Last weekend was a wild ride down the awards circuit.
The Producers Guild of America Awards presented Apple Original Film’s “CODA” with their top honors on Saturday night, while the Cinema Audio Society won Warner Bros.’ “Dune.”
The Writers Guild of America Awards honored several of the Oscar nominees for the screenplay – “Belfast” (Kenneth Branagh), “Drive My Car” (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe), “The Lost Daughter” (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and “The Power of the Dog” (Jane Campion) – were not creditable. Instead, the group settled on Adam McKay and David Sirota’s “Don’t Look Up” in the original, with “CODA” earning another trophy for post-BAFTA adaptation.
And the last shoe to drop was the American Society of Cinematographers, which delivered Greig Fraser (“Dune”) to the statuette, his second win after “Lion” (2016).
With the Oscar vote still ongoing, a legitimate three-horse race is underway — Apple’s “CODA,” Netflix’s “The Power of the Dog,” and Focus Features’ “Belfast.” Multiple possibilities, including the collapse of numerous Oscar stats, are sending pricing experts and studio strategists into a frenzy.
Continue reading: diversity Awards Circuit Predictions Hub
Below are some highlights and challenges for the top three films going into the final two days of voting.
Why it could be “CODA”.
Writer-director Siân Heder’s family drama was the awards-season Cinderella story that overcame insurmountable odds to stay in the conversation and build an organic support system that could earn Apple the title of “first streamer to win best picture.” Walking into the doors of the Dolby Theater with the winning combination of SAG and PGA is a great benefactor to any film.
Since the SAG was founded, 10 films have won the two guilds, only two lost the Oscar in the end.
- Apollo 13 (1995) – lost Oscar to Braveheart (not nominated for BAFTA Best Picture)
- “American Beauty” (1999) – won the best picture
- “Chicago” (2002) – won Best Picture
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – won Best Picture
- Little Miss Sunshine (2007) – lost Best Picture to The Departed
- “No Country for Old Men” (2007) – won Best Picture
- “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) – won Best Picture
- The King’s Speech (2011) – won Best Picture
- “Argo” (2012) – won Best Picture
- “Birdman” (2014) – won the best picture
Those are very good odds.
Looking at the list above, “CODA” shares the same precursor makeup as previous Best Picture nominee “Little Miss Sunshine,” which lost top Oscar awards to a film by an auteur (Martin Scorsese) and it was not nominated in all craft categories. Sounds very familiar.
Then there’s the hurdle of the total combination of received and missed guilds and categories. With just three nominations for Picture, Supporting Actor (Troy Kotsur), and Adapted Screenplay, no film has won Best Picture without nominations for Directing Plus Editing (since the Editing category went live). The film also missed out on a DGA nomination, and only Driving Miss Daisy (1989) won an Oscar without the minimum of a nomination.
While there are countless stats to consider that people love to cite as “definitive” reasons why “it can’t win the Oscars,” there’s a precedent for every failure.
Why it could be “The Power of the Dog”.
“The Power of the Dog” has held up incredibly high on the racetrack. Netflix was at the forefront with the film early on, making stops at each of the major fall festivals, including Venice, Telluride, Toronto, and New York. As a result, the Western has won more critics’ Best Picture awards than any other film, earning an aggressive and impressive tally of 12 nominations.
About a quarter of the Academy are international voters. The group has eclectic tastes and has been present since AMPAS began expanding in recent years. Campion is a popular filmmaker abroad and it can be assumed that they are more inclined to love her style and exquisite film qualities.
In conversations with voters over the past few days, I’m confident that the film will probably get the most no’s. 1 votes on members’ ballots. but diversity explains that you need 50% plus one to win the best picture.
The challenge for Campion’s methodical piece was the choice of preference. If you look at the last few years, it can be argued that Netflix would have already secured the Oscar for best film without the preferential vote with “Roma”. Instead, their studio sensibilities have surrounded auteur filmmakers who have a unique perspective on cinema. Unfortunately, that typically comes with “divisive” reactions from critics and the occasional movie enthusiast. Without a doubt, the streamer is in the best position to win, but the voting method seems to be working against them.
There is also the question of how many statuettes can “The Power of the Dog” win?
Then there’s the streaming bias that doesn’t equate to “watching movies vs. home.” Unfair or not, unfortunately there are members within the Academy who have a “Never Netflix” mentality, even if they give the world the next ” Citizen Kane”.
Perception is often a reality, and in the former they are viewed as giants who spend countless dollars to secure nominations and wins. The reality is they don’t look any different than other traditional film studios or streaming platforms looking to secure gold statuettes. A story often has to have a villain, and sadly (at the moment) they’re labeled as such.
Why it could be “Belfast”.
Personal filmmaking is always an added touch. Writer, director and producer Kenneth Branagh is a popular and respected figure in Hollywood, as evidenced by five previous nominations earlier this year. He is now the first person to be nominated in seven different categories.
The Writers Guild of America “Don’t Look Up” win for the original screenplay brought a breath of fresh air to the campaign and showed that this award can still be won.
It could go the way of “Spotlight,” which won only Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Or, to create even more chaos, “Belfast” could follow the path of “The Broadway Melody” (1929), “Grand Hotel” (1932) and “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1935) – three films that only had the Award winners have best picture in their respective years.
If the anti-streamer bias is still relevant, then the Focus Features-backed film is the leading contender to take home the prize of the ticket.
Notable is winning the People’s Choice Award in Toronto. If you thought the monochrome drama was pulling a donut on Oscar night, you know that not a single TIFF award winner (when it musteres an Oscar for best picture) went home empty-handed. The last ones were “Nomadland” (2020), “Jojo Rabbit” (2019), “Green Book” (2018), “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017), “La La Land” (2016), “Room” (2015) and The Imitation Game (2014).
Getting anointed early is never good for a movie because the only way to travel is down. When the film debuted at the Telluride Film Festival, it was assumed (admittedly by me) that it would do best in a preferential vote and be the primary beneficiary of the method.
The four most critical precursors to the Oscars with membership overlap are PGA, DGA, SAG, and BAFTA. “Belfast” didn’t win a single one. Despite home advantage at the BAFTA, it clinched just one Outstanding British Film win, which usually means nothing in the American media.
Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight is the only modern film to have won Best Picture without a major guild picking it, making it a real outlier. Other divisive, shocking surprises over the last few decades have had at least one of these four — “Parasite” (SAG), “Green Book” (PGA), “Spotlight” (SAG), “Crash” (SAG), “Gladiator” (PGA, and BAFTA) and Shakespeare in Love (SAG).
You can also subscribe to the theory that “Belfast” and “The Power of the Dog” both double-dive from the international voting block, which helps “CODA” succeed.
Final Oscar voting closes Tuesday, March 22 at 5:00pm PST.