Well, it has been a strange month or so, and nominations are upon us in just a few days. Much changes in such a short period of time, so what has happened lately to affect the race?
The primary factor would be the nominations of the four guild associations, writers (WGA), directors (DGA), producers (PGA), and screen actors (SAG) guilds. The nominations that these groups of peopel give out are very important when looking to see what is going to come later for Oscar since these they represent supersets of the people who actually vote for the "big" nominations. In general, some of these groups tend to be a bit more populist and broad than their academy subsections; they are heavily populated by those in the industry who also work in television, not to mention the many film workers who have never been invited to be an academy member. Thus, it is possible for a critical favorite to miss at the guilds and still make it in fore the Oscar (not that Oscar voters care about the critics, they don't, but certain films which have limited releases and viewership is more likely to get recognized in a smaller group, that's just how voting favorite films among groups works). However, it really tells you that something has universal support when they pick the same choices across the board.
Now, when speaking to best picture chances, what you want to be looking at is the SAG Ensemble Award, the PGA, the DGA, as well as placement in either the WGA original or adapted category.
Five contenders have emerged so far, scoring the following nominations:Babel
SAG, PGA, DGA, WGAThe Departed
SAG, PGA, DGA, WGALittle Miss Sunshine
SAG, PGA, DGA, WGADreamgirls
SAG, PGA, DGAThe Queen
PGA, DGA, WGA
Several other movies scored WGA nominations as it has two categories. It is noteworthy that Dreamgirls
missed out there, as well as The Queen
missing out on the SAG Ensemble for Bobby
. However, when the PGA and DGA (the two most reliable predicators of the four) match up 5/5, and these five films also match up 4/5 at the SAG Ensemble and 4/5 at the WGA..... well it pretty much means that the best picture race is pretty much set.
As for director, oddly enough, looking at the guilds (specially the DGA) is usually good for a 4/5 match, because this branch has the tendency to pick an out-of-leftfield nominee that didn't get much attention before. Previous examples of this (2005 had a rare 5/5 matchup) are the directing nominations for Vera Drake
in 2004, City of God
in 2003, Talk to Her
in 2002, Mulholland Dr.
in 2001, and Billy Elliot
in 2000. What this means is that, at least lately, more often than not, the Picture lineup will only match the director lineup 4/5. While this might seem counterintuitive to some, remember that only the directors branch votes for nominations in the directors category, while the entire academy votes to nominate in the Best Picture category.
As for the acting categories, it is best to start with the SAG nominations:
Penelope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet, Little Children
Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza, Babel
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
Leonardo Dicaprio, Blood Diamond
Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
Peter O'Toole, Venus
Will Smith, Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed
Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Djimon Honsou, Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Then you factor in the Globe nominations, and the Broadcast Film Critic nominations:
Leonardo DiCaprio – “Blood Diamond”
Leonardo DiCaprio – “The Departed”
Ryan Gosling – “Half Nelson”
Peter O’Toole – “Venus”
Will Smith – “The Pursuit of Happyness”
Forest Whitaker – “The Last King of Scotland”
Penelope Cruz – “Volver”
Judi Dench – “Notes on a Scandal”
Helen Mirren – “The Queen”
Meryl Streep – “The Devil Wears Prada”
Kate Winslet – “Little Children”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Ben Affleck – “Hollywoodland”
Alan Arkin – “Little Miss Sunshine”
Adam Beach – “Flags of Our Fathers”
Djimon Hounsou – “Blood Diamond”
Eddie Murphy – “Dreamgirls”
Jack Nicholson – “The Departed”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Adriana Barraza – “Babel”
Cate Blanchett – “Notes on a Scandal”
Jennifer Hudson – “Dreamgirls”
Rinko Kikuchi – “Babel”
Catherine O’Hara – “For Your Consideration”
Emma Thompson – “Stranger Than Fiction”
And finally, the two major critics association awards:
New York Film Critics Circle:
Helen Mirren, THE QUEEN
(Runners-up: Judi Dench, NOTES ON A SCANDAL, Meryl Streep, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA)
Forest Whitaker, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND
(Runners-up: Ryan Gosling, HALF NELSON, Sacha Baron Cohen, BORAT)
Best Supporting Actor:
Jackie Earle Haley, LITTLE CHILDREN
(Runners-up: Eddie Murphy, DREAMGIRLS, Steve Carell, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE)
Best Supporting Actress:
Jennifer Hudson, DREAMGIRLS
(Runners-up:Shareeka Epps, HALF NELSON, Catherine O'Hara, FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION)
Los Angeles Critics Association:
Sacha Baron Cohen, "Borat" and Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland" (tie) (no runner-up)
Helen Mirren, "The Queen"
Runner-up: Penelope Cruz, "Volver"
Michael Sheen, "The Queen"
Runner-up: Sergi Lopez, "Pan's Labyrinth"
Luminita Gheorghiu, "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu"
Runner-up: Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"
The best way to think about this is that in the four categories, the SAG will generally go 4/5, on average, throughout the four categories. So you can use the Globes, or the BFCA, or even specific critic wins as a guide to see who might be the surprises. Plus, movies that are going to be nominated for Best Picture have a tendency of pulling an unexpected acting nomination or two with them.
With the writing categories, you have of course, the WGA nominees:
Little Miss Sunshine
Stranger Than Fiction
The Devil Wears Prada
Thank You for Smoking
These generally go somewhere between 3/5 to 4/5 correct at the Oscars. Also the most common type of movie to get lost in the shuffle are the comedies. For alternatives you can look to the Best Picture nominees, or also the BFCA nominations:
Michael Arndt – “Little Miss Sunshine”
Guillermo Arriaga – “Babel”
Todd Field and Tom Perrotta – “Little Children”
Zach Helm – “Stranger Than Fiction”
William Monahan – “The Departed”
Peter Morgan – “The Queen”
Or of course the Globe nominees:
Peter Morgon -- The Queen
Guillermo Arriaga -- Babel
William Monahan -- The Departed
Todd Field, Tom Perrota -- Little Children
Patrick Marber -- Notes on a Scandal.
As well as the NYFCC (New York Film Critics Circle):
(Runners-up: The Departed, Little Miss Sunshine)
And the LAFCA (Los Angeles Film Critics Association):
Peter Morgan, "The Queen"
Runner-up: Michael Arndt, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Finally there is the USC Scripter Award, which is given to adaptations only:
"Children of Men" (winner)
"The Devil Wears Prada"
"Notes on a Scandal"
"The Last King of Scotland"
There are of course many other critics associations that give out individual awards, there are way too many of them to list, but you can look them up easily enough on the internet. And again, Best Picture nominees tend to pull other nominations, which might give an edge to Dreamgirls
, the only likely nominee without any script recognition.
My predictions will follow in a different post but, it is probably best to listen to a little bit of conventional wisdom and play a couple hunches. There's usually something that seems a little wacky in the nominations, no matter how boring and predictable it seems beforehand. This is how you guess your Mike Leigh for Vera Drake
or Terrence Howard for Hustle and Flow
(although I got the first, and not the second). In the past four years, I've gone 35/40 (2005), 38/40 (2004), 35/40 (2003), and 32/40 (2002). Hopefully I can match my 2004 score, but due to the complexity of the supporting actor category, I seriously doubt it.