Oscar expert Tariq Khan (Fox News): Why I’ve been predicting ‘The Revenant’ for Best Picture since Jan. 25

During much of the last year’s awards season, I found myself arguing with Gold Derby founder Tom O’Neil over my refusal to predict “Boyhood” to win the Best Picture Oscar. Even after it won big at the Golden Globes, I ranked it fourth. Tom started shaking and slapping me so hard, I felt like Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour.”

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What I tried to explain to Tom was that “Boyhood” lacked academy support outside of the core categories (acting, writing, directing and editing.) With the large number of tech members in the organization and the use of a preferential ballot, a small film like “Boyhood” would have a hard time prevailing over pictures like “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Imitation Game,” and eventual winner “Birdman.”

Those films had much broader support among the various academy branches, making them more likely to emerge as the consensus choice.

I was prepared to go through the same debate this season, when “Spotlight” emerged as the early Oscar frontrunner. Like “Boyhood,” it seemed unlikely to register with any of the tech branches (save for editing.) So I initially ranked “The Revenant” number one, given the respected artists involved and its potential for several craft nominations.

Then something happened. After speaking to academy voters at various events, I kept hearing how much they liked “Spotlight.” It was a smart film, well-acted and directed. And it felt important. Maybe it could do what “Boyhood” couldn’t.

So I moved it to number one, thinking it would steamroll through the derby by taking the Golden Globe, Critics Choice, PGA, SAG and DGA top honors. If it over-performed with key scademy branches, that would compensate for its lack of recognition by the various technical sections.

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Once again, I was forced to rethink my decision when “Spotlight” was shut out at the Golden Globes ceremony on Jan. 10 and “The Revenant” surprised by reaping a leading 12 Oscar nominations on Jan. 14.

I thought long and hard about the preferential ballot, and how things would play out.

Sure, “Spotlight” and the suddenly hot “The Big Short,” which won the PGA prize on Jan. 23, might have a big edge with the acting and writing members. But what other branches would they carry? Would they not get killed by lower rankings from all the tech branches? And “The Revenant” actually scored two acting nominations. If it received even a chunk of number-one votes from the academy thespians, it could overcome both “Spotlight” and “The Big Short.”

The revelation was simple: it was time to move “The Revenant” back to number one and I did that on Jan. 25 and have kept it there ever since. (See all of my predictions HERE.

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Even after “Spotlight” triumphed at SAG, which it did on Jan. 30. Even if “Mad Max: Fury Road” claimed DGA, which it didn’t. There was just no way that “The Revenant” and its 12 bids could lose on the preferential ballot.

So that’s why I’ve stuck with “The Revenant” for almost a month now.

Of course…the race isn’t over yet. I’m waiting for one of the brilliant Gold Derby forum posters to explain to me why “Spotlight” or “The Big Short” is winning. Sound off in the comments section below. 

If I switch again, there might be more editing in my Gold Derby predictions than there was in “Mad Max.” 

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Photo credit: “The Revenant” by 20th Century Fox

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