Best Picture Oscar winner will be determined by script races

Netflix has every right to relent after this weekend’s trio of big wins from the Directors Guild of America (DGA), BAFTA and Critics Choice Awards, where it scooped top prizes with Jane’s “The Power of the Dog.” Campion. With its 12 nominations and Oscar nominee Sam Elliott’s reviews of the film’s gay themes arguably helping, the film could be heading to BESTPICTURE (so to speak). However, with two categories of 50/50 storylines up for grabs – “Belfast” and “Licorice Pizza” battling for the original, and “CODA” and “The Power of the Dog” fishing for the adaptation – the answer to which the film won the Academy’s top prize in these races.

Entering a ceremony with the most nominations isn’t always a no-brainer for Oscar success, as evidenced by our last three leads: “Mank” (2020), “Joker” (2019), “The Favorite” and “Roma” (2018). Campion’s methodical drama brought Netflix one step closer to winning the top Academy Award, which was an obvious goal for the streamer. With final Oscar voting set to begin on Thursday and end on March 22, massive momentum is in favor of Netflix leading out the window. However, BAFTA provided a nail-biter for the West, especially after losing the adapted screenplay of Siân Heder’s “CODA,” which also won the supporting actor (Troy Kotsur). The beloved author still managed to walk away with top prizes for Best Picture and Director. As a general rule, the BAFTAs do not “award” films. While the Oscars rewarded “Ben-Hur” (1959), “Titanic” (1997) and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003) with 11 statuettes each, George Roy Hill’s classic Western “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969) is the most BAFTA-awarded film with nine.

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Assessing the path to victory, “Power” could mimic its BAFTA tally for best picture and director, but that outcome might be less likely than picking up another award or two for screenplay and possibly cinematography for Ari Wegner, who won the CCA. Only Lewis Milestone’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930) and Frank Capra’s “You Can’t Take It With You” (1938) won Best Picture and Best Director. Since best picture extension in 2009, the most awarded film has been “The Hurt Locker” (2009) with six and “The Artist” (2011) with five, the rest with four or less. Tom McCarthy’s ‘Spotlight’ (2015), a look at journalists exposing sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, won two awards for original screenplay and picture, the first winner with just two since ‘The Greatest Show on Earth” (1952). Coincidentally, 1952 was the first year that “The Bad and the Beautiful” became the most awarded film with five, not nominated for picture and director. Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ could be flipping it over to the director’s side.

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“CODA”
Courtesy of Mark Hill/Apple TV Plus

The script for a “CODA” winning night for Apple Original Films would be a sweep of its three Oscar names – picture, supporting actor and adapted screenplay. It was not nominated for Best Picture at the BAFTAs, and no film has won the unnamed Oscar since “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) due to its late release. We have to go back to “Braveheart” (1995) for a film that overcame the odds, but it’s worth nothing that the BAFTAs took place after the Oscars. However, “CODA” still won the two crossover categories it has with the Oscars.

The track record of BAFTA-suited screenplays is strong, with five of the last six winners winning the Oscar. It should also be noted that the only “gap” from “Lion” (2016) saw the ultimate Oscar winner “Moonlight” nominated in the original screenplay at the ceremony due to the mismatch of WGA decisions and Oscar.

On the side of the house’s original screenplay, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza” won the BAFTA. At the same time, Branagh’s film won Critics Choice, which many predicted would be the reverse due to the methodology and composition of both groups. With 11 career nominations, this could be Anderson’s late moment with the Academy with his comedy-drama which is also nominated for Picture and Director. However, Branagh has eight career nominations, and seven are in separate categories, making him the first to achieve such a feat. While no one thinks “Licorice Pizza” is a threat to win Best Picture for MGM/United Artists Releasing, a winning moment from Anderson would likely tell us that “Belfast” could go home empty-handed.

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Belfast director Kenneth Branagh

The “Belfast” route could mimic the “Spotlight” route, with the film taking on an original script and image. If monochrome drama has a chance, it would be through ranked balloting, which is how AMPAS members vote for Best Picture, unlike BAFTA and Critics Choice. It would set Branagh’s personal drama in place to emulate the only three Best Picture winners who only took home the top prize: ‘The Broadway Melody’ (1929), ‘Grand Hotel’ (1932) and ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’. ” (1935). With statistical records dropping every year, that would make sense in such a turbulent season.

