This weekend, the Directors Guild adds their voice to the mix. We’ve covered this in the DGA preview, but someone just sent me an email from Gold Derby with the following question:
Hey guys, huge fan of Goldderby. As everyone dissects the Oscar race, I find myself increasingly interested in the BAFTAs, as it seems like the only point in the season left to turn the tide for a campaign. I’m personally of the Kris Tapley / Chris Beachum school of thought: since Gravity’s a slamdunk for Best Director and probably editing too, it’s hard to bet against it for Best Picture. A best picture win at BAFTAs would all but gaurantee that. I wonder though if Gravity’s chance at BAFTAs is hurt by its nomination for Best British Film. That category has always been a curiosity to me. Tradition indicates that Philomena would have the edge, since it’s beloved and features Brits front and center. But, if the BAFTA voters are in a sharing mood, will they be inclined to spread the wealth by awarding 12 Years for Best Picture and Graivity for Best British Film? Or will it just be too weird to reward Best British Film to a picture featuring two iconic American actors?
I would answer this in a couple of different ways. The first is that, yes, Gravity seems to have a shot right now at taking the whole thing. I don’t see a split happening myself but I could be absolutely wrong on that. You never really know until you live through it and then it suddenly seems so obvious. I would think a few things:
1) Gravity should have easily taken the PGA if it were that strong to win Best Picture. But 12 Years, an unlikely winner there, had enough support across the board (meaning many number 1, number 2 and number 3 votes) to give Gravity some competition. Right now, 12 Years a Slave, once the frontrunner, is now looking like the underdog. Can it beat the massive blockbuster?
2) Gravity has two actors in it. It’s 3D and it takes place in space. None of those, any of those, have ever landed a Best Picture win. Ever. So it would be a first on that score. You could argue that it help move the Oscars in the direction the industry is going — big showy effects film. That’s something the Academy has resisted for years now, even decades, since the 1970s. They have had plenty of opportunities. Avatar was supposed to be that movie. Even Hugo seemed to have a shot of combining 3D technology with old school nostalgia. Nope. The Academy, and especially actors, like nuts and bolts filmmaking. That would favor American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave.
3) Cuaron really does have to win Best Director at the DGA for this to be a strong possibility. He is expected to, by the majority of pundits. Only I stand alone over at Gold Derby as the sole predictor for Mr. McQueen. That’s just me, folks. The lone survivor. So, let’s say McQueen wins – well, all bets are off, it’s 12 years a Slave by a mile (most will think) — it makes history at the PGA (first black producer), at the DGA (first black director) and at the Oscars (first black producer and director, and probably its screenwriter will become the second black writer to win after Geoffrey Fletcher). In a year with three strong films by black filmmakers, the Academy chose only one, shutting out both The Butler and Fruitvale Station. Somehow I don’t think that is going to sit too well with them. Remember, votes are often driven by urgency. Is there urgency to 12 Years a Slave? YES. Is there urgency to Gravity or American Hustle? I don’t know. To me, that seems far more plausible than a Gravity win for both, or a split. But don’t listen to me. What do I know about anything. I’m far too emotionally invested at this point to be reliable. Take it with a grain of salt.
4) Alfonso Cuaron will become the first Mexican filmmaker to win as well, so he makes history. It’s just that it’s nowhere near as dramatic simply because the two films say two different things. 12 Years a Slave winning means something historically to the Oscar race. Gravity’s win does to but it more represents the future of Hollywood that the Academy has not yet embraced. What is more history making there is the nature of what Gravity is. Special effects driven film, the kind the Academy hates, generally speaking. In fact, when all was said and done in 2009, The Hurt Locker took the sound categories away from Avatar, showing that Avatar wasn’t even really close to winning. What was closer? Precious, which took a screenplay prize away from Jason Reitman, who’d won EVERYTHING, and Supporting Actress.
5) Screener-TV. Gravity really needs to be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated. 12 Years a Slave plays better on screener because you are not so close to the brutality, but can sit back and gaze upon its beauty. Both films have emotionally satisfying endings. Both are tearjerkers. 12 Years has a big ensemble of actors with one of its stars, Lupita Nyong’o, a frontrunner to win. It always helps to have a winning actor on your side. Here Gravity falters. It also has no screenplay nod, another strike against it.
To sum up, yes, you should go ahead and predict Gravity – to put your trust in pundits who don’t get as emotionally involved as I do. I have laid out my reasons why I think the race will tip towards 12 Years a Slave, but the heart wants what it wants. For weeks now we’ve been hearing about how much voters love Gravity. It leads, along with American Hustle, and seems like it has a strong chance to win the whole gig. Or split the award. We just don’t really know, do we.