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Can “Spotlight” win the Oscar for Best Picture without any acting nominees?

spotlight michael keaton mark ruffalo
Folks, something kind of strange is going on with these early precursors. Well, maybe not strange, but noteworthy at the least. Basically, as Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight continues to establish itself as the Best Picture frontrunner at the Oscars, its grip on acting nominations is loosening more and more. What initially seemed like a slam dunk for at least one nomination in Best Supporting Actor (if not one in Best Supporting Actress as well), things have gotten much more complicated and fluid. Pundits like myself were trying at one point to figure out if either Michael Keaton or Mark Ruffalo would have a Supporting Actor statue on their mantle, but now we’re trying to figure out if both will get snubbed, leading to the following question…can the film still win Best Picture if it doesn’t have any acting nominees?

As a reminder, the movie is a dramatized look at the Boston Globe reporters who broke the story about the Catholic Church covering up the molestations committed by priests. At the paper, an investigative section called “Spotlight” begins looking into the rumors and uncovers a huge scandal. The plot mostly follows along as the small group does the nitty gritty work of gathering indisputable evidence for the story. McCarthy directs and co-writes with Josh Singer, while the cast is led by the aforementioned Keaton and Ruffalo, with the others in this top notch ensemble including Billy Crudup, Brian d’Arcy James, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, and a handful more. Everyone is doing brilliant work here, trust me, so it’ll be a shame if these snubs do continue.

Why is this happening? Basically, it seems like the popularity of Spotlight hasn’t coalesced around one actor, leading to a major case of vote splitting. Not only have Keaton and Ruffalo split votes with each other, but they both have also split with the likes of Schreiber an Tucci as well. Now, McAdams missing here and there is just as puzzling due to how weak Supporting Actress is, but the whole thing is very strange. It doesn’t seem to be hurting the film, but you do have to wonder if that can remain as such throughout the rest of the season…

If Spotlight were to still win Best Picture without anyone in the cast getting nominated (be it Keaton or Ruffalo in Supporting Actor or McAdams in Supporting Actress), it would be only the 12th title ever to do so. The other flicks that have previously done this? They are, in chronological order: Wings, All Quiet on the Western Front, Grand Hotel, An American in Paris, The Greatest Show on Earth, Around the World in 80 Days, Gigi, The Last Emperor, Braveheart, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and Slumdog Millionaire. As you can see, it doesn’t really happen in the modern age, especially with contenders that seem to have previously had at least one acting nominee all but locked in. That’s what makes this so odd and fascinating to me.

Truthfully, we don’t really know what will happen here. The lack of attention from the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild (at least to the expected extent) is potentially damaging, but members of the Academy might go their own way. As we all know, Oscar voters are a distinctive bunch. I’m toying with what to do with my predictions tomorrow, so you’ll see then how I actually see things going. For now, it’s just very much up in the air. Would I be shocked if it doesn’t get any acting notices? No. Would it still be surprising? Of course. It’s just that kind of year, it seems…

Stay tuned if Spotlight can avoid these acting snubs and/or remain the Best Picture frontrunner at the Academy Awards!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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