There’s a certain sense of tittering anticipation on every Oscar night, but that could just be the sense of occasion. In actuality, both through months of careful analysis (some of it on this very site!) and clear disparities in the nominees’ quality, the winners start to make themselves known long before the stars file into the auditorium. Pundits assemble their slates of projections, and the really intense ones even add the hideously unnatural alchemy of mathematics into the mix, using hard stats to divine which nominees stand the highest chance. But the truth is that anyone who takes the time to get invested in awards season horse-racing both kinda knows what will happen and kinda doesn’t; there’s no way of knowing that Leonardo DiCaprio will win for certain, for instance, but it still won’t be surprising when he does.
This year’s Oscar race has proven so enduringly fascinating because every time a film nominated for Best Picture threatens to break away and emerge as a frontrunner, its closest competitors come roaring back and even up the race. Pundits gauge which films stand the best chance of winning big at the Oscars by observing and synthesizing the results from other awards-granting bodies, many members of which also regularly vote in the Oscars. This is a highly unscientific way of gauging the Academy membership’s temperature on the movies in competition this year, but the relatively even division of pre-Oscar prizes have made it less precise than ever.
Just two nights ago, two separate awards ceremonies painted the fragmented portrait of this year’s complex Oscar race. The biggest night not in Houllywooud (which is how Britons spell the word “Hollywood”) took place at London’s Royal Opera House Sunday, where the British Academy Film Awards heaped recognition on two of the major contenders. The BAFTAs favored The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road, bestowing five trophies on the former and four on the latter, with the most prestigious accolade in the British film industry going to Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu’s wilderness endurance test. The Revenant snagged prizes for Leonardo DiCaprio for his leading performance as trapper/spittle-spitter/bear chew toy Hugh Glass and Iñarritu in the Best Director category, but the technical categories were mostly split between the two films. The Revenant would appear to be the closest thing we have to a Best Picture frontrunner, with its key win at the Producers Guild Awards earlier this month, but the weekend’s other awards ceremony tells a different story.