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How Did Spotlight Win Best Picture?

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  • Joe Burns
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    I realize that this was a three way race and Spotlight was not a stunning upset, but it was definitely a win I would call mildly surprising and somewhat of a head-scratcher.

    Spotlight was the big Critics winner that year and was a solid, but somewhat weak frontrunner going into the Golden Globes where it got completely shut out, as did The Big Short, both being overshadowed by the Globe’s love of The Revenant. It rebounded by winning BP and Best Screenplay at the Critics Choice and also by gaining 6 Oscar nominations, most importantly snagging the always crucial Best Film Editing nomination, as well Rachel McAdams making the cut for Best Supporting Actress(And to a certain extent, Mark Ruffalo making the cut too). Then, the film lost at PGA to The Big Short which did not bode to well for it’ chances. But it bounced the ball again when it was able to prevail at SAG with Best Ensemble, although that win seemed fairly obvious at the time, especially given the weak competition(the exception there being The Big Short). Looking back on these facts alone, one would conclude it was doing fairly well.

    But then the Revenant, which over-performed on Oscar Nominations morning, won DGA, a big deal because it’s director had already won the year before for Birdman. That film on to win BP/BD at the BAFTAS and in my mind, it was a strong frontrunner for several reasons: It was a large epic film that was a throwback to Oscar’s days of always bestowing BP to those kinds of films, support for Alejandro in the industry was very strong as well as leftover love for Birdman, Leo’s popularity and overdue narrative was a plus, and the film had the most nominations, not always the best barometer, but in this race, it seemed like a strong asset. Furthermore, passion for Spotlight seemed fairly cool towards the end of the race and it’s wins at SAG and Critics Choice seemed immaterial to The Revenant’s BAFTA win, Globe Wins, and DGA win. The Big Short could have been the Argo of that year, but it honestly was a flash in the pan in my eyes at that point. It won PGA, but nothing else and nobody really seemed very excited/supportive of it, perhaps because we wanted to put the days of the recession behind us even if the film was a comedy? So, The Revenant seemed like a strong favorite, not a lock by any means, but I was fairly confident it would win on Oscar night. But then Morgan Freeman announced the winner and it was Spotlight! I was like, what? I wasn’t shocked, but I was caught off guard by it’s victory. Obviously, it had more under the radar support/love behind it then what met the eye at the time, but what was the full scope of that support? What happened to The Revanant to cause it to stumble across the finish line? Was the Actor’s Branch’s love of Spotlight that put it over the top? Why do you think it won?

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    Philip
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    SAG ensemble. The Revenant was a shame “frontrunner”, it was never winning the whole thing.

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    Pollo crudo
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    Preferential ballot.

    Politics.

    Actors and writer’s branches support.

    I think Iñarritu’s wins the previous year was also a factor, many may have thought it would’ve been too much and he didn’t deserved that much recognition.

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    Joe Burns
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    SAG ensemble. The Revenant was a shame “frontrunner”, it was never winning the whole thing.

    I’d highly disagree with you on that one- firstly, because of the reasons I stated above that the Revenant had in it’s favor and secondly the fact that SAG Ensemble has a spotty history when it comes to predicting Best Picture: Apollo 13, Birdcage(not even nominated), The Full Monty, Traffic, Gosford Park, Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine, Inglorious Bastards, The Help, American Hustle, and Hidden Figures all failed to win Best Picture. 11 out of 12 times it’s been wrong. Yeah, sure, it’s been right more then it’s been wrong, but only by 1 time. The results are split down the middle in terms of predicting Best Picture.

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    Philip
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    SAG ensemble. The Revenant was a shame “frontrunner”, it was never winning the whole thing.

    I’d highly disagree with you on that one- firstly, because of the reasons I stated above that the Revenant had in it’s favor and secondly the fact that SAG Ensemble has a spotty history when it comes to predicting Best Picture: Apollo 13, Birdcage(not even nominated), The Full Monty, Traffic, Gosford Park, Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine, Inglorious Bastards, The Help, American Hustle, and Hidden Figures all failed to win Best Picture. 11 out of 12 times it’s been wrong. Yeah, sure, it’s been right more then it’s been wrong, but only by 1 time. The results are split down the middle in terms of predicting Best Picture.

