Who will probably win this year's Best Picture Oscar

Will it be “The Revenant”? Will it be “Spotlight”? Will it be “The Big Short”?

Those are the questions swirling around Hollywood and in all likelihood your living room as we lead up to Sunday’s Oscar night.

The best picture category is in a tight three-way race for the statue, with no clear favourite at all, which will cause for some much-needed drama on a night when many of the other categories are forgone conclusions.

A big reason why there’s so much conflict among the Oscar pundits? The key awards these films did (and didn’t) win in the run-up, which are always good indicators of what will ultimately grab Oscars.

Here we handicap the best picture category and predict who will take home the prize.

Why 'Spotlight' could win

Open Road Films

Out of the three films being seriously considered, Tom McCarthy's look at the Boston Globe's uncovering of the Catholic Church child-molestation scandal in the city has been in the best picture conversation the longest.

Since it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, the movie has been a critical darling and won key award-season prizes like the top honours at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and Writers Guild of America Awards (actors and writers form a large contingent in Academy membership).

Historically, best picture winners have those two awards in the bag.

Why 'The Big Short' could win

Jaap Buitendijk/Paramount

Adam McKay's look at the housing-bubble collapse in the mid-2000s got out of the gates late for award-season hopefuls, opening in theatres on December 23. But it quickly picked up attention, getting major nominations, and then going on to win the top Producers Guild Award and WGA Award (for adapted screenplay).

Like 'Spotlight,' it has some of the major wins under its belt to be a serious contender for Oscar's big prize.

And if only the real audience voted...

Warner Bros.

If the real theatergoers had their say in the Oscars, most of us would likely choose George Miller's epic blockbuster, 'Mad Max: Fury Road.' The best picture nominee, which is clearly a dark horse to win, has great performances by Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron and literally awe-inspiring cinematography and stunts.

This is one that we at the multiplex thirst for, but Oscar voters will do nothing more than give it a nomination to say 'nice job.'

Why 'The Revenant' could win

Kimberley French/20th Century Fox

Alejandro González Iñárritu's epic journey into the wild that showcases a frontiersman (Leonardo DiCaprio) who seeks revenge was at first thought of mostly as a vehicle for DiCaprio to seal his first Oscar win.

Though that will likely happen, the narrative has changed.

Receiving the most Oscar nominations of any film this year with 12, winning the Golden Globe's best drama prize, and winning the best director prize for Iñárritu at BAFTA and DGA, the movie could now have the edge over the others. But it would be unprecedented.

The winner is… 'The Revenant'

Kimberley French/20th Century Fox

This will be the year that all the rules get thrown aside.

The previous honours for 'Spotlight' and 'The Big Short' are good on paper, but it's likely that they will split the best picture vote, especially since they fill a similar current-events Oscar type, opening the door for 'The Revenant' to sweep in on the strength of DiCaprio's performance and Iñárritu's vision (if he wins best director it will be the first time since 1950 that a filmmaker won the prize two years in a row -- he won it last year for 'Birdman,' which, yes, also won best picture).

The win will be historic on many levels.

It will be the first time a film won best picture that didn't get the important SAG nomination; or a best screenplay Oscar nomination or a WGA nomination; and no filmmaker has ever directed back-to-back best picture winners.

That's all going to change Sunday night.

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