The case for ‘Spotlight’

It sucks to be the early frontrunner. Just ask BoyhoodLincoln or The Social Network. Taking the lead early in awards season often means that film will ultimately lose. So does that mean it’s all over for Spotlight? Hold your horses. There’s still light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s take a look at why it still may win and why it’s destined to lose.

For:

The actor vote. If nothing else, Spotlight is a true ensemble film and a true actor’s piece. Even though Ruffalo and McAdams have been singled out, it is the finest example of ensemble acting this year. That means it will likely capture a big chunk of the actor vote, given they are the most likely to respect this achievement. Actors make up the largest group of voters in the Academy. Win their vote and you’re well on your way to winning Best Picture. It’s a big reason why Birdman won last year. It’s also why Spotlight won at SAG and why it could win at the Oscars.

It’s been the frontrunner for the longest for a reason. While it’s true there are many examples of the early frontrunner ultimately losing, there are just as many examples of the early favourite maintaining dominance and ultimately winning. The simple fact is to be the frontrunner at any point in the race, the film has to be good. Really good. Losing the status of frontrunner to another film can’t change that fact. All it takes is a smart campaign to remind voters just why Spotlight won so many precursor awards and it can claw its way back to glory.

The most powerful film in the running. While it can be said all films nominated for Best Picture are powerful in some way, none are as powerful overall as Spotlight. Its story is the most emotionally charged and moving of any film in contention. Basically it’s the one nominee that gives all the feels. We know from past experience this is the type of film the Academy just loves to award with Best Picture. It’s a film voters can be proud to say they rallied behind. We’re talking about a piece of cinema recounting the true story of journalists exposing rampant paedophilia in the Catholic Church. Who wouldn’t want to say they voted for such a film to win Best Picture?

Against:

The tide has turned. While all the early critics awards were all about Spotlight, it hasn’t won anything lately, and that’s a serious issue. Even its Ensemble victory at the SAG Awards seems like an eternity ago. That SAG victory is also relatively meaningless, due to the fact this award often doesn’t even match the eventual Best Picture winner (American Hustle and The Help are recent proof of this). Add to that its failure to win at the Globes, DGA and BAFTA, and there’s just no heat about the film anymore. Sadly, Spotlight is simply yesterday’s news, pardon the irony.

Journalism films never win. We’ve had several journalism-related films in genuine contention for Best Picture. All the President’s Men, Network, Good Night and Good Luck, Frost/Nixon, to name a few. And they’ve all ultimately failed to win. It’s a bizarre precedent, and one I personally cannot explain, but it’s there and it’s a problem for Spotlight. For whatever reason, Oscar voters are happy to nominate a film about journalism, but they refuse to award it the top prize. It’s a strange hurdle Spotlight needs to overcome if it wants to take it home.

It simply isn’t flashy enough. There’s no denying Spotlight is a terrifically made film. It’s nominated for five awards for a reason. But unfortunately it just isn’t showy enough to win Best Picture. It’s a very subtle and understated film. It’s beige when compared to the insane cinematography of The Revenant or the frenetic style of The Big Short. While the film deals with some incredibly powerful and moving plot points, it’s surprisingly devoid of any big cinematic moments. Much like subtle acting performances rarely score actors an Oscar, subtle films rarely score the Best Picture prize. You need to dazzle voters and there just isn’t much dazzle to Spotlight.

Can the former frontrunner claw its way back and take out Best Picture? Am I actually predicting Spotlight to win? Find out tomorrow when I unveil my final predictions for the 88th Academy Awards.

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