They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

Three Billboards Wins at BAFTAs on Eve of Oscar Voting

By J. Don Birnam

February 19, 2018

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The BAFTAs happened yesterday and Three Billboards’ seemingly fledgling Oscar candidacy got a big boost after it took home five awards, including Best Film, Best British Film, the two expected acting awards, and Best Original Screenplay. Last year, however, the BAFTAs went to La La Land, where most other guilds had been, and that movie still lost Best Picture at the Oscars. Elsewhere, many of the apparent Oscar favorites continued their march towards the podium, including the four acting races.

Let’s take a look at what the final big precursor means for the Oscars race on the eve of voting. As you are reading this, ballots are being mailed out/transmitted to Academy members. Voting will happen from February 20 through February 27, with the Academy having at its disposal the full panoply of what all major guilds think of the nominated movies

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Below The Line: Most Went as We Expect Them to at the Oscars

Many of the below the line races seem easier to predict this year than last, and the BAFTAs confirmed it. Dunkirk, for example, won Best Sound, a win that most are predicting to recur at the Academy Awards. Darkest Hour took home makeup, another award we are expecting will happen again. The same goes for The Shape of Water’s two tech BAFTA wins, for Score and Production Design. Those will likely be my predictions for March 4th as well. Finally, Phantom Thread triumphed in Costume Design, which is another win you can probably mark down on your Oscars ballot. The tech races seem easier this year.

A couple of eyebrow-raising choices are noteworthy. After winning the top prize at the American Society of Cinematographers’ ceremony (his fourth win there), Roger Deakins repeated at the BAFTAs for his splendid work on Blade Runner: 2049. Deakins has been famously snubbed thirteen times by the Academy, but this could be his year given those precursors. We will take a more in-depth look at this race in our column later this week, but suffice it to say that a movie winning this category and not be nominated for Best Picture is a rare feat that Blade Runner will have to deal with.

The other interesting win of the night was Baby Driver for film editing. Again, we will look more closely later this week, but the win is not an implausible won at the Academy Awards. Dunkirk is of course the most obviously edited of the movies, but they may like the action movie more.

BAFTA of course is not always correct. Last year, they correctly telegraphed the eventual Oscar wins for Arrival’s sound and Hacksaw Ridge’s editing. But they also picked Jackie for Costumes and Fantastic Beasts for Production Design, both of which the Academy did not. An entire match below the line would be unprecedented.


Acting: The Historic Foursome Clear Path to Oscar Glory

The acting races, on the other hand, seem more predictable, and BAFTA basically just added a “me too” to the chorus. As in prior contests this year, Francis McDormand won Best Actress for Three Billboards, Gary Oldman won Best Actor for Darkest Hour, Allison Janney won Supporting Actress for I, Tonya, and Sam Rockwell won Supporting Actor also for Three Billboards. These four have won the Critics’ Choice award, the Globe, the SAG award. The last time the four acting races won all four precursors? Never. The last time someone won all four and lost the Oscar? Russell Crowe for A Beautiful Mind, though of course there was a huge controversy with him at the eleventh-hour that cost him the win.

Again, BAFTA can be wrong. They thought Dev Patel for Lion would be the eventual Best Supporting Actor winner last year, and they were wrong. But Patel did not have the three other precursors, Mahershala Ali had two of them. It would be ballot suicide to predict an upset in one of these four because your chances of guessing which one, correctly, will be close to zero. If Leslie Manville, for example, could not win with home court advantage, it seems as if nothing can stop Janney. The same goes for Willem Dafoe in his race. I will be picking those four on March 4.

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