Six Spot: What Could Have Joined ‘Spotlight’ in the 2015 Best Picture Race?

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Happy Morning after the Oscars! Treat your Oscar hangover with the seventh entry in our Six Spot series.

This special entry should be renamed Ninth Spot. We’re taking a look at the 2015 Best Picture race this week. Eight films contended for Best Picture this year. However, what film would’ve been the ninth nominee had it reached the vote threshold to qualify? Many other years with the sliding scale for Best Picture nominees have produced nine nominees. Who would’ve had that slot this year?

The Nominees Were:

  • “The Big Short” – Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Producers
  • “Bridge of Spies” – Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producers
  • “Brooklyn” – Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey, Producers
  • “Mad Max: Fury Road” – Doug Mitchell, George Miller, Producers
  • “The Martian” – Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer, Mark Huffam, Producers
  • “The Revenant” – Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Inarritu, Mary Parent, Keith Redman, Producers
  • “Room” – Ed Guiney, Producer
  •  “Spotlight – Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin, Blye Pagon Faust – WINNER

Overall Summary

This season featured a nail-biting three-way race to the finish. “The Revenant” led in nominations and was a favorite in the Best Director category for Alejandro G. Inarritu. He won that category and the film won both the DGA and Golden Globes for Best Picture Drama. Adam McKay’s “The Big Short” rocketed into the competition with a win at the PGA. Yet, “Spotlight” was the eventual winner, with Original Screenplay being the only other award it won that night. The film won the SAG Ensemble award, which has been a strong predictor for Best Picture over the years.

The rest of the nominees all had to fight for their spots in the lineup. “Mad Max: Fury Road” got the necessary precursors. However, was the 4th entry in a franchise Oscar usually ignores. “The Martian” was a crowd-pleasing hit, but did it have enough gravitas to get in? On the other side of the coin, Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies” seemed like a sure thing on paper. Yet, it also didn’t seem to inspire a lot of passion. “Brooklyn” and “Room” were both female-led indies, which needed a lot of passion to make their nominations happen. “Room,” especially, was on the bubble after a PGA snub.

The Six Spot Contenders Are:

  • “Carol”  – New York Film Critics Circle Winner; Nominations from Independent Spirit Awards, Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, BAFTA Awards, Writers Guild, Cinematographers Guild, Costume Designers Guild, Make-Up Artists Guild
  • “Ex Machina” – Nominations from Producers Guild, Art Directors Guild, Make-Up Artists Guild
  •  “Straight Outta Compton” – Nominations from Producers Guild, Screen Actors Guild, Writers Guild, Sound Editors Guild and National Board of Review
  •  “Sicario” – Nominations from Critics Choice Awards, Producers Guild, Writers Guild, Art Directors Guild, Cinematographers Guild, American Cinema Editors, Make-Up Artists Guild, Sound Editors Guild and National Board of Review
  •  “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – Critics Choice Awards Nominee, Visual Effects Society Winner, Nominations from American Cinema Editors, Make-Up Artists Guild, Sound Editors Guild,
  • “Trumbo” – Nominations from Screen Actors Guild, Writers Guild, Art Directors Guild, Costume Designers Guild

Blockbuster Mentality

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a blockbuster behemoth that few knew what to do with in terms of predictions. The film was not screened in advance of its December 18th release date to meet voting requirements for the main precursors. Upon its then record-breaking opening weekend, the Critics Choice Awards held a vote on whether or not it should be included as an 11th Best Picture nominee. The vote came back in and, controversially, the film was let in as an additional Best Picture nominee after the fact. Some thought this excitement could translate to a Best Picture nomination. However, the only guild support it got was from below the line guilds. Despite its incredible box office success, it was going to have to settle for craft nominations only.

Another massive financial success from earlier in the year was hoping to make it into Best Picture. The NWA biopic “Straight Outta Compton” had made over $160 million domestically since opening in August. Money wasn’t the only sign that this might be a Picture contender. The film had a tremendously strong showing at the major guilds. It racked up nominations from the PGA, WGA and even showed up in SAG’s Ensemble category. The film only received one Oscar nomination when all was said and done, Best Original Screenplay. However, that nomination was far from locked up. Especially in a year of #OscarsSoWhite, “Straight Outta Compton” would’ve made a sensational and justified Best Picture nominee this year.

Guild Crashers

A variety of smaller movies managed to surprise in the larger guild awards. The awards race kicked off with “Trumbo” leading the SAG Awards with three nominations, including the SAG Ensemble race. The film surely plays into what the Oscars love the most, mythologizing the film industry. The film showed up at some other guilds, including the Writers Guild, Art Directors Guild and Costume Design Guild. Still, lukewarm reviews and poor box office kept this from being a top tier contender.

A much cooler and buzzier contender this year was “Ex Machina” by Alex Garland. The science fiction thriller surprised everyone when it was able to gross $25 million domestically in a spring platform release. It was an even more welcome surprise to see it among the Producer’s Guild nominees for Best Picture. Plus, the film showed up with two nominations on Oscar morning – Best Original Screenplay and Best Visual Effects (which it won). Perhaps though, the film was a little too far out of the Academy’s typical taste to crack the Best Picture field.

In hindsight, it’s strange to think “Sicario” came as close as it did to a Best Picture nomination. Future nominee Denis Villeneuve won some fans with his tense thriller. However, especially after its sequel, “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” the film has not aged well. Still, at the time, “Sicario” surprised in a number of key awards. It was nominated for Best Picture at the Critics Choice Awards. Also, it was cited by seven different guilds, most notably the PGA and WGA. All this guild support, unfortunately, failed “Sicario” in the top categories come Oscar morning. It received nominations for Cinematography, Sound Editing, and Original Score.

Prestige Contender

Perhaps one of the most visibly absent contenders this year was “Carol.” In fact, the buzz had been building for the 50s set lesbian romance from director Todd Haynes since its splashy debut in Cannes. It was nominated for Best Picture at the Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globes, and BAFTA Awards. Additionally, the New York Film Critics Circle named “Carol” Best Picture. When it came to guilds, the most glaring snub was from the PGA. Still, it received citations from WGA, among other craft guilds. Perhaps the biggest case that proves it came closest comes from Oscar himself. The Academy nominated “Carol” in six categories – Actress (Cate Blanchett), Supporting Actress (Rooney Mara), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design, and Original Score. So far, it is the only film since the expanded Best Picture category with six or more Oscar nominations to not have a corresponding Best Picture nomination.

The Six Spot For 2015 Best Picture Was:

“Carol”

Agree or Disagree? Let us know who you think was the Six Spot for the 2015 Best Picture race in the comments below.

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