Four out of the last five Oscar ceremonies have seen a split between the Best Director and Best Picture awards. Last year, Damien Chazelle won Best Director for “La La Land” while “Moonlight” was named Best Picture. The year before that, Alejandro Inarritu took home the Best Director Oscar for “The Revenant” while “Spotlight” bested it to claim the top Academy Award.
Inarritu had won Best Director at the Oscars the year before that for “Birdman,” which also won Best Picture. That marked the only marriage between the two awards in the last five years. While “12 Years a Slave” won Best Picture in 2014, it was “Gravity” helmer Alfonso Cuaron who was honoured by the academy. And in 2013, “Argo” won Best Picture, but with its helmer, Ben Affleck, snubbed by the directors branch of the academy, it was Ang Lee who won Best Director for “Life of Pi.”
It’s a split that is becoming more and more regular due to the preferential ballot used to determine the winner of the Best Picture Academy Award. Voters rank the Best Picture nominees, rather than simply picking one nominee as they do in the other 23 categories.
This means that its not necessarily the film with the most number one votes that wins. Rather, its the film with the most number two and three votes. A film doesn’t need to be overwhelmingly loved by some voters, as were Oscar also-rans “La La Land” or “The Revenant.” Rather, to win it needs a to be liked by (almost) everyone, gathering support and respect in the way that “Moonlight” and “Spotlight” did.
Among this year’s Best Picture contenders, which are the most likely to inspire passion from a few and which will get more widespread, albeit muted, support. If there is a split between the winner of the top Oscar and Best Director, which way will it go?
Of the most recent four divides, the winner of Best Director has been the helmer of the frontrunner for Best Picture. That is not surprising, given that Best Director, as with all the Oscar races save Best Picture, is the nominee with the most votes.
Which film this year will be one with the most number one votes? The four current favorites to win Best Picture are “Dunkirk,” “Lady Bird,” “The Post” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” It is easy to see “Lady Bird” and “Three Billboards” earning a large amount of number one votes but will they appeal to the majority of the academy in the same way that “Dunkirk” or “The Post” almost definitely will?
The frontrunner for Best Director is Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”) followed by Guillermo Del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) and Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”). Any of their films could receive the most number one votes but may not appeal to all academy members as other movies might.
Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.