Ah, the awards gods. They giveth and then they taketh away, even in the same weekend.
In what is turning out to be one of the most confounding, but intriguing, Oscar races in years, the British Academy Of Film And Television Arts has thrown in its lot with Boyhood.
The remarkable IFC indie movie that critics and the Golden Globes had anointed early on as “The One” got stopped in its tracks by the Hollywood guilds. Those usually more-reliable Oscar indicators at the PGA, SAG (although Boyhood‘s Patricia Arquette won Supporting Actress there as she has everywhere else) and, last night, the DGA all went for Birdman.
Despite nine nominations for Birdman, though, BAFTA today virtually blanked Birdman, save a single statuette for cinmatographer Emmanuel Lubzeki’s exceptional magic act with a camera (he was last year’s winner in the same category for Gravity).
Meanwhile, Boyhood did very well, cashing in three of its five nominations, including Best Film, Director and Supporting Actress. Director Richard Linklater, who wanted to be on hand for last night’s DGA awards (where he lost to Birdman’s Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), didn’t make it to London but right about now he is probably wishing he had caught a flight.
In my analysis of DGA results from about 12 hours ago I surmised a Birdman win at BAFTA likely would have closed the lid on this race. The good news for other contenders now is don’t close that lid so fast. This remains a nail biter.
If the battle for Best Picture appears to be as close as it can possibly get between the year’s two most awarded films, then in a tighter-than-tight vote at the Oscars (with both getting lots of first place picks but not quite enough to win) a third contender might still emerge from the pack as a spoiler.
Choose among the remaining six in the field of eight, with American Sniper and Whiplash the most likely beneficiaries under this scenario. This is where the second choice of voters, or the consensus pick, really could come into play in balloting that started Friday and runs through Feb. 17.
The Academy’s preferential voting method is used only in picking Best Picture. With eight viable nominees, and none getting a first-ballot victory, the recipe is there this year for a potential upset. Occasionally we’ve seen this happen in Oscar history, but but those happened before preferential balloting was used, and when there were only five nominees rather than up to 10.
In 1951, everyone thought the race was clearly between A Place In The Sun and A Streetcar Named Desire. A movie from much earlier that year, An American In Paris, swooped in to win. It was such a shock that even MGM, the studio behind An American In Paris, took out a trade ad the next day apologizing for winning. With a caricature of its logo lion, Leo, the copy read: “Honestly I was just standing ‘In The Sun’ waiting for a ‘Streetcar.'” Thirty years later in 1981, Reds and On Golden Pond were battling, only to have Chariots Of Fire run past them for the gold.
Do the BAFTA results, coming on top of markedly different Guild outcomes, mean we are looking for a very bumpy night Feb. 22? Just as the PGA and DGA regularly predict the way Oscar winds blow, so does BAFTA, having matched 8 of 13 Oscar Best Picture choices, including the last six.
The correlation between the Academies has been impressive. And keep in mind the groups share about 20 percent of the same voters, with most of that crossover coming in the actors branch, a group that would have been thought to favor actor-centric Birdman.
For the first time in a long while, though, the guilds and BAFTA appear to be at odds. That means Boyhood lives to fight another day, and Birdman can’t nest among its recent industry laurels. Expect last-minute advertising to hit as studios try to squeeze every last vote. This is a year that every last one may really matter.
What else did BAFTA tell us? The acting races are pretty much a lock, even the uber competitive Best Actor contest where The Theory Of Everything’s Eddie Redmayne and Birdman’s Michael Keaton are in a tight race. Redmayne was expected to win with the hometown BAFTA crowd, and it must have been nice to have the film’s subject, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, in attendance. That connection – and those pictures – will only help as Oscar balloting continues.
And having won at SAG over Keaton was huge for Redmayne’s chances. These two wins plus his Golden Globe for Drama (Keaton won in Comedy) set him up nicely for his trip to the Dolby.
But don’t count out American Sniper’s late bloomer Bradley Cooper, who wasn’t even nominated at any of those ceremonies. He’s still in the race, and untested against this pair. He may also have built up some goodwill (and possible votes) for nominations in three straight years. Cooper’s ovation when he came onstage as a presenter for Clint Eastwood last night at DGA was huge.
As for the other BAFTA acting champs, Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette and J.K. Simmons simply can’t lose.
Those British voters also showed their love for The Grand Budapest Hotel, which won five of its 11 nominations, more than any other film. I expect the film could translate a number of those into Oscar wins in the craft categories. It also possible that BAFTA writing winner Wes Anderson, who is locked in a pitched battle for Original Screenplay opposite Birdman and Boyhood, will win in this category.
With back-to-back wins this weekend at DGA and BAFTA, director Laura Poitras is in the driver’s seat for Documentary with Citizenfour.
And I was also impressed by the showing from Whiplash, which in addition to the expected supporting actor award for Simmons also triumphed in Sound and Editing. Those categories are big indicators of overall strength, especially considering the film always pops up in conversations with Oscar voters about movies they love this year.
I have found the same to be true of The Imitation Game but the BAFTA shutout for that film just continues a long line of awards-season disappointments for Harvey Weinstein‘s top prospect this year. At this point it’s hard to see how it could come from behind.
The twists in this race keep on coming. Stay tuned.