Why the BAFTA and Oscar Best Picture winner could line up for the first time in four years

For the last three years, BAFTA and Oscar have chosen different Best Picture winners, which could be bad news for BAFTA champ “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” But “Three Billboards” is more likely to buck this trend than fall victim to it because of one thing: SAG.

Since the Oscars switched to a preferential ballot for Best Picture eight years ago, BAFTA lined up with Oscar the first five years, both selecting “The Hurt Locker” (2009), “The King’s Speech” (2010), “The Artist” (2011), “Argo” (2012) and “12 Years a Slave” (2013). And then they started deviating: BAFTA went with “Boyhood” (2014), “The Revenant” (2015) and “La La Land” (2016), while Oscar anointed “Birdman” (2014), “Spotlight” (2015) and “Moonlight” (2016).

SEE 2018 BAFTA Awards: ‘Three Billboards’ wins 5 including Best Picture, ‘The Shape of Water’ takes 3

The last three BAFTA champs all have one thing in common: They didn’t have SAG in their corner. “Boyhood” was nominated for SAG ensemble, but lost that and Best Picture to “Birdman.” “The Revenant” and “La La Land” did not have SAG ensemble nominations and lost the Oscar to the SAG winner (“Spotlight”) and a SAG nominee (“Moonlight”), respectively.

“Three Billboards” does not have this issue — quite the opposite actually. It was a SAG darling, becoming just the fourth film to win three SAG awards in one night after “American Beauty” (1999), “Chicago” (2002) and “The Help” (2011); the former two went on to win Best Picture. “Three Billboards” also broke a big SAG stat, with Frances McDormand becoming the first person to win Best Actress more than once (ironically, all three aforementioned three-time SAG champs lost Best Actress at the Oscars).

There’s a big cross-section of BAFTA and academy members, but the academy’s largest voting bloc is the acting branch. As such, it holds a lot of sway, and it’s clear actors adore “Three Billboards.” Its closest Oscar rival, “The Shape of Water,” which leads our Oscar odds, doesn’t have that all-important SAG ensemble nomination and is trying to become the first film since “Braveheart” (1995) to win Best Picture without it. Nearly everyone thought “La La Land” would defy that stat last year, but if a steamroller that won every precursor in sight couldn’t do it, can a comparatively weak frontrunner like “The Shape of Water” do it? It did beat “Three Billboards” on a preferential ballot at the Producers Guild Awards, but “Three Billboards” has more wins — Globes, SAG, BAFTA — to its name and more passion from actors. Plus, PGA hasn’t matched with the Oscars the past two years either, crowning “The Big Short” and “La La Land,” so something has to give.

And you know what was the last film to win SAG, BAFTA and Oscar? “Argo,” which was missing a Best Director nomination like you-know-who this year.

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