Predicting the Oscars three months before the actual event is always lunacy: take it from the critic who, this time last year, thought Interstellar was going to win Best Picture. But though awards season is already underway – it officially began at the Venice Film Festival in early September, though contenders have been cropping up since Berlin in early February – this year’s race is proving even harder to call than usual. Clarity will descend on January 14, when the nominations will be revealed, a week after the equivalent Bafta announcement on the 8th. But in the interim, let’s plant some speculative flags.
There’s no prestige-tinged crowd-pleaser like The Artist or The King’s Speech to galvanise the voters this year, let alone a work of historical significance like 12 Years a Slave to stun them. Instead, it’s a line-up of Birdmen and Argos – a broad selection of very fine work, but with nothing that strikes you as an obvious Best Picture in waiting.
By far the best of the plausible contenders are Mad Max: Fury Road and Inside Out. But given action and animation’s patchy track records in the top category – Inside Out would only be the fourth animated best picture nominee after Beauty and the Beast, Up and Toy Story 3 – a win for either is probably too much to hope for.