With the Writers Guild the last of the major awards to announce, just a few days before the final Oscar ballots are due — though how many voters will have already cast their ballots? Either way, both categories remain wide open.
Original Screenplay is a three-way race between The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman and Boyhood. The BAFTA chose Budapest over Birdman, which was surprising. In fact, both scripts that were disallowed by the WGA (King’s Speech and The Artist) both won the BAFTA for screenplay. Will the Academy, with all of its actors dominating final voting, go for Birdman instead? If Birdman is to win Best Picture, as all of the major guilds have dictated, will it also have to win writing?
The predictions at Gold Derby are all over the place, truth be told, with 7 predicting Birdman and 12 predicting Grand Budapest Hotel.
The Globes gave their screenplay award to Birdman because Budapest took the top prize. The BAFTA gave Birdman just one award for cinematography, a highly unusual move for a Best Picture frontrunner. In fact, it’s never happened that a film won the PGA/DGA/SAG and only won a single Bafta in the techs.
All of the films that won those three, since BAFTA shifted their date, also won a significant award at BAFTA.
That already makes Birdman breaking with precedent in a third significant way. One thing we’ve learned from our past, though, is that when they want to pick a movie they like all stats and history go out the window.
But just in terms of Best Picture we now have to add, for a Birdman win, to overcome:
Not winning the Golden Globe for comedy (it went to Budapest)
Not having an editing nomination
Not winning screenplay or actor or any major award beyond cinematography at BAFTA
All three of these things make Birdman’s potential win a long shot, even with the big three. Remember, the big three have always resulted in a major award at BAFTA, if not Best Picture. How do films with the big three stack up with the WGA?
UPDATE: Birdman is not eligible for the WGA – for some reason I forgot this when I first wrote this piece — that puts it in the King’s Speech/The Artist territory. BOTH won the BAFTA for Screenplay but Birdman did not. One won the Oscar, the other didn’t. Both in original.
2012 – Argo: PGA/DGA/BAFTA/SAG/Oscar – WGA/Oscar
2011 – The Artist: PGA/DGA/SAG/BAFTA/Oscar – was not eligible for WGA, won Oscar SILENT FILM
2010 – The King’s Speech: PGA/DGA/SAG/BAFTA/Oscar – not eligible for WGA/won Oscar
2009 – The Hurt Locker: PGA/DGA/BAFTA/Oscar – WGA/Oscar
2008 – Slumdog Millionaire (PGA/DGA/SAG/BAFTA) – WGA/Oscar
2003 – Return of the King (PGA/DGA/SAG/BAFTAs) – WGA/Oscar
1999 – American Beauty (PGA/DGA/SAG) – WGA/Oscar
1995 – Apollo 13 – (PGA/DGA/SAG) – did not win WGA
Therefore, if you’re predicting Birdman to win Best Picture you should predict it to win the WGA.
We can’t really count BAFTA much in terms of history because of their date change (2000) and their changes in voting procedure (2012) but since 2012, the Best Picture winner has won the BAFTA for Best Picture, Argo and 12 Years a Slave.
Adapted Screenplay is also quite a toss-up. Since the Best Picture heat is in the original category, adapted is kind of up in the air. Gillian Flynn and Gone Girl would have won this prize, I think, had Whiplash not knocked it out of the category. The reason being the buzz would have grown every time Flynn hit the mic. She’s funny and she would have made Academy history. What a shame to see these opportunities vanish like that.
The Imitation Game has the overwhelming support over at Gold Derby. That is primarily because it won the Scripter and the predictions took place before the BAFTAS. Clearly, the brits did not much care for the film since it didn’t even get a directing nominations. The Oscar voters and the industry DO care for the film because they have Morten Tyldum nominated both at the DGA and a the Oscars.
But now you have to factor in Whiplash, which was put in the adapted category and is very much loved by both BAFTA and Oscar. Now we have three films to choose from and we have no precursor to go off of, not until the WGA and even then it’s a toss-up.
Other than Argo, you have to go back to 1998 to find a year when the Adapted Screenplay Oscar went to a film without a directing nomination. The BAFTA picked The Theory of Everything, which did have a directing nomination. But the Oscars did not give James Marsh a nomination for directing, which means that The Imitation Game is the stronger of two.
Finally, Anne Thompson is predicting American Sniper to win the Oscar for Adapted. I think that’s a very strong prediction – and thus, Sniper would be a great prediction for both the WGA and the Oscar.
The bottom line: both screenplay categories are wide open and unpredictable.