Viola Davis (‘Widows’) could still pull off an Oscar heist after BAFTA surprise

Viola Davis looked like a top Oscar contender early in the fall for “Widows,” in which she leads a group of women forced to pick up where their dead husbands left off by committing a daring heist. But snubs from precursor events like the Golden Globes and SAG Awards caused the film to sink in our Oscar odds. It looked like the industry just might not be that into the heist drama, but then it pulled off a heist of its own at the BAFTA Awards, earning Davis the Best Actress nomination that had eluded her at other events. Could she swipe an Oscar nom after all?

“Widows” looked like an ideal awards contender on paper. Not only did it star Oscar winner Davis, it was also directed by Steve McQueen, whose last film, “12 Years a Slave” (2013), won Best Picture. In addition, it had a prestigious ensemble cast including Daniel Kaluuya, Brian Tyree Henry, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki. And it had great reviews. But the film under-performed at the box office — $75 million worldwide, not a disastrous sum, but it might have tainted the film for awards groups. Awards are supposed to be about art and not about business, but money makes more of a difference than voters might like to admit. “First Man” also looked like Oscar catnip this year until it was let down by its slow box office.

But the BAFTA nomination for Davis might be the late surge she needs to secure a spot at the Oscars. It helps that the season has been fairly divided thus far. Most of the Expert journalists we’ve polled agree on four nominees for Best Actress: Glenn Close (“The Wife”), Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”), Lady Gaga (“A Star is Born”) and Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”). That last spot could be up for grabs, though. It could go to Yalitza Aparicio (“Roma”) since we’re expecting the Oscars to fawn over her film in other top categories. And it could go to Emily Blunt (“Mary Poppins Returns”), who was nominated at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards.

But Davis beat both of them to a BAFTA nom, which is significant because the British academy is a voting body similar to the American motion picture academy, and they have many members in common. It’s also significant because the BAFTAs loved “Roma” and they have a history of loving Blunt (she was nominated for “The Devil Wears Prada” and “The Girl on the Train”), so this may be evidence of a groundswell of industry support for Davis we weren’t expecting.

As of this writing three of our Experts are predicting a nomination for Davis: Claudia Puig (KPCC), Christopher Rosen ( and Sasha Stone (Awards Daily). And so do two of the Top 24 Users who got the highest scores predicting last year’s Oscar nominations. If they’re right, Davis will set a new record for the most Oscar nominations in history for a black actress; she’s currently tied with Octavia Spencer at three apiece. Maybe crime really does pay.

Be sure to check out how our experts rank this year’s Oscar contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominations are announced on January 22.

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