Oscar Preview: Precursor Winners & Losers, Week 8

As the precursor awards continue unabated until Oscar night, I’m going to be providing a weekly update highlighting the films that have won and lost momentum through the precursor awards (and in some cases other outside influences).

It may not seem like it now, but a lot has happened in the last week. While there were plenty of precursors, the Academy Awards nominations were announced. Below are my takeaways from the nominations regarding the films whose precursor battles either impacted or failed to impact their Oscar nomination chances.

But, before we get into this week’s winners and losers, let’s take a look at what’s coming up this week:

Week 9

Sun. 24 – Online Film & TV Association (Nominations) (Official)
Sun. 24 – Producers Guild (Awards) (Official)

Big Winners

The Revenant started off slowly thanks to its December release. Few critics had a chance to see the film before voting in early contests. Yet, it still managed several key nominations through the season and came out of the whole affair as the most nominated film at the Oscars. To date, it only has a Golden Globe win for Best Picture, so its outlook isn’t as rosy as it might initially seem, but there’s little doubt that the film was one of the champs of Precursor Season.
Mad Max: Fury Road was surpassed only by Spotlight in the number of Best Picture nominations and trophies the film received. Going into Precursor Season, no one thought that a minor summer blockbuster would become the juggernaut it has. Steamrolling the competition like few other films, the film secured ten nominations from the Oscars, including a rare 8-category tech dominance that it shared with The Revenant. With key nominations in all but acting and writing, its fortune are strong, but can it overcome the genre bias to top the Best Picture contest?
GKids is the most successful campaigner in modern Oscar history. Surpassing Harvey Weinstein in its sheer ability to knock strong favorites from their perches, GKids managed not one, but two nominations in Best Animated Feature, pushing out Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur and The Peanuts Movie for their slots. As they proved last year when they toppled The Lego Movie, they are an animated force to be reckoned with and not taking them into consideration is folly.
The Big Short entered Precursor Season unwatched and largely ignored. As people started watching it, its fortunes began to shine and week by week, it began to emerge as a key competitor. With recognition from numerous guilds, Adam McKay’s film has secured nominations in the four key categories needed to guarantee Best Picture viability: acting, writing, directing and editing. With only five nominations, those four plus Best Picture, it still has an uphill climb, but it went from possible nominee to guaranteed nominee within the span of a single month.
Spotlight seemed to be losing steam in recent weeks in spite of its pack-leading 18 Best Picture citations as the guilds didn’t seem to give it much attention, excluding it most notably from the American Cinema Editors. In the end, the film ultimately picked up the big four Best Picture citations (acting, writing, directing and editing). With the surprise Best Film Editing nomination, Spotlight‘s fortunes picked up and with a public win at the Critics Choice Awards, it has a new lease on life and is still heavily favored for a Best Picture win even if its 6 nominations doesn’t seem all that impressive.

Big Losers

Carol was doing tremendous business in Precursor Season. Among nominating precursors, it showed up on 17 Best Picture slates, third only to Spotlight and Mad Max: Fury Road, 14 Best Director (fourth place overall), 9 screenplay mentions including Writers Guild and British Academy, and was a top nominee at with BAFTA. Yet, when the nominations were announced, it picked up six, with two acting nominations, writing, cinematography, music and costumes. However, it failed to earn a Best Director citation and then was left out of the eight Best Picture slots. Proof that Todd Haynes just isn’t able to charge up Oscar voters and marking a clear failure in the pursuit of Harvey Weinstein to maintain a lengthy and now-defunct nominating streak.
The Martian was the journeyman work that everyone was talking about. Regular nominations throughout Precursor Season and a Directors Guild of America nomination for Ridley Scott seemed to suggest the film had a lot of Oscar potential. It picked up seven Oscar nominations, which was second only to Mad Max and The Revenant, but it utterly failed to pick up an expected Best Director nomination, dashing its chances at a Best Picture nomination, further diminished by its absence from Best Film Editing. The outcome was entirely surprising, especially since many thought Scott would emerge from the competitive Best Director field to pull off his first win in the category. It looks now like the film will go home entirely empty-handed.
The Hateful Eight was buzzed about before Precursor Season, but hadn’t been seen yet. This started to change at the beginning of December as it prepped for release and to get onto as many nomination slates as possible. However, critics seemed to be largely unimpressed with the film and it took hit after hit with the Preucrsors. When the nominations came out, Quentin Tarantino’s film became the poorest performer of his late-career Oscar revival. Three nominations in total greeted the film, including Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), which it could still win; Best Original Score, which it probably will win; and Best Cinematography, which it will most likely lose. Tarantino may need to step back and re-evaluate what he’s doing before making his next Oscar push.
Sicario isn’t much of a loser. Three Oscar nominations is nothing to be ashamed of. However, the film’s fortunes seemed much better as Precursor Season was developing. Numerous citations across the board from multiple groups suggested the film was performing quite well. It was on the Producers Guild of America list of the ten best films of the year and was playing strongly with the guilds in several categories. Yet, it ended up entirely subjected to the tech categories with nominations for Best Original Score, Best Cinematography and Best Sound Editing, none of which it seems likely to win at this point.

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