Oscar history supports a Tom Hooper win. You simply have to look at the obvious, unbeatable combo of DGA + most nominations. Chicago and Reds are the two films I can think of that won the DGA, had the most noms and a split resulted. Chicago won Best Pic but lost Director, Reds won Best Director and lost Picture.
In the examples of Apollo 13 vs. Braveheart, The Color Purple vs. Out of Africa, the DGA winner was not even nominated for an Oscar so we have to take those out of the equation.
Let’s look back, though, at the years when there were ten Best Picture nominees with five Best Director nominees. This paradigm might explain how Best Director COULD split with Picture, and why that would be the only logical reason. With five Picture and five Director nominees, no way does Hooper lose. But with ten Best Picture nominees and five Best Director nominees? Those who choose another film for Picture — what director will they choose?
This was not the problem for the DGA – they had 5/5. It was not the problem for the BAFTA – they had 5/5 (only directors vote for directors there). The Globe? Nope. The PGA? Nope. So, it is only the Oscar race that is going to pit a preferential vote of ten Best Pictures with a five way race for Best Director. That, my friends, is the only way your math can lead you to a split vote.
Of the ten Best Picture nominees, let’s look at how Academy members who don’t choose either TKS or The Social Network might vote for Director. Let’s say, for instance, that all five Best Director nominees have their Picture and Director votes matching. So, The Fighter voters go for David O. Russell, the Black Swan voters go for Darren Aronofsky, King’s Speech voters go for Hooper, Social Network voters go for Fincher, and True Grit voters go for the Coens.
That leaves five other films that may or may not send votes to another director. And they are:
The Kids Are All Right
Toy Story 3
How many of supporters of these films are going to name David Fincher instead of Tom Hooper? Probably a good many of them. They might also distribute their votes to other directors, like Aronofsky, or The Coens, or O. Russell.
My guess is that Inception supporters go for Fincher. Toy Story 3 supporters will go for Hooper (maybe?), Winter’s Bone will go for either, Kids Are All Right – gonna say Fincher. 127 Hours? Could go either way. Anyone who puts these five movies as their number one film are going to be sort of off the main track anyway. The chances of these voters putting The King’s Speech as their number 2 film is pretty high, which is another way The King’s Speech picks up votes. It’s always hard to imagine how people are going to vote in terms of preference. Just because you like The Fighter or Inception as number one, doesn’t mean The King’s Speech is number two necessarily.
This is, I think, how a split could have happened in the Rebecca vs. Grapes of Wrath year:
- REBECCA – 11 nominations, including Hitchcock‚Äôs 1st Oscar nom, Editing & Screenplay ‚Äì only 2 wins, for Best Picture and Cinematography
- THE GRAPES OF WRATH ‚Äì 7 nominations, including Screenplay & Editing ‚Äì 2 wins, including Best Director (Ford)
- THE LETTER – 7 nominations ‚Äì 0 wins
- FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT ‚Äì 6 nominations -0 wins
- THE LONG VOYAGE HOME ‚Äì 6 nominations ‚Äì 0 wins
- OUR TOWN ‚Äì 6 nominations ‚Äì 0 wins
- THE PHILADELPHIA STORY ‚Äì 6 nominations ‚Äì 2 wins, including Screenplay
- THE GREAT DICTATOR – 5 nominations ‚Äì 0 wins
- KITTY FOYLE ‚Äì 5 nominatins ‚Äì 1 win, Actress (Ginger Rogers)
- ALL THIS, AND HEAVEN TOO ‚Äì 3 nominations ‚Äì 0 wins
* (Best Editing in 1940 went to North West Mounted Police ‚Äî so AMPAS was all over the map)
Rebecca had the most nominations heading in. But John Ford was more well-known back then. Hitchcock was kind of a newbie (especially stateside). So it’s possible that, unlike the other years with ten Best Picture nominees where the directors who won were more well known, it’s conceivable that the more “famous” and prestigious director could triumph over a newbie.
But, can we state for the record how amazing and timeless both of these films are? Rebecca is just astonishing at times. Of course, Hitchcock would never win a Best Directing Oscar, while John Ford would win for directing four times.