It’s also important to point out that last year’s BAFTA winner “Nomadland” (2020) was the first Oscar match since “12 Years a Slave” (2013). Critics Choice corresponded four times in the same period with the aforementioned two, and adding “Spotlight” (2015) and “The Shape of Water” (2017).

If you’re someone who believes “The Power of the Dog” can only win the director, you have to go back to Mike Nichols for “The Graduate” (1967) for a movie to win that category alone. In fact, there are seven in total who have done so, the majority of them being in the early years of the Academy.

  • Mike Nichols, “The Graduate” (1967)
  • George Stevens, “Giant” (1956)
  • Leo McCarey, “The Awful Truth” (1937)
  • Frank Capra, “Mr. Deeds Go to Town” (1936)
  • Norman Taurog, “Skippy” (1931)
  • Frank Lloyd, “The Divine Lady” (1928)
  • Lewis Milestone, “Two Arabian Knights” (1927) **
    ** At the first Academy Awards, directing was divided into dramatic picture and comedic picture. Milestone won for comedy and was the film’s only nomination.

The ranked theories and probabilities for Oscar night to win PICTURE / DIRECTOR / ORIGINAL SCENARIO / ADAPTED SCREENPLAY are:

  1. The Power of the Dog / Jane Campion / Licorice Pizza / The Power of the Dog
  2. CODA / Jane Campion / Belfast / CODA
  3. CODA / Jane Campion / Licorice Pizza / CODA
  4. The Power of the Dog / Jane Campion / Belfast / The Power of the Dog
  5. Belfast / Jane Campion / Belfast / CODA
  6. Belfast / Jane Campion / Licorice Pizza / CODA

Simply: “The Power of the Dog” can’t win without a winning storyline, “CODA” can’t win without sweeping, and “Belfast” can’t win without “The Power of the Dog” losing a suitable storyline. Either way, Jane Campion is going to win the director.

We are almost there. and PGA, as always, will be crucial. The Oscars’ predicted winners (as of March 14) are down, and yes, they’re subject to change.

  • Best Picture: “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix) – Laura Berwick, Kenneth Branagh, Becca Kovacik and Tamar Thomas
  • Director: Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  • Actor: Will Smith, “King Richard” (Warner Bros)
  • Actress: Jessica Chastain, “The eyes of Tammy Faye” (Searchlight Pictures)
  • Supporting actor: Troy Kotsur, “CODA” (Apple Original Films)
  • supporting actress: Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)
  • Original screenplay: “Belfast” (Focus Features) – Kenneth Branagh
  • Adapted scenario: “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix) – Jane Campion
  • Animated feature: “Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures) – Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Yvett Merino and Clark Spencer
  • production design: “Dune” (Warner Bros) – Patrice Vermette, Zsuzsanna Sipos
  • Cinematography: “Dune” (Warner Bros) – Greig Fraser
  • costume design: “Cruel” (Walt Disney Pictures) – Jenny Beavan
  • Film editing: “King Richard” (Warner Bros) – Pamela Martin
  • Make-up and hairstyle: “The eyes of Tammy Faye” (Searchlight Pictures) – Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh
  • Ring: “Dune” (Warner Bros) – Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett
  • Visual effects: “Dune” (Warner Bros) – Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor and Gerd Nefzer
  • Original score: “Dune” (Warner Bros) – Hans Zimmer
  • original song: “Dos Oruguitas” from “Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures) – Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • Documentary feature film: “Flee” (Neon) – Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Charlotte De La Gournerie
  • International feature: “Drive My Car” from Japan (Janus Films/Sideshow)
  • Animated short film: “Bestia” (Miyu Distribution) – Hugo Covarrubias and Tevo Díaz
  • Documentary short film: “Audible” (Netflix) – Matt Ogens, Geoff McLean
  • Live action short film: “The Long Goodbye” (WePresent) – Aniel Karia, Riz Ahmed