With Chloe Zhao’s expected DGA win last night, and her film Nomadland taking the lion’s share of BAFTA wins today for Best Film, Director, Actress Frances McDormand, and Cinematography, the Searchlight film would seem to be an overwhelming favorite to repeat at the Oscars. Who would bet against a film that has swept the season for the most part with key wins not only at BAFTA and DGA, but also PGA, Golden Globes, Critics Choice, and more — a consensus choice it seems if you believe at all in the predictive value of precursor awards. It missed only at SAG where it wasn’t even nominated for the all-important Outstanding Cast which was won by The Trial Of The Chicago 7, and was AWOL at WGA where it was deemed ineligible due to Guild rules requiring films be made under their MBAs.
So should everyone else just throw in the towel, even though Oscar voters don’t even start casting their ballots until Thursday? Statistically it seems daunting, but as I pointed out last week in my analysis of the SAG awards, and where I predicted Nomadland would come back strong at both DGA and BAFTA this weekend, as it now has, you can still look to 2005 for a lifeboat if you are anyone else but Searchlight right about now. That was when Brokeback Mountain ran the table just like Nomadland has done, but also even won WGA to boot, only losing the SAG Cast award to upstart Crash which built enough momentum just from that win alone to burst Brokeback’s bubble and take Best Picture, along with Original Screenplay and Editing Oscars.
Chicago 7, which came up empty at BAFTA, is hoping for that kind of upset. We’ll see, but a run like the Chloé Zhao movie has been having would be a very rare bird to stop in this day and age. Voters, by and large, tend to like to go with what they think is a winner, and Nomadland is clearly holding that card. One bright note for the competitors? BAFTA has not matched Oscar’s Best Picture for the past six years in a row, so savor that for a while folks.
As big a night as SAG was last Sunday for Netflix, this Sunday’s top BAFTA awards went elsewhere with the uber-streamer taking only Documentary for My Octopus Teacher and His House’s Remi Weekes for Outstanding Debut by a British filmmaker (in yesterday’s crafts awards, Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom took Makeup and Costumes while Mank won Production Design).
British favorite son Anthony Hopkins in The Father finally broke through and has temporarily stalled the late Chadwick Boseman’s momentum in the Best Actor race which Boseman has dominated this season almost everywhere else. The Father also defeated Nomadland for Adapted Screenplay, a big plus for it as we head into the Oscar voting period (British icon Christopher Hampton shared that prize for writer/director Florian Zeller).
Boseman’s loss was the most surprising result for me, especially with all the self-congratulating BAFTA has done in the press about their march toward diversity this year, certainly evident in the nominations if not in the actual winners. In a year in which Black filmmakers and Black-themed films grabbed much attention and praise (AFI’s Top Ten had five of them included) BAFTA managed to nominate none of them for their prized Best Film award, which ultimately went instead to Chinese director Zhao’s look at mostly older white people dropping out of American society and taking to life on the road. The only major prize that went to any Black filmmaker or actor was to Judas And The Black Messiah’s Daniel Kaluuya who also happens to be British. He continues his sweep this awards season and seems a lock for Oscar. Other than that, the most significant prize BAFTA awarded to Black-oriented cinema was Animated Feature for Disney/Pixar’s Soul (from a white director and producer).
McDormand’s Lead Actress win came in a category that largely ignored her Oscar-nominated counterparts as only McDormand and British star Vanessa Kirby are also going to the Academy Awards where BAFTA-ignored contenders Andra Day, Viola Davis and Carey Mulligan are also nominated and have each won a significant precursor award to make this a category that is anyone’s to lose. Only Kirby, in Pieces Of A Woman, hasn’t won at one of the key televised awards shows but she was the first this season to actually take a Best Actress prize at Venice (remember that?) eight months ago.
McDormand beat Kirby and four other Black nominees at BAFTA, a category indicative of the org’s attempt to be more diverse after past years when it was anything but that, even at the cost of not nominating such deserving contenders as Britain’s own much acclaimed Mulligan in Promising Young Woman that otherwise did very well with BAFTA.
Place your bets.
BAFTA cemented Minari’s Korean star Yuh-Jung Youn as a front runner for Supporting Actress following last week’s SAG win. BAFTA also continued British wunderkind Emerald Fennell’s march to the Oscars by awarding her Best Original Screenplay, which she also won at WGA, as well as Outstanding British Film for the aforementioned Promising Young Woman.
BAFTA and last night’s DGA awards are the last big stop before Oscar voting begins on April 15 and ends on April 20. We will see what it all means in that regard when the Oscars finally ends this long long season of the pandemic awards on April 25.
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