Awards Blend: Spotlight's Huge Weekend Makes It The One To Beat

It was the closest thing to a clean sweep as we have seen so far this awards season.

Over the weekend, several major regional critics groups revealed their choices for the "Best" films of 2015. Organizations from Los Angeles to Boston (and points in between) spread their love to a smattering of different films and performances, keeping the hopes of numerous Oscar contenders alive. But when it came down to naming a Best Picture, it was Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight that took the top prize again and again.

Spotlight was named Best Picture by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Washington DC Area Film Critics, and the New York Film Critics Online. Earlier in the season, Spotlight picked up the top prize at the Gotham Awards. It leads the nominations for the 2016 Independent Spirit Awards. And it performed extremely well during its early run through the fall film festival circuit.

What does this mean? Perhaps not much, but at this stage in the game, building up any sort of momentum can be crucial to establishing a film as a frontrunner, and Spotlight sure picked up a significant amount of critical adoration over the weekend. "Frontrunner" status can also lead to backlash, as those who might not believe in Tom McCarthy’s masterpiece can start to chip away at its credibility (though what they could possibly oppose is beyond me, at this point). For now, here’s where I think the Oscar contenders sit on December 7. What about you?


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The FrontrunnersBrooklynThe MartianRoomSpotlight


The Contenders45 YearsThe Big ShortBridge Of SpiesCarolEx MachinaThe Hateful EightInside OutJoyThe RevenantSteve Jobs


The Dark HorsesAnomalisaBeasts of No NationBlack MassConcussionCreedThe Danish GirlMad Max: Fury RoadStar Wars: The Force AwakensSuffragetteTrumbo


The LongshotsThe End Of The TourLove & MercySicarioStraight Outta ComptonYouth

The more I think about Spotlight, the more I realize it doesn’t have an ounce of fat on it. It’s airtight, and its precision – from the script to the performances – can be traced back to Tom McCarthy. I need to see it one more time, but he might be running away with this category. Can Quentin Tarantino or David O. Russell disrupt his flow?


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The FrontrunnerJohn Crowley, BrooklynTom McCarthy, SpotlightRidley Scott, The Martian


The ContendersLenny Abrahamson, RoomDanny Boyle, Steve JobsRyan Coogler, CreedAlejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The RevenantGeorge Miller, Mad Max: Fury RoadSteven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies


The Dark HorsesScott Cooper, Black MassAlex Garland, Ex MachinaSarah Gavron, SuffragetteTodd Haynes, CarolTom Hooper, The Danish GirlAdam McKay, The Big ShortDavid O. Russell, JoyQuentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight


The LongshotsJ.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Force AwakensPeter Docter, Inside OutPeter Landesman, Concussion

Now that I’ve seen Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, I can tell you that I think he gets in. Not only that, I think he’s the one to beat in this category. Not because he gives the year’s best performance. (In fact, Tom Hardy’s slightly better than DiCaprio in the SAME movie!) However, the narrative that it’s DiCaprio’s time is strong, and I’m not sure that there’s another powerful male performance ready to knock Leo out this year. Depp and Damon are possible. Outside of those three, I’m not seeing it.


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The FrontrunnersMatt Damon, The MartianJohnny Depp, Black MassLeonardo DiCaprio, The RevenantMichael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

The ContendersBryan Cranston, TrumboTom Hanks, Bridge of SpiesMichael B. Jordan, CreedEddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl


The Dark HorsesSteve Carell, The Big ShortJohn Cusack, Love & MercyIan McKellen, Mr. HolmesWill Smith, Concussion


The LongshotsMichael Caine, YouthTom Hardy, LegendEdgar Ramirez, Joy

We are seeing a lot of the same names in the category, as if the candidates had been established for weeks, and now they are just jockeying for position. Carol boasts two spectacular performances. Saoirse Ronan is brilliant in Brooklyn, and Brie Larson is picking up early critics’ awards for Room. Having seen Joy, I predict Jennifer Lawrence stays firmly in the Best Actress conversation this year. And I’m pulling for Charlotte Rampling, who is devastating in 45 Years. What say you?


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The FrontrunnerCate Blanchett, CarolBrie Larson, RoomSaoirse Ronan, Brooklyn


The ContendersJennifer Lawrence, JoyCarey Mulligan, SuffragetteCharlotte Rampling, 45 Years


The Dark HorsesEmily Blunt, SicarioMarion Cotillard, MacbethBlythe Danner, I’ll See You In My DreamsCharlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury RoadLily Tomlin, Grandma


The LongshotsSarah Silverman, I Smile BackMaggie Smith, The Lady in the Van

Easily this year’s most competitive race, which means several worthy names will be left out when the nominations eventually are announced. How many actors from Spotlight can get in? You could almost give all five slots to members of the outstanding Spotlight ensemble, but in reality, I bet two make the cut. Mark Rylance still feels like a lock for Bridge of Spies. After that, though, there are SO MANY names that deserve consideration. This is the hardest race to narrow down, and I predict it will come down to the wire.


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The FrontrunnersMichael Keaton, SpotlightMark Ruffalo, SpotlightMark Rylance, Bridge of SpiesJacob Tremblay, Room

The ContendersTom Courtenay, 45 YearsPaul Dano, Love & MercyTom Hardy, The RevenantSeth Rogen, Steve JobsLiev Schreiber, SpotlightJason Segel, The End of the TourSylvester Stallone, Creed


The Dark HorsesChristian Bale, The Big ShortJim Broadbent, BrooklynAlbert Brooks, ConcussionBradley Cooper, JoyRobert De Niro, JoyBenicio Del Toro, SicarioBruce Dern, The Hateful EightJoel Edgerton, Black MassIdris Elba, Beasts of No NationRyan Gosling, The Big ShortOscar Isaac, Ex MachinaSamuel L. Jackson, The Hateful EightKurt Russell, The Hateful Eight


The LongshotsHarvey Keitel, YouthJason Mitchell, Straight Outta ComptonMichael Shannon, 99 Homes

Alicia Vikander long has been the frontrunner in this category, not just for her soul-baring work in The Danish Girl (which should earn her an Oscar win, not just a nomination), but in recognition of the exquisite year she had as a performer. I also finally caught Youth last week, though, and I understand why many believe Jane Fonda’s scant bit of screentime will earn her a nod. It’s a showy, vitriolic turn that drips with the resentment of an older actress – and a Hollywodo legend – leveling bitter (but accurate) criticisms at her industry. Biting the hand that has fed her for years? What better way to get Oscar’s attention? I bet it works in her favor come nomination morning.  


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The FrontrunnersRachel McAdams, SpotlightAlicia Vikander, The Danish GirlRooney Mara, Carol


The ContendersJoan Allen, RoomElizabeth Banks, Love & MercyJane Fonda, YouthJennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful EightKate Winslet, Jobs


The Dark HorsesHelena Bonham Carter, SuffragetteHelen Mirren, Trumbo


The LongshotsJessica Chastain, The MartianGugu Mbatha-Raw, ConcussionJulie Walters, BrooklynKatharine Waterston, Steve Jobs

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.