I think we convince ourselves that the race will go the way we think it will. At least I do. There are years where it seems wide open, like 2015 when the Big Short won the PGA, The Revenant won the DGA, and Spotlight won the SAG then went on to win Best Picture with only one other Oscar, Original Screenplay.
Last year, however, was truly one of the hardest to endure. We knew the winner at the outset. There was no other movie that could challenge Nomadland. It was partly the movie and partly the idea of the movie winning. Take your pick: both are strong motivators to bring in a winner.
This year is different, though. It isn’t a year, necessarily, where history will be made — or doesn’t appear to be. That can be a very strong motivator like “First International Feature to win” or “First Film by a Woman of Color.” This year, the movies that could win seem to be down to the same three they’ve been for a while:
The Power of the Dog
West Side Story
Film Twitter would love for Licorice Pizza to have a shot, and Paul Thomas Anderson is going to win some year — but probably not this year, although one never knows. Never say never. I had the idea of trying to pigeonhole the race by limiting our picks of what we think might win.
Let’s travel over to Gold Derby to see if anyone has any other movies but those mentioned above winning.
Otherwise, it goes like this:
Power of the Dog
West Side Story
First off, there is no reason to lock down behind one choice right now. It is better for the Oscar race to have things a little more fluid. But just for the hell of it, let’s look at a few stats we use.
The Golden Globes Screenplay Stat — the only films that win have to have a Globes screenplay nomination.
And those are:
The Power of the Dog
Don’t Look Up
Being the Ricardos
You have to go back to 2004 when Clint Eastwood and Million Dollar Baby missed Screenplay and won Best Picture. Heck, even The Artist had a Globes screenplay nod. So this seems to indicate West Side Story might not make it all the way. But if, say, Steven Spielberg won Best Director at the Globes like Clint did that year, who knows.
Second thing is the divisive nature of a film based on the audience score at RT. Critics seem to matter less these days because they reflect a hive mind that kind of, sort of agrees with itself. We know what the critically acclaimed films were. The reason this matters is that The Power of the Dog has a low audience score. Its other hurdle is being a Netflix movie. Can this be the first Best Picture winner for a streaming service? It’s going to happen eventually. We just don’t know when.
Audience scores (90+ in bold):
Nomadland – 82 with 500 ratings
Parasite – 90 with 5,000 ratings
Green Book – 91 with 10,000 ratings
The Shape of Water – 72 with 25,000 ratings
Moonlight – 79 with 25,000 ratings
Spotlight – 93 with 50,000 ratings
Birdman – 78 with 50,000 ratings
12 Years a Slave – 90 with 100,000 ratings
Argo – 90 with 100,000 ratings
The Artist – 87 with 50,000
The King’s Speech – 92 with 100,000 ratings
The Hurt Locker – 84 with 50,000 ratings
Slumdog Millionaire – 90 with 250,000 ratings
So let’s look at how our contenders are faring now.
Belfast – 91 with 500 ratings
Power of the Dog – 61 with 1,000 ratings
King Richard – 98 with 1,000 ratings
West Side Story – 94 with 1,000 ratings
None of them are going to beat Spider-Man: No Way Home, which astonishingly, is 99 with 25,000 ratings.
What are some of the others?
Dune – 90 with 5,000 ratings
Being the Ricardos – 73 with 100 ratings
House of Gucci – 83 with 2,500 ratings
CODA – 93 with 500 ratings
Licorice Pizza – 90 with 100 ratings
Don’t Look Up – 77 with 100 ratings
I don’t understand why the rating for Power of the Dog is so low. I have seen plenty of great great movies come in with low audience ratings but in general they are not Best Picture winners. It doesn’t have an impact on Best Director.
Roma – 72 with 5,000 ratings
The Revenant – 84 with 100,000 ratings
Life of Pi – 84 with 100,000 ratings
La La Land – 81 with 50,000 ratings
They have less than the Best Picture winners. The reason is the preferential ballot is a strange animal. It also comes down to a large consensus vote of 9,000 people. To me, The Power of the Dog looks like a Best Director winner and looks like a movie that, like La La land, people loved it or they didn’t. There is no in between on that one. The rub is that to make a really great movie you often have to disturb people. 2001: A Space Odyssey I feel sure would not have won on a preferential ballot and we know Citizen Kane did not. It has nothing to do with quality — it just means it takes people time to catch up with it. Most of my favorite movies are movies that are divisive and can’t score high on an audience rating. But most of my favorite movies aren’t going to win Best Picture on a preferential ballot either.
Maybe it means something, maybe it doesn’t. We’re not into the thick of the season yet where we get most of our stats. We need to hear from the Globes then from the Producers, the Directors, and the Actors. Which of the PGA, DGA, and SAG will Power of the Dog win? All of them? DGA?
The other question is that Drive My Car won Best Picture with both the LAFCA and the NYFCC. With the lone exception of Leaving Las Vegas, every film that won both of those was nominated for Best Picture. I am not sure it will work that way this year because the movie itself is fairly challenging, I’d say. Lovely, moving, but challenging. If you’re working with ten nominees, I would imagine, the Academy is going to want to go bigger, not more niche. But who knows. It’s early yet.
On January 12th, we’ll get a look at our Screen Actors Guild nominees. The BAFTA longlist also drops that day, although that is equity-based, meaning half have to come from women and have from men in the Best Director category.
Finally, WAY WAY WAY at the end of January on the 27th, Oscar voting begins, and the Directors, the Writers, and Producers Guild all announce on the same freaking day, not to mention costume designers. Like what? That’s what it says over at AwardsWatch’s calendar:
Because we have an extra month before voting starts, and final voting doesn’t end until February 22, we know that things can change, buzz can shift. We don’t know where we will be by then. We do know that it’s either a Slumdog Millionaire/The Artist kind of year or it’s a Spotlight/Moonlight/Parasite kind of year. We have a ways to go yet. Let’s hope we can keep things interesting in the meantime.