    I mean it changed the race. The Revenant was see as the frontrunner and people suddenly remembered, o shit, I liked that movie. Plus I agree that voters didn’t think Iñarritu deserved back to back picture wins.

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    Joe Burns
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    Preferential ballot.

    Politics.

    Actors and writer’s branches support.

    I think Iñarritu’s wins the previous year was also a factor, many may have thought it would’ve been too much and he didn’t deserved that much recognition.

    I’ve never put a lot of stock in the Preferential ballot- everybody kept saying it would help Gravity 4 years ago, but it didn’t. There’s always a better, IMO, more impactful reason for a film to have won Best Picture. I don’t think PB makes a lot of difference in the long run.

    It’s interesting that you say politics because I have thought before that the Hollywood Pedophilia documentary An Open Secret(it was little seen, but still somewhat impactful at the time of it’s release) and the coverage of Hollywood sex abuse scandals in the media the last few years (especially the Woody Allen controversy two years earlier and Corey Feldman’s attempts at speaking out ) made the Academy want to pat itself on the back and honor Spotlight. Seems horribly hypocritical of them if there definitely is a HUGE pedophilia(and sex abuse) problem in Hollywood that’s on the same scale as the Catholic Church scandal.

    Yeah, I guess that makes sense, especially if they were going to give him Director, which of course they were and did.

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    MCP
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    Preferential ballot and Birdmans win previous year.

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    eQuals91
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    Politically correct safe pick

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    AwardsConnect
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    Indeed, the preferential ballot did The Revenant in. That, and Spotlight is a damn great film.

    For the finest in film reviews and awards analysis, please visit me at The Awards Connection!

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    TheRedBoy
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    Most Best Picture winners these days also win for Screenplay, and Spotlight was never losing that. The Big Short won the other Screenplay award, meaning it was probably the strongest competition. They went with the drama over the comedy, which can hardly be a surprise. (Interestingly, Spotlight and The Big Short had the same nominations, plus an extra Supporting nom for Spotlight).

    The night’s most nominated films—The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road—couldn’t even land nominations for screenplay, and were thus relegated to technical categories and a career win for DiCaprio. The same will probably happen to Dunkirk this year.

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    Turner Unruh
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    it was the best film that year

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    Robert Russaw
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    It does always come down to the preferential ballot-ranking the films that people prefer and the ones that are the ones people love the most. Spotlight was one of those films you rarely heard anything negative about the year it won-pretty much guaranteeing that it would rank 1-3 on voters’ ballots. The Big Short and The Revenant, considered to be Spotlight’s closest competition, had as many supporters as detractors (some saying they did not “understand” The Big Short, or who felt The Revenant was visually stunning, but really only a DiCaprio vehicle). Those who loved those movies ranked them high, but those who hated them, or did not understand the hype, ranked them low on their ballots.

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    Karen Benner
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    I think it won because of Michael Keaton amongst Mike Rufello Sp? Sasha Matt and Ben Bradley JrS performance s I don’t know real names Mitch Garrebini Eric McClish and lastly Marty.  I don’t know how many times I’ve watched movie Michael Keaton is my favorite actor

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    Anonymous
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    i never thought revenant had the critical appeal to get bp.
    in the last 15 years, only crash was below mid 80s on metacritic.

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    AMG
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    Spotlight was the favourite at the start of the race.

    The Globes and BAFTA went for The Revenant because they felt like they owed Inarritu after they sided with Boyhood, and Birdman won the Oscar.

    Had they rewarded Inarritu the year before, instead of Linklater, we’d have probably seen a Spotlight sweep.

    Spotlight is the only time in the 11 Years I’ve properly followed the Oscars that my personal favourite films of the year and the Oscars Best Picture have matched!

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