As long as the preferential ballot is in the place, you aren’t going to see any last minute surges like we saw in 1995 when Braveheart came in with only a Golden Globe win for Best Director and won Best Picture and Director. Braveheart would have been like The Revenant – bold, beloved but not a broad consensus movie, more like a passionate, divisive film. The best art IS divisive. And many films that won on a plurality ballot would never have won on a preferential. I bet The Departed would have lost to Little Miss Sunshine, for instance, even if Scorsese won Director. Conversely, there is a good chance The Revenant would have won last year and not Spotlight were it not for the preferential ballot. It’s good and bad but it definitely will never, can never reward bold, daring work because great works of cinema are often divisive.
Vox’s Estelle Coswell uses the example to explain why La La Land might win and I think it’s a good guess that it will. In a preliminary experiment I did on Facebook (I will do more in a week or so) Moonlight was the runaway winner for the top spot and was so far ahead it would not have trigged a recount. But La La Land was more often than not the second choice after Moonlight or Arrival, where Moonlight wasn’t, really. It was mostly a number one film more than anything. You’re looking for that movie that is either number or number two: like and love and not a lot of hate.
I don’t think the La La Land backlash will matter than much because, again, if the main criticism is coming from communities of color, it is only going to make white voters feel more defensive of the film, not critical of it. Funny how that works but that’s how it works.
The video also makes the great point that under the current system, Goodnight and Good Luck might have won over Crash. I think that might be right but I don’t think people really hated Crash until it won Best Picture, once that happened the hate set in, and so it often goes with movies…