“1917” pulled off two upsets at Sunday’s Golden Globes, scoring Best Director for Sam Mendes and Best Drama Picture. They were both in fourth place in our odds, and ironically, the one award it was predicted to win, Best Original Score, it lost to “Joker.” There’s no question that these are two huge gets for the late-breaking World War I drama, which doesn’t even open wide until Friday, and while the film a top three player now, don’t be so quick to declare it the new Oscar frontrunner.
Since the Globes has two picture categories, it has double the chances of anointing the eventual Best Picture Oscar winner, and the eventual Oscar champ is usually a drama, not a comedy. But this century, only 10 of the drama or comedy/musical Globe film winners have gone on to win the Best Picture Oscar. In the 2000s, there was a four-year streak of a complete mismatch, with the Oscars going to 2004’s “Million Dollar Baby” (over Globe champs “The Aviator” and “Sideways”), 2005’s “Crash” (over “Brokeback Mountain” and “Walk the Line” — “Crash” wasn’t even nominated at the Globes), 2006’s “The Departed” (over “Babel” and “Dreamgirls”) and 2007’s “No Country for Old Men” (over “Atonement” and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”)
Since the Oscars expanded the Best Picture lineup and switched to a preferential ballot the past 10 years, the Globes has matched with Oscar five times. In two cases during this time, the Globe comedy/musical winner claimed the Oscar: “The Artist” (2011) and “Green Book” (2018). The three drama matches were “Argo” (2012), “12 Years a Slave” (2013) and “Moonlight” (2016).
The other times, Oscar went with 2009’s “The Hurt Locker” (over Globe winners “Avatar” and “The Hangover,” the latter of which was not Oscar-nominated), 2010’s “The King’s Speech” (over “The Social Network” and “The Kids Are All Right”), 2014’s “Birdman” (over “Boyhood” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), 2015’s “Spotlight” (over “The Revenant” and “The Martian”) and 2017’s “The Shape of Water” (over “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Lady Bird”).
In some of these instances, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which is not the industry, crowned the frontrunner at the moment before the industry truly weighed in, like with “The Social Network” and “Boyhood,” two races that completely turned once we all realized everyone in town was far enamored with “The King’s Speech” and “Birdman.” 2017 was a closer race, and “Three Billboards'” win seemed to signal that it was, in fact, surging despite the backlash. It later won the Screen Actors Guild Award ensemble prize, but it ultimately fell to Producers Guild and Directors Guild of America Awards winner “The Shape of Water” (and “Three Billboards” director Martin McDonagh was also Oscar-snubbed).
“1917” is most akin to “The Revenant,” another late-breaking Christmas Day release that also won the Best Director Globe, for Alejandro G. Inarritu, plus an acting statuette to boot for Leonardo DiCaprio. In the end, the Oscar went to the consensus choice in “Spotlight.”
Every year and every race is different, of course, and context is key. “The Revenant” and “Three Billboards” were far more divisive than “1917,” an immersive war epic that’s riding on the “filmed like one take” narrative (not unlike “Birdman”). And it’s a much more emotional, character-driven war film than, say, “Dunkirk” (2017). It’s going to dominate the below-the-line categories, and another Best Director Oscar win for Mendes is definitely not out of the question since the category has favored massive technical achievements recently.
The directing category has also become less linked with Best Picture in the expanded era (they’ve mismatched five times in the last seven years). And while “1917” is peaking at the right time — and will likely have a good day with BAFTA nominations on Tuesday — there are other contenders that are also doing well and would perform well, theoretically, on a preferential ballot. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which won three Globes, including comedy/musical picture, has hit every guild for which it’s eligible so far, so the broad support is there. The movie is also about the industry. And “Parasite” is a crowd-pleasing smash — that SAG Award ensemble nomination was huge — and would be an underdog win a la “Spotlight” and “Moonlight.” Its only drawback is that it’s a foreign language film. (“The Irishman” looked strong at the start, but it’s underwhelmed since, missing for Robert De Niro at the Globes and SAG, going 0-5 at the Globes, it’s cursed with the “too long” label, and there’s the Netflix of it all.)
“Once” and “Parasite” also have an edge on “1917” in a few other ways: They’re both solid contenders in acting and writing (a supporting bid for “Parasite” star Song Kang Ho, who’s in fifth place in our odds, is the shakiest). At the moment, “1917” is not expected to get either; it’s in seventh in original screenplay and star George MacKay is in 17th in lead actor. Only two films have won Best Picture without acting or writing bids: the very first champ, “Wings” (1927/28), and the fifth winner, “Grand Hotel” (1932), which won Best Picture as its sole nomination. You could chalk those up to the baby steps of the early years.
“1917” was snubbed by SAG, but it wasn’t expected to get any bids, and that could’ve also been a result of the movie being under-seen since SAG started voting before the film was even locked. “1917” did get some great news on Monday: It received a Writers Guild of America Award nomination, confirming that yes, the industry is into this film now that people are seeing it. But “Once” and “The Farewell,” both of which are in our predicted top five, were ineligible, as was “Pain and Glory,” which is in sixth place. How much of its nomination was out of passion and how much of it was out of necessity as a backup, so to speak?
Regardless, the fact that “1917” did get it shows that a screenplay Oscar bid is in play, so if it makes the cut next week, do start to take its Best Picture chances very, very seriously.
Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.