Our Experts, Editors, and Users seem to agree that Reese Witherspoon is a formidable Best Actress Oscar contender for her performance as a troubled hiker in “Wild” (click here for her overall odds), but why are so few of us taking the film seriously for Best Picture? It’s reminiscent of another man-against-nature film that showed up in the top race in 2010: “127 Hours.”
Like “Hours,” “Wild” is based on a true story. Witherspoon plays Cheryl Strayed, who decided to undertake a grueling 1000-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to recover from a failed marriage, drug addiction, and the traumatic death of her mother (Laura Dern). The stakes aren’t quite as high as in “Hours” – Cheryl isn’t entirely alone during her hike, and she finishes with all her limbs intact – but her story is no less compelling, yet the film ranks 16th in our combined odds for Best Picture. (Click here for our complete Best Picture stats.)
“Wild” is directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, whom we underestimated at the Oscars just last year when he helmed “Dallas Buyers Club.” We knew early on that “Dallas” stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto would be strong contenders for acting prizes, and indeed they won Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively, but we weren’t expecting the film to crack the top category until much later in the season, after it picked up surprise Best Picture bids from Critics’ Choice and the PGA.
Would “Wild” seem like a stronger contender if it had a male lead? The academy is predominantly male, and most of the films leading this year’s Oscar conversation are stories about men (“Boyhood,” “Foxcatcher,” “Unbroken,” “The Imitation Game,” “Birdman,” etc.), while many of the top actress-vehicles are being considered by our predictors mostly as performance showcases (Julianne Moore in “Still Alice” and Amy Adams in “Big Eyes,” for instance).
But we shouldn’t forget the success of “Gravity” last year, which, like “Wild,” was focused on a woman’s solitary struggle. “The Blind Side,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Black Swan,” “Winter’s Bone,” and “Precious” were also female-driven Best Picture nominees, and most of them also outperformed our expectations, either in nominations or in wins.
Do you think “Wild” will earn a Best Picture nomination? Use our drag-and-drop menu below to make your predictions.