‘Nightcrawler’ will be nominated for Best Picture Oscar, and here’s why …

At first, “Nightcrawler” looked like a pretender in a season packed to the gills with formidable contenders, a well-reviewed box-office surprise that would end its life as an Oscars also-ran. Then Jake Gyllenhaal was cited by SAG and the Golden Globes, and the big star in the little movie shot up in our prediction charts … to sixth place.

Is sneaky ‘Nightcrawler’ inching its way into Oscars’ Best Picture race?

But then the Critics’ Choice Awards chimed in with another bid for Gyllenhaal, as well as Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay for writer/director Dan Gilroy. The American Cinema Editors and Art Directors Guild recognized it as well. And most recently the Producers Guild spoke up and named it one of their 10 nominees for the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for best feature film of the year. Should the Writers Guild follows suit on Wednesday, “Nightcrawler” will find itself even more seriously in the running for Best Picture at the Oscars.

The film is following the same awards path as “Dallas Buyers Club,” another micro-budget indie that began as nothing more than a Best Actor campaign for Matthew McConaughey. Then it was cited by some of the same major precursors that are currently lauding “Nightcrawler,” and Oscar voters followed suit. At the end of the day, the film received six nominations – Picture, Actor (McConaughey), Supporting Actor (Jared Leto), Original Screenplay, Film Editing, and Makeup/Hairstyling – and three wins: the two acting prizes as well as Makeup/Hairstyling. The little movie that could became an awards juggernaut.

Can evil Jake Gyllenhaal (‘Nightcrawler’) snatch Oscar away from heroic rivals?

The same is about to happen to “Nightcrawler.” Trouble is, nobody seems to believe it. The film has yet to crack our experts’ top 10 for Best Picture. Despite being nominated by every major voting body thus far, Gyllenhaal’s still in sixth place with 20/1 odds. Gilroy’s chances for Original Screenplay look even slimmer, currently holding seventh with 100/1 odds.

Even with nominations for Film Editing and Art Direction from ACE and ADG, the film is nowhere to be found in our crafts predictions. And poor Rene Russo has only a San Diego Film Critics Award on her mantel despite a weak Supporting Actress field (she also placed second with the LA Film Critics); even last year’s surprise nominee Sally Hawkins (“Blue Jasmine“) was mentioned by the Globes and BAFTA.

Perhaps pundits believe the film is too bleak and unrelenting to appeal to academy members. That may be true for some, but the fact remains it’s one of only five films – along with “Birdman,” “Gone Girl,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” and “The Imitation Game” – to have been recognized by all four of the guilds that have announced thus far.

Maybe if the film takes BAFTA nods for Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress, or Screenplay, people will finally take notice. Either way, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep calling “Nightcrawler” an also-ran, just as it was with “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Do you agree that “Nightcrawler” will be nominated for Best Picture? Use our drag-and-drop menu below to make your predictions, or click here to predict all Oscar categories as well as Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice, and more, as well as to vote in our Gold Derby Film Awards.

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