The films in competition for Best Picture this year do not seem all that competitive. The critics — a growing monolith of people, many of whom can hardly be called critics anymore. They’re more like vetters or primary voters making the decision of which films Academy members should bother watching. Voters will be inundated with screeners and screenings and will only really watch films they heard were good or films that have some sort of awards clout behind them. Whether they like those films when they sit down to watch them is another question.
However, the vetters have anointed a handful of films that seem headed for the major guild nominations. Even still, we don’t “the one” yet. We don’t have the one we think BAFTA voters will go for, nor do we have the one that the DGA will go for. We have our suspicions and predictions but we’ve yet to find the person to be crowned king or queen of Oscar season. Once that person emerges a halo will form around them and they will start winning everything.
I’ll always remember how the consensus thought it would be Boyhood until it was Birdman, but then how hard it was to turn the ship once the consensus was formed. Boyhood somehow became the “mean old frontrunner” while Birdman not just the scrappy underdog that could but also the anti-superhero movie. Boyhood, it turned out, was stained with a whisper campaign that it was just a gimmick. But remember the BAFTA did not anoint Birdman because there wasn’t time for them to get the memo that “the one” wasn’t what everyone thought it would be. But Birdman won the season, at least here in Hollywoodland.
This year might have the Birdman wave in that it doesn’t emerge as the frontrunner until the PGA winner is announced. Then whatever that movie is would also win the DGA and SAG ensemble and onward to Oscar. Or it might be some other movie that wins the PGA, like when The Big Short did it (everyone dismissed this as it being Brad Pitt’s popularity but I like Kris Tapley’s theory better, which is the films that were included in the PGA lineup were not the same as in the Oscar lineup, thus, the order of preference would be different). That year Spotlight won the SAG and The Revenant won the DGA.
The only other time the PGA has not been an indicator was when Gravity and 12 Years a Slave tied the PGA. Only 12 Years was nominated for SAG – Gravity won DGA, but 12 Years pulled in the Best Picture win in what had to have been a squeaker.
Other than those years, the PGA has been a fairly reliable predictor for what will win Best Picture.
2009 – The Hurt Locker won both.
2010 – The King’s Speech won both.
2011 – The Artist won both.
2012 – Argo won both.
2013 – Gravity/12 Years won PGA/12 Years won Oscar
2014 – Birdman won both
2015 – The Big Short won PGA/Spotlight won BP
2016 – La La Land won PGA/Moonlight won BP
In terms of nominations, the PGA and Oscar both use the preferential ballot. The only difference — and it’s a pretty big difference — is that the PGA voters get ten nomination slots and name an even ten, as the Academy did in 2009 and 2010 only. From 2011 on, the Academy voters only got 5 nomination slots and the ballot tabulators arrive at fluctuating number of nominees.
You can see how well they match – even now.
In general, you can use the five or six you think will be in the DGA. The only time things really ran amok in terms of cross guild comparisons was with Dragon Tattoo, which got PGA and DGA and missed Oscar. The Oscars have become much more insular, less populist, which makes them increasingly isolated from the public at large, and appealing really only to the smallest group of elitist who still watch films at all. My 19-year-old daughter tells me no one in her friend group even cares about the Oscars because none of them every care about that kind of movie. The movies they like exist outside the realm of the Oscars. They are always very good films. But missing is the public outreach, which is necessary, I think, for the future of both films and the Oscars.
At any rate, this year we can pretty well guess at least 9 out of the 10 PGA nominees – with a slot or two open for surprises.
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Florida Project
Call Me By Your Name
And then a tenth slot that could either be The Big Sick, Wonder Woman, Darkest Hour, The Disaster Artist, Mudbound, I Tonya.
Now let’s look at well known producers that might help push a film in one direction or another.
The Post – Amy Pascal, Steven Spielberg and even scribe Liz Hannah gets a credit
Lady Bird – Scott Rudin is a producer (currently holds the PGA record for most nominations with 8, 1 win)
I Tonya – Margot Robbie is a producer
Get Out – Jordan Peele is a producer
The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro is a producer
Dunkirk – Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan (longtime producing and life partners)
Three Billboards – Martin McDonagh is a producer
The Disaster Artist – Seth Rogan and James Franco are producers
The Big Sick – Judd Apatow is a producer.
All the Money in the World – Ridley Scott is a producer.
Phantom Thread – Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison are producers.
Hostiles – John Lesher, Scott Cooper producers.
Downsizing – Megan Ellison, Mark Johnson, Alexander Payne producers.
Molly’s Game – Amy Pascal, Mark Gordon producers.
Battle of the Sexes – Danny Boyle, Christian Colson producers.
Detroit – Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Bowl, Megan Ellison producers.
And there you have it.
Enter our contest….