'Spotlight's' Oscar Chances: Regional Critics Groups
Courtesy of Open Road

It might appear to be a wide open race, but one movie closed out the year in the driver's seat.

A funny thing happened on the way to the Oscars in 2013. An up-for-grabs year in many categories — among them best picture, particularly between front-running contenders “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” — came into focus thanks to agreement among regional critics organizations.

While the early awards circuit that year had seen the New York film critics favor “American Hustle” for the top award, and the Los Angeles org deadlock on “Gravity” and “Her,” the guilds further muddied the waters down the stretch with “Hustle” winning the Screen Actors Guild’s ensemble prize, “Gravity” helmer Alfonso Cuaron taking the directors guild’s prize, and “Gravity” tying “12 Years” for the Producers Guild crown. Consensus seemed to be lacking everywhere you turned.

But on the regional circuit, “12 Years,” the eventual best picture Oscar winner, was racking up win after win. Groups from Boston, Chicago, Florida and Houston, to name but a few, lined up behind Steve McQueen’s slavery drama, just as many had the year before with Ben Affleck’s “Argo.” It was noteworthy, because consensus is crucial when it comes to the best picture Oscar; the Academy’s preferential balloting system favors films that are generally agreeable over “love it/hate it” contenders.

That kind of consensus appears to be developing among regional groups this year for “Spotlight.” Tom McCarthy’s film has claimed best picture honors from 17 critics groups, including those from Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Vancouver, St. Louis and Detroit, to name a handful. A distant second is George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” with eight. Only three other films — “Carol,” “Suffragette” and “Creed” — have claimed best picture honors from critics organizations.

Is the writing on the wall for Open Road’s journalism drama, or is “Spotlight” — a film about a crusading team of journalists — simply a film that inherently appeals to the media? That’s a key question in the midst of this year’s final Oscar balloting phase. Miller, by the way, is far and away the leader when it comes to director wins, having claimed 19 trophies. “Carol” helmer Todd Haynes is far behind with four.

Meanwhile, “The Revenant” star Leonardo DiCaprio has remained in front of “Steve Jobs’ ” Michael Fassbender 11 to six for actor wins, while “Room’s” Brie Larson continues to dominate “Brooklyn’s” Saoirse Ronan in the lead actress arena, 16 to six.

In the supporting ranks, Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa encore in “Creed” is ahead of “Bridge of Spies” star Mark Rylance nine to six, while somewhat surprisingly, Alicia Vikander has left all other supporting actress contenders in the dust, with 13 wins. (Surprising because they’ve all come for her “Ex Machina” performance rather than her Oscar-tipped work in “The Danish Girl,” which has received just one win, from the Detroit critics.) “Clouds of Sils Maria’s” Kristen Stewart is next in line with four wins.

And if you’re curious about screenplay totals, “Spotlight” is dominating the original field, while “The Martian” and “Room” remain neck-and-neck in the adapted race.

This is merely data, however. The mantra to keep in mind is “critics don’t vote for Oscars.” Not only that, they find themselves weighing in during an entirely different time frame than Academy members, many of whom likely received their ballot alongside 2016’s first issue of Variety after returning from holiday vacation.

Other clues are on the way, such as the next wave of guild and industry nominations (both the art directors and producers announce today with the costume designers on Thursday and the British academy on Friday). But if you have a mind to predict the 2015 best picture Oscar victor now that the year has officially drawn to a close, “Spotlight” wouldn’t be a bad bet.

Latest Predictions:

moonlight Movie Picture
  1. "La La Land" Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz and Marc Platt

  2. "Moonlight" Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner

  3. "Hidden Figures" Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Pharrell Williams and Theodore Melfi

  4. "Lion" Emile Sherman, Iain Canning and Angie Fielder

  5. "Manchester by the Sea" Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck and Kevin J. Walsh

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Damien Chazelle la la land BTS Director
  1. Damien Chazelle "La La Land"

  2. Barry Jenkins "Moonlight"

  3. Denis Villeneuve "Arrival"

  4. Kenneth Lonergan "Manchester by the Sea"

  5. Mel Gibson "Hacksaw Ridge"

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Manchester by the Sea Actor
  1. Denzel Washington "Fences"

  2. Casey Affleck "Manchester by the Sea"

  3. Ryan Gosling "La La Land"

  4. Andrew Garfield "Hacksaw Ridge"

  5. Viggo Mortensen "Captain Fantastic"

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Elle Cannes Actress
  1. Emma Stone "La La Land"

  2. Meryl Streep "Florence Foster Jenkins"

  3. Natalie Portman "Jackie"

  4. Isabelle Huppert "Elle"

  5. Ruth Negga "Loving"

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Michael Shannon Supporting Actor
  1. Mahershala Ali "Moonlight"

