This year, it seems as though precedent could be broken in several key ways, chief among them, it might be the first year the Academy goes a different way from the Producers Guild, giving Boyhood the win over Birdman (they might settle the whole thing and just give it to Birdhood or Boyman). Why is that such a big thing? It would mean that for the first time since the Academy expanded its Best Picture slate that the PGA’s preferential ballot disagreed with the Academy’s.
Here are a few things to consider:
1) Last year’s tie with Gravity and 12 Years a Slave could signal some wiggle room in that regard. That showed a very tight race. The Academy split them, giving 12 Years Picture and Gravity director. Last year, though, Cuaron was winning everything and there was mostly an agreed upon split that kept happening throughout the season.
2) The last time a “comedy” lost the Globe (which Birdman has this year) and then won the Producers Guild was Little Miss Sunshine, which also won the SAG but did not win the Oscar.
3) The Academy only recently elected to shorten their date for “phase one” voting, meaning, before 2012, the Academy’s nominating ballots were turned in after the major guilds announced. While it doesn’t seem to impact wins, it does seem to impact perception and timing. There is something off about the consensus overall when their ballot deadlines are not in sync. Usually everything would have been pushed back to be before the Oscar ballot deadline – thus there was one long conversation. But once the Academy shifted its date back, weird things started to happen – Ben Affleck was not nominated for an Oscar but kept winning anyway — all the way to the end, where Argo took home the top prize.
This year, you see a little bit of that happening with Life Itself (not nominated for the Oscar) taking home the doc prize at the PGA, ditto The Lego Movie. I’m wondering if Gillian Flynn might rightly win the WGA and the Scripter, even though she wasn’t nominated for the Oscar – they passed on the one chance to honor a woman adapting her own novel for only the second time in Academy history. Hopefully the WGA will not pass on that. Hopefully the Scripter won’t either. If so, you could be seeing protests against the Academy being the be-all, end-all final say in awards season. As a sidenote on adapted screenplay, Whiplash is always put in the original category except for the Oscars.
What I mean to say is that you can’t really use history as a guide this year. Look at how wrong the major pundits have been from day one. Not only did no one (not Scott Feinberg, not Kris Tapley, not Anne Thompson, not Pete Hammond) see Birdman’s potential win coming, but most were divided between Boyhood and “anything but Boyhood,” meaning, they felt it was a weak frontrunner but they had not consensus on what might take it out. The reason is a silly one: we’ve all gotten the false impression that divisive movies can’t win in a consensus/preferential vote. Birdman is divisive – yet it won. That defies much of what we knew and what we thought about the voting. The jury is still out on what the Academy will do but suffice it to say that with 2015, all bets are off. It does not seem like a predictable race.
Will the BAFTA have any impact? It’s tough to say – wouldn’t it be funny, though, if Michael Keaton won Best Actor at the BAFTA instead of their hometown Eddie Redmayne? That would certainly shed some doubt on the Best Actor race. I don’t think the BAFTA will matter that much unless they go for Boyhood all the way (which they and everyone else should).
As far as Best Picture goes, you can pretty much bank on the DGA. Why they — a 14,500 membership of lots of people who have no business deciding “best directing” have so much power is a mystery but they’ve correctly predicted Best Picture (or Best Director if not Best Picture or both) going all the way back to the year 2000, which really reminds me of this year more than any other.
In the year 2000 (my first full year as an Oscar blogger) you had three movies heading into the race. The Oscars were held in March, thus there was a lot of time to ruminate on it, discuss it and cause ripples in voting. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won the DGA, while Gladiator won the PGA. Traffic won the SAG and the Eddie. In the end, Gladiator won Best Picture, Soderbergh won Best Director and Crouching Tiger won a lot of the tech awards.
So far, we have one movie winning both the PGA and the SAG. We have the DGA and the Eddie still coming up but they might help clarify things. What we do know about Boyhood is that it is really one of those movies like The Hurt Locker and The Artist that needs support from the inside because it isn’t a “big” movie from the outside – it certainly isn’t as big as the three films dominating the race in 2000. Birdman is only marginally “bigger” than Boyhood – but it appeals more to the steak eater types than Boyhood, which is probably giving it the edge. People in the business like to think that what they do is important – thus, movies about the industry tend to draw votes. The third film in the race, The Imitation Game, isn’t really winning much so far but it’s snagged the all-important DGA and Oscar nods for Best Director. It’s slightly “bigger” than Birdman or Boyhood. American Sniper is bigger than all of them but it’s without a Best Director nomination at the Oscars.
But wouldn’t it be funny if—
Clint Eastwood won the DGA and Sniper won Best Picture
Eastwood’s in his ’80s and just made a movie that will be the highest grossing film of 2014, landing at around $400 million. Sure, it’s name checked by Sarah Palin in campaign speeches and brought up at NRA rallies and being used to justify the war as being on the right side of God but the film critics are standing up for Sniper, trying hard to undo the damage the right has done in appropriating the film as one of their own (“Clint Eastwood, isn’t he the guy who talked to the chair at the RNC?”)
In a year where everything is up in the air, you really can’t count on anything.
Let’s do a quick chart tracking Best Picture and Best Director since 2009 (keeping in mind the shifts in voting deadlines, and the major shifts in how the BAFTA votes, which started in 2012, I think).
In one way, you can look at that chart and think, wow, Boyhood is headed where Social Network was — big picture on that? If I had a choice of which movie to be in 2015 I’d rather be The Social Network…the Academy looks to be stuck in the past with their choice for Best Picture of the Year. They opted out of the actual best film of the year and relied only on emotion to make that choice. This chart also tells me that one year is not like any other year. Argo had the best run of all of them because his lack of director nod at the Academy gave them urgency to vote. But Avatar and Hurt Locker told their won story, as did The Artist and Hugo, Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. We don’t know what 2015’s story will be yet.
Perhaps this is a year that the consensus goes against that inclination to pick something other than the film that really deserves to win. Who knows, right? The season has offered up nothing but surprises do far, thrusting the pundits to run around the hen house like chickens with our heads cut off. Some people prefer it this way. I prefer the best to win. All eyes on the DGA.