Contender Countdown: ‘The Revenant’ comes in from the cold in the Best Picture race

'Joy' and 'The Hateful Eight' are next
Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Revenant"

And then there was one, er, two.  As of today, David O. Russell’s “Joy” is the last potential Best Picture player to screen for the guilds and the media are expected to finally see it sometime next week.  That will coincide with the first real critics screenings of Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight,” but that epic has been screening for select guild members for almost a week giving many pundits a hint at its awards season chances (more on that later).  All and all, “Joy” is the last big reveal after “The Revenant” screened on Monday night.

Alejandro Iñárritu’s “Birdman” follow up is embargoed for reviews until late next week, but it can talked about broadly in regards to the Oscar race.  I expect “The Revenant” to earn a Best Picture nomination.  Leonardo DiCaprio will get a Best Actor nod and he is still the frontrunner to win.  Tom Hardy should earn a Best Supporting Actor nod, but it’s not a lock. Nominations for Sound, Editing, Production Design, Original Score and Visual Effects (the already infamous bear scene) are likely.  In a prefect world Iñárritu would earn a second consecutive Best Director nomination (he won in February), but it’s such a competitive category that you can’t rule out a snub.  More importantly, no matter what your opinion of the film itself it will be hard to find anyone who doesn’t believe Emmanuel Lubezki doesn’t deserve a third consecutive Best Cinematography Oscar.  For more of my thoughts visit my twitter account (@TheGregoryE) where there is no official embargo on opinions regarding the picture.

As for “The Hateful Eight,” it’s still unclear whether Tarantino’s popularity in The Academy can push it through, but the latest Gurus of Gold voting has it dramatically outside the top 10. We’ll find out more after it screens next week.

In the meantime, here’s the latest Contender Countdown rankings.

Nov. 25, 2015

1. “Spotlight”
Winning LAFCA looks tough, but NYFCC or National Board of Review would be nice for momentum’s sake and holding off Ridley Scott’s blockbuster closing in fast.

2. “The Martian”
No Sci-Fi movie has ever won Best Picture.  Will that change in 2016?

3. “Room”
A Best Feature nomination from the Spirits would have been nice, but Jacob Tremblay earning a Supporting Actor nomination from SAG (or not) is the next thing to look out for.

4. “Brooklyn”
People love it. It’s sort of hanging in the background.  Needs a SAG Ensemble nomination or Golden Globe upset win to jump higher at this point.

5. “Bridge of Spies”
Still looking like three in a row for Spielberg.

6. “The Revenant”
There should be a passionate enough fanbase for it to make the cut. Love for Leo and below the line won’t hurt either.

7. “Carol”
All those Spirit nods should seal the deal. Nice comeback for what many, including myself, wrongly thought would be this year’s “Foxcatcher.”

8. “Inside Out”
It would be nice to see more Best Picture ads and press breaks to remind voters.  Wondering why Pixar/Disney isn’t pushing this more. Somewhat odd.

9. “Joy”
The last film to the dance. Everyone is very, very curious.

10. “The Hateful Eight”
Continually hearing the film may be too violent even after Tarantino’s similarly bloody nominees “Inglorious Basterds” and “Django Unchained.”

11. “Steve Jobs”
At the outside looking in for the moment, but that could easily change. Needs some major year-end critical support to crack the field.  Will Universal continue to push hard after the disappointing box office?

12. “Youth”
Academy and guild members seem to love it, but critics overall are mixed which is making it something of an under the radar player.  Michael Caine may be its best bet in the Best Actor race.

What do you think of this week’s rankings? Share your thoughts below.

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With over a decade of experience in the movie industry, Ellwood survived working for two major studios, has written for Variety, MSN and the LA Times and co-founded HitFix, Inc. serving as its first Editor-in-Chief and President. Ellwood spends his time relaxing hitting 3’s on the basketball court and following his beloved Clippers.

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