Oscar predictions: ‘The Big Short’ leads among key precursor prizes and will win Best Picture

During my recent webcam chat with Gold Derby editors Daniel Montgomery and Paul Sheehan (watch above), I lay out my findings as to the success rate of the 10 most recent Best Picture winners at various precursor prizes. As detailed in this post, there were 35 boxes representing key races at these and the Oscars. On average, the Best Picture winner checked off 27 of these. Click here to read more about my research

Let’s apply my theory to see how this year’s eight Best Picture nominees are doing so far. 

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“The Big Short” – 20 boxes ticked
Performed well across the board, even without any Golden Globe wins. However, it is worth noting it does not have the ‘love across the board’ box ticked as it has only five Oscar nominations. Besides a Best Picture bid, it has the key four of Editing, Writing, Acting and Directing. 

“The Revenant” – 20 boxes ticked
Well played but after the 12 Oscar nominations, I almost expected more. Directing and Picture are everywhere but lack of writing hurts. However, DiCaprio gets acting nominations/wins everywhere which brings it back up.

“Spotlight” – 19 boxes ticked
I thought this film might suffer from this test but it hasn’t. It’s come out fighting yet again (like it did with it’s six Oscar nominations). Appears everywhere for Picture and writing, plus most places for directing and it also gets a few acting ones as well. Does well.

“The Martian” – 15 boxes ticked
A good amount. Played well at the Globes, Acting does well everywhere and it’s in for Best Picture everywhere. Ridley Scott was in everywhere too, bar the Academy (surprisingly). Lack of writing love hurts it a little.

“Bridge Of Spies” – 12 boxes ticked
Middle of the pack performance, as per usual with this film. Well liked, but not enough to be considered a threat.

“Room” – 11 boxes ticked
Over-performing compared to some of the other nominees. Acting and writing nominations are common, plus a smattering of Picture bids and the odd directing here and there too. Well liked but, again, never a threat.

“Mad Max: Fury Road” – 9 boxes ticked
A surprisingly poor showing given its 10 Oscar nominations. Everyone loves the film but our test shows that it is unlikely to win Best Picture. It gets ticks for Picutre and Director but it’s lack of writing and acting nominations really hurts it. Plus, BAFTA snubbed it for Picture and Director. 

“Brooklyn” – 8 boxes ticked
Most of these boxes came from acting (Saiorse Ronan). 

So “The Big Short” and “The Revenant” are the front runners with 20 boxes ticked each, while “Spotlight” is just behind with 19. So, it’s one of these three films that is going to win Best Picture.

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The ‘Optimistic Test’
I created another document, taking the boxes which have not been revealed yet (such as the BAFTA winners) and saw which of these three leading contenders could tick those boxes.

“The Big Short” could tick five more
BAFTA, Best Picture – WIN
BAFTA, Directing – WIN
BAFTA, Acting – WIN
BAFTA, Writing – WIN

“Spotlight” could tick four more
BAFTA, Best Picture – WIN
BAFTA, Acting – WIN
BAFTA, Writing – WIN

“The Revenant” could tick three more
BAFTA, Best Picture – WIN
BAFTA, Directing – WIN
BAFTA, Acting – WIN

Now, obviously we’ve got to have a positive attitude for each film when we examine what it could tick off/win and assume the best case scenario to see what it’s maximum potential would be. Doing this, we can see that the maximum for “The Big Short” is 25 (the existing 20 plus a possible five more) while “The Revenant” and “Spotlight” would be 23. 

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The ‘Realistic Test’
However, some of the boxes still to come will never be ticked. For example, I doubt very much that Mark Ruffalo will win Best Supporting Actor at the BAFTAS so “Spotlight” isn’t going to tick ‘BAFTA, acting – WIN.’

By applying this realistic test to each film, we can sieve out what it won’t win and we are left with what it will win/tick off (“The Revenant” winning the Best Actor BAFTA for Leonardo DiCaprio, for example) and what it could reasonably win/tick off (such as “The Big Short” winning at WGA).

Below are those revised lists. “The Big Short” and “Spotlight” are competing in different writing categories at the WGA and  BAFTAS (Adapted Screenplay for “The Big Short” and Original Screenplay for “Spotlight”), so that’s why they are both highly likely to tick off those writing boxes.

“The Big Short” could realisticially tick four more
WGA – WIN (almost definitely)
BAFTA, Best Picture – WIN (possible)
BAFTA, Directing – WIN (unlikely but possible)
BAFTA, Acting – WIN (possible)
BAFTA, Writing – WIN (almost definitely)

So, the final amount of boxes ticked for “The Big Short” would be between 22 and 25.

“The Revenant” could realisticially tick three more
BAFTA, Best Picture – WIN (possible)
BAFTA, Directing – WIN (possible)
BAFTA, Acting – WIN (almost definitely)

So the final amount of boxes ticked for “The Revenant” would be between 21 and 23.

“Spotlight” could realisticially tick three more
WGA – WIN (almost definitely)
BAFTA, Best Picture – WIN (possible)
BAFTA, Writing – WIN (almost definitely)

So the final amount of boxes ticked for “Spotlight” would be between 21 and 22.

Once again, “The Big Short” comes out on top. It’s got the lowest minimum with 22 (“Spotlight” and “The Revenant” have minima of 21) and the highest maximum with a whopping 25. “The Revenant” falls short with a maximum of 23 while “Spotlight”’s max is a lowly 22 (well, lowly for a Best Picture winner, anyway). Granted, “The Revenant” could win Best Picture with 23 boxes ticked, as “Birdman” and “Crash” did, but when the the maximum for “The Big Short” is so much higher, it’s hard to believe it.

Even if “The Revenant” gets its maximum of 23 and “The Big Short” gets its minimum of 22, that is a difference of just one. The worst day for “The Big Short” is basically the same as the best one for “The Revenant” and better than that of “Spotlight.” 

“The Big Short” is the closest of the three films to reach the average of 27 laid out by my previous research. If “Spotlight” gets its maximum of 22 and sitll prevails, it’d be the lowest number of boxes ticked for a Best Picture winner in the past decade.

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The Extended Test
Every one of the ten Best Picture films in this test ticked off the following dozen of the 35 boxes:

Golden Globe, writing – NOMINATION
Critics Choice, Best Picture – NOMINATION 
SAG, singular performance – NOMINATION 
SAG, Ensemble Cast – NOMINATION 
Oscar, Writing – NOMINATION

Unsurprisingly,nomination boxes were the most common, not winner boxes. After all, it’s much easier for these different awards groups to agree on five nominees versus one winner. So, as you can predict, I made yet another chart:

As you can see, “The Big Short” got every single one of these key 12 nominations, while “Spotlight” got 10 and “The Revenant” only eight. 

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I am predicting that “The Big Short” will win Best Picture. What do you think?  Make your Oscar predictions beginning with this category to the right or at the bottom of this post.

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