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Awards: Will ‘1917’ Win The Best Picture Battle?

1917 running movie

The Academy has a history of embracing late breaking contenders. They also have a tendency to throw Oscar love at war pictures. Both of these factors play heavily in the favor of “1917,” Sam Mendes‘ World War I passion project. This bodes well for a whole host of Academy Award nominations, as well as some potential wins below the line. We’ll get to those in a minute, but one of the central questions worth pondering today is this: what are the chances that the film can actually win Best Picture? Could it be a sneaky threat to win when all is said and done?

As the title indicates, the movie is a war drama, taking place in the height of the first World War. Mendes directs a screenplay he co-wrote with Krysty Wilson-Cairns. The official synopsis for the film, via IMDb:

Two young British privates during the First World War are given an impossible mission: deliver a message deep in enemy territory that will stop 1,600 men, and one of the soldier’s brothers, from walking straight into a deadly trap.

The film is led by Dean-Charles Chapman and George Mackay as the two soldiers, with supporting parts for bigger names like Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Richard Madden, Andrew Scott, and Mark Strong. Mendes has Lee Smith editing, Thomas Newman composing the score, and Roger Deakins handling the cinematography, making for impeccable technical work up and down.

1917 trailer new

“1917” debuted on both coasts right before Thanksgiving with special screenings for select press, with raves coming across the board. Clayton and yours truly were in attendance, so it was no exaggeration to say that Mendes stunned the crowd. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone has one of the most enthusiastic takes so far, as you can see below:

In one of the best war films of all time, director Sam Mendes brilliantly delivers a story of two WWI soldiers on a mission that’s a stunning technical accomplishment that unfurls as one single take – and a deeply felt tale of heroism under fire.
War pictures have a strong tradition with Oscar, though we haven’t seen a winner in some time. World War I is an under-served period for cinema anyway, so this is a bit of a unique situation. Look for voters to treat the flick a bit differently than something like “Black Hawk Down” or “Saving Private Ryan,” not to mention “War Horse.” It may wind up with results similar to the Steven Spielberg epic, but the unique one shot visual style, as well as the tight focus, may help members of the Academy look at it less like an epic and more like a prestige drama.
1917 review
Nomination-wise, this film is poised to threaten for the most citations overall next month. With Best Picture and Best Director nominations almost assured, that’s an excellent starting point, buoyed by presumed frontrunner status in a number of technical categories like Best Cinematography and Best Original Score. Double-digit status is easily attainable, which would be an excellent show of force. If that happens, could a Picture win be within reach?
Best Picture is spoken of currently as a three horse race between “The Irishman,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” and “Parasite.” That may be true, but “1917” is nipping at their heels. Can something boost this one up into the pole position? No one thing jumps out, but if the upcoming Directors Guild and Producers Guild not only cite this one, but give it wins, that would make for an intriguing scenario. Having DGA and PGA in a movie’s pocket is often a tough combination to beat. At the very least, if the film does that, it’s going to be contending for the big win, right up until Oscar night in February.
On AwardsCircuit’s December 24th prediction updates, Clayton has “1917” making a big showing at the Academy Awards. Above the line, it’s his number four in Best Picture, Mendes is likewise fourth in Best Director, while Mendes and Wilson-Cairns are in sixth place for Best Original Screenplay. Below the line, the movie is currently predicted to win Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Original Score. The film also scores nominations in Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects. That would mean five tech category wins (including a first statue for Newman and a second for Deakins), making for nine citations overall. A haul like that would keep it in the thick of the race for Picture, that’s for sure.
1917 movie still
“1917” is going to be an interesting candidate during Phase Two of the Oscar season. There’s a day where it leads the nominations in mid January. If so, does that increase its chances of winning Best Picture? It’s possible, but that win does seem a bit out of reach still for the film. Stranger things have happened, but it’s undeniably a level below the three main front-running titles. Watch out for the Guilds though, since they may ultimately be what turns the tides of this race.

Do you think “1917” will win the Best Picture war at the Academy Awards? Let us know in the comments below! 

What do you think?

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Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.


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Matt St.Clair

I don’t think so. It’s a terrific tech giant but it doesn’t play as well on screeners.

Joey Magidson

As you can see, I have my doubts…


Picture, no. I do agree that 1917 is probably going to win 4-5 Oscars, and recently the film with the most wins correlates a lot stronger with Best Director than it does with Best Picture (La La Land, Gravity, Life of Pi, The Revenant while not the most-rewarded of that year still won more than Spotlight). As such, I have Mendes winning Director right now, while acknowledging that Scorsese, Tarantino, and Joon-ho ‘feel’ like they have more of a narrative on their side. However, I think that if one of them doesn’t start sweeping the season soon, then that narrative… Read more »


Who? I’m kidding, but it does feel like 1917 is the also-ran, never heard of film of the season. It just feels like there is such a good/bad press vacuum around the film that I could easily see it finding itself at the bottom of the screener pile for a lot of voters. I’m personally looking forward to the film, but it just doesn’t feel buzzed about in the way that previous BP winners of the decade were. I think it’s destined to come and go with little fanfare and maybe a few tech Oscars. It feels like Dunkirk with… Read more »


I feel like 1917 faces an uphill battle on two fronts: 1) No acting nominee. That’s been a big struggle for years for films such as this, i.e. Mad Max, Dunkirk, etc. 2) The “it’s a gimmick” narrative can be/is used against it. It stands at a 79 on Metacritic right now, with many detractors saying it’s just a big gimmick, the film is pointless, etc. I think it’s a lock for a nomination. It has a GG nomination, it’ll land BAFTA, and I’m sure DGA will bite for Sam Mendes (seems predictable but may not be as much as… Read more »


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