It might not seem exciting to the average person, but here in awards world we’re waiting on one movie to break up many of the stats upon which we rely to figure out what will win Best Picture. There are two schools of thought when it comes to Oscar predicting. The first is to go on gut and intuition — or to sometimes pad that by speaking to actual voters (which can often be misleading). Intuition says that you jut feel the buzz. You can’t really explain why. You either feel it or you suspect it or you want it really really bad. The second method is to go by stats. Not just any stats, but the informative stats that are based on things like the number of people voting, the kinds of people voting, and the reasons why they are choosing what they choose. I have to admit that this year has confounded both methods. Intuition, because the pundits have been mostly wrong from the outset. And stats, because if pundits are right, this could be the year the stats all went to shit. Like credit default swaps shit.
There are three movies now that can win Best Picture: Spotlight, The Big Short and The Revenant.
This is a year unlike any we’ve seen since the preferential ballot was put in place in 2009, which means it has been an unpredictable year in an unpredictable way. If Boyhood was part of an unpredictable year, it was unpredictable in a predictable way: Boyhood was thought to be the presumptive winner until Birdman won the PGA. Once that happened, it became a done deal because Birdman then won the SAG Ensemble award and the DGA, just like Argo had in 2012. The one thing Birdman didn’t win, though, was the BAFTA for Best Picture, marking the first time since the preferential ballot was put in place at the PGA that they didn’t match. This could be because BAFTA voters hadn’t yet caught the last minute surge of Birdman’s unpredictable bounce in the end game, or it could be they just couldn’t believe the Best Picture was going to Birdman. Either way, the end result was the end result.
So why didn’t they go for Birdman? Well, the Boyhood momentum was big everywhere except within the American industry — perhaps, more precisely, the American movie awards industry — where there was a push-back to “stop Boyhood at all costs,” or for voters to say “it wasn’t THAT good,” or “I wanted something to happen but it never did.”
Looking back on it, the reasons why Birdman beat Boyhood are more obvious, but at the time it didn’t “feel” that way. The BAFTA voters aren’t exactly like Oscar voters. They are a little less consensus-oriented. They tend to split their votes up more among many fine films than the Academy voters do. The reason for this may comes down to the Oscar’s expanded Best Picture ballot. With more movies, the nominations and wins are more likely to come from Best Picture nominees (something like 80+%). With only five Best Picture nominees, that’s impossible — with only 5 BP nominees, there aren’t enough filmmakers to fill up all the categories. Thus, the BAFTA voters tend to spread the wealth a little more. Boyhood was a film they didn’t have to resent because it was made outside the studio system — all the American films are outside the British studio system. They don’t seem to sympathize with one of Birdman’s thematic laments: that Hollywood is being overtaken by Superhero movies. In the UK and elsewhere, they enjoy our imported blockbusters without a grudge, because they don’t threaten their film industry so much. Birdman was all but shut out at the BAFTAs last year. Despite having ten nominations, Birdman won only cinematography.
From 2009 through 2013, the BAFTA always agreed with the Academy’s choice for Best Picture, even splitting Picture and Director in 2013 the same way, giving Best Picture to 12 Years a Slave and Director to Alfonso Cuaron. The last time the two groups didn’t agree was when the BAFTA chose Atonement (which had also won the Golden Globe), over No Country for Old Men, which eventually won the Oscar.
The BAFTA changed their schedule in 2000 so that their awards ceremony could be held before Oscar Night. They changed their voting procedures in mid-2012 (new rules which took effect in 2013) to more closely mirror the way the Academy does it. Branches (or “chapters”) choose the nominees for their corresponding categories, and the entire membership chooses the winners. (Strangely enough, for years they did it in reverse: the entire membership would help chose the nominees in every category, and then the experts in each BAFTA chapter would choose the winners.) Before 2012 they had a complicated three-stage process. First, longlists of 15 choices were named for each category; next, these were narrowed down to shortlists of 5 choices per category, and finally, in the 3rd stage, voters would select the winner. Now they have only two rounds of voting — they skip the initial longlist altogether and go directly 5 nominees per category as the Oscars have done for over 80 years. The process for choosing Best Picture at the BAFTAs has remained unchanged from 2000 to now — every BAFTA member votes on the Best Picture nominees, every member votes on the winners.
