There are three absolute locks here, and one of them is likely winning the prize: “Boyhood,” “Birdman” and “The Imitation Game.”
This trio received Best Picture nominations from the PGA, BAFTAs, Golden Globes and the Critics Choice, and all of them received SAG nominations for Best Cast. It’s extremely rare to get that kind of precursor attention and then not receive an Oscar nod for Best Picture.
“Moonrise Kingdom” and “Inside Llewyn Davis” are the only two films in the past four years to receive even just Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice nominations for Best Picture not to make Oscar’s cut, and both received the former in the Comedy/Musical category (which doesn’t have the same kind of Oscar crossover rate as its Drama counterpart).
Only one film, meanwhile, has received both of those nominations plus a SAG Best Cast mention since Oscar expanded its list beyond five nominees and then not received a Best Picture nomination: 2009’s “Nine.”
It seems very unlikely that “Boyhood,” “Birdman,” and/or “The Imitation Game” are about to become the next “Nine.”
But the question of which films might join those three locks is where things get interesting. The Oscars’ Best Picture race can feature anywhere from five to 10 nominations.
A quick reminder of how that works: Nominated films must earn either 5% of first-place rankings or 5% after an “abbreviated variation of the single transferable vote.” Basically, a film needs a lot of voters to put it near the top of their ranked ballots.
In all three years since this system has been in place, nine films have been nominated. It’s almost impossible to predict whether that will be the case again, so let’s just say there will be nine once more.
One of the most interesting developments in the last month of awards announcements is the film that’s looking pretty solid to join them.
Thought a dark horse at best not so long ago, Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” received support across the board, and actually joins “Boyhood,” “Birdman,” and “Game” in getting all five of the following: BAFTA, PGA, Golden Globe, Critics Choice, and SAG Best Cast. As did James Marsh’s “The Theory of Everything.”
If this was still just a five film race, it would arguably be “Budapest Hotel” and “The Theory of Everything” joining them.
After that comes six films that stand reasonable shots at rounding out the rest of the list (if there is a rest of the list, that is): “Selma,” “Gone Girl,” “Foxcatcher,” “Nightcrawler,” “American Sniper,” “and “Whiplash.”
All of them received Best Picture nominations from either the PGA, Globes or the Critics Choice (in many cases two of them), and seem to have their fair share of passionate supporters (the big box office numbers for “Sniper” should help right now too).
So while the race may have narrowed significantly since November’s end (sorry, “Unbroken” and “Interstellar”), this is one major race where there are plenty of question marks that will probably remain open-ended right up until tomorrow morning.
LOU CEFFER FOR SPY HOLLYWOOD