Why this year's Best Picture race is a total crapshoot

Who will win the Oscars' biggest prize this year? No one has any idea.

Scenes from 'Dunkirk,' 'Shape of Water,' and 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.'
(Image credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures, Fox Searchlight Pictures, and Merrick Morton/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

In most years, by the time Oscar night rolls around, the categories have been so exhaustively analyzed by pundits and prognosticators that there are no real jaw-dropping surprises in store. But no one could've predicted what happened back on Feb. 26, 2017, when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly announced that La La Land had won Best Picture — leaving that movie's producer Jordan Horowitz the unenviable task of saying that, no, there'd been a mistake and Moonlight had actually won.

The mix-up was memorable, but it wasn't the only reason why that moment was so shocking. Up until the big reveal, La La Land seemed to have built up unstoppable awards season momentum. Moreover, it had the feel of a Best Picture: slick, showy, deeply rooted in cinema history, with an emotional sweep and a stirring if bittersweet "follow your dreams" message. Moonlight, meanwhile, is a small masterpiece, made cheaply and artfully, and concerned with lives on the margins. It's the kind of film that makes critics' "Best of the Year" and even "Best of the Decade" lists, but that usually comes up just short when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hands out its award for Best Picture.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.

SUBSCRIBE & SAVE
https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/flexiimages/jacafc5zvs1692883516.jpg

Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us