In most instances, the foundation of support behind Best Picture nominated films is a considerable factor in predicting Oscar winners in other categories. And in some instances, a completely different narrative takes hold that makes such things irrelevant. We may be seeing that this year in Best Supporting Actor, which houses four performances from Best Picture nominees, yet the frontrunner represents his movie's sole nomination.
Nearly forty years after first being nominated (in two categories!) for creating the iconic Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone looks to be riding a sentimental tidal wave to one of those career-achievement-Best-Supporting-Oscars that frequently go to long-lasting veterans. Which isn't to imply that the honour is undeserved. Frankly, Sly deserves it. His work in Creed is good enough to win on merit, which certainly helps when going up against four thesps from more popular movies. Still, Creed surely has its fans (how can it not?), and this is the only category in which they can rally around it.
One might have thought Stallone's absence at the SAG Awards would have cleared an easy path for one of his fellow Oscar nominees, but their decision to give the Actor to Idris Elba that night kept us in the dark as to who the potential spoiler really was.
Would The Big Short, as one of the favourites for Best Picture, make Christian Bale the default alternative for his squirrely take on Mike Burry, M.D.? Or perhaps the respect for Spotlight's SAG-honoured ensemble could make Mark Ruffalo (himself plenty respected after three nominations in five years) a magnet for voters who wish to see it go home with more than a single trophy. Then there's Tom Hardy, the semi-surprise nominee, proving that support within the acting branch for The Revenant extends beyond Leo DiCaprio's slam dunk.
If you ask me, the nearest challenger to Stallone might be revered stage veteran and BAFTA winner Mark Rylance for his impeccably wry turn in Bridge of Spies. You have to imagine that the so-called "steak-eaters" will speak up for Spielberg's robust meat-and-potatoes drama somewhere, and Rylance is who most critics groups chose to single out, plus the British Academy this past Sunday.
But in all likelihood, the divided support between those four Best Pictures will make each other moot. How do you top a crowd favourite like Rocky?
Will win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Runner-up: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Should win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Should be nominated: Benicio Del Toro, Sicario