Oscars 2016 Expert Predictions: ‘Spotlight’ Favored Over ‘Joy’ — ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Could Surprise

Oscar nominations for 2016 will not be announced for another month, but expert predictions are already rolling in as critics, film buffs, and bloggers attempt to sway the Oscar race in all of the major categories — but with none generating as much passion as the Best Picture category as Spotlight, where at least three major contenders appear set to slug it out for the Academy’s top honor, with one potentially serious dark horse also riding into the scene.

According to a panel of 22 film experts assembled by the Oscar predictions site Gold Derby, the current frontrunner in the Best Picture race is indeed Spotlight, the newsroom drama from director Tom McCarthy — and with Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo topping an ensemble cast — that chronicles the Boston Globe investigation into the Catholic Church child molestation scandal.

Not surprisingly, the film released on November 6 has already collected the Best Picture prize from the Boston Society of Film Critics who handed out their own awards on Sunday.

In the site’s latest poll, released in December 5, of the 22 critics on the Gold Derby panel, which includes film critics from outlets including Vanity Fair, Reuters, Variety, and various other major publications and news agencies, an overwhelming 18 now predict that Spotlight will collect the Best Picture Oscar, with all 22 agreeing that the critically acclaimed film — which sports a towering 98 percent positive critics score on the Rotten Tomatoes site — will receive at least a Best Picture nomination.

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According to Gold Derby‘s own statistics, the site’s experts correctly called 71 percent of last year’s nominees as of December 5 of 2014 — but they whiffed on their Best Picture prediction, with 18 of 26 total experts giving the nod to Boyhood, which lost out to the eventual winner, Birdman, at the 2015 Oscars ceremony.

Longtime film-industry columnist Jeffrey Wells, who publishes a daily “Oscar Balloon” on his blog Hollywood-Elsewhere.com, however, sees Spotlight as only the third-most likely Best Picture winner, trailing the Leonardo Di Caprio frontier survival drama The Revenantan “unofficial remake” of the 1971 Western Man In The Wilderness starring Richard Harris in the Di Caprio role — and Joy, the latest Jennifer Lawrence vehicle in which she once again collaborates with director David O. Russell and co-stars Bradley Cooper.

Joy tells the story of a struggling mom who invents the “Miracle Mop” and becomes a business tycoon. Like both Spotlight and The Revenant, Joy is based at least loosely on a true story.

But the Gold Derby experts do not yet even see Joy in the running. The movie will not be released until Christmas Day, which didn’t stop Wells, but without seeing the film, the 22 Gold Derby experts rank Joy only 10th in their list, with 11 experts predicting the comedy/drama will receive a nomination and none tabbing the film to take home the 2016 Best Picture Oscar.

Coming in second on the Gold Derby list, the Matt Damon sci-fi thriller The Martian, with three experts offering victory predictions for the Ridley Scott-directed flick. Wells, on the other hand, declared on his blog Wednesday that “The Martian Died This Morning,” declaring that the omission of the film from any of the Screen Actors Guild Award nominations signals the demise of The Martian as an Oscar contender.

Oscar blogger Sasha Stone concurs with Wells about The Martian, which she says has been “taken out of the race,” but Stone also agrees with the Gold Derby panel about Spotlight, which she calls “the only (Oscar contender) that can build any sort of momentum with the larger industry.”

For those who really enjoy debates over Oscar predictions, the following video features Tom O’Neil of Gold Derby slugging it out with Deadline.com pundit Pete Hammond.

But what about fan favorite Mad Max: Fury Road, the rebooted fourth entry in the post-apocalyptic action series that began with the Australian low-budget revenge flick Mad Max way back in 1980?

The movie was a surprise critical hit, garnering 97 percent positive reviews according to Rotten Tomatoes, and the industry “bible” Variety called Mad Max: Fury Road, “the most vibrant auteurist statement in the Oscar race this year, a controlled chaos courtesy of a legend.”

But the latest Gold Derby 2016 Oscar predictions have the Mad Max reboot at 20-1 odds to win, with 14 panelists predicting a nomination and zero expecting a win. Also working against the George Miller-directed thriller, the film was released way back on May 15. Not since 2009, when The Hurt Locker claimed the Best Picture award with its June 26 release, has a film that hit theaters prior to September won Oscar’s top prize.

[Image via 20th Century Fox]