It’s now or never. Ballots for the 92nd annual Academy Award nominations are due by 5 PM PT today. Word is more than a few members were waiting for the last minute, trying to watch whatever they can before being forced to turn in their ballot online in time to be counted. If they need help, the tsunami of awards announcements we have had since the Golden Globes were handed out Sunday might be the ticket.
We have had the Producers Guild (PGA), Directors Guild (DGA), Writers Guild (WGA), and British Academy Awards (BAFTA) all weighing in with their film nominations in quick succession. Why is this important? This is really the first chance groups that are direct peers of the potential nominees are weighing in on this level. Yes, we have had several below-the-line guilds dribbling out in the past couple of weeks, as well as last month’s SAG Awards announcement, the first peer group to take a stand in the race. So now we have all the information we really need to project the way the winds are blowing, and it is pretty clear who is likely to be nominated for major Oscars when the nominations are announced Monday. There is a remarkable consensus between all these groups about who’s on top.
Running the board among SAG, WGA, PGA, DGA, and BAFTA and thereby indicating success with the same kinds of voters — in many cases the same voters as make up the membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — are just two films, Netflix’s The Irishman and Neon’s Parasite. That fact should give each of them great hope and renewed confidence since none of them won either Best Picture Golden Globe on Sunday night in the Drama or Comedy/Musical categories, and in fact Irishman was completely shut out despite five nominations. In the case of South Korea’s Parasite, it was ineligible since it is a foreign-language film, and that is where it won its Globe.
The two Best Picture winners at the Globes also are looking good with their peers, and actually we have to put an asterisk next to Comedy/Musical Picture champ Once Upon a Time in Hollywood which scored big with SAG, PGA, DGA and BAFTA but was locked out of WGA contention at its own hand since writer-director Quentin Tarantino refuses to join and make his films under WGA jurisdiction — something that instantly disqualifies you from WGA consideration for awards. Otherwise, Tarantino’s film would have run the board as well, just as it has done in nearly all the below-the-line guild contests. No Tarantino film has ever been a WGA nominee.
Golden Globe Best Drama winner 1917 is a late-breaking entry (it doesn’t open nationwide until this Friday) and because it wasn’t ready missed much of the SAG action, not being seen in time by most members of the nominating committee before they voted. It scored big with the others this week, as well as at BAFTA where it got nine nominations. Despite great performances from its two leads, George McKay and Dean-Charles Chapman, acting nods in the extremely competitive Lead Actor and Supporting Actor categories seemed a bit of a stretch anyway for a film that is considered more of a technical achievement.
Among those who hit paydirt in all but one is Fox Searchlight’s Jojo Rabbit, which came roaring out this season with an all-important Toronto Film Festival People’s Choice win. It has scored big with SAG, PGA, WGA, and DGA, the latter nod for Taika Waititi being the one mild surprise among today’s directing nominees and an indicator of a potentially good morning come Monday. Although it was nominated for its screenplay and some craft awards at BAFTA, it missed that group’s Best Pic list which only consists of five films unlike PGA and Oscar which have up to 10. Netflix’s Marriage Story also had a mixed bag at BAFTA, missing out in Picture and Director but doing well in writing and acting categories. Sadly, if you ask me, Netflix’s other contender The Two Popes was ignored by the guilds, but it did land five BAFTA nods at least.
Warner Bros’ Joker got major mentions everywhere except the DGA, where Todd Phillips was overlooked. It leads all comers at BAFTA with 11 nominations so is very much in the game; the DGA pass is troubling, but it is what it is. Sony’s other big hopeful, Little Women, was shut out of SAG but revived by PGA and WGA nods, as well as a few at BAFTA including script and acting (but not for Picture or Director for Greta Gerwig). DGA, like BAFTA and the Globes, kept its nominees all male so Gerwig missed out, although the guild seems to be sending a message for the future in that three of their five films nominated for First Time Director are from women, including two women of color, a nice step forward.
Among other contenders that could make Oscar’s Best Picture list, the PGA gave nods to Knives Out, which also scored with WGA and BAFTA for its Rian Johnson screenplay, and the PGA also threw a life raft to Fox/Disney’s terrific Ford v Ferrari, which other than for Christian Bale at SAG and the Globes and some technical nods has been struggling to get the attention it deserves. Hopefully Oscar will make a difference there, but it looks uphill.
Among worthy movies not having a great day with BAFTA or the guilds is the also-deserving A24 film The Farewell, which found its only mention in the foreign-language category at BAFTA but nothing for Globe winner Awkwafina at SAG or BAFTA. SAG gave lots of love to Lionsgate’s Bombshell and BAFTA nominated Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie (twice, also for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), but it has been completely absent in the Picture conversation with these groups and its screenplay was ignored by WGA, as was Clint Eastwood’s excellent Richard Jewell which looks like it was hurt by controversy and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s campaign to bring it down. It did make the AFI Top 10 list, and Kathy Bates had a Globes nod, but that has been it. Warner Bros’ Just Mercy, which opens Friday finally, has been screening since summer but hasn’t gained a lot of traction with the guilds except for a SAG nom for Jamie Foxx. Honey Boy, Dark Waters, A Hidden Life, and others that once had higher hopes are now looking at a Hail Mary pass to get Oscar nominations in any category. It’s the way the cookie crumbles, even for films as good as all these are.
Based on all these precursor groups, top contenders that seem sure things for Best Picture Oscar nominations are now cemented. They include Parasite, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 1917, The Irishman, Joker, Jojo Rabbit and Marriage Story. If there are one or two more slots, look for Little Women, Ford v Ferrari, Knives Out or a worthy underdog like The Two Popes to bring up the rear.
Meanwhile, stragglers — vote.