*Updated on 2/15/16
This is perhaps the most unpredictable Oscar year in decades. Quite honestly, the winner could be any of the nominees and award precursors are completely contradictory, which means nobody can agree on a definitive frontrunner. Therefore, in order to make an adequate prediction, one must look at past award traction and use the common trends from them as a basis to establish a set of frontrunners.
In that regard, we look to a single Oscar category: Best Film Editing. With the exception of Birdman last year because the film did not possess any editing, there has been no Best Picture winner without at least a nomination for Best Film Editing. The last Best Picture winner without that category nomination was Ordinary People in 1980.
When we apply that towards the 8 nominees for Best Picture, there are four frontrunners: The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, and Spotlight.
Now let’s look at what the precursor ceremonies have awarded as their Best Picture: The Revenant has won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA, Spotlight has won the Critics Choice Award and the SAG, and The Big Short has won the PGA.
What does this all mean?
Well, it’s important to look at these precursor awards and see which of them have the best track record in being in agreement with the Oscar ceremony regarding the Best Picture winner:
Golden Globes: In the last 10 years, they have awarded the same as the Oscars 5 times
Critics Choice: In the last 10 years, they have awarded the same as the Oscars 8 times
PGAs: In the last 10 years, they have awarded the same as the Oscars 9 times
SAGs: In the last 10 years, they have awarded the same as the Oscars 5 times
BAFTAs: In the last 10 years, 7 winners they have awarded have gone onto winning Best Picture at the Oscars
Based upon these numbers, that means the battle is between Spotlight versus The Revenant versus The Big Short. Usually it is more likely that the Oscars will lean in the direction of the PGAs, which means The Big Short would be the most likely to win. Yet this could be an outlier year for the PGAs regarding its winner. The best way to gauge where the Oscars will go is to see if any of the nominated films have won more of the precursor awards. That film is Spotlight. Its recent SAG win not only made it the first film to win two precursor awards, but it actually beat The Big Short with the Outstanding Cast SAG. Additionally, The Revenant defeated The Big Short at the BAFTAs. This is evidence of 1 of 2 things: 1. The momentum for The Big Short has slowed down, and, 2. The PGAs are not in agreement with any precursor ceremony this year. Therefore, the PGAs are not a valid gauge this year on predicting the winner this year.
In regards to the other nominees, it is possible the three frontrunners will cancel each other out and allow for a surprise win. Room was the surprise nominee in this category, which means voters have clearly identified it as a contender. Mad Mad: Fury Road is a fan-favorite and broke the science-fiction/action bias barrier commonly applied by voters, which means the film has more clout and traction than meets the eye.
As said before, this category could go in many directions and only on Oscar night will we know for sure who will stand victorious over all nominees. This category, admittingly, is a mere guessing game, which adds a genuine level of excitement and unpredictability that the Oscars hasn’t seen in nearly 40 years.
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Mad: Fury Road
Will Win: Spotlight
Could Win: The Big Short or The Revenant
Should Win: The Revenant or Spotlight
Could Upset: Mad Max