Of all the Oscar predictions that start to rain down late in the year, the category of “Best Picture” is the most talked about of the bunch. At its core, it’s the simplest, most telling award the Academy offers, often acting as a litmus test for cinema in any given year. Last year, we saw a relatively thin field, featuring just 8 nominees of the maximum 10 the category allows. 2015 brings us a decidedly deeper selection, in what could end up being the most diverse assortment we’ve ever seen.
Genre-wise, our own “Best of 2015″ list is represented by everything from horror to sci-fi, rather than the simple collection of true-to-life dramas that typically dominates the Oscars. We imagine a similar field will take shape once the official nominees are unveiled. Such a trend could indicate any number of things, but first and foremost, it shows us that Hollywood is learning how to spread its talent around in new and exciting ways. Who will win in the end? We can’t know for sure until the envelope is opened on-stage at the Oscars, but we have some guesses.
Of all the quality films out there, the one that’s generated the most buzz so far is Mad Max: Fury Road. George Miller’s return to the franchise that made him famous is already sweeping through various awards, having won five its seven nominations from the Chicago Film Critics Association. One of its wins included Best Picture, giving it a full head of steam headed into Oscar season, despite having released early on in 2015. Additionally, Fury Road scored a whopping 13 nominations from the Critics Choice Awards, the highest such number for any movie this year.
The early buzz isn’t the end-all be-all for the Oscars though. We’ve seen plenty of surprises over the years, and with a field of potential nominees this diverse, it’s truly anyone’s game at this point. That being so, Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight is far more in line with what the Academy usually picks, focusing on non-fiction drama rather than the sci-fi wasteland of Fury Road. Not for nothing, McCarthy’s film was absolutely stellar, beloved by critics to the tune of an almost-unanimous 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes. It wouldn’t come as much of a shock to anyone to see it overcome 2015’s deep field, and with an A-list cast to boot, it’s more than deserving of the honor.
There’s one thing to consider before any final judgments are made: The Star Wars factor. There’s a good chance The Force Awakens numbers itself among the most hyped movies of all time, and as it continues to annihilate every box office record under the sun, it’s getting harder and harder to ignore it as an Oscar contender. While lacking the depth of something like Spotlight and the practical action of Fury Road, there’s no denying the fact that J.J. Abrams knocked it out of the park with the first Star Wars film in almost a decade. Figure in the fact that the Critics’ Choice Awards recently shoehorned it in as the 11th nominee for Best Picture (Worth noting, the first time this has been done in 15 years), and there’s a strong case to be made here.
Whatever the Academy ends up choosing, they’ll have a tough selection process ahead of them. Pick Fury Road, and we could see a massive cultural shift in terms of what defines a great film. If Spotlight takes home Best Picture, the status quo will remain in place, albeit for the sake of an incredible movie. Star Wars swooping in for the award would cause a tectonic shift greater than even that of a potential Fury Road win. Perhaps Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight will make itself a late addition to the Oscar buzz with a solid opening. It’s all speculation at this point, and the winner has the potential to change standards by which the award are judged forever.
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