They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don’t They?
Did The Directors’ Guild Seal It For Birdman?
By J. Don Birnam
February 10, 2015
On Saturday, the Directors Guild of America awarded Birdman’s Alejandro González Iñárritu their top honor, completing Birdman’s trifecta of industry honors after its PGA and SAG victories earlier this year. Is the Best Picture Oscar next? Not so fast, said BAFTA, the British Academy with at least some overlap with AMPAS. On Sunday night, they gave Boyhood the top three prizes for Picture, Directing and Writing. So what to make of this?
Focusing first on the American guilds, to be honest, Birdman’s domination is nothing short of startling. The following movies have won all three of the PGA/SAG/DGA trifecta: Argo, The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, No Country for Old Men, Return of the King, Chicago, American Beauty, and Apollo 13. If you take out Apollo 13 (during that anomalous year, Braveheart sent the screeners to everyone for the first time year) it is obvious what all the other movies have in common. They all won Best Picture, and all but two also won Best Director.
So it may be that this year is another Social Network/King’s Speech year. The Social Network won every critical award under the sun and the Globes, but when the guilds began to speak, it all came to a screeching halt and The King’s Speech became unstoppable. The problem is, Boyhood is no Social Network, and Birdman is no King’s Speech. Boyhood is not the dark and despairing tale of lost friendships, but instead packs an uplifting and nostalgic message about life. And Birdman is not a paint-by-numbers bland story of world redemption, but instead showcases complex symbolism and a long range of emotion. If anything, you would expect an opposite relationship between the two with Boyhood spoiling Birdman.
But, in most of the years listed above, the trifecta winner also won big at BAFTA, where Birdman faltered and won only cinematography. What to make of this? I think those looking for ways to save Boyhood will point to BAFTA and perhaps they will be right. But the three guilds soundly rejecting Boyhood for Birdman is to me significant. I don’t think it’s a runaway like the Argo year, say, but Birdman is your undeniable front-runner no matter how much those loyal to Boyhood want to tell you otherwise (I was on that boat during The Social Network’s collapse, so I know quite well what it feels like). That said, the BAFTAs moved their date around 2008 to precede the Oscars and, as they would openly admit, try to predict or influence them, and since that year Best Picture at BAFTA has gone on to win Best Picture at the Oscars. So Boyhood’s win should be taken very seriously. This is a close race.
As an aside, BAFTA delivered expected wins to Patricia Arquette, J.K Simmons, Julianne Moore, and Eddie Redmayne. Those four also won the SAG, but it is rare for the four to match at SAG/BAFTA/Oscar, so oddly enough, this may make the case for Keaton stronger. And BAFTA also gave Whiplash Best Sound and Best Editing, two categories I’ve already foreseen could go to that movie in previous columns.