In the blink of an eye, the Oscar race has changed once again. Going into last weekend, it seemed like Quentin Tarantino‘s awards friendly period piece “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” had the inside track for Best Picture. It appeared to be the front runner, buoyed in part by its presumed favorite status to win the top prizes at the Producers Guild Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Then, the ceremonies actually happened, hitting the reset button on an already chaotic season.
The Producers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild are two of the most important and influential Oscar predictors. PGA has predicted over twenty of the past 30 Best Picture picks by the Academy, while SAG has been right only about half the time during its existence. Neither on their own are lock down wins for a contender, but it’s hard to win without at least one. Win both and you’re sitting pretty. Obviously, that didn’t happen this year, and in fact, both Guilds had upset victors, setting the stage for Oscar night to be a photo finish.
PGA gave their top prize to Sam Mendes‘ “1917,” arguably making it the new front runner in Picture. A traditional yet visually stylish contender, there’s clearly going to be crossover between the Producers and the Academy. Prior to this win, the film seemed like a top tier player, but maybe more likely to see Mendes win Best Director than the movie itself to take Picture. Now, it has skyrocketed to the forefront of the race.
“1917” can take that win, merge it with a Golden Globe victory, and claim to have put “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” pretty much in the rear view mirror. Going into SAG, it was just a matter of seeing how that Guild voted. Would they try to revive Tarantino’s movie? Or, would they put forward a new challenger?
SAG did two very different things. On the acting side, they confirmed that the four likely Oscar winners are now all but assured of golden statues. You can basically mark it down. Joaquin Phoenix is winning Best Actor for his work in “Joker.” Renee Zellweger is taking Best Actress for her performance as the title character in “Judy.” Brad Pitt is grabbing Best Supporting Actor for “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.” Laura Dern is taking home Best Supporting Actress for “Marriage Story.” Unless something shocking happens, they’re set in stone. Then, the Ensemble win went to Bong Joon-Ho‘s “Parasite,” which is a whole other ball of wax.
The “Parasite” win almost certainly makes it the number two contender for Best Picture at the Oscars. Prior to this win, it seemed hard to believe that the Academy would actually pull the trigger and make history. After all, being only the twelfth foreign film ever nominated by Oscar in Picture, it would break statistics to see voters select it in the top category. SAG has spurred them to consider it even more. Between the influx of a more diverse voting body and the opportunity for another win, either at BAFTA or the Directors Guild Awards, this title could be surging at the perfect time.
Of course, BAFTA and DGA still loom large. The Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director could hedge on which title emerges victorious from those two precursors. “1917” probably only needs one of these to cement its status as the odds on favorite. “Parasite” would need both to make a statistically backed claim to the win. Stats aren’t everything, though. A split between the two here, depending on how it would go, may foretell an Oscar split. The possibilities remain myriad.
This all sets up a fight to the finish for Best Picture at Oscar between “1917” and “Parasite.” Will the Academy go for a war film, somewhat traditionally up their alley, or will they break with tradition and go international for the first time? The safe bet is that the former comes out on top in the end. However, don’t count out the latter. We saw “Moonlight” dethrone “La La Land” only a few years ago, after all, so upsets happen. Stay tuned!