They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?
BAFTAs Seal the Deal for La La Land
By J. Don Birnam
February 13, 2017

He has a BAFTA and you (probably) don't.

Unless you’ve been living under an Awards Season rock, you know that La La Land is one of those clear, runaway favorites to win Best Picture at the Oscars in two weeks. But there are still some legitimate questions about some of the below the line races, as I have covered here and here.

This weekend, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) handed out their own awards, giving us some final clues as to what may be in store at the Academy Awards. Let’s take a brief survey of what it means for prognosticating in the last legs of the 2016-2017 Oscar Race.

Tech Categories: La La Land Hits Some Bumps

As we’ve been noting going through the tech races, the question is whether something obvious can take down La La Land in each race. Other than obviously Score, and perhaps Cinematography, La La Land does not seem to have runaway chances at winning any of the other tech prizes it’s up for. The question has been, who can take it down? Well, the BAFTAs may have provided an answer.

In Sound they went for Arrival, in Costumes they liked Jackie, in Production Design the winner was Fantastic Beasts, and in Editing Hacksaw Ridge triumphed. These awards all make sense, as each of those films has the showiest in the particular crafts they won. So these are your alternative spoilers at the Oscars.

However, to win your ballot, your strategy may have to be to either go whole hog for La La Land, rather than dangerously try to predict which of those it will lose, or predict it to lose essentially all of them. Tough.

Note that the Art Directors’ Guild went for La La Land, Passengers, and Hidden Figures in their three categories, so that does not help much other than show us that clearly the industry likes the astronaut movie, though it is not clear which of the only three Oscars it is up for it can win.

Other Best Picture Races: Not So Fast, Front-Runners

Here, again, my early predictions about where these races are going seem to be in trouble at least for the moment.

Although I have Zootopia, O.J., and Toni Erdmann winning their respective races, that would have put me 0/3 at BAFTA. Granted, O.J. was not eligible there, so 13th triumphed, and Germany had to face last year’s Oscar winner Son of Saul, not eligible in Britain last year, so that throws it off. But, still, the one to watch is obviously animated. Although Zootopia is likely ahead, it is clearly not a runaway. Fun times.

Acting: Surprises Here, Too

Not to be left behind in the list of surprises, the acting races also raised some eyebrows. Well, not everywhere.

The ladies are locked and loaded. Emma Stone and Viola Davis will go home with Oscars together, as they did with BAFTAs, Golden Globes, and SAG Actors. Davis also won the Critics’ Choice, the only prize that Stone has lost to Natalie Portman. These are locks. I don’t even have the ability to research when the last time someone won all of those and lost the Oscar, but it’s been over 15 years. Maybe Sissy Spacek to Halle Berry?

But the guys are going to keep us guessing the rest of the way. First, Casey Affleck bounced back from his SAG loss to Denzel Washington to win here. Of course, Washington was famously snubbed by BAFTA, but still. Right now my money is still on Affleck. After all, a few years ago Viola Davis defeated Meryl Streep at SAG, but lost BAFTA and then the Oscar.

The Best Supporting Actor race also remains slightly confounding. Dev Patel won for Lion, his first such triumph of the year, after that movie also somewhat unexpectedly took home Best Adapted Screenplay. Clearly, the Brits like the Weinstein production, though one fairly wonders if there is some Commonwealth bias going on here. Mahershala Ali has to be nervous. Yes, he won the SAG and the Critics’ Choice, but he’s only 2/4, and that did not turn out well for Sylvester Stallone. Although BAFTA has telegraphed wins such as Streep and Mark Rylance, it has also missed some calls, such as going for Mickey Rourke over Sean Penn.

These two will be exciting until the end.

But, In the End, La La Land Triumphs

And yet for all the excitement in all of these races, the main two categories at BAFTA went to the clear frontrunners and prohibitive favorite at the Oscars. Best Director went to Damien Chazelle and Best Picture went to La La Land. The musical ended up with five total BAFTAs, including the aforementioned, but also Cinematography and Score. It’s a pretty good haul, but one that the film hopes to surpass by miles at the Oscars, and one that it surely will.

Up Next: We Handicap the Short Oscar Categories

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