The problem here is the same problem we encounter with the SAG Ensemble award and the DGA award: the BAFTA, too, tabulates its ballots by simple plurality — the film with the highest total number of votes wins after one round of counting. And they still have only five Best Picture nominees. The Oscars, of course, can now have 7, 8, 9 or the mythical 10 nominees for Best Picture and use the preferential process to redistribute ballots until a film reaches a majority of support. Even with 8 nominees, the Oscar system is dramatically different from, say, the PGA vote which has 10.
With all this divergence in the voting processes, we will likely and understandably still be in the dark, even after the BAFTAs weigh in with their choice for Best Picture. We’ve only seen one competition where the circumstances were similar — that’s the DGA, where Spotlight (SAG winner) went up against The Revenant and The Big Short (PGA winner). The Revenant’s Alejandro González Iñárritu came out the winner with the DGA. Thus, it seems semi-likely that 6,000 or so BAFTA members will choose the same movie 17,000 DGA members did; Spotlight was not competing with The Revenant at SAG.
Complicating matters even further, Iñárritu and Birdman didn’t win at BAFTA last year, which might mean they will win this year. There will be no BAFTA voters thinking: “Well, he already won, just a year ago.” If The Revenant wins Best Picture and Best Director at the BAFTA, that along with the DGA may point to an upcoming Revenant blow-out at the Oscars.
You might say, well that’s a no-brainer. The Oscar race is over. And it might be. There is a snag, however. There is always a snag.
No film has ever won Best Picture at the BAFTAs without a screenplay nomination, going way way way back (to 1989). Who knows if this matters this year? We will find out in four days, won’t we?
Many will say, “Well, it’s not surprising that The Revenant’s screenplay was overlooked; it doesn’t have much dialogue.” That reasoning doesn’t hold water, because Gravity and The Artist both had BAFTA screenplay nominations and they had even less dialogue than The Revenant. Why would a lack of a screenplay nomination matter? Simply because great films are almost always built on a great story and memorable dialogue. Is The Revenant a good story or is it more of a good “experience”? We’ll find out whether the story matters or not in terms of Best Picture, or whether the “experience” can carry it over to the win.
Iñárritu, it seems to me, has the halo effect going on — meaning, he’s handsome, he’s talented, he’s everything that every man in Hollywood wants to be. He’s making films everyone in Hollywood wants to make. Those kinds of icons aren’t born every day. Will the halo effect carry him and The Revenant to a big win without the crucial screenplay nomination? It might. Odds are, it will.
The BAFTA has only nominated one film this year in Picture, Director and Screenplay that matches the Oscars — Adam McKay’s The Big Short. Though it is strong on story, complexity, humor, acting, editing and directing, it has been deemed by many to be “too smart” or “too confusing” for the masses. The Big Short won at the ACE Eddies in the comedy category, while Mad Max: Fury Road, not The Revenant, took the Drama win. The Big Short most significantly won the PGA on a preferential ballot — the only other preferential ballot in the race besides the Oscars.
But it isn’t like The Big Short has won much outside those two awards. The critics didn’t warm to it, the industry has partly warmed to it. But what it seems to have right now, at least in an American sense, is that it addresses the breakdown of the American dream itself. It’s the best “fiddle while Rome burns” film that has ever been made about our American idiocy. What was happening while our attentions were focused elsewhere? Oh, nothing. Just the near collapse of the worldwide financial system and the entire American economy.
The resentment over the 2008 financial collapse and the subsequent bailout is the flame under this year’s presidential election. The Big Short, unfortunately, has been co-opted by many supporters of Bernie Sanders, which may or may not help it on a competitive preferential ballot, especially if Hollywood types like Susan Sarandon and Michael Moore think it would help the Sanders campaign by naming this film as Best Picture.
Still, that kind of surge vote doesn’t help on a preferential ballot. The movie has to be liked and loved in equal amounts. Loved: to get the #1 votes. Liked: to place high on a ballot even if it isn’t #1. For Oscar, The Revenant really has to come in with an astonishing number of #1 votes to win in the first round of balloting. If it can’t get a substantial number of votes in the first round of counting, ballots from eliminated nominees will be redistributed and we suspect most will go to other less polarizing films. And that is where The Revenant may have trouble. It’s simply not a #2 film. It’s either a #1 film with a voter, or else it’s going much lower ranked.
