Publisher Theme
I’m a gamer, always have been.

Predictions Friday: How Reliable are the Early Critics Awards?

When the Gothams were announced yesterday, there was a flurry of activity around the nominations and what they meant for some of the films in the race. We tend to pay attention to patterns that confirm our biases and ignore those that don’t fit. For instance, some were bringing up the fact that THE Shape of Water was not nominated, even though each category has about five people selecting the nominees. The only reason it makes a difference is that the Gothams have had a Best Picture winner nominated since 2013 when 12 Years a Slave won the Oscar. Since then, the Gothams went for Birdman, Spotlight, and Moonlight, as did the Academy. The thing about that, though? All of those films also played at Telluride. But the ones that were nominated for the Gothams this year? None of them did:

The Florida Project: Cannes
I, Tonya: Toronto
Call Me By Your Name: Sundance
Get Out: regular release
Good Time: Cannes

In a year like this one, we should expect surprises — but I also think it’s premature to draw any conclusions about any movie right now. The Hurt Locker in 2009 first played at Toronto the year before it was released. The Artist played at Cannes but also went to Telluride. We’re either seeing our Best Picture winner in the above list or we aren’t. But I would not put my chips around five critics over everything we know so far about this race.

The truth is that anything can win — we’re really just looking for the Best Picture nominees right now, not the winners, and the Gothams seems to have solicited a few things in that way. We already knew Call Me By Your Name was probably a strong bet, and Get Out also seemed like a strong contender. The Florida Project is gaining momentum, and I, Tonya becomes a film to be considered.

The thing to remember is that critics can only really take you so far. They aren’t as reliable as the guilds because you’re talking about a very small number of voters. In the Gotham’s case, it’s five people per category. The biggest voting body is the Critics Choice and they top out at around 300. The guilds and the Academy are in the thousands.

SAG – 150,000 (2,000 in the nominating committee)
DGA – 15,000
PGA – 7,000
Academy – approx. 7,000

Sure, human beings are easily manipulated by the power of suggestion. It’s true in politics and it’s true in the Oscar race and all a film needs is to be talked about in a negative way for people to start thinking about it in a negative – or positive – way. Some publicists are really good at planting stories or whisper campaigns to hurt other films or to mute them for their own films to rise. But one major nomination erases all doubt. We’re still in the “I don’t know” phase across the board with no clear strong frontrunner and a lot of possibilities one way or the other.

None of the films nominated for the Gothams played at Telluride, which hasn’t happened for them since the Argo year, 2012. The strongest films right now are still the same ones they were before the Gothams, but a few titles got added to the pile. That’s how I see it. Right now, I do not have a sense of what will win.

However, one thing to watch for, other than what happens at the Golden Globes, is what happens at SAG ensemble. How many of the films seem like sure bets for an ensemble nod? Any of the nominees for the Gotham feature could get a SAG ensemble nomination. I will really pay attention if the Florida Project gets one. That will be big and means it really could win Best Picture. Call Me By Your Name should also be in the ensemble mix, and if it doesn’t land a nomination that says it might not even a Best Picture contender. I, Tonya could also get one. I will be very curious about Get Out if it lands there. Film critics help to inform taste and shape buzz, but their influence doesn’t necessarily mean a negative for any movie. They can help but not hurt. The guilds are really where the nominations have to be.

Right now, the Gold Derby crew is split up all over the place with Best Picture. But if you had to pick one it would be Dunkirk. After that is probably The Post (sight unseen). Some have oddball choices here or there, like Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water, Darkest Hour, etc. But it just shows you how crazy this year is. Last year at this time many, if not all, had La La Land out front.

