In the month leading up to the Oscars, a slew of guild awards help to paint a picture of likely frontrunners for the Academy Awards. But Oscars 2019 — which has been serving up drama worthy of a statuette itself — is shaping up a little differently as all major guild awards have picked very different films.
The Producers Guild Awards, which often foreshadows the Best Picture Oscar, kicked off the race in January by picking Green Book as its winner. But a week later, the Screen Actors Guild — the largest body of Oscar voters — awarded its top prize for ensemble cast to Black Panther. This month, the Directors Guild of America, often the determinant for the Best Directing Oscar, picked Alfonso Cuaron for Roma as its top winner, while the American Society of Cinematographers eschewed Cuaron for Łukasz Żal of the Polish film Cold War.
And then, there was Sunday’s Writers Guild of America awards, the final stop before Feb. 24’s Oscars, which served yet another surprise. Often a predictor for the Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar winners, the WGA decided to honor Bo Burnham’s indie coming-of-age tale Eighth Grade — not nominated for an Oscar — for original screenplay, over Oscar nominees Green Book, Roma, and Vice. In the adapted screenplay category, Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty’s script for Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which is nominated for an Oscar, won the Writers Guild award over other Oscar nominees A Star Is Born, BlacKkKlansman, and If Beale Street Could Talk.
Which leads to the question — which film is going to take Best Picture on Oscar night? From the above, it could be anybody’s game. Usually, the winners bestowed by the Producers Guild and SAG give a good indication, but in recent years, the guilds have served up curveballs in the Oscar race.
Take last year, when Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri took home the SAG prize while Get Out won the WGA for original screenplay, but it was Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water — the PGA and DGA winner — that took home the Best Picture Oscar. In 2017, Hidden Figures won the SAG ensemble award, Moonlight won WGA’s original screenplay, and La La Land won the PGA and DGA awards. Then what happened on Oscars night went into the annals of Academy Awards history with an onstage envelope mix-up, but Moonlight bested La La Land for the Best Picture Oscar.
In fact, not since 2013 has one film consistently swept the guild awards and then the Oscars, and that was Ben Affleck’s Argo.
Roma and The Favourite lead this year’s Oscar nominees with 10 nods each this year, while Vice and A Star Is Born have eight each, and any of them could take home the top prize of the night.
The Best Picture race, unlike the other categories of the Oscars where the nominee with the most votes wins, is determined by a preferential voting system.
This means that voters rank each best picture winner from one to eight in their ballots. The ballots are then sorted by everyone’s No. 1 pick — the film that garners the lowest votes is taken out of the running, and those ballots are redistributed by the voter’s second choice pick — and so on until one film lands 51 percent of the votes.
This means that if voters split their No. 1 picks between, say, Roma, The Favourite, and Green Book, but all of them pick A Star Is Born as their second or third pick, then it’s possible for A Star Is Born — which hasn’t received much love from the guilds — to cross that 51 percent threshold.
Given the multitudes of problems that Oscar organizers have faced in the run-up to the show — losing a host and coming under fire for trying to hand out awards during commercial breaks, to name a few — a wide-open race with some blockbuster movies amidst the prestige fare may actually help boost those drastically low ratings from last year. And if not, there’s always Serena Williams and Bette Midler to look forward to.