There are a lot of tea leaves when it comes to forecasting the Oscars winner for Best Picture, from the guilds to the Golden Globes to the critics' prizes. However, one precursor race may be more important than we realize: the Globe for Best Screenplay.
Our savvy user johnsmisek02 noted this overlooked fact: "The last 10 Best Picture winners in a row received a Screenplay nomination at the Golden Globes ('Million Dollar Baby' was the last exception). They don't always win, but they're nominated nonetheless. I think that's pretty good news for 'Spotlight,' 'The Big Short,' or 'Room.'"
Curiously, a Best Screenplay nomination at the Globes has been an even better indicator of the winner of the biggest prize at the Oscars than their Best Picture choices in the last decade. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) only nominated "Crash" for Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Matt Dillon) in 2005, but it ended up winning the top Oscar anyway.
A Golden Globe nomination for writing also proved to be a crucial difference in a couple of other too close to call Oscar races. In 2007, the Globes nominated "No Country for Old Men" for Best Screenplay, but not "There Will Be Blood." Then in 2009 they nominated "The Hurt Locker," but not its chief Oscar rival "Avatar." And in 2013, the Globes cited the "12 Years a Slave" script, but not its main Oscar opponent "Gravity."
In a way, it makes sense for the Globes screenplay category to be significant. The HFPA has two categories for Best Picture but only one for writing, the opposite of most other awards groups including the Oscars, which have separate contests for original and adapted scripts. That means the Globes are much more selective about their writing nominees, so a Globe nomination there may be an indicator of unique strength.
Going back even farther, in the last 25 years only three Oscar champs for Best Picture failed to earn a writing nomination from the Globes: in addition to "Million Dollar Baby" (2004), "Gladiator" (2000) and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (2003) were also missing from that Globes contest. The HFPA even nominated "Titanic" (1997), which the Oscars notably snubbed for writing.
Joining "Spotlight," "The Big Short" and "Room" at the Golden Globes are the scripts for "The Hateful Eight" and "Steve Jobs," but this statistic is even more interesting when you combine it with another Oscar tea leaf: the SAG Award for Best Film Ensemble.
Only one film has ever won Best Picture at the Oscars without a nomination for the top SAG Award: "Braveheart." This year only two movies contend for Best Screenplay at the Golden Globes and Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards: "Spotlight" and "The Big Short." This fact reinforces what we already knew: that "Spotlight" is the frontrunner for Best Picture, but it also indicates that the surging "Big Short" could be even stronger than we realize, maybe even a dark horse to win the top Oscar.
Then again lack of directing nominations for the Wall Street satire at most precursor events is undoubtedly a disadvantage when you consider the consistent directing noms for "Spotlight's" Tom McCarthy.
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"Spotlight" photo credit: Open Road Films
"The Big Short" photo credit: Paramount Pictures