Pundits will probably look at today’s Outstanding Film BAFTA victory by Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri over its (at least nominally) more favored Fox Searchlight stablemate The Shape Of Water as perhaps a game-changing moment in this year’s still unsettled Best Picture Oscar race. Certainly it gives the Martin McDonagh film new
momentum, especially after his snub by the Academy’s directors branch. (And that may not matter much since the BAFTA directorial win for Guillermo Del Toro for Shape all but cements an Oscar win in that category as well, as if it needed more concrete). And this five-win victory (each one of which I correctly predicted over at PMC’s Gold Derby betting site) including Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Original Screenplay , and Best British Film should not really be looked at as much of a surprise since despite its very American
storyline, Three Billboards is a thoroughly British production. Plus as I pointed out in my Notes On The Season column on Friday, the recent real life uses of the Three Billboards idea to demand action in unsolved cases in London and elsewhere may be a matter of perfect timing. They emphasize the fact that this film about an outraged mother’s desperate acts to get justice for the murder and rape of her daughter can only increase its importance in the social sphere – something voters take very seriously in awarding Best Picture. BAFTA voters probably gave it points for being a British-co-financed film that uncovers some uncomfortable and very dark aspects of life in America today.
All that said, the correlation between BAFTA winners and Oscar winners in recent years has been spotty at best. In fact they haven’t
agreed on Best Picture since 2013’s 12 Years A Slave, although in that particular year they only matched on one out of the four acting winners. Recent BAFTA Best Film winners La La Land, The Revenant and Boyhood all failed to repeat that victory a couple of weeks later at the Oscars. Last year, in fact, the two organizations, who share more than 600 common members, only agreed on about half the overall winners in categories where they have overlap, so you should proceed with caution if you use the BAFTA results as a guide to filling out your entry in the Oscar pool. The difference in the top award between these two groups can probably be chalked up to the Motion Picture Academy’s use of a preferential voting system in determining Best Picture. That means your second choice could be more important that your first as the Academy tries to reach a “consensus” rather than the up-or-down vote they use in the 23 other categories.
While still keeping the Oscar Best Picture contest in the too-close-to-call category, today’s BAFTA results did help solidify favorites in other categories, including all four acting races (McDormand, Rockwell, Janney, Oldman); director for Del Toro; adapted screenplay for Call Me By Your Name; score and production design for Shape Of Water, makeup for Darkest Hour; costume design for Phantom Thread; and Animated Film for Coco. The mildly surprising editing award for Baby Driver was a bit eye-opening and puts that category into play (Dunkirk and I, Tonya were winners at the ACE Eddies). Roger Deakins’ one-two punch this weekend, winning for Blade Runner 2049’s cinematography at both ASC and BAFTA gives further credence to those who believe a long-denied Oscar is finally in his sights as a kind of career honor after 13 previous Oscar losses.
What today’s BAFTA results also indicate is that if Christopher Nolan can’t win in Britain with Dunkirk he probably can’t win anywhere. Its sole BAFTA victory was for Sound. Also, it
is apparent that the other British behemoth in both races, Darkest Hour, is destined to match its two BAFTA wins for Gary Oldman and his makeup at the Oscars, but nothing else. The Brits instead anointed their production about a dark and violent America as their home grown choice this year. Whether Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri follows that up on March 4 with a Best Picture win may all be in the way those numbers crunch on Oscar’s preferential ballot. Three Billboards has now won at the Golden Globes, SAG, and BAFTA, while Shape Of Water won at PGA, DGA, and Critics Choice. Neither won at the WGA. With the BAFTA awards representing the last big precursor ceremony before Oscar voting opens on Tuesday we are likely guaranteed that the one category going right down to the wire on Oscar night will be , once again, the final category: Best Picture Of The Year. Fasten your seatbelts.