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The Unpredictable Oscar Race Deals Another Unpredictable Move as Three Billboards Wins at BAFTA

The ups and downs of this year’s Oscar race have been mostly unprecedented. First, the PGA and SAG announced their winners before Oscar nominations were even announced. Second, the critics mostly went all in for Lady Bird, but the industry did not. Third, Three Billboards was not eligible for the WGA — got hit with a pretty rough controversy or backlash — then missed a Best Director nomination at the Oscars. To listen to the actors at SAG and again on the red carpet tonight at the BAFTAs you’d never know there had been any kerfuffle at all around Three Billboards. If you read this site, you will know what that is and what it’s about. The internet’s Oscar mafia is mostly mum on the topic, with no one wanting to look less woke, and most people keeping their heads down, waiting to see if it all goes away.

The problem is, people really like Three Billboards. A lot. That’s why it keeps winning. That, and a killer performance by Frances McDormand driving the thing. If it wins Best Picture it will be the first film since 2004 to win Best Actress and Best Picture. Another thing is, it’s harder and harder to find a reason why it won’t. Other than Martin McDonagh not getting a Best Director nomination, it’s the stats champ — has been and still is. Of all of the movies in the race, it comes closest to having the ticking the most boxes that a film usually needs to win.

Get Out, however, still has more broad appeal and staying power. It has only four nominations, but won the WGA. Can it win Oscar’s top prize? Hell yeah. It’s still a formidable threat. Can the buzz from Three Billboards’ wins today help to quell the fear of rewarding a film that was smacked down by a handful of black journalists? It’s really hard to say. It’s also hard to poll because online people might be too afraid to say they were voting for Three Billboards (many of whom might anonymously vote for it in the end). It won the Audience Award at Toronto, the Globe, the SAG Ensemble. That’s plenty enough to take it all the way. It could not win the WGA because it was not eligible.

Our friend Ryan C. Showers predicted Three Billboards long ago, called it the Oscar film to beat. I declined posting his piece because I learned my lesson a long time ago not to go out on a limb like that (in October) because you might be right — and great if you are — or you might be wrong, sucks if you are. But kudos to him if it turns out to be true.

All four acting categories feel locked for the first time since the BAFTA moved their dates to announce before the Oscars (around 2000) — with the same four performances that have never lost at the Globe, at SAG and now at the BAFTA. Similarly, Guillermo del Toro seems like a lock to win Best Director along with lots of other awards for The Shape of Water.

Remember, though, the BAFTA missed on matching the Oscars with The Revenant, Boyhood and La La Land. But did predict 12 Years a Slave and Gravity to split. There is genuine love for Three Billboards from actors and from Brits — who represent a large contingent of Academy members. That could tip the scales in its favor. I will run my ballot sim in one week’s time to see if its position changes. But we’re still flying blind, my friends.

With back-to-back wins this weekend at the ASC and BAFTA, it does, however, look like Roger Deakins might finally take that Oscar home. It’s been a long time coming and it will be well deserved.