“Spotlight” is the Oscar frontrunner for Best Picture, which makes it ironic that Tom McCarthy is such an underdog in the race for Best Director, trailing defending champ Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“The Revenant“) and veteran George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road“) according to our racetrack odds.
Best Picture and Best Director usually go hand-in-hand at the Oscars — 63 out of 87 Best Picture champs also won the directing contest — but there are some notable exceptions, including two of the last three years. In 2012, Ben Affleck‘s “Argo” won Best Picture even though he was famously snubbed for Best Director; Ang Lee (“Life of Pi“) took the directing prize that year. And in 2013, “12 Years a Slave” was awarded Best Picture while the technically audacious “Gravity” won Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron.
Since Oscar nominations were announced on January 14 we’ve already polled 15 Expert film journalists from outlets like Variety, the Huffington Post and Entertainment Weekly, and seven of them say Miller will prevail, giving him 5/4 odds: Edward Douglas (Weekend Warrior), Tim Gray (Variety), Tariq Khan (Fox News), Kevin Polowy (Yahoo), Christopher Rosen (Entertainment Weekly), Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood) and Susan Wloszczyna (RogerEbert.com).
It would be Miller’s first win in this category, though he already has an Oscar for Best Animated Feature for “Happy Feet” (2006). Miller’s perceived strength in this category is unusual considering that experts rank “Mad Max” a distant fourth for Best Picture with 66/1 odds.
Inarritu won Best Director just last year for “Birdman,” and five experts think he’ll pull off the rare feat of back-to-back victories, giving him 21/10 odds: Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), Michael Musto (Out.com), Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby), Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby) and Brian Truitt (USA Today). Meanwhile, “The Revenant” ranks a very close second to “Spotlight” in our Best Picture odds.
But McCarthy is not completely out of it. Thelma Adams (Gold Derby) and Jack Mathews (Gold Derby) both favor him to win, giving him 6/1 odds.
Our Editors, we who cover awards year-round for Gold Derby, are also split between Inarritu and Miller, but unlike the experts we’re giving the edge to Inarritu. Five of us are betting on the “Revenant” filmmaker: Chris Beachum, Matt Noble and I, along with O’Neil and Sheehan. The other two, Marcus Dixon and Rob Licuria, place Miller out front.
Our users are split almost down the middle, with both groups – the Top 24 Users, who got the highest scores predicting last year’s winners, and the more than 1,000 total Users contributing their picks to our predictions center – divided evenly between Inarritu and Miller.
Out of the Top 24 Users, 12 pick Miller, versus 11 backing Inarritu, with a lone outlier predicting an upset for Lenny Abrahamson (“Room“). But that outlier happens to be jeremy, who not only had the highest score predicting last year’s Oscar winners, but scored a whopping 96%, which means he only missed one category, so we may not want to dismiss his pick.
Make your predictions beginning with Best Director to the right or at the bottom of this post.
Photo Credits: Alejando Gonzalez Inarritu by 20th Century Fox; George Miller by Rob Latour/Variety/REX