Scott Feinberg does some post-game analysis after the Critics Choice awards. He is still, like most other pundits, predicting a split between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. I have this weird feeling, even still, that, at the end of the day, the DGA will go to David O. Russell and American Hustle will eventually take Picture, Director at the Oscars. I believe I have only ever seen one person correctly predict a split and that was David Carr who predicted Crash and Ang Lee in 2005. Since then, and since the Academy expanded Best Picture there have been so splits, which hasn’t stopped people from predicting them. Remember, to split this vote you have to have the majority of the Academy choosing to vote for one film for Best Picture and another for Best Director. Ask yourself why someone might do that. Is that because they like both films and want to reward both? Sure, Cuaron and McQueen are both making history with their wins. McQueen’s win would have greater impact culturally, especially this year. Believe me when I say this, Oscarwatchers. It doesn’t mean nothing for a black director to win an Oscar. It would mean everything.
Cuaron is also on the list at the PGA to win should Gravity take that prize. And Megan Ellison is listed as producer should it be American Hustle. Yet the pundits continue to predict that the Academy will say yes to 12 Years for Picture and Cuaron for Director. In my experience, you follow the director. If Cuaron wins the DGA, Gravity is likely your best bet for Best Picture. If 12 Years is your Best Picture winner, McQueen is your directing choice. I could be completely wrong here but I really don’t see how a split can happen and be one any of us saw coming.
Here’s the thing. When splits do occur, the “popular” film wins and the more artistically brave director wins directing. You can’t count last year because the favorite to win BP had no directing nominations. But let’s look at some recent examples of splits:
2005 – Crash (popular, SAG ensemble winner) vs. Brokeback (paid respect but didn’t ‘like’)
1981 – Chariots of Fire (popular) vs. Reds (paid respect but didn’t ‘like’)
2000 – Gladiator (popular) vs. Traffic (paid respect)
1998 – Shakespeare in Love (popular) vs. Saving Private Ryan (respected)
Not saying the films that won Director weren’t also popular but they weren’t popular over a broad spectrum, meaning, you could not really sit anyone in front of them and they would get them if not love them.
So it seems to follow, to me, that McQueen would win Director and Gravity would win Best Picture if a split were to occur. It is simply unheard of for a more artistically daring movie to win in Best Picture and more popular director to win. It isn’t the way the voters seem to think, in mass. So I don’t get my colleagues support of this notion, even though it happened at the Golden Globes and at the Critics Choice. When a large consensus gets a crack at it you might see something different go down.
In my world, the director always leads the way. But the PGA represents the large consensus in a preferential vote. If this strange split does play out it will be yet another odd year like last year. Or David O. Russell and American Hustle could take PGA, DGA, SAG then Oscar.