Monday, January 26, 2015

The Oscar Narrative: SAG and PGA Change the Game

This year's Oscar narrative has just taken a surprising turn. It was not a surprise that Birdman won the SAG Ensemble, I figured that would be its guild consolation prize going into the Oscars. But the SAG combined with the PGA is significant. I think most people, including me, thought that Birdman was too eccentric to win the Oscar, but then again if the top three candidates are Boyhood, Birdman, and The Grand Budapest Hotel, the, Academy was going to break its mold no matter which direction they go. All three are eccentric choices for this Academy. But as I process Birdman's win, it is all starting to make sense. Boyhood is the critical darling, that could make a comeback at the DGA and BAFTA. Or it could easily remain simply the critical favorite that was never going to be embraced as well by the industry. In that case, my initial opinion of the film's Oscar chances were correct. But it is not down and out yet. We have seen this before. Little Miss Sunshine won the PGA and SAG, but lost its groove when the DGA went for Scorsese.

But now it is starting to look like Inarritu could easily take that prize as well. Birdman is the type of film that will do well on the Oscar's ballot system. It will inspire a lot of first place votes, but unlike Boyhood, it also has deeper guild recognition, and those below-the-line technical branches will probably end up being more fond of it than of Boyhood. Plus, Birdman is about the industry itself. It is about fame, and making comebacks, and that is just something that appeals to these voters. So it probably gets a lot of second and third place votes too. And that is how it won the PGA, and how it could win the Oscar for Best Picture. The DGA does not have such a system, and Boyhood could prevail on a straight vote. That means that there could be, for the third year in a row, a split on Best Picture and Best Director. It doesn't seem like it could be possible, but the last two years have proven that they go for the big bold achievement (it took 12 years for Linklater to make this happen) for Best Director, while their more popular choice wins Best Picture. It could have been a fluke, and it will all even out this year, but if the DGA goes Boyhood, we could be in for another surprise. Or, as I said before, Inarritu wins DGA, and this whole guessing game is over. I still think that something like American Sniper or The Imitation Game (the populist picks), could sneak in at the last moment and take the prize. With this eccentricity going around, some voters might be looking for safer alternatives. But for now, this remains the Boyhood vs. Birdman show. Birdman 2, Boyhood 0.

Now let's take a look at those acting races. Moore, Simmons, and Arquette continue to steamroll and I honestly don't see anything standing in their way at this point. But Best Actor is the race that has taken a sudden turn. I thought that Keaton would win last night and the Redmayne would easily win at BAFTA. But with Redmayne winning at SAG, I am starting to think that this race is over. It just seems odd that as Birdman's stock rises in the Best Picture race, Keaton's is falling. Maybe Birdman's chances are not as good as we think, or maybe, just maybe, Academy voters could not resist the suffering biopic? Either way, it poses some interesting questions as the race moves forward. But if Redmayne does win the BAFTA, I think this race is over.

I also wanted to take a second to talk about the television winners. Besides Downton Abbey (whose cast is the reason to watch the show, so its win is deserving), SAG voters finally threw in some new winners, and deserving one as well. Spacey, Aduba, Davis, and Macy are all deserving winners, and Orange is the New Black has finally broke past Modern Family at both the PGA and the SAG, it looks like Modern Family could finally lose that Comedy Series Emmy this year.

This week I will look at some of the buzzed films coming out of Sundance. Next weekend we have the Annie Awards, The ADG, the Eddie (another big one to look for), and the Scripter. Then comes DGA and BAFTA, where the race can change once again. As always, we'll have to wait and see...

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