LOS ANGELES — This is the
point at which the Oscar Best Picture normally sets up as a two-horse race: Birdman
or Boyhood? 12 Years a Slave or Gravity?
But this is not a normal
year, and these are not normal horses.
Of the eight Best Picture
nominees, a good case could be made for as many as five truly serious
contenders: The Revenant, Spotlight, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian and
The Big Short. The other three — Brooklyn, Bridge of Spies and Room
— are not trailing far behind.
In fact, they're barely
trailing at all; not with preferential balloting, in which voters rank choices
that are hand-run through an algorithmic series of steps to determine the
winner. And we have never seen so little distance between the front-runner and
last place in the years since the Academy expanded the category from five
nominees in 2008.
Yes, a Crash-level
surprise could be in these eight tightly packed contenders ... and it wouldn't
even be that much of a surprise.