Two months ago we made the bold declaration that none other than Mad Max: Fury Road should be the rightful owner of a little gold statue with “Best Picture” engraved on it come Oscar night. It made perfect sense at the time. The International Federation of Film Critics had just announced that it would join the prestigious list of movies like Boyhood, The Tree of Life, and There Will Be Blood that were previously named their top pick of the year. And in early September we were still reeling from the film’s absolutely balls-to-the-wall feminist auto action. But this weekend we came to the realization that we may have jumped the gun with the Fury Road prediction. Another new installment of a long-running franchise was released, and it gave viewers all over the country the eye of the tiger again. It meant one thing: Creed will win Best Picture.
Part of the appeal of Creed lies in its pedigree, both on and off-screen. It’s technically the seventh movie in the ongoing Rocky franchise, which kicked things off by telling the story of the down-and-out titular boxer and collected a Best Picture Oscar in the process in 1976. The movie and the character were, like Creed, a long shot that had a million-to-one odds to make a splash at Hollywood’s biggest night. Instead of fading into obscurity, it beat out stone cold classics like All the President’s Men, Taxi Driver, and Network to take the top award.
Creed, which tells the story of Rocky’s greatest opponent and best friend Apollo Creed’s son trying to make a name for himself in the boxing world, is up against similar odds. Throw it in with potential Best Picture nominees/new classics like The Martian, The Revenant, Spotlight, Room, or more this year and its chances of taking home hefty awards hardware become slim. But if Creed and the six other Rocky movies before it teach you anything, it’s to never count the underdog out.
Plus, the Academy loves a legacy story. They revel in the fact that people mention Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro won an Oscar for playing the same person, and they love giving people like John Wayne awards for less-than-stellar end-of-career swan songs like True Grit. What better way to re-crown the Rocky movies than to give Creed the same — ahem — one-two punch?
Creed would be a great winner because it would give the opportunity to remember the past while looking ahead. Despite that pedigree, the strongest part of the movie is that it refashions itself into a contemporary frame without relying on the movies that came before it. In a way, the whole series has been able to keep this up, just not as well as Creed. Rocky II tells an obvious continuation of the first story, but the third movie began a tendency for the Rocky movies to exist solely in their own context. Rocky III is a glitzy aspirational early 80s movie; Rocky IV is a downtrodden, mid-’80s political statement cased in a Hollywood sheen; while Rocky V and Rocky Balboa acknowledge the obsolescence of its lead character in the 1990s and aughts. Creed is obsessed with legacy and what it means to create for yourself your own story right now based on something that happened decades ago. A Best Picture statue would be the best way to pass the torch in this new context.
If that’s too inside baseball for most, how about the fact that it’s a bona fide crowd-pleaser that does nothing short of make grown-ass men cry and audiences raucously cheer especially in this cynical movie-going day and age?
Just look at what the people have to say:
If the prediction is a bit too bold, the best that could happen is that studios get wise and try to mirror its immediate success by greenlighting a series of similar medium-budget films. It’s something that has all but died out in the age of mega sequels. But Creed should still be in every Best Picture conversation. The other Rocky movies never approached the same amount of Oscar clout as the original, precisely because it wasn’t the definitive underdog story. With Ryan Coogler’s amazing direction, Stallone’s broken but confident supporting performance, and Michael B. Jordan’s star-making turn, Creed is the dark horse that is looking to defy expectations.
Someone needs to say it: Creed will win Best Picture.