The Eddies that announced today are really your first big consensus vote. They have about 6,000 members currently and have been around for 50 years. The PGA are around 4,500 and they’ve been around for just a couple of decades. Today’s announcement was a good way to gauge how thousands might vote with a weighted ballot.
The Producers Guild announces on Monday and are the only group who use the preferential ballot like the Academy does. The situation is further complicated by the Academy’s only giving voters five nomination slots as opposed to ten, which the PGA has. If you have ten choices for Best Picture of the year it’s kind of a no-brainer, right? You’ll allow for those you like without shame. You’ll allow for those you feel obligated to nominate. You’ll allow for a hierarchy of importance, pushing your most desirous choices to the top of the ballot knowing that the lesser choices ain’t gonna matter all that much. But here’s the problem with that – much of the time, where the Academy is concerned anyway, weird shit starts to happen when they only have five choices and a preferential ballot.
Some voters try to game the system, deliberately putting a movie they hate at the bottom of their ballot while pushing a movie they want to help in the race right to the top. Doesn’t mean that’s their favorite of the year – it just means they know it will have a hard time getting number one votes, particularly if it isn’t touchy feely feelgood turn on your heart-light-y. As a consequence, last year and the year prior two wonderful films that should have gotten in the race didn’t because of that pesky preferential ballot. They didn’t like Llewyn Davis because he was a big loser who put a cat in a car. So it didn’t get heart light passionate ooey gooey votes. Thus, what was by far and away one of the best films of last year WITHOUT QUESTION was left off the list. If voters could look into their crystal ball and see the future, they might have put the movie higher on their lists, or specifically at number one, knowing it wasn’t going to get in. But how were they to know that? We’re only a few years into this herding cats method of counting Best Picture – the potential disasters are as yet unseen.
If ever there was a year for disasters, it’s this one. Why, because there are a lot of films that got pretty bad reviews that are going to get the heart light vote. That’s going to rubber-band the Academy back to the good ol’ days when their choices weren’t nearly as respectable as the HFPA. This year, the HFPA did the unthinkable – it shut out the Big Oscar Movies, even opting out of inviting the industry’s biggest star to their event. No one can really call them “star fuckers” after 2014.
But the jury is still out on what the Academy will do this year (be afraid, be very afraid) but we can kind of figure out wha the PGA MIGHT do on a preferential ballot, give or take a movie here or there. First, I wanted to build an all-inclusive chart that did not operate from “confirmation bias,” something I’ve been horribly guilty of for, oh, sixteen years now. It goes like this: I want a movie desperately to get into the race (cough cough Gone Girl) that others are saying “NO WAY NO HOW IS THIS MOVIE GETTING IN.” The reasons? It’s not “serious” or “important” enough. It’s too successful. No one wants a movie that isn’t serious and made $166 million at the box office up for Best Picture – otherwise they would have nominated Bridesmaids. To make myself feel better I build charts that compare this year to every other year to see if I can make a good argument for a Gone Girl inclusion.
So I built the latest charts trying NOT to do that and I came up with something unexpected. I discovered that the key to figuring out Best Picture is to combine general critics’ top ten lists and the industry. The magic formula I found was the Critics Choice (BFCA) – a group that tries to match Oscar and thus, has a working consensus. Combined that with the top ten from criticstopten.com and added the Eddie. The reason I added the Eddie is that it’s the one essential guild. You can get in without the Eddie and you can get the Eddie and still not get in but if you combine that with the critics top ten and the Critics Choice consensus you mostly get in for Best Picture. The only two times that didn’t happen? Moonrise Kingdom and yep, Inside Llewyn Davis, going back to 2009 when Oscar expanded.
Complicating things further for Gone Girl, is the lack of the early awards, like the AFI, the SAG ensemble or the Golden Globe for Best Picture. Has any film ever not gotten any one of those and gotten in? District 9 is one that did.
What happens if you add the PGA into the mix? You still have Moonrise Kingdom as the one film that got not only my magic three (Critics Choice, Critics Top Ten and Eddie) but also the AFI and the Globe.
If you take my magic three and you then add the PGA plus either the SAG ensemble or the DGA? Well, you’re in like flynn. If Gone Girl manages a DGA nod, its chances just jumped from zero to nearly a hundred. But David Fincher has a funny effect on the industry at large. Either they don’t like him because he doesn’t kiss babies enough or else they don’t like his “hard R” sensibilities – but he’s a record breaker. He broke records with The Social Network, and with the Dragon Tattoo by being the only film since 2009 to get an Eddie, a PGA and a DGA and not get in for Best Picture.
That tell me some weird shit is coming up. You know, if it’s me I’m looking at David Fincher, who revolutionized how we roll out long form film on Netflix, who just took a studio film to critical acclaim and $166 million to become the SINGLE MOST TALKED ABOUT film of the year and I’m going to check off on my ballot, number one with a bullet. But that’s just me and everyone knows my preference for this director’s magnificent work.
Okay, so now we’re at a crossroads. We have to pick our PGA ten. Will they hew closer to the AFI where Unbroken, Interstellar and American Sniper all got in? Or will they do what the Globes did and shut out those three films? Are they going to go with the critics all the way? Are they going to follow the rough consensus? Probably a mixture of all of the above. Let’s start with those that have the magic three:
Next, we have–
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
The Grand Budapest Hotel
That leaves us with one left. Since the PGA have ten and Oscar always maxes out at nine, let’s imagine what big budget movie the PGA might like, or what small-ish movie the PGA might like that no one is thinking about.
I’m wondering about whether or not Reese Witherspoon will earn double producing nods for Gone Girl and Wild and whether that will sneak in. I’m also wondering about Guardians of the Galaxy and the Lego Movie. Might either of those make their list? History tells us there’s a very good chance it will. But I’m not going to pick any of these because, for my tenth place, I’m going to pick something from the three off AFI:
Of these three, I feel like American Sniper is gaining in buzz. But I could see this tenth slot going to either of these three or all three of them. I’m not sure they will all be left off the list.
Some other possibilities include:
A Most Violent Year
Into the Woods
Finally, I can’t really leave off Foxcatcher since it’s Megan Ellison and she’s become a bit of a producing phenom in their orbit. So I’m thinking … maybe my top ten might look like this:
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
The Grand Budapest Hotel
To put in American Sniper I have to dump one and I can’t figure out which one to dump. Gun to my head, maybe Theory of Everything gets swapped for American Sniper.