Why I’m switching my Oscar prediction to ‘Spotlight’ to win Best Picture

That’s it! I’ve decided to ditch “The Revenant” for “Spotlight” as my Best Picture prediction at the Oscars. Yes, “The Revenant” has the mojo. It recently won BAFTA and DGA – two ordinarily trusty tea leaves – and it also has the most Oscar nominations, but “Spotlight” has the most passionate support. When you ask voters what they picked, their eyes light up with dancing hearts and teddy bears when they say “Spotlight” — or “The Big Short,” too, which also has enthusiastic backing. But you never see that response with “The Revenant.” If they voted for “Revenant,” they did so out of respect for its majestic scope, its epic achievement, not because it turned them into gushing, swooning moonies.

“The Revenant” will probably get the most number-one votes, but I think “Spotlight” and “Big Short” have broader support over all across the top of the preferential ballot. They’ll get the most number-two and number-three ranked votes — in addition to many number ones. That’s how “Birdman” won last year. I’m convinced that “Boyhood” had more number-one votes, but it was, like “Revenant,” divisive. People either loved it or shrugged it off. It’s either a voter’s number one or number five, six, seven or eight. 

On Friday, when I told two of my Gold Derby editors that I was switching to “Spotlight,” they gasped in horror and blurted out: “I’m not doing that again. At the last minute last year I switched to the movie with the most heart and look what happened. I fell off a cliff — kur-splat!”

Oh, my dear, dear, dear editors. You didn’t crash because you went with the film having the most passionate support. You died a humilating defeat among your peers (and all Oscarland and Derbydom) because you suddenly opted for the most divisive film. Last year those two things were the same film: “Boyhood.” This year they’re different. Besides, last year you decided to vote against the film that had won all of the key guilds: PGA, DGA and SAG. How crazy is that?

This year the guilds point all over the place. We pundits have permission to pick whatever we want. The academy chose to use the preferential ballot because it wanted to reward the film with biggest consensus backing.

Based upon my personal observations across Hollywood, I think that’s “Spotlight.” But, beware: the last two votes I heard from academy members were for “The Big Short” yesterday afternoon … after hearing some “Revenant” and “Spotlight” votes in the morning. 

What a crazy year! If you’re tempted to make your own last-minute prediction switcheroo, I recommend, before you jump, you read Jack Mathews’ terrific article about the dangers we’re all struggling with right now. When you leap, remember, you can land on pointed rocks below. Just ask those Gold Derby editors who are still smarting from pains of last year.

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