The first phase of awards season is officially over and everyone in the film world has put a hold on giving out awards for the holiday season and decided to go to the multiplex and watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens a bunch of times instead. After a conversation with awards season expert Sasha Stone, the founder and editor of the terrific film resource AwardsDaily.com, I've revamped the sources I use for my awards prognostication grid. My goal all along has been to gather respected opinions from a variety of sources in order to help gauge where the best picture race is heading. I could've included a host of other experts but my main priority was getting as wide a perspective as possible. Because Sasha, Anne Thompson of Indiewire, Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter, and others are already included in the conglomerate rankings at Gold Derby or the Gurus O' Gold I have excluded their individual rankings here to avoid repetition.
That being said here's the new grid including the most updated lists from GOLD DERBY, GURUS O' GOLD, VARIETY, AWARDS WATCH and AWARDS CIRCUIT.
Even though I am using new lists the same film remains the clear favorite: Spotlight. Through this first phase of awards season Tom McCarthy's film about the Catholic Church scandal in Boston has remained the only film to be consistently praised across the board from critics and industry groups. Heading into the holiday break The Revenant, The Martian, Room, Mad Max: Fury Road and Carol all remain within striking distance of the top prize but they don't quite have the universal support of Spotlight. The rest of the field remains in flux.
The second tier of contenders is led by The Big Short which is outperforming all early expectations by scoring key nominations from the Screen Actors Guild, the Golden Globes, the Critics' Choice awards, and the American Film Institute. Bridge of Spies and Brooklyn were once considered sure things but they now seem vulnerable. Inside Out and Straight Outta Compton are by no means threats to actually win but it would not be surprising at all to see them nab one of the final nomination slots. The next foursome of The Hateful Eight, Steve Jobs, Trumbo and The Danish Girl are listed on the bubble by nearly everyone but they fail to crack anyone's top ten.
Here's where the real fun starts. The last big question of this awards season was just how well Star Wars: The Force Awakens would play with audiences and critics. This last weekend we got our answer as it broke every major domestic and worldwide box office record, scored an A CinemaScore from opening weekend audiences, and amassed an incredible 95% score from film critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The American Film Institute pushed back their year end vote in order to see it and they rewarded it by naming it one of the year's ten best.
In a questionable and some would say pandering move the Broadcast Film Critics Society also retroactively went back and added The Force Awakens as an 11th best picture nominee for their Critics' choice awards, angering many of their members. The organization claimed that many of their critics asked for a re-vote and that enough agreed that it should be added to the list, but some of the more outspoken opponents of the move pointed out that it was simply a P.R. stunt done in order to draw a larger television audience to their awards ceremony.
Three other films remain in the conversation though they are at this point on the outside looking in: Beasts of No Nation, Joy and Creed. All three have at moments in this race seemed like real threats to break out but for various reasons they have yet to gain much ground. The next round of awards, especially the guild awards, will be key if any one of them wants to be considered a real player in this year's race. Lastly to round out the list to twenty-five I included Sicario, Anomalisa, Son of Saul, Ex Machina, Trainwreck and Tangerine, all which have garnered praise from at least one of the major awards or have been mentioned on a significant number of critics year end top ten lists.