After BAFTAs, is ‘Promising Young Woman’ now the biggest threat to ‘Nomadland’ for Best Picture Oscar?

Nomadland” led the BAFTA Awards with four wins including Best Picture, Best Director (Chloe Zhao), and Best Actress (Frances McDormand), solidifying it as the Oscar front-runner for Best Picture (though the BAFTAs have been kind of a jinx in recent years). But the way the rest of the awards turned out, I think “Promising Young Woman” could credibly be the industry’s number-two choice, which could make it a threat at the Oscars.

Emerald Fennell‘s “Promising Young Woman” script won Best Original Screenplay at the BAFTAs, just like it did at the Writers Guild Awards. In both cases it beat “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” while “Minari” wasn’t nominated at either event (at the WGA Awards it was ineligible, at the BAFTAs it was just snubbed). Then “Promising” won Best British Film, defeating two fellow BAFTA nominees for Best Picture (“The Father” and “The Mauritanian”) as well as the film tied with “Nomadland” for the most nominations (“Rocks”). So there’s a good chance “Promising” was BAFTA voters’ second choice behind “Nomadland” in the top category.

But what about Carey Mulligan‘s snub for Best Actress, you may ask. Well, the acting categories were decided by small juries instead of BAFTAs acting chapter as a whole. The wider voting membership put Mulligan on the long list, but the jury left her out of the final six. This is not meant to criticize the juries. I actually quite like BAFTA’s effort to level the playing field, opening the door for worthy left-field choices with less rubber-stamping of the most obvious Oscar contenders. But it means we can’t really judge the Oscar race by the BAFTA acting nominations. Under the previous voting system, it’s likely Mulligan would have been nominated and won given the film’s strong showing in other categories.

So there are reasons to believe “Promising” has a leg up on “Trial of the Chicago 7” and “Minari” when it comes to industry esteem. And at the Oscars it’s the only film besides “Nomadland” to earn nominations for acting, directing, writing, and editing, which are categories you usually need to ensure an Oscar triumph — or at least most of those categories, as you usually can’t afford to miss more than one.

As of this writing “Promising Young Woman” ranks fourth with 7/1 odds for Best Picture based on the combined Oscar predictions of thousands of Gold Derby users, behind “Nomadland” (4/1), “Trial” (6/1), and “Minari” (6/1). But it’s the odds-on favorite for Actress and Original Screenplay, and Picture, acting, and writing are a familiar trifecta in recent years: those are the exact three fields won by “12 Years a Slave” (2013), “Moonlight” (2016), and “Green Book” (2018).

The biggest challenge for the film may be the preferential ballot. It will need lots of voters to rank it high on their ballots in addition to getting enough number-one votes to stay in the game. The number-one votes may not be a problem given the amount of passion the film provokes, but it’s also possible the film will rank low on many other ballots given its tough, confrontational subject matter about sexual assault and its controversial ending. But there is still a chance that the surprise ending could be a Best Picture victory for “Promising Young Woman.”

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