Let’s be honest.
Predicting the Oscar nominees is not an exact science. The fact of the matter is that a lot of it is guesswork, especially in the early months of the year.
“Oh, Scorsese has a movie coming out? Well, Martin Scorsese’s movies are always nominated!”
“Last year’s best seller is being adapted into a movie? The Academy loves best sellers!”
“David Fincher’s directing High School Musical 4? I LOVE DAVID FINCHER! Best Picture for sure!”
That’s why, every year, there are films that seem like they’re guaranteed to reap Oscar glory. These are the films that, in July, are listed on all of the awards sites as probable best picture nominees. And every year, several of those sure shots turn out to actually be long shots.
Since Arleigh founded Through the Shattered Lens back in 2009, there’s been many guaranteed Best Picture contenders that, when the nominations were announced, were nowhere to be found. Here are just 8 examples:
1. J. Edgar (dir by Clint Eastwood)
Remember how Leonardo DiCaprio was going finally win his first Oscar for playing J. Edgar Hoover in the 2011 Oscar biopic? There was also some speculation that Armie Hammer would pick a supporting nod and, of course, the film was going to be a best picture nominee. Then the movie came out, fell flat, and received not a single Oscar nomination.
2. The Dark Knight Rises (dir by Christopher Nolan)
I was not as big of a fan of this movie as some people who write for this site. In fact, I thought it was kind of a mess. Still, back in 2012, a lot of people assumed the Academy would make up for not nominating The Dark Knight by nominating the sequel. (In a particular noxious example of fanboy culture, Christy Lemire was attacked online when she gave The Dark Knight Rises its first negative review.) For all of the hyper and controversy, The Dark Knight Rises was totally ignored when the 2012 Oscar nominations were announced.
3. The Monuments Men (dir by George Clooney)
As strange as it may seem today, this now-forgotten World War II film was originally considered to be a surefire Oscar contender. Throughout most of 2013, the majority of the experts on Gold Derby listed The Monuments Men as their number one prediction for Best Picture. The logic was that it was based on an interesting true story, it featured Bill Murray in a serious role, and it was directed by George Clooney. Then, suddenly, the release date was pushed back to 2014. That was the first sign of trouble. Then the movie came out and it turned out to be a complete mess, one that underused Murray and which reminded us that, regardless of his skill as an actor, George Clooney is a remarkably dull director.
4. Lee Daniel’s The Butler (dir by Lee Daniels)
From 2013, this is a good example of a film that tried so hard to be an Oscar contender that it basically knocked itself right out of contention. Between the blind and dated worship of JFK and John Cusack’s performance as Richard Nixon, this film almost seemed like a parody of a bad Oscar contender.
5. Interstellar (dir by Christopher Nolan)
Personally, I liked 2014’s Interstellar more than I liked The Dark Knight Rises but ultimately, this turned out to be just another Christopher Nolan film that didn’t get much of a reaction from the Academy. (Despite the nominations given to both Dunkirk and Inception, it’s hard not to feel that the Academy will always resent Nolan for being both successful and ambitious.)
6. Joy (dir by David O. Russell)
Many of us thought it would be one of the films to be nominated for best picture of 2015. That was until we actually saw the damn thing. David O. Russell’s worst movie still managed to net Jennifer Lawrence a nomination but not much else.
7. Silence (dir by Martin Scrosese)
Martin Scrosese’s 2016 passion product was expected to be a major contender and, on many sites, it was listed as a probable winner all the way through December. However, when the nominations were announced, Silence only received one nomination, for cinematography.
8. Logan (dir by James Mangold)
At the start of 2017, a lot of critics stated that Logan might be the first comic book movie ever nominated for Best Picture. For a month or two, I certainly thought it would be. Ultimately, though, it only picked up a nomination for adapted screenplay.
Which 2018 sure short will turn into a long shot? We’ll find out next year!