Could ‘Manchester by the Sea’ pull off Best Picture Oscar upset via preferential ballot like ‘Spotlight’?

Can “Manchester by the Sea” pull off an Oscar surprise for Best Picture like “Spotlight” last year? That’s what our forum poster FreemanGriffin is suggesting in our message boards. “I actually think the race is a two way race between ‘La La Land’ and ‘Manchester by the Sea,'” he explains. “I think the preferential ballot in the Best Picture race favors ‘MBTS.’ It will get the most first, second and third place votes. That is how I think it could win, very similarly to ‘Spotlight’s’ win last year.”

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Last year’s “Spotlight” victory at the Oscars was highly unusual given its performance at earlier industry events. It won Best Film Ensemble at the SAG Awards, but then it lost the Producers Guild, Directors Guild and BAFTA Awards. It also won Best Picture despite having only one other Oscar victory: Best Original Screenplay. That made it the first film since “The Greatest Show on Earth” (1953) to win the top prize with only one other award.

It’s possible that “Spotlight” owes its win the the use of the preferential ballot in the Best Picture race, which favors consensus over passion. “Spotlight” could have won on the strength of first, second and even third place votes while “The Revenant” and “The Big Short” were more divisive and might have had as many last-place votes as first-place votes.

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Perhaps “Manchester” has the same path to victory. Like “Spotlight” it’s a character-driven indie, a strong SAG contender, an Oscar frontrunner for its original screenplay, and you’d be hard pressed to find many people who dislike it. Perhaps it will rank higher on more ballots that the films that currently seem to be its chief rivals, “La La Land” and “Moonlight.”

What do our other forum posters think about this theory? Read some of their comments below and join the discussion here.

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GusCruz: “My problem with ‘Manchester’ as a true Best Picture contender is that the academy hardly ever goes for downers. This one doesn’t even have the upside of relating to the world we live in. And I expected critics to embrace it much more in their awards than they did.”

pacinofan: “Passion seems on the side of ‘La La Land’ in the way it was not for ‘The Revenant,’ and ‘Gravity’ may have seemed too lightweight compared to a film about slavery. I suppose ‘La La Land’ may seem lightweight compared to the tragedy of ‘Manchester by the Sea’ … but its Oscar nomination count is going to dwarf ‘Manchester.'”

Andrew Carden: “Much as I adored ‘Manchester,’ I definitely like ‘La La Land’ and ‘Moonlight‘s’ chances more in terms of forecasting Best Picture.”

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