awards.

Graphics by Kevin Shannon '16


Graphic by Kevin Shannon'16 BEST PICTURE In gold is what the Academy will most likely pick. In blue is the pick of the Blueprint.
Graphics by Kevin Shannon ’16


In the gold are the nominees that the Academy most likely will award on Oscar Sunday. Those in blue are the picks of the Blueprint on what deserves to win. Those with a gold banner and blue heart are a shared opinion of the Blueprint and Academy.