On the morning after every Academy Awards ceremony, we, the viewers who stayed up past midnight to watch famous people hand trophies to other famous people, voice the same annual complaints. The show was too long. The host was not funny enough. And the classic catch-all: It was boring.
No matter what happens at the Oscars this Sunday night, come Monday, I fully expect reviews of the broadcast to hit those same, familiar notes. In a program that devotes the bulk of its time to distributing a 24-karat gold bald man to 24 recipients for work that many Americans have never even heard of, it’s inevitable that some moments will drag. But at least one thing will be unpredictable this year: the reveal of Best Picture.
For months, Academy Awards trackers have been saying that the Best Picture race is wide open and, with the Oscars a mere three days away, it still feels that way. In Entertainment Weekly‘s traditional “secret ballot” that reveals how anonymous Academy insiders plan to vote, the Best Picture selections were all over the place. “The Actor” chose The Revenant, “The Actress” went with Mad Max: Fury Road, “The Screenwriter” singled out Brooklyn, “The Director” selected The Big Short and “The Producer” and “The Publicist” both highlighted the film once considered the lone obvious frontrunner, Spotlight, which stopped being the lone obvious frontrunner several weeks ago. Things are so crazy that the New York Times recently implied that the preferential voting system could potentially lead to Room winning Best Picture, which I would actually be thrilled to see even though it seems unlikely. (The same article draw parallels between Room and Million Dollar Baby, another underdog in the sense that it entered the Oscar race at the 11th hour, but a total non-underdog in that it was still favored by many to win, to a degree Room has not been.)
In truth, the likely field of contenders has narrowed somewhat. As explained in my final Awards Forecast predictions, the choices made by the producers, directors and actors guilds — who bestowed their best picture equivalents upon The Big Short, The Revenant and Spotlight, respectively — suggest that one of those three films will most likely emerge triumphant on Sunday. But even if none of the other contenders outside of that trio stands a chance, heading toward an Oscar ceremony where three movies seem equally poised to win Best Picture, and where even the possibility of an outlier winning doesn’t seem entirely out of the question, is unusual.