Jeff Wells: ‘Spotlight’ has ‘it’ in the Oscar Best Picture race (podcast)

To Jeff Wells (Hollywood Elsewhere), Oscar punditry isn’t about weighing stats or revisiting past kudos history. He’s cinema’s own Don Quixote, an idealist who’s stunned and even a little bit offended if you dare to suggest that the Oscar race is more about politics and personalities than a noble quest to define the year’s best films. That’s what makes Jeff so much fun to chat with at this time of year. He gets emotionally invested.

When he makes Oscar predictions, “I go with what I think the gods are telling me should happen and I just can’t embrace statistical likelihoods,” he says in our podcast chat (listen below) while referring to the kind of Oscar pundit clashes that Pete Hammond and I do.  “All of that is very entertaining. I love posting it. You and Pete are my favorites, but I can’t embrace it. ”

So where does he think the Oscar Best Picture race stands now? Jeff is skeptical about predictions that “The Big Short” will prevail.

“I’m totally into this film,” he says. “I respect the hell out of it. But I can’t believe it’s going to win

Best Picture because it doesn’t have that element we all look for, that element that we want to see, that we’ve seen repeatedly in the past.”

He struggles to define what that element (or “it”) is, but adds his belief that “‘Spotlight’ has it in a subtle, not attention-getting way. It’s very assured and has the moral current without seeming sentimental or manipulative.  It’s got ‘it’ and I just don’t think the other ones have it.”

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