As soon as the calendar flips to December, there’s only one thing on cinephiles’ minds. Oscars season has returned! Believe it or not, the movie industry’s biggest night is not far away. The nominations process opens at the end of the month, with the announcement ceremony slated for January 14 and the 88th Academy Awards set for February 28, 2016. In the meantime, film critics across the country are gathering to make their voices heard. We rounded up the major accolades so far and what this means for these films’ Academy Awards chances.
The Race Is Still Wide Open
In New York City, the Gotham Independent Film Awards kicked things off on November 30 by awarding Spotlight Best Picture and Screenplay accolades. The next day, the National Board of Review (NBR) named Mad Max: Fury Road their pick for Best Film of 2015. That weekend, the Boston Society of Film Critics (BSFC) and Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) both bestowed the same honors upon Spotlight as the Gotham Awards had previously. So does that make it a lock for Spotlight? Not so fast.
While it may seem like you could call Spotlight an early frontrunner, the Oscar race for Best Picture is still anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, the New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) changed things up by declaring Todd Haynes’ romantic drama Carol their Best Picture choice. For the first time since 1988, three different major critics groups have all declared a different film as their Best Picture pick. We can’t quite determine who the winner might be at the Academy Awards, but all three of these movies have a favorable chance of being nominated, especially Spotlight. Out of all the critics associations in the country, the Boston Society of Film Critics are statistically the most aligned with picking future Oscar winners. Their picks have matched up with Oscars’ choice for Best Picture 6 times in the past 10 years.
Major Blockbusters and Tiny Indies Alike Are Garnering Attention
Particularly in the acting categories, smaller independent films are collecting much needed accolades. Often, these awards can boost the profile of a film substantially during the Oscar season, resulting in higher draw at the box office. Although they can’t compete with blockbusters like Star Wars, more critical praise can mean that indie films stay in theaters for longer, resulting in wider audience exposure and hopefully spreading the word about these often underappreciated and under-the-radar movies. The Gothams awarded Best Actress honors to Bel Powley for Diary of a Teenage Girl, while the National Board of Review declared Brie Larson’s performance in Room their pick. Both the Los Angeles and Boston critics chose Charlotte Rampling for the indie British drama 45 Years. Meanwhile, the NYFCC voted Saoirse Ronan Best Actress for her role in Brooklyn. Ronan was also the runner-up Best Actress pick for the BSFC and LAFCA’s awards. She may be as close to a frontrunner as we get this season, but overall 2015 marked an incredible year for actresses showing off their acting chops in strong, well-written roles.
Comedies and Dramas Made Strong Showings This Year
While the Academy Awards have mostly bestowed honors on dramas, critics have awarded a wider variety of films in 2015 compared to previous years. Inside Out won Best Animated Film from NYFCC, the NBR, and BSFC. The Martian, a movie that balances out its dramatic moments with equal parts comedy, also picked up Best Director and Actor wins from the NBR. For the first time in quite awhile, an action movie has a very strong chance of scoring an Oscar nomination. In the past 10 years, only one picture that has won the NBR’s Best Film distinction has been been nominated that year for Best Picture. Mad Max: Fury Road has a strong shot at being witnessed by the Academy come January 16.
So, what’s next? Look out for The Golden Globe nominations which are announced on December 10. Traditionally, the Globes don’t have a strong correlation to how Academy members vote for the Oscars, but count on well-liked dramas like Spotlight, Carol, Brooklyn, Room, and The Revenant scoring a few nominations. If you’re looking to get a head start on making predictions for your Oscar pool in the acting categories, take a look at the Screen Actors Guild nominations announced this morning. The SAG Awards tend to be the most accurate at forecasting the actors and actresses who will take home the coveted golden statue in February.
What’s your Oscar nominee wish list for this year? Drop us your thoughts in the comments below!
Michelle Buchman is the social media manager at Nerdist Industries. She’s also a huge cinephile and hasn’t lost her Oscar pool in five years. Feel free to follow and chat movies with her on Twitter, @michelledeidre.