“Birdman” pulled off an upset at Saturday’s Producers Guild Awards, edging out frontrunner “Boyhood” for Best Picture. Can it ride this momentum all the way to stage of the Dolby Theater on Feb. 22 and claim the top Academy Award too?
Will this awards season now play out like the one back in 2010? Remember, “The Social Network” had swept up a slew of critics awards as well as the Golden Globe before “The King’s Speech” roared back and won over the producers. Thus began its march through the guild awards — including both SAG and DGA — before ultimately triumphing at the Oscars.
The PGA was the first guild to be heard from this year. And, perhaps even more importantly, its members voted for Best Picture using the same system of preferential balloting as the academy. With voters ranking all the nominees, the winner is the film that outdoes all others overall and not just with those passionate supporters who put it at number one.
That “Birdman” was ranked higher than “Boyhood” on a majority of ballots cast by the 6,769 members of the PGA (the academy has 6,124 voters) could well be a portent of awards to come. Since the academy reverted back to this method of determining the Best Picture winner in 2009, the PGA has foreseen all five Oscar champs. Yes, the producer did hedge their bets last year by naming both eventual Academy Award winner “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” as the best of the year, but that only demonstrated just how close that race was.
We cannot underestimate the bandwagon effect. Don’t we all want to be on the winning team? Gold Derby is predicting that “Birdman” will win two of the five SAG Awards for film on Sunday — Best Actor for Michael Keaton, who is far out in front at the Oscars too, and Best Ensemble.
Granted, that latter prize has a spotty record as a precursor to the Best Picture winner at the Academy Awards; last year, the guild went with “American Hustle.” However, while it has presaged only nine of the last 19 Best Picture winners, two of those — “Shakespeare in Love” over “Saving Private Ryan” in 1998 and “Crash” over “Brokeback Mountain” in 2005 — rank among the biggest upsets in Oscar history.
In both those instances, guild voters went with films that had larger casts than the also-rans (11 versus 9 in 1998 and 11 versus 7 in 2005). Size matters somewhat with SAG. Since the Oscars expanded the Best Picture field in 2009, the movie with the largest number of nominees has won Best Ensemble at SAG in four of the five years:
2009: “Inglorious Basterds” (16 nominees) over, among others, eventual Oscar winner “The Hurt Locker” (five nominees);
2010: “The King’s Speech” (nine nominees) over, among others, “The Social Network” (six nominees);
2011: “The Help” (12 nominees) over, among others, eventual Oscar winner “The Artist” (five nominees); and
2012: “Argo” (13 nominees) over, among others, “Lincoln” (seven nominees).
However, last year, “Hustle,” with 11 credited actors, edged out “Slave” and its 13 nominees; “Gravity,” which was essentially a one-woman show, did not contend.
And while SAG voting ended on Friday, the 15,000 members of the Directors Guild have until Feb. 6 to cast their ballots. Currently, “Boyhood” helmer Richard Linklater has a strong lead over “Birdman” writer/director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu in our rankings. These awards will be handed out on Feb. 7, the night before the BAFTAs are doled out in London.
If Inarritu can prevail over Linklater at the DGA — as “King’s Speech” helmer Tom Hooper did over critics’ darling David Fincher (“The Social Network”) — and do the same at the BAFTA (his film has 10 nominations versus five for “Boyhood”), “Birdman” could well soar off with the Best Picture Oscar.
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