The last precursor for actors on the way to the Academy Awards is the BAFTAs across the pond in Great Britain. Dev Patel will compete for his performance as Saroo Brierley, who was adopted by an Australian couple after getting separated from his family in India when he was five. But 25 years later Saroo decides to seek out the family he lost. Patel lost the Golden Globe for Supporting Actor to Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“Nocturnal Animals”). And he lost the Critics’ Choice Award and SAG Award to Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”). Can he still pull off a major upset and make himself a dark horse to win the Oscar?
According to Gold Derby’s exclusive odds Patel sits in third place with odds of 13/2. Ali is currently the front runner with odds of 8/11, and right on his heels is Taylor-Johnson with odds of 11/2. Rounding out the category are Hugh Grant (“Florence Foster Jenkins”) in fourth place with odds of 15/2 and Jeff Bridges (“Hell or High Water”) in fifth place with odds of 80/1. This is a tight race and anyone could win, but Patel should feel good with his chances as I believe the odds are mistaken. Below are the top 5 reasons why I’m predicting him to upset.
1. The other Brits are not a factor
Both Grant and Taylor-Johnson were snubbed at the Oscars and since neither of those snubs were a huge shock their chances of pulling off an upset here are slim. Grant has already won a BAFTA (Best Actor for “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” 1994), so he’s not overdue. And while the Globes preferred Taylor-Johnson and BAFTA did nominate him for Rising Star (2011), his momentum seems to have run out. So if the British academy decides to vote patriotically they might choose to give some momentum to Patel, the one with a chance at the big prize: Oscar.
2. “Moonlight” under-performed
“Lion” scored five nominations: Supporting Actor (Patel), Supporting Actress (Nicole Kidman), Adapted Screenplay (Luke Davies), Cinematography and Score. “Moonlight” only scored four: Picture, Supporting Actor (Ali), Supporting Actress (Naomie Harris) and Original Screenplay (Barry Jenkins). Even though “Moonlight” made it into the top category, Jenkins was shockingly snubbed for Best Director. If this race comes down to Ali and Patel, the fact that they they didn’t fully embrace “Moonlight” and “Lion” is a more international film could play a factor in their decision making.
3. Ali is a relative unknown with screen-time problems
Prior to “Moonlight” Ali was best known for his work as Remy on “House of Cards.” “House of Cards” has received two BAFTA TV nominations for Best International Show (2014-2015), but this may be a lot of voters’ first real look at his work. If that is the case, then his limited screen time is also problematic as he only appears in the first third of “Moonlight.” Meanwhile, Patel dominates the last hour of “Lion”; he is the emotional center of his movie and gives a guilt-ridden, heart-wrenching performance as his character searches for his birth mother.
4. Patel is due
Patel first came into the awards conversation in 2008’s Oscar winner for Best Picture, “Slumdog Millionaire,” which was also a seven-time BAFTA winner, also including Best Picture. It was an underdog story of a young man (Patel) trying to win the popular game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Patel received his first BAFTA nomination for Best Actor (he lost to Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler”), but with confusion around which category he belonged in (he was placed in supporting at SAG), he was snubbed at the Oscars. Eight years later and he’s finally in at the Oscars, and his fellow Brits might see this as their opportunity to finally award him.
5. Is the overall race in flux?
Earlier in the Oscar race it was expected that Ali would run the board, winning every award along the way. Then along came Taylor-Johnson at the Globes and pundits and prognosticators started wondering if Ali was as strong a frontrunner as we all expected. Ali did recover by winning the SAG Award, but if Patel should pull off the upset at BAFTA, it would give him the necessary momentum going into the home stretch and we might have a new Oscar frontrunner. Keep in mind last year’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner, Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”), who only won one precursor: BAFTA.
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