The same thing happened here:
1937 ‚Äì SPLIT
- THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA ‚Äì 10 nominations, including Director & Actor – 3 wins, including Best Screenplay
- LOST HORIZON ‚Äì 7 noms ‚Äì 2 wins, incl. Best Editing
- A STAR IS BORN ‚Äì 8 noms ‚Äì 2 wins
- IN OLD CHICAGO – 6 noms ‚Äì 2 wins
- THE GOOD EARTH ‚Äì 5 noms ‚Äì 2 wins, Actress (Rainer) & Cinematography (Freund)
- ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL ‚Äì 5 noms ‚Äì 1 win
- THE AWFUL TRUTH – 5 nominations, incl Screenplay & Editing ‚Äì 1 win, Best Director (McCarey)
- CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS ‚Äì 4 noms ‚Äì 1 win, Actor (Tracy)
- DEAD END ‚Äì 4 noms ‚Äì 0 wins
- STAGE DOOR ‚Äì 4 noms
Compare the Zola director William Dieterle to a well known director like Leo McCarey.
1936 ‚Äì SPLIT
- THE GREAT ZIEGFELD – 7 nominations – 3 wins, incl. ‚ÄúBest Dance Direction‚Äù (hmm)
ANTHONY ADVERSE – 7 noms ‚Äì 4 wins, incl. Best Editing
- DODSWORTH ‚Äì 7 noms ‚Äì 1 win
- SAN FRANCISCO ‚Äì 6 noms ‚Äì 1 win
- MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN ‚Äì 5 noms, incl. Screenplay ‚Äì 1 win, Best Director (Capra)
- ROMEO AND JULIET ‚Äì 4 noms ‚Äì 0 wins
- THE STORY OF LOUIS PASTEUR ‚Äì 4 noms ‚Äì 3 wins, incl. Best Story & Best Screenplay
- THREE SMART GIRLS ‚Äì 3 noms ‚Äì 0 wins
- A TALE OF TWO CITIES ‚Äì 2 wins ‚Äì 0 wins
- LIBELED LADY ‚Äì 1 nom ‚Äì 0 wins
Robert Z. Leonard isn’t anyone we know now but he was respectable enough back then, he just wasn’t FRANK CAPRA. Capra had already won big for It Happened One Night.
1935 ‚Äì SPLIT
- MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY ‚Äì 8 nominations, ‚Äì 1 win, Best Picture
- NAUGHTY MARIETTA ‚Äì 8 noms ‚Äì 2 wins
- THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER ‚Äì 8 noms ‚Äì 2 wins
- THE INFORMER ‚Äì 6 noms, incl Editing ‚Äì 4 wins, including Director (Ford) & Screenplay
- CAPTAIN BLOOD ‚Äì 5 noms ‚Äì 0 wins
- LES MIS√âRABLES – 4 noms ‚Äì 0 wins
- A MIDSUMMER NIGHT‚ÄôS DREAM ‚Äì 4 noms ‚Äì 2 wins, incl. Editing
- TOP HAT – 4 noms ‚Äì 0 wins
- BROADWAY MELODY OF 1936 ‚Äì 3 noms ‚Äì 1 win
- DAVID COPPERFIELD ‚Äì 3 noms ‚Äì 0 wins
- ALICE ADAMS ‚Äì 2 noms ‚Äì 0 wins
- RUGGLES OF RED GAP ‚Äì 1 nom ‚Äì o wins
On this one, you can’t really make the argument so well that it was a star director vs. a newbie, because Frank Lloyd had already won Best Director with Cavalcade.
Anyway, it’s definitely possible that ten Best Picture nominees could induce a split between a much better known, or “name” director, and a relative newbie. The safest choice right now is still The King’s Speech and Tom Hooper, but it is less of a risky prediction to see a split after looking at how these other races played out. The truth about the Academy is this: if they really love a movie, they REALLY love a movie.
How do you think it might break down? And do you think the split vote could help Fincher or a different director? I’m thinking it COULD help Fincher simply because there are ten nominees.