  2. Dev Patel "Lion"

  3. Jeff Bridges "Hell or High Water"

  4. Michael Shannon "Nocturnal Animals"

  5. Lucas Hedges "Manchester by the Sea"

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Supporting Actress
  1. Viola Davis "Fences"

  2. Octavia Spencer "Hidden Figures"

  3. Naomie Harris "Moonlight"

  4. Michelle Williams "Manchester by the Sea"

  5. Nicole Kidman "Lion"

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Arrival Adapted Screenplay
  1. "Moonlight" Barry Jenkins; Tarell Alvin McCraney

  2. "Lion" Luke Davies

  3. "Arrival" Eric Heisserer

  4. "Fences" August Wilson

  5. "Hidden Figures" Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi

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Hell or High Water trailer Original Screenplay
  1. "La La Land" Damien Chazelle

  2. "Manchester by the Sea" Kenneth Lonergan

  3. "Hell or High Water" Taylor Sheridan

  4. "20th Century Women" Mike Mills

  5. "The Lobster" Efthymis Filippou, Yorgos Lanthimos

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Silence Cinematography
  1. "La La Land" Linus Sandgren

  2. "Lion" Greig Fraser

  3. "Arrival" Bradford Young

  4. "Moonlight" James Laxton

  5. "Silence" Rodrigo Prieto

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Fantastic Beasts and where to find them Costume Design
  1. "Jackie" Madeline Fontaine

  2. "Florence Foster Jenkins" Consolata Boyle

  3. "La La Land" Mary Zophres

  4. "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" Colleen Atwood

  5. "Allied" Joanna Johnston

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hacksaw ridge Film Editing
  1. "La La Land" Tom Cross

  2. "Arrival" Joe Walker

  3. "Hacksaw Ridge" John Gilbert

  4. "Hell or High Water" Jake Roberts

  5. "Moonlight" Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders

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Star Trek Beyond Makeup & Hairstyling
  1. "Star Trek Beyond"

  2. "Suicide Squad"

  3. "A Man Called Ove"

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A Monster Calls Original Score
  1. "La La Land" Justin Hurwitz

  2. "Moonlight" Nicholas Britell

  3. "Lion" Dustin O'Halloran and Hauschka

  4. "Jackie" Mica Levi

  5. "Passengers" Thomas Newman

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Best Original Song
  1. "City of Stars" "La La Land"

  2. "How Far I'll Go" "Moana"

  3. "Audition (The Fools Who Dream") "La La Land"

  4. "Can't Stop the Feeling!" "Trolls"

  5. "The Empty Chair" "Jim: The James Foley Story"

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Hail Caesar Production Design
  1. "La La Land" David Wasco; Sandy Reynolds-Wasco

  2. "Arrival" Patrice Vermette; Paul Hotte

  3. "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" Stuart Craig; Anna Pinnock

  4. "Hail, Caesar!" Jess Gonchor; Nancy Haigh

  5. "Passengers" Guy Hendrix Dyas; Gene Serdena

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Deepwater Horizon Movie Sound Editing
  1. "Hacksaw Ridge" Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright

  2. "La La Land" Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan

  3. "Arrival" Sylvain Bellemare

  4. "Deepwater Horizon" Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli

  5. "Sully" Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

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13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Sound Mixing
  1. "La La Land" Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow

  2. "Hacksaw Ridge" Kevin O'Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace

  3. "Arrival" Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye

  4. "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson

  5. "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth

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KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS Animated Feature
  1. "Zootopia" Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Clark Spencer

  2. "Kubo and the Two Strings" Travis Knight and Arianne Sutner

  3. "Moana" John Musker, Ron Clements and Osnat Shurer

  4. "My Life as a Zucchini" Claude Barras and Max Karli

  5. "The Red Turtle" Michael Dudok de Wit and Toshio Suzuki

See Full Listing
OJ Made in America Documentary Feature
  1. "O.J: Made in America" Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow

  2. "13th" Ava DuVernay, Spencer Averick and Howard Barish

  3. "Life, Animated" Roger Ross Williams and Julie Goldman

  4. "I Am Not Your Negro" Raoul Peck, Rémi Grellety and Hébert Peck

  5. "Fire at Sea" Gianfranco Rosi and Donatella Palermo

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Foreign Language
  1. "A Man Called Ove" Sweden; Hannes Holm

  2. "The Salesman" Iran; Asghar Farhadi

  3. "Tanna" Australia; Martin Butler, Bentley Dean

  4. "Toni Erdmann" Germany; Maren Ade

  5. "Land of Mine" Denmark; Martin Zandvliet

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Visual Effects
  1. "The Jungle Book" Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon

  2. "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould

  3. "Deepwater Horizon" Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton

  4. "Kubo and the Two Strings" Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean and Brad Schiff

  5. "Doctor Strange" Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould

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