So has a BAFTA win cemented The Revenant as a clear Oscar front runner in a Best Picture race that, until now, has not had one? Its five wins at BAFTA – actor for Leonardo DiCaprio, Sound, Cinematography, Director and Film – can be taken with last week’s DGA win for Alejandro G. Inarritu and a Golden Globe victory for Best Picture Drama as clear signals for a Best Picture Oscar win two weeks from tonight. Plus, it has turned into a sizable box office hit. With 12 additional nominations, more than any other film, The Revenant is leading the race with an Academy-wide support that usually, not always, leads to a Best Pic win.
BAFTA has disagreed with the Oscar’s eventual pick only once in the past six years, and that’s when they went with Boyhood over Inarritu’s Birdman last year. Was this a makeup win for Mr. Inarritu? Birdman had stormed through the usually predictive Guilds at this point winning DGA, SAG Cast Award and PGA, but the BAFTA win for Boyhood forced me to write a headline that said “Not so fast, Birdman.” Can I write a similar one today, even with Revenant taking these precursor awards? “Not so fast, Revenant”? Well, yes and no. The race is certainly not over, not by a long shot. Unlike BAFTA and the DGA, the Motion Picture Academy, where voting for Oscars started Friday and goes through February 23, uses a preferential system in picking Best Picture, exactly like the PGA.
Of course at PGA the big winner was The Big Short. It won the consensus game there that preferential balloting encourages, so your number 2 choice is just as important in some ways as your number one pick, or passion vote. There is no question that The Revenant is getting lots of number one votes for Oscar. It has a lot of supporters, but among members I talk to there is also a strong faction that seems to be putting it further down the ballot. They admire the film making challenge but don’t love it. And the big-screen epic doesn’t play as well on screeners, a preferred way of viewing for many members. The Big Short and Spotlight, repeating their WGA screenplay wins at BAFTA, are still in it despite the fact that they each only got that one win today. Both those films have very passionate support and seem likely to become more of a consensus-style choice at the Oscars than Revenant, which is triumphing for sheer awesome filmmaking prowess. Revenant doesn’t have a Screenplay nomination, a bad omen when you consider the only films in the past 67 years to have won Best Picture without at least a screenplay nomination are Titanic, The Sound Of Music and Olivier’s Hamlet in 1948.
But the very dark Revenant, without recognition for a script that is light on dialogue, could defy those odds, benefitting from two big social issue movies (Spotlight and Big Short) canceling each other out.
But by the usual signposts we use for prognosticating Oscars, this is still a wide open race, with The Revenant having scored key wins at the Globes, DGA and BAFTA, Big Short at PGA and WGA, and Spotlight at Critics Choice, SAG and WGA. There are no other major movie awards to be handed out between now and the Oscars that could shake up the dynamic. These are the tea leaves. The momentum though, as of today, has to be signaling a very big night for The Revenant, and a remarkable shot at a third Best Picture win in a row for New Regency and their collaboration with Fox, a feat only achieved in the past by United Artists in 1975-77, and (thanks to a collaboration with Universal on A Beautiful Mind) DreamWorks in 1999-2001 .
As for the rest of BAFTA’s impact? Four craft wins for Mad Max: Fury Road seem like good news for that film which, unlike the Oscars where it has Picture and Director nods, only had 7 technical noms at BAFTA. It could fare very well in the same Oscar categories. The absent Brie Larson’s Best Actress win for Room can now be added to her Golden Globe, Critics Choice and SAG wins, meaning she has run the table of the precursors and seems unbeatable at the Oscars. Same for DiCaprio as Best Actor .
No suspense in either one of those categories. Creed didn’t get to enough BAFTA voters in time to land Sylvester Stallone a nomination from the Brits, so Bridge Of Spies’ Mark Rylance prevailed, giving him a boost though certainly not halting the Sly Oscar momentum in the Supporting Actor race. BAFTA resisted the opportunity to soften diversity protests by bypassing SAG winner Idris Elba, also a nominee today. And for supporting actress, Oscar front runner Alicia Vikander lost to Steve Jobs’ Kate Winslet, a hometown favorite repeating her Golden Globe win over Vikander. The caveat here for Vikander is that her BAFTA and GG noms were for Ex-Machina, not The Danish Girl. Both BAFTA and GG correctly deemed Danish Girl a leading role (and she lost both to Larson). Focus’ shrewd move of getting her into the Oscar and SAG supporting races for Danish Girl has already resulted in a SAG win and keeps her in the lead for Oscar, though of the four acting categories I would say Supporting Actress is not the absolute lock the others seem to be. Other BAFTA wins that have a huge chance to repeat at the Oscars are Ennio Morricone’s highly deserved prize for his The Hateful Eight score, Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Effects triumph, Inside Out for Animated Feature and Amy for Documentary.
As for those single Screenplay wins for Spotlight as Original and The Big Short as Adapted, you can take that result to the bank at the Oscars too, but can either go further? After BAFTA, it’s looking tougher. It reminds me of the 1951 Oscar race where two big dramas A Place In The Sun and A Streetcar Named Desire were duking it out for Best Picture when MGM’s musical An American In Paris unexpectedly slipped in and won instead. The next day MGM took an ad in Variety that showed a caricature of their Leo The Lion sheepishly captioned: “Honestly, I was just standing ‘In The Sun’ waiting for a ‘Streetcar.'” Will The Revenant take on that role this year? But whatever the ultimate outcome Spotlight’s Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer and The Big Short’s Adam McKay and Charles Randolph are having a hell of a holiday weekend. In just 20 hours they jet-setted from L.A. to London and won two major awards from the WGA and BAFTA. At last night’s WGAs, Randolph told me the schedule was so tight that they would probably be showering at Heathrow and changing into their tuxedos in the car taking them to the BAFTAs! Ah, just another day on the awards circuit.
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