Oscars: Has It Become ‘Spotlight’ vs. ‘The Martian’ for Best Picture?

martian3OSCAR CIRCUIT: As November reveals itself for Oscar hopefuls looking to make a big splash at AFI Fest presented by Audi, and other films positioning itself as possible steamrollers within the precursor season, notable entries are about to drop to the feet of Academy voters.

Next week will see the Academy and industry voters getting its first glimpse at Ryan Coogler’s “Creed” and Ron Howard’s “In the Heart of the Sea” from Warner Bros..  Both unknown entities, the former is the seventh installment in the Rocky franchise that will look to put star Michael B. Jordan and Supporting Actor hopeful Sylvester Stallone on the radar of voters.  Just the idea of a “Rocky”-type film making the cut in this new Oscar climate is far-fetched but I, as well as other pundits, and waiting for a big surprise.

Johnny Depp has been tapped for the Modern Master Award at Santa Barbara, which puts him in the “campaigning” position that in a recent interview, he declared he couldn’t care less about.  Is Depp just going with the flow or is his work on Scott Cooper’s “Black Mass” a formidable threat for the Lead Actor prize?

As festival favorites are hitting the theater rounds now, Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room” has cemented its footing in the Best Picture race, with stars Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay ready to make serious moves in their respective categories.  It may be looking at an Adapted Screenplay prize based on the poor box office for “Steve Jobs.”  Adapted is a fluid race, constantly shifting as proven by the opening of “Brooklyn” from John Crowley, which could end up with a multitude of awards by the year’s end.  I still think it’s a threat for the big prize if it keeps gaining momentum the way it is.

spotlightTom McCarthy’s “Spotlight” finally opens in theaters on Friday for general audiences, and is geared up, with a strong backing at Open Road, to possibly run the season.  Tailor-made for Original Screenplay and perhaps Film Editing, the big question from multiple pundits is where will the actors of the film fall?  After losing Best Actor last year to Eddie Redmayne (in contention this year for “The Danish Girl”), Michael Keaton looks poised to have a heavy hand to play for Supporting Actor.  The problem with that is, critics are in near agreement that co-star Mark Ruffalo delivers the best performance in the film (I’d say perhaps the year).  Will we have two Supporting Actors from the same film since “Bugsy” or will they pass on one or both?  A frontrunner if we have one at the moment, the film generates a lot of passion of people who have seen it, and rightfully so.

And then we have this talk about Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” and its chances at winning Best Picture.  It’s in the comments section, generating think pieces from pundits, but something doesn’t quite add up in that discussion.  With a respectable box office, the film has surely made a compelling case for a Best Picture nomination, but when a film like Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity,” one that was better received and better in quality, couldn’t top the heartwrenching “12 Years a Slave,” it’s hard to see a film that will be deemed a Comedy/Musical at the Golden Globes, which doesn’t pack the emotional punch that we typically see in winners, really running the gauntlet on Oscar night.  But hey, I can be wrong.  The tides can quickly change around here and it could become an unstoppable force.  A narrative surrounding Ridley Scott is palpable at the moment, and it could be an easy check off in categories like Visual Effects and Cinematography.

We await the coming of David O. Russell’s “Joy,” Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight,” and Alejandro G. Inarritu’s “The Revenant,” three films that each make a compelling case to be “the one” but with no real information to back it up.  Rumors have spread about each one, with test screenings being reported as well, but we await the word from some notable individuals.

Next on the docket is Angelina Jolie Pitt’s “By the Sea,” screening this week and next, as well as Peter Landesman’s “Concussion” and Adam McKay’s “The Big Short,” all generating a good amount of buzz.

Oscar predictions have been updated as you can see on the sidebar.  You can visit each individual page to get commentary on the top contenders, as well as new thoughts on the screenplay races.

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