It is a good thing the Academy Awards are getting it over with two weeks earlier than normal, because this year’s truncated season’s suspense quotient has been virtually zapped by the weekly procession of the same winners we have been witnessing Sunday after Sunday for the past month (these winners are running out of speeches, but let’s hope they have saved their best stuff for their Oscar moment. And now BAFTA, which just wrapped its awards show in London, has put the cherry on top for all four acting categories, arguably the reason viewers tune in to the Oscars in addition to Best Picture.
For the casual viewer more interested in what the stars are wearing, and who hasn’t been paying attention to the precursor shows, it won’t matter. They can sit there and root for Scarlett Johansson or Leonardo DiCaprio, but it will be all for naught. As indicated by remarkably consistent wins at the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice, SAG and now BAFTA, there is absolutely no reason to believe Oscar’s result will be any different. Joaquin Phoenix (who should win another award for best acceptance speeches), Renee Zellweger, Brad Pitt and Laura Dern have this thing locked and no amount of frantic last-minute campaigning in the two days left of Oscar voting is likely to change that outcome. It’s done. Put a fork in it. How this lack of suspense affects ABC’s ratings is anyone’s guess. It will be an acting feat for this quartet to look shocked.
Also with its commanding sweep of seven wins, Universal and DreamWorks’ 1917, which took Best Film and Director and five other wins from the British for their homegrown hit war epic, is a cautious frontrunner to repeat in the Best Picture winners circle a week from tonight. I say cautious because even though it took the expected win at BAFTA, and has previously won at better Oscar predictors like DGA, PGA and Golden Globes, the tricky voting method the Motion Picture Academy uses — requiring voters to rank their choices from 1 to 9 — has been prone lately to deliver upsets when the final envelope is opened. BAFTA does not use that method, and actually only the PGA does, so that could be the best indicator. The Producers Guild also climbed aboard the 1917 bandwagon, so smart bettors might want to go there too, even though my heart still pounds a little when we get to Best Picture because of the recent past, where we’ve been a little surprised. There’s still a chance Oscar could produce an upset, and anything but 1917 right now would qualify for that distinction.
As for BAFTA, I would say it is looking good for the Brits to break their losing streak of the past five years in which their Best Film award did not match Oscar’s. They have been in a deep funk in that regard, especially considering the previous six years ending with 2013’s 12 Years a Slave matched Oscar exactly in their top choice, but 11 times overall in this millennium they have differed, a mixed track record to be sure. No matter what happens in the Picture category, BAFTA looks to be on the money in other wins for 1917 including a near-certain shot for Mendes, who looks more than likely to win his second Oscar in the category exactly 20 years since winning for his film debut with 1999’s American Beauty which also took Best Picture (but Mendes wasn’t a producer on it). He didn’t share at all in its BAFTA glory back then because even though it won Best Film there, he lost to Pedro Almodovar (All About My Mother) in the Directing category. This is his first directing BAFTA and he took a major haul today, also sharing in Best Film and Best British Film (his second BAFTA in the latter category, having also won there for his first James Bond film Skyfall).
There simply were no shockers here unless you want to count last week’s big Annie winner Klaus, which won for Animated Film at BAFTA, as a surprise. It is certainly a huge win for Netflix as it reps its first in-house effort in animation. Its win against three sequels however means BAFTA went for originality in this case, with the rest of those nominees splitting the difference. Only one of them, Toy Story 4, returns to compete again next week on the Oscar stage.
In the bad news for Netflix, as it has been all season, The Irishman was completely shut out, despite 10 nominations; and Sony’s great hope, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, another key Oscar player this year, almost was zapped save for Pitt’s sure-thing Supporting Actor trophy, and another hilarious speech even though it was read by Margot Robbie for the absent Pitt, who is either hiring comedy writers for the season or is just a natural wit. Joker, which came into BAFTA, as it is at the Oscars, with a leading 11 nominations, won three today, but since its Casting win is not a category at the Oscars (yet), the other two it won — for Phoenix and Music Score — are basically the only wins it has had elsewhere, and the result is likely to be the same on Oscar night.
The screenplay categories at BAFTA produced the same two winners last night at the Writers Guild, with Jojo Rabbit named Best Adapted and Parasite Best Original. I had thought Quentin Tarantino might take the latter at BAFTA and the Oscars (he wasn’t eligible at WGA), and he may still next Sunday at the Dolby, but this one-two punch this weekend for Parasite could help put that over the top. It’s close. I have been predicting Jojo in Adapted, despite no previous writing wins this season, to prevail at the Oscars in its category. It is easily the most original of the adapted scripts, and these two back-to-back wins make that more likely, even with lots of publicity for Greta Gerwig’s Little Women and the feeling in some quarters it could be a consolation prize in part for not being included in the Best Director lineup. I will stick with Taika Waititi going into the final act.
Parasite of course has its other BAFTA win for Film Not In The English Language, also in the bag for Oscar’s International Film category. Last year, BAFTA showed no resistance to the fact it was foreign, or even on Netflix, in awarding Roma its top prize, but Oscar is a much harder mountain to climb in that regard since no film has won both foreign and Best Picture categories. Parasite is enormously popular with Oscar voters I talk to and could be the most likely spoiler in Best Picture since it will have a ton of No. 2 votes, which is crucial in the Academy’s preferential system that tries to get consensus.
Only seven days to go, so we don’t have to wait long, but it appears that most of the same people who just climbed the stage at the Royal Albert Hall are likely to repeat next Sunday at the Dolby.
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