Oscar race clarified as directors, producers, writers and editors weigh in


On Thursday, the very day voting for the Oscar nomination opened, a quartet of Hollywood’s most prominent guilds (the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America), trade associations (the Producers Guild of America) and professional honor societies (the American Cinema Editors) have weighed in with their own nominations, which could offer clues as to what’s to come from the Academy.

As you might expect, the biggest beneficiaries of the day were Dunes and Licorice Pizzawhich were the only two films to place in the top category (or one of the top categories of equal value) of the four groups. Belfast and The power of the dog landed with the three they were eligible for (the WGA only considers titles made under the terms of its minimum base agreement, which few non-US productions are). West Side Story missed only with ACE. And Tick, tick… Boom!, King Richard and Don’t look up failed than with the DGA (although Tick, tick… Boom! coxswain Lin-Manuel Miranda made Earth a nominee for Best Director for the first time).

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Beyond these eight films, three others have obtained multiple mentions: CODA and Be the Ricardoswith the PGA and WGA, and The French Dispatchwith the WGA and the ACE.

Meanwhile, moving forward with just the WGA is alley of nightmares and with just the ace are no time to die and Cruel.

What do Thursday’s developments really tell us about the race for the Oscars?

On some level, not as much as before, for reasons I explained in a column I posted earlier today: In short, an unprecedented 25% of Academy members are now based outside of the United States, and most of them don’t belong to Hollywood’s guilds, professional associations, and honorary professional societies, so their tastes are currently unexplained, which means a lot can still change, especially to the benefit of formidable non-English speaking competitors like drive my car, Parallel mothers, God’s hand, The worst person in the world and A hero.

On the other hand, there are a number of films that would like appeared among those nominations if they were actually in contention for a Best Picture Oscar nomination, but didn’t.

Whenever the PGA – the only such group that has 10 spots and fills them via ranked ballot, as does the Academy – and the Academy differ on their top nominees, it’s almost always the PGA putting in obviously a populist blockbuster and the Academy then bounced it for something artier. This fate has befallen recent PGA nominees Bridesmaids and The girl with the dragon tattoo in 2012, Straight outta Compton in 2016, dead Pool in 2017, wonder woman in 2018, boobies rich asian and A silent place in 2019, Knives out in 2020 and Borat Next Movie in 2021.

And it also happened with the Bond movie celestial fall in 2013, which to me hammers home that the PGA is open to nominating a Bond film, but chose not to do so this year with no time to die – what if a movie like no time to die can’t do it with the PGA, it’s highly doubtful he can do it with the Academy. The same goes for the only serious contender this season who was a peer bigger to hit, Spider-Man: No Coming Home.

Now that all of the industry’s “precursor awards” have weighed in, it’s worth taking a step back to see which films have — and haven’t — clicked through town. (Based on recent history, the film with the most precursor names is not necessarily to earn the Best Picture Oscar, but given that every branch of the Academy can weigh in in the Best Picture Oscar category, it certainly becomes appointed; and virtually every Best Picture nominee has made a respectable spot among the trailblazers.)

Dunes is far ahead of the pack with 12 trailblazing names – indeed, it was literally nominated for the top prize in all group except Best SAG Award, Best Ensemble: PGA, DGA, WGA, ACE, American Society of Cinematographers, Art Directors Guild, Cinema Audio Society, Costume Designers Guild, Makeup and Hairstylists, Motion Picture Sound Editors, Society of Composers and Lyricists and Visual Effects Company. In other words, it should be taken very seriously — more seriously than many have taken — in the race for the Oscars.

With eight precursor names, each is The power of the dog (PGA, DGA, ACE, ASC, CAS, CDG, SCL and MPSE) and West Side Story (PGA, DGA, WGA, ADG, CAS, CDG, MPSE and MUHS), although both, as Dunesalso – and even more inexplicably – missed a name of the best SAG set. West Side Story also comes out with weird misfires with ACE and ASC (apparently there is some bad blood between ASC and former ASC member Janusz Kaminsky).

Don’t look up and no time to die were each chosen by six groups (the first by SAG, PGA, WGA, ACE, ADG and SCL and the second by ACE, ADG, CAS, CDG, MPSE and MUHS), while five each went to Belfast (SAG, PGA, DGA, ACE and MPSE), Licorice Pizza (PGA, DGA, WGA, ACE and ADG) and alley of nightmares (WGA, ADG, ASC, CDG and MPSE).

Landing four each were The French Dispatch (WGA, ACE, ADG and SCL), King Richard (SAG, PGA, WGA and ACE), Tick, tick… Boom! (PGA, WGA, ACE and MPSE) and Cruel (ACE, ADG, CDG and MUHS), and three each were CODA (SAG, PGA and WGA), The green knight (ADG, CDG and SCL), Gucci House (SAG, CDG and MUHS), In the heights (ADG, CDG and MPSE), The Matrix Resurrections (CDG, MPSE and VES), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (ADG, CDG and VES), Spider-Man: No Coming Home (CAS, CDG and MPSE) and Macbeth’s Tragedy (ADG, ASC and MPSE).

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