Last year around this time I wrote up a Predictions Friday piece after the Gothams and wrote the following:

 

And I was right about that. They were then and they remained the frontrunners heading into the race. I still feel like right now the frontrunners are:

Dunkirk
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water
Call Me By Your Name
Get Out
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

That’s more than three. I will probably add The Florida Project to that list. And there are plenty of films on the fringe, including:

Battle of the Sexes
I, Tonya
Hostiles

And then there are the films we haven’t seen:

The Post
All the Money in the World

My Best Picture predictions were:

Best Picture
Frontrunners
La La Land
Moonlight
Manchester by the Sea
Silence
Fences
Jackie
Arrival
Sully
Lion

Contenders:
Hacksaw Ridge
20th Century Women
Hell or High Water
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Live by Night

The only one I was missing was Hidden Figures, which really popped at the AFI. So there you go. Only Hidden Figures had not been seen and got in. Jackie was way overhyped by folks on Twitter, and I buckled under their pressure – I never really had confidence in it. Sully I was just flat out wrong about, and same with Silence which had a hard time even being seen by people. Billy Lynn same thing. Live by Night was not going and 20th Century Women was a good movie that should have gotten in.

At any rate, let’s get this thing started, shall we?

Best Picture
Frontrunners
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Darkest Hour
Call Me By Your Name
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Get Out
The Florida Project
The Post
Battle of the Sexes
Phantom Thread

Contenders
Wonder Woman
I, Tonya
Mudbound
Lady Bird
Hostiles
Molly’s Game
The Big Sick
Downsizing
Detroit

Best Director
Frontrunners

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Guillermo Del Toro, Shape of Water
Joe Wright, Darkest Hour
Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards
Get Out, Jordan Peele

Contenders
Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name
Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Alexander Payne, Downsizing
Dayton and Faris, Battle of the Sexes
Aaron Sorkin, Molly`s Game
Dee Rees, Mudbound
Angelina Jolie, First They Killed My Father
Scott Cooper, Hostiles
Kathryn Bigelow, Detroit
Sofia Coppola, The Beguiled

Best Actor
Frontrunners
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Jake Gyllenhaal, Stronger
Timothee Chalame, Call Me By Your Name
Christian Bale, Hostiles
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread

Contenders
James Franco, Disaster Artist
Andrew Garfield, Breathe
Matt Damon, Downsizing
Algee Smith, Detroit
Steve Carell, Battle of the Sexes
Sam Elliot, The Hero

Best Actress
Frontrunners
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards
Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game
Emma Stone, Battle of the Sexes
Margot Robbie, I Tonya

Contenders
Meryl Streep, The Post
Soairse Ronan, Lady Bird
Jennifer Lawrence, mother!
Judi Dench, Victoria and Abdul
Cynthia Nixon, A Quiet Passion
Rosamund Pike, Hostiles
Annette Bening, Film Stars Don`t Die
Nicole Kidman, The Beguiled
Florence Pugh, Lady Macbeth
Salma Hayek, Beatriz at Dinner
Carey Mulligan, Mudbound

Supporting Actor
Frontrunners

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards
Ben Mendolsohn, Darkest Hour
Jason Mitchell, Mudbound
Armie Hammer, Call Me By Your Name

Contenders
Michael Shannon, The Shape of Water
Kevin Spacey, All the Money in the World
Mark Rylance, Dunkirk
Harrison Ford, Blade Runner 2049
Idris Elba, Molly`s Game

Supporting Actress
Frontrunners
Alison Janney, I Tonya
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, Shape of Water
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Kristen Scott Thomas, Darkest Hour

Contenders
Hong Chau, Downsizing
Michelle Pfeiffer, mother!
Jennifer Ehle, A Quiet Passion
Holly Hunter, The Big Sick

Original Screenplay
Frontrunners

Shape of Water
Darkest Hour
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 
The Post
Get Out

Contenders
Lady Bird
Dunkirk
Battle of the Sexes
Downsizing
The Big Sick
Detroit

Adapted Screenplay
Frontrunners

Call Me By Your Name
Molly’s Game
Wonderstruck
Mudbound
The Disaster Artist

Contenders

First They Killed my Father
Hostiles

Editing
Dunkirk
Darkest Hour
Three Billboards
Shape of Water
Get Out

Contenders 
The Post
I, Tonya
Bladerunner 2049

Cinematography
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
Darkest Hour
Shape of Water
Hostiles