We always knew this was going to be a strange awards year with unpredictable bumps here and there. How the race usually goes is that a general consensus begins to build around one movie (and we get some idea of that consensus during Telluride). Consensus builds through awards mentions, buzz, and word of mouth. It is often something you can sense, but even if you can’t sense it you can predict it, for the most part, by where the films and contenders show up.
Each new awards announcement reshapes the race yet again. That isn’t as true when one film dominates (e.g., The Artist), but it can be true when it’s a mixed up, “spread the wealth” year like this one, where the critics are split up all over the place between what films they believe are the best of the year.
Here are the films that have hit the National Board of Review Top Ten, the AFI Top Ten, and now the Globes for Best Picture:
- The Post – The only film that has hit all three groups and also received Globes nominations for both Director and Screenplay — two nominations that have a very high correlation with Best Picture
- Dunkirk — also has all three, plus Director at Globes, missing Screenplay
- Lady Bird — missing Director at the Globes.
- Get Out — missing Screenplay/Director at the Globes.
- Call Me By Your Name — missing Screenplay/Director at the Globes
And here are the films that have missed one of the three groups:
- The Shape of Water — not on NBR’s list
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — not on NBR’s list
- The Florida Project – missed Best Picture at the Globes
If we go by what we know about what wins what, The Post is your new frontrunner. But I’d say release date has also come into play with the preferential ballot and everything we know about the Oscar race since 2004, although that isn’t really do or die. The Post is a late breaker, as we call them, and those tend to be ripe for some kind of unrecoverable backlash (like what happened with The Revenant). But on the other hand, now we know backlashes can hit us at any time, no matter the release date.
If we go by release date, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is next in line, even though it missed the NBR. Again, missing the NBR is not do or die, but just in terms of historical precedent, Best Picture generally hits the NBR Top Ten along the way. The Shape of Water was released in Venice and Telluride, putting it in the sweet spot in terms of release date. Shape of Water obtaining Picture, Directing, and Screenplay nominations at the Globes also places it in a very strong position.
Next up would be Dunkirk, which has everything except Screenplay at the Globes, and might have to ride out the season without that Oscar nomination. Again, it’s not IMPOSSIBLE for it to win Best Picture without that. It just makes it a little harder. More potentially troublesome for Dunkirk is a lack of an acting nomination, and of course if it misses both acting and writing, history will be stacked against its Best Picture chances. Dunkirk’s early release date puts it in the zone of the date change (2003/2004 and prior), but not in the Telluride sweet spot. Still, The Artist and No Country for Old Men both were seen first at Cannes. So, again, release date is NOT a dealbreaker for Dunkirk, but it is another possible kink in the machine.
Three Billboards comes next because, despite having missed at NBR, it made the AFI Top 10 and has Picture, Best Actress, Director, and Screenplay at the Globes, alongside The Shape of Water and The Post. The Globes have given Three Billboards a leg up after a somewhat muted reception from the NBR and the first wave of critics groups.
As for Lady Bird, it seems odd that Greta Gerwig keeps getting Director OR Screenplay, yet it keeps going down that way for some reason. Missing Director at the Globes is really the only stumbling block in terms of historical precedents. Again, every race is organic. Every race is fluid. Every race is unique from the one that came before. Remember, Moonlight broke a mega stat when it won without winning any of the big three guild awards. It did have certain markers that we measure, however. And that’s what I’m doing here with assessing Lady Bird’s chances.
Get Out actually benefits from the lack of Director/Screenplay at the Globes — it will build sentiment and push forward. Everyone knows it’s one of the best films of the year (and has picked up steam among the critics), and seeing it slighted by the HFPA should cause blowback and backlash, which will help propel it forward.
Call Me by Your Name is in the same boat as Get Out — without a Screenplay and Director nomination from the Globes, and being as beloved as it is, people will have every incentive to push it forward because they won’t want to see it slip through the cracks.
And then we get to the stragglers, the films that could make up the last two or three slots of the Best Picture lineup. We just don’t know yet how that will go down. There are so many possibilities, but the strongest contenders for these final spots appear to be The Florida Project (which missed out at the Globes entirely), The Disaster Artist (which DID show up at the Globes and keeps building momentum), and Mudbound (which is a launching a kind of sneak attack and has a lot of sentiment behind it – we’ll see if it scores big with SAG). And there’s also perhaps The Big Sick, which was inexplicably shut out at the Globes.
The next big thing that’s going to happen will be the SAG nominations, which are coming up in just a couple of days. Those will again shift the race and solidify some films while eliminating others. And around and around it goes.
The Best Director race appears to be headed for a showdown between Christopher Nolan and Guillermo del Toro, with Steven Spielberg possibly in the running for his third Best Director trophy. Nolan may have the advantage given the sheer ambition and spectacle of Dunkirk, but The Shape of Water appears to be headed for acting and writing nominations. No film has won Best Director without either an acting or a writing nomination in 89 years of Oscar history.
In terms of the acting categories, there weren’t THAT many surprises except Jake Gyllenhaal, whom many expected to show up in Best Actor and very well might at the SAG awards. But it is still too soon to determine any winners except it’s looking good for both Willem Dafoe and Laurie Metcalf.
Finally, the Original Screenplay race continues to be a battle royale with Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, The Post, and Three Billboards all solidifying their positions, while in Adapted Screenplay the Globes have elevated Aaron Sorkin yet again into the conversation. One stat worth noting: that last film to win an Oscar for screenplay (in either category) without a corresponding Globes nomination was Precious in 2009. Given that both Get Out and Call Me by Your Name both missed Best Screenplay today at the Globes, that streak may face its biggest test this year.
The Globes have added another set of twists and turns to one of the most wide open Oscar races in recent memory, and so far there are no indications that this trajectory will change. Continue to expect the unexpected, Oscar watchers.