Last Saturday marked the first significant shift in the Oscar race, an indicator that fundamentally changes the way we should be looking at Phase Two of the season. The indicator was the Producers Guild of America Awards, and the shift was very simple: The Big Short just became the undeniable Oscar frontrunner.
Adam McKay’s film took the night’s top honor, the Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures, otherwise known as the guild prize that has lined up with Oscar’s Best Picture each of the last eight years. Academy voters don’t take cues from PGA, but the industry crossover effect tends to be indicative of the Academy mindset. The PGA also uses a preferential balloting system vaguely similar to the Academy’s, perhaps giving its result an accuracy boost.
As many as five films could have conceivably walked off with the PGA win – The Big Short was indeed one of them, along with Spotlight, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, and maybe even The Martian. That being said, the preferential ballot skews in the favor of films that are generally agreeable across a broad consensus (in the case of the PGA, that means 7,000+). By that standard, one could make the case that the list could be whittled down to just two: The Big Short and Spotlight. All the others could be construed as “polarizing” in some way – though frankly I could make the argument that Big Short’s brashness could also be polarizing to some, but it won nevertheless, soooooo…
No, the race isn’t over by any stretch. Best Picture is not a foregone conclusion as it has been in other recent years. But, very soon, it could be…if SAG and DGA follow PGA’s lead.
Speaking of SAG, the 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony is upon us, commencing tomorrow night, and at the end of their relatively concise two-hour shindig, the outlook becomes ever-clearer. And I actually think it becomes clearer regardless of the outcome. If The Big Short wins, that acts as further confirmation of its lead horse status, and the Best Picture deal is nearly sealed. If Spotlight wins, that signals major strength with the acting contingent and shows that Best Picture may well come down to the wire. Either way, our expectations will be shaped going forward based on the SAG Best Cast result.
If Trumbo wins Best Cast from SAG, however, I don’t know what to tell you…
Just kidding. I hope.
Lest we forget, the overall SAG nominee lineup is something of a boondoggle, so perhaps it’s specious to read too much into any of their choices. But most of the top tier Oscar contenders are in there, and likely to vie for the win at SAG just as they will at the Oscars.
In Best Actor, that means Leonardo DiCaprio is about as sure as bet as you’ll get. In Best Actress, Brie Larson seems like a lock. The Supporting categories become muddier, specifically Supporting Actor, where Oscar frontrunner Sylvester Stallone isn’t nominated, thus making the result less indicative of the ultimate Academy result. I suppose that makes Mark Rylance the default frontrunner, though Christian Bale is lurking, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes home the SAG for his work in The Big Short. What that ultimately means for Oscar, though, is up for debate, since we don’t have a 1:1:1 matchup to gauge with Sly in the running until Oscar Night. Supporting Actress is the one to watch, with Alicia Vikander and Rooney Mara going head-to-head in something of an Oscar Night preview. I’ve been bullish on Mara all season, but something about Vikander nags at me. The award feels like hers for the taking.
All these answers will be revealed – and perhaps new questions formulated – when the SAG awards are handed out at 8:00pm Eastern Saturday night…apologies for what must seem like free SAG advertising. Allow me turn this into more of a shameless self-promo:
Join me on Twitter tomorrow night, Saturday, January 30, at 8:00pm ET/5:00pm PT, where I’ll be tweeting @CinemaSquared for the Screen Actors Guild Awards!
*hangs head in shame*
*reluctantly hits ‘Post’*