‘Spotlight’ Wins Top Critics’ Choice Prize, Next Stop Oscar?

Spotlight Premiere Liev Schreiber Michael Keaton
Stephen Lovekin/Variety/Rex Shutterstock

The BFCA has a pretty good Oscar track record (and they never miss an opportunity to remind you).

The Critics’ Choice Awards are no “influencer” when it comes to the Academy Awards. Few things really are, despite the consistent obsession with what this or that “means” to the Oscar race. What they are, however, is a televised awards ceremony in the second phase of the season, and for a few years, the Broadcast Film Critics Assn., which puts on the event, took full advantage of that fact by airing the show on the day of the annual Oscar nominations announcement.

It made for an interesting opportunity, as it was the first red carpet Oscar nominees found themselves walking after getting the good news earlier that morning. It also provided an opportunity to speak to those results in some way, as “Argo” director Ben Affleck did three years ago, mere hours after being passed over for a best director nomination. “I’d like to thank the Academy,” he quipped upon receiving the Critics’ Choice Award for same.

This year the BFCA opted for the weekend, a cool-down period three days after the Oscar nominations announcement. They also folded sister group the Broadcast Television Journalists Assn.’s awards into the same show, making for a film/TV combo matched only by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s Golden Globe Awards.

So things were a little bit different this time around. But the results ought to be kept in the same perspective they always have. The BFCA likes to crow about matching (i.e. “predicting”) Oscar nominees and winners, and part of the reason they have such a god track record is the size of the voting body. Somewhere around 300 individuals vote, which represents a broad collective unique in the spectrum; most regional groups feature memberships upwards of 85% smaller than that (which, by the way, is often good news for more esoteric contenders).

Not to play into this Oscar harbinger self-marketing, but 12 of the last 20 best picture Oscar winners were also anointed by the BFCA. So it’s worth paying attention to the fact that “Spotlight” won the top prize this year. But it’s also worth pointing out that the BFCA can fall into critics circuit victory lap territory, as they’ve been among the last groups to hand best picture honors to films like “Brokeback Mountain,” “The Social Network” and “Boyhood” in the past. (Those contenders ultimately fell to “Crash,” “The King’s Speech” and “Birdman,” respectively, at the Oscars.)

The jury is still out as to whether “Spotlight” — which, as we’ve reported, has dominated the critics awards circuit — can translate all of this into an Academy Award for best picture. It faces stiff competition from the likes of “The Big Short” and “The Revenant,” also nominated by the BFCA (though the former had an out in the superfluous best comedy category). But things are looking up.

Elsewhere, Sylvester Stallone — whose road to Oscar began right here — got a chance to course correct after the internet jumped down his throat for neglecting to mention “Creed” director Ryan Coogler on the air. He’s starting to look more and more like a sure thing…but beware that whiff of inevitability. Just ask Eddie Murphy, Mickey Rourke, Lauren Bacall, etc.

Alicia Vikander settled into a good spot herself, scooping up supporting actress honors for “The Danish Girl” after dominating the circuit for her performance in “Ex Machina.” Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant”) and Brie Larson (“Room”) also kept strong precursor track records alive in the steady march to the Dolby Theater, though neither opted to attend the show.

Oh, and if you blinked you might have missed the announcement of screenplay honors for “The Big Short” and “Spotlight.” It’s just the script. No reason to give it a spot on the actual show or anything. Nah. In any case, the BFCA’s coveted Oscar guessing streak is likely to hold up there, too.

In all likelihood, tonight’s best picture/best director split between “Spotlight” and George Miller (nice move having the actresses of “Mad Max: Fury Road” accept in his stead) will be duplicated in just over a month. It’s the scenario that makes the most sense right now, but “right now” shifts and slides. If you’re really paying attention, you’re keeping an eye on next weekend’s Producers Guild of America Awards. The only other organization to use the preferential ballot the Academy uses for best picture, it has predicted the ultimate Oscar winner each of the last eight years.

