State of the Race

With only 3 days left till the big night, there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered. I spoke to soon earlier in the season when I said that this race was becoming increasingly boring. At first it seemed that Boyhood was the far and away favorite. It was sweeping pretty much all the critics awards that take place early in the season as well as taking Best Picture (Drama) at the Golden Globes.

Then something happened.

The Guilds started going another way.

Birdman began to sweep everything. Best Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Best Motion Picture of the Year from The Producer’s Guild Awards, Best Director of the Year from The Director’s Guild Awards, etc. etc. etc.

And then…. Boyhood came back and won Best Picture at the BAFTAS.

WHAT IS HAPPENING!??!

I’m going to take a second to break down these categories with statistics from previous years as well as info from other awards this season to see if we can make sense of any of this…

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BEST PICTURE

I was upset earlier this season because it looked like Boyhood was a lock. While I admire Boyhood for what it is, do I really think it should be put on the same list as Gone with the Wind, The Godfather, or Schindler’s List. (Then again, should any of these 8 films, really?) The closest comparison I can make to what is happening between Boyhood and Birdman this year is to compare it to 2010 when The King’s Speech came out of nowhere to beat The Social Network.

Early in the season in 2010, The Social Network was the critic’s darling and look ed to sweep just about everything in the season. It won a ton of critic’s awards and then went on to win Best Picture (Drama) at the Globes. Then something happened at the beginning of February. The King’s Speech took home Best Ensemble at SAG (but that was expected), but what was shocking was when it suddenly won Best Picture at The Producer’s Guild of America (PGA.) Out of nowhere! Then Tom Hooper beat David Fincher at The Director’s Guild of America (DGA.) And all of a sudden The Social Network had no momentum and lost Best Picture to The King’s Speech.

We’re seeing an eerily similar scenario taking place this year. But there are still some major flaws…

The problem with either Birdman or Boyhood winning is that either way some major statistic about Oscar history is about to be broken…

Why does history tell us Birdman will lose? Birdman did not receive one of the key nominations history tells us it needs to win Best Picture. History tells us that in order to win Best Picture a film must at least be nominated for directing, one of the writing categories, and finally…Best editing.

Argo broke the directing curse in 2012 and was the first film to win Best Picture without a directing nomination since Driving Miss Daisy in 1989. Although it was widely considered one of the worst snubs in recent history that Affleck wasn’t even nominated…let alone win.

The last film to win Best Picture without being nominated for a writing Oscar was Titanic in 1997.

The big one here… The last film to win Best Picture without receiving a nomination for Best Editing was Ordinary People… in 1980. 35 YEARS AGO!

If Birdman wins on Sunday it will be the first film in 35 years to accomplish this feat… Statistically the odds are not in Birdman’s favor. However…

Why does history tell us Boyhood will lose? Minus the comparison I made to The Social Network and the King’s Speech, the other big thing working against Boyhood are the guilds. The last film to win Best Ensemble at SAG, Best Director at the DGA, and Best Picture at the PGA (the three biggest guilds) and then LOSE Best Picture at the Oscars was Apollo 13 in 1995. 20 Years ago. Statistically speaking, winning those three awards (which Birdman has done) equals winning Best Picture at the Oscars.

But maybe not this year…

It’s key to remember that the Academy works on a preferential voting system. Meaning they are supposed to list the nominees in the order that they liked most to least. First Place votes are given the most weight, then they calculate second place votes, etc. etc. So a film could not be somebody’s favorite of the year, but as long as they put it high enough on their list, it’ll get more points. So really, which film do we think Oscar voters are going to not necessarily like the most, but at least put higher on their list more than the others?

Pete Hammond at Deadline wrote a great article about why any of the films really could take the big prize this year. I don’t buy all the points he makes, but he does have some pretty good insight to why a smaller film could squeeze past the frontrunners and pull a shocker on Sunday night.

The Case For All Eight: How The Oscar Best Picture Race Is Anyone’s To Win

BEST DIRECTOR

This is still another Boyhood vs. Birdman contest. The Academy has been splitting up the Best Director and Best Picture awards for the past 2 years now (12 Years A Slave and Gravity, Argo and Life of Pi) so it wouldn’t be a huge shock if they do it again this year. Linklater has been really respected for a long time now and it looked like this was finally the year he was going to be recognized.

Then in came Innaritu to win Best Director at the DGA which is one of the best predictors of Best Director at the Academy.

Then Linklater took home Best Director at BAFTA.

This is gonna be a brutal one…

BEST ACTOR

Keaton was winning everything early on in the season! Redmayne and him were in different categories at the Globes but he won at the Critic’s Choice so it was starting to look like he was the clear frontrunner…

Then, Eddie Redmayne won SAG and everything changed.

Redmayne started sweeping up pretty much everything after winning SAG including BAFTA (which isn’t totally surprising since he’s British, but still…) The only way Keaton wins on Sunday now is if the Academy really plays the veteran/comeback card. We’ve seen this before with with Annetee Bening/Natalie Portman or Mickey Rourke/Sean Penn… Usually, the veteran card doesn’t work when there is a major standout performance competing with it. In cases like Jeff Bridges, where there was no real standout performances but a bunch of good performances in the category, that’s usually when the veteran wins.

But this still could go either way on Sunday…how much does the Academy love Birdman?

BEST ACTRESS

You’re a fool to vote against Julianne Moore on Sunday. This is a done deal.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

J.K. Simmons. There’s no need for discussion here.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Patricia Arquette wins. But let me still make a case for Jessica Chastain being snubbed in this category. Sure, the nomination would have been the consolation prize because Arquette has this wrapped up. But Dern is really only in this category because everybody in the industry loves her as a person and she’s from a famous family. She did nothing in Wild that deserved a nomination.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

This is going to be an interesting one. Normally, you can just look at the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) Awards to find the winners, but there has been so much category confusion between Adapted and Original this year, as well as certain scripts being disqualified for not being Guild members…

This is a 3 way race between Boyhood, Birdman, and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Grand Budapest won the WGA and looks to be the frontrunner here. But that all depends on how much the Academy loves Birdman. Birdman was ruled ineligible by the WGA so we don’t know if it would’ve won over Budapest. It beat Budapest and Boyhood at the Globes.

If they’re going to reward Linklater, it will most likely be for Directing and not writing. So it seems easy to push Boyhood aside for now, but anything is possible…

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Early in the season, it looked like Gillian Flynn was going to sweeping for adapting her novel “Gone Girl.” Then the Academy showed how much they hated that movie by only giving it a single nomination for Best Actress, So the field seemed open. Now this category has two big precursors that usually give us a winner. The WGA Award which went to The Imitation Game and the USC Scripter Award which went to The Imitation Game. Sounds locked, right?

The Imitation Game, a British film, was completely shut out at BAFTAS by another British autobiographical film – The Theory of Everything. Including for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Another problem? Because of the Academy’s strict rules, they have decided that Whiplash’s screenplay is considered Adapted rather than Original because Chazelle made a short film of it first in order to secure funding for the feature length film. This is the only time this season that Whiplash has been in an Adapted category rather than an Original category. Many believe that this is a much weaker field than original and, therefore, this could be the Academy’s chance to reward Whiplash. Lookout Imitation Game…

I’ll be posting the 2nd part of my “State of the Race” series later, which will include all the technical categories, shorts, foreign, documentaries, and animated features…

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