Spotlight has no Best Director nomination at the BAFTAs. Although their voting process has changed, having no directing nomination there, and especially no preferential ballot, might make it harder to benefit from a surge vote. But the mentality in the final phase of voting changes slightly from the way voters think when choosing nominees. Once you have an idea of what films can win, the vote for the winner comes down to that. People who don’t like The Big Short or The Revenant might pick Spotlight, even without a directing nomination.
I find myself in that stubborn place of denial where I think it’s probably going to be The Revenant but something keeps me from predicting it whole hog. Maybe it’s because I love the Big Short so much and I actively want it to win. Or maybe it’s because no SAG Ensemble nomination + no BAFTA/Oscar screenplay nominations have always been insurmountable roadblocks for winning Best Picture, regardless.
The only thing on the line for me is shame and humiliation from my colleagues. The question is whether I’m up for it or not. If I am up for it, I’ll predict the PGA winner to win both the BAFTA and Oscar’s Best Picture. If I’m not up for it, I will hide behind a Revenant prediction because if I’m wrong no one will say “she only picked it because she liked it.” If I pick The Revenant and I’m right, no harm, no foul. But it won’t matter that much, except to have dodged a shame and humiliation drive-by, since so many others will be predicting The Revenant. If I stick with The Big Short, and no one else is predicting it, and by some weird fluke it wins? Well, that’s a higher payout on a riskier bet. Here’s Selena Gomez to explain. Just kidding.
Fair warning. Don’t you be like me. Long time readers of this site know that most of the time when I put my heart on the line I crash and burn. I don’t want to take you down with me.
Either which way, here are our BAFTA predictions, for better or worse. A couple of things to note – last year, Whiplash won both Sound and Editing at BAFTAs before going on to win both those categories at the Oscars. The Imitation Game did not win adapted screenplay. The Theory of Everything did. Even though Birdman came in with the most BAFTA nominations compared to Boyhood, it still did not win anything except Cinematography, before going on to win Picture, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography at the Oscars.
“The Big Short,” Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Brad Pitt <— predicted winner, Sasha Stone, Marshall Flores
“Bridge of Spies,” Kristie Macosko Krieger, Marc Platt, Steven Spielberg
“Carol,” Elizabeth Karlsen, Christine Vachon, Stephen Woolley
“The Revenant,” Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Inarritu, Arnon Milchan, Mary Parent, Keith Redmon
“Spotlight,” Steve Golin, Blye Pagon Faust, Nicole Rocklin, Michael Sugar
“The Big Short,” Adam McKay
“Bridge of Spies,” Steven Spielberg
“Carol,” Todd Haynes
“The Martian,” Ridley Scott
“The Revenant,” Alejandro G. Inarritu <—predicted winner, Stone, Flores
“Bridge of Spies,” Matthew Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
“Ex Machina,” Alex Garland <—predicted winner, Flores
“The Hateful Eight,” Quentin Tarantino
“Inside Out,” Josh Cooley, Pete Docter, Meg Lefauve
“Spotlight,” Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer <—predicted winner, Stone
“The Big Short,” Adam McKay, Charles Randolph <—predicted winner, Stone, Flores
“Brooklyn,” Nick Hornby
“Carol,” Phyllis Nagy
“Room,” Emma Donoghue
“Steve Jobs,” Aaron Sorkin
Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant” <—predicted winner, Stone, Flores
Matt Damon, “The Martian”
Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs”
Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”
Brie Larson, “Room” <—predicted winner, Stone
Cate Blanchett, “Carol”
Maggie Smith, “The Lady in the Van”
Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn” <—predicted winner, Flores
Benicio Del Toro, “Sicario”
Christian Bale, “The Big Short” <—predicted winner, Stone
Idris Elba, “Beasts of No Nation”
Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”
Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies” <—predicted winner, Flores
Alicia Vikander, “Ex Machina” <—predicted winner, Stone, Flores
Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”
Julie Walters, “Brooklyn”
Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”
Rooney Mara, “Carol”
“Bridge of Spies,” Thomas Newman
“The Hateful Eight,” Ennio Morricone <—predicted winner, Stone, Flores
“The Revenant,” Ryuichi Sakamoto, Carsten Nicolai
“Sicario,” Johann Johannsson
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” John Williams
“Bridge of Spies,” Janusz Kaminski
“Carol,” Ed Lachman
“Mad Max: Fury Road,” John Seale
“The Revenant,” Emmanuel Lubezki <—predicted winner, Stone, Flores
“Sicario,” Roger Deakins
“The Big Short,” Hank Corwin <—predicted winner, Stone, Flores
“Bridge of Spies,” Michael Kahn
“Mad Max: Fury Road,” Margaret Sixel
“The Martian,” Pietro Scalia
“The Revenant,” Stephen Mirrione
“Bridge of Spies,” Adam Stockhausen, Rena Deangelo
“Carol,” Judy Becker, Heather Loeffler <—predicted winner, Stone
“Mad Max: Fury Road,” Colin Gibson, Lisa Thompson <—predicted winner, Flores
“The Martian,” Arthur Max, Celia Bobak
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Rick Carter, Darren Gilford, Lee Sandales
“Brooklyn,” Odile Dicks-Mireaux
“Carol,” Sandy Powell <–predicted winner, Stone
“Cinderella,” Sandy Powell <–predicted winner, Flores
“The Danish Girl,” Paco Delgado
“Mad Max: Fury Road,” Jenny Beavan
MAKEUP & HAIR
“Brooklyn,” Morna Ferguson, Lorraine Glynn
“Carol,” Jerry Decarlo, Patricia Regan
“The Danish Girl,” Jan Sewell
“Mad Max: Fury Road,” Lesley Vanderwalt, Damian Martin <—predicted winner, Flores
“The Revenant,” Sian Grigg, Duncan Jarman, Robert Pandini <—predicted winner, Stone
“Bridge of Spies,” Drew Kunin, Richard Hymns, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom
“Mad Max: Fury Road,” Scott Hecker, Chris Jenkins, Mark Mangini, Ben Osmo, Gregg Rudloff, David White <—predicted winner, Stone, Flores
“The Martian,” Paul Massey, Mac Ruth, Oliver Tarney, Mark Taylor
“The Revenant,” Lon Bender, Chris Duesterdiek, Martin Hernandez, Frank A. Montano, Jon Taylor, Randy Thom
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” David Acord, Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio, Matthew Wood, Stuart Wilson
SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS
“Ant-Man,” Jake Morrison, Greg Steele, Dan Sudick, Alex Wuttke
“Ex Machina,” Mark Ardington, Sara Bennett, Paul Norris, Andrew Whitehurst <—predicted winner, Stone
“Mad Max: Fury Road,” Andrew Jackson, Dan Oliver, Tom Wood, Andy Williams <—predicted winner, Flores
“The Martian,” Chris Lawrence, Tim Ledbury, Richard Stammers, Steven Warner
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Chris Corbould, Roger Guyett, Paul Kavanagh, Neal Scanlan
FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
“The Assassin,” Hou Hsiao-Hsien
“Force Majeure,” Ruben Ostlund
“Theeb,” Naji Abu Nowar, Rupert Lloyd <—predicted winner, Stone, Flores
“Timbuktu,” Abderrahmane Sissako
“Wild Tales,” Damian Szifron
“Amy,” Asif Kapadia, James Gay-Rees <—predicted winner, Stone, Flores
“Cartel Land,” Matthew Heineman, Tom Yellin
“He Named Me Malala,” Davis Guggenheim, Walter Parkes, Laurie Macdonald
“Listen to Me Marlon,” Stevan Riley, John Battsek, George Chignell, R.J. Cutler
“Sherpa,” Jennifer Peedom, Bridget Ikin, John Smithson
“Inside Out,” Pete Docter <–predicted winner, Stone, Flores
“Minions,” Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda
“Shaun the Sheep Movie,” Mark Burton, Richard Starzak
OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM
“45 Years,” Andrew Haigh, Tristan Goligher
“Amy,” Asif Kapadia, James Gay-Rees
“Brooklyn,” John Crowley, Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey, Nick Hornby <—predicted winner, Flores
“The Danish Girl,” Tom Hooper, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Anne Harrison, Gail Mutrux, Lucinda Coxon
“Ex Machina,” Alex Garland, Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich <—predicted winner, Stone
“The Lobster,” Yorgos Lanthimos, Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday, Efthimis Filippou
OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER
Alex Garland (Director) “Ex Machina” <—predicted winner, Stone, Flores
Debbie Tucker Green (Writer/Director) “Second Coming”
Naji Abu Nowar (Writer/Director) Rupert Lloyd (Producer) “Theeb” – Alt, Stone
Sean Mcallister (Director/Producer), Elhum Shakerifar (Producer) “A Syrian Love Story”
Stephen Fingleton (Writer/Director) “The Survivalist”
You can take our contest!