On the television side of things, things are still a bit wild west with this group. The Broadcast Television Journalists Assn. is relatively young, but they shined a light on new series like “Mr. Robot” (three awards on the evening) and “Master of None.” And “Fargo” nearly swept its categories, with only Patrick Wilson failing to translate a nomination to a win (in the lead actor in a TV movie or miniseries category). What does all that mean? I actually haven’t the faintest. Though “Most Bingeworthy” is a nifty name for a bauble. “Outlander” won that one.

Check out a full list of winners here.

Latest Predictions:

moonlight Movie Picture
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  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

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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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  1. Edwin says:

    It’s interesting that you and others seem so confident about Sylvester Stallone’s chances (and I’m not saying you’re wrong) considering he isn’t nominated for the SAG or BAFTA. Obviously that doesn’t mean he can’t win the Oscar, but it’ll be hard for me to think of him as a real frontrunner without those two awards just based on history. I really hope he wins, by the way. I’m just saying it’s unusual that he’s been anointed the frontrunner despite what would normally be viewed as two insurmountable snubs.

    Although I will probably feel confident about him winning if SAG and BAFTA don’t go for the same winner. If Mark Rylance (or Christian Bale, for that matter) wins both, I think it’ll be neck-and-neck heading into Oscar night. If there’s no consensus between them, though, Sly would definitely feel like a real frontrunner.

  2. Iván el Terrible says:

    Political correctness propaganda like Spotlight or creativity, talent and innovation like Mad Max Fury Road? We all know how the Academy loves to reward SJW trash.

  3. Gwarden says:

    They consistently do well with the television awards, preferring to honor new shows over established veterans. That’s why the zeitgeisty Mr Robot triumphed over other, longer-running shows.

  4. AYU_Dyah says:

    Well, based on statistically point of view and from Critics Choices winners, I think the Oscar Best Picture go either to Spotlight or Mad Max Fury Road.

    The Academy members always have their own choice and voice. Plus the preferential ballot The Academy applied, makes us harder to read who the winner will be. I mean The Academy have 6.000 plus members, and with the preferential ballot from its huge members, the possibility is so hard to predict.

    It is wise to try to read what movies will have more impact to The Academy members. And I think, content-wise, Spotlight and Mad Max Fury Road have bigger chance.

    Both of them are perfectly paced movies a rare case of movies who have perfectly balanced on its first, second, and third act.

    With that, Spotlight and Mad Max Fury Road will compete for Best editing categories also. Both of them are masterfully edited, from thousands of footage, tailored into excellent movies.

    Mad Max has almost perfect story and intensity build up (and dramatic). Spotlight’s editing made this movie feels so natural and organic, feels like it wasn’t directed by anyone.

    But, Mad Max’s chance for Best Picture may not benefited from its absence in any screenplay categories. But for editing, Mad Max gets benefit for its woman editor. It could be good campaign for Fury Road.

    For best actor, I still think Fassbender will get his Oscar. Simply, because he really played his part with emotional, physically and spiritually. While Leo, only do a physical mimicry. He still looks like Leo in the Revenant.

    I only missed 2 Oscar categories for the last 2 Oscars. I think I’m gonna predict right again this year.

  5. Jim says:

    Kris, you’re thinking Spotlight is gonna walk away with Best Picture and only one other award? I realize there’s a first time for everything, but jees, that’s a weird tally. If The Big Short is as strong as expected and it and Spotlight each with their respective screenplay categories, people are gonna be at their edge of their seats to see which will win Best Picture.

    • Joe7827 says:

      It’s worth pointing out that the same question is asked most years. There were articles asking whether “Argo” would only win Picture, etc. But regardless, there is plenty of history for movies winning Picture and only one other award, although the last time it happened was 1952, when “The Greatest Show on Earth” won for its awesome story and nothing else.

    • I could see “Spotlight” winning supporting actor in a surprise. Residual Ruffalo love from last year. But yeah, two seems weird, but nothing else fully makes sense yet. We’ll see!

      • Emily Watson says:

        It wouldn’t be the first time – “You Can’t Take It With You” (Picture, Director), “Grand Hotel” (Best Picture ONLY). But sure… let’s say it’s very rare!

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