Oscar Experts Typing: Can anyone beat Ariana DeBose at BAFTA and beyond?

Welcome to Oscar Experts Typing, a weekly column in which Gold Derby editors and Experts Joyce Eng and Christopher Rosen discuss the Oscar race — via Slack, of course. This week, we look at Best Supporting Actress, the one acting category that appears dunzo.

Christopher Rosen: Hello, Joyce! It’s the end of a long week — remember 53 years ago when Sam Elliott made headlines for hating on “The Power of the Dog”? — which means it feels like the perfect time to stream “West Side Story”? Look, I don’t make the rules, but as we talked about earlier this week, with Steven Spielberg‘s epic musical now available on Disney+ and HBO Max, audiences are catching up to where we were in December. This movie is boss and it not only should have gotten at least three additional Oscar nominations (Best Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor for Mr. Mike Faist), but I think the case can be made that it should have been our Best Picture frontrunner. Shoulda, coulda, woulda, and all that excepted, however, I still feel like “West Side Story” can make a run. But we’re not here to type about Best Picture again, but the one category where “West Side Story” feels destined to win: Best Supporting Actress, where Ariana DeBose has stood firm as the overwhelming favorite. DeBose won at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday and could win twice next weekend at both the BAFTA Awards and Critics Choice Awards. But what if she doesn’t? Over at Screen Daily this week, a bunch of anonymous BAFTA and Oscar voters weighed in on the races and DeBose had scant support among the polled group. It isn’t the biggest shocker — “West Side Story” underperformed at the BAFTAs — but it does lead me to wonder if someone like Aunjanue Ellis could sneak in and make it a race. Ellis was somehow snubbed at the SAG Awards, but I’d argue she got a significant boost at the ceremony anyway when Will Smith cited her as the driving engine among the cast in a search for authenticity. In that Screen Daily story, numerous voters called out her performance — and even one of the people who said they would end up going with Ruth Negga instead called Ellis “wonderful.” BAFTA is the Wild West this year and perhaps not broadly indicative of where Oscar voters might go. But stranger things have happened? Joyce, talk me off the ledge and remind me again why DeBose is a slam dunk winner here.

joyceeng: Well, for starters, you’re reacting to six votes out of nearly 7,000 at BAFTA, but that’s what I love about you. (Note that neither of the two AMPAS members polled picked Ellis, but rather DeBose and Jessie Buckley.) Would it be cool for Ellis to win BAFTA and ostensibly make this seem like a race? For sure. You know how I feel about full-on sweeps and Oracene Price herself. Give me my “Queen Oracene” movie so we can get Ellis a Best Actress Oscar! She was every bit as important in molding her daughters’ tennis careers as Richard Williams was, which “King Richard” touches on in the kitchen scene, aka Ellis’ Oscar clip, but you never get the full scope of it because it’s not her story. I think Ellis could’ve upset DeBose at SAG, but she was inexplicably snubbed, which could just be a fluke, but I also can’t ignore it because that should’ve been the easiest get for her. Plus, of “King Richard’s” four BAFTA noms, three of them were in juried categories, so it could have an uphill battle in a general vote. In these six ballots, Ellis got two votes and additional praise while DeBose got one — from the same male producer who’s voting for Mike Faist (a voter with great taste!) — so the instinct is to jump ship to Ellis, but again, this is not even a fraction of the total votes. DeBose has probably built up too much momentum to be denied the sweep now, but at the same time, I also would not be stunned if she lost BAFTA (I’d still predict her for the Oscar). Before Oscar nominations, people were clocking Caitriona Balfe for the BAFTA upset. She obviously didn’t get the Oscar nom, but Jessie Buckley did. They each have a BAFTA vote from this sextet. You can argue that with multiple possible threats to DeBose, no one will emerge as the consensus alternative, so she’ll win anyway. What do you think? Is someone other than Ellis coming for DeBose?

SEE Oscar Experts predictions slugfest: Did ‘The Power of the Dog’ and ‘West Side Story’ just get Best Picture boosts?

Christopher Rosen: You mentioned Buckley, and let’s stump for her. She’s quietly amassed quite a resume this awards season and should win on Sunday at the Indie Spirit Awards. Her BAFTA Award nomination was a canary in the coal mine for her eventual Oscar nomination, and I could imagine a scenario where she’s an upset winner at BAFTA and finds herself right there with DeBose. It’s apples to oranges, but I guess the case study for a Buckley win could be Mark Rylance over Sylvester Stallone? But let’s shift here to the case for DeBose since she’s been the frontrunner for months. We both agree this is a pretty special performance, and I can only imagine that like the rest of “West Side Story,” her stock will rise with the movie now available on streaming. Maybe this entire exercise has been moot and I’m tying myself into knots for no reason. So what do you think, Joyce? Is Buckley a dark horse here or are we dancing around the obvious winner?

joyceeng: We are. As we’ve discussed multiple times, this is the one acting category that feels very much done. DeBose has been the one aspect of “West Side Story” that’s emerged unscathed in a shaky season for the film, and that’s because she entered the season with pre-existing hype, or at least awareness, due to the role — Anita is proven awards catnip and DeBose is terrific — and the Rita Moreno of it all. And yes, “West Side Story” finally being available to the masses will likely make her more of a lock. It’s only been two days, but as expected, most people seem to love the film (and also are weirdly surprised that Steven Spielberg can compose a jaw-dropping frame???) and there’s some outrage/shock that it didn’t get more Oscars love. Again, y’all needed to be on our level three months ago! The last time BAFTA didn’t go with the eventual supporting actress Oscar winner was three years ago when Rachel Weisz won in the absence of the favorite (not to be confused with “The Favourite”) Regina King. We don’t have that sitch here. But I also would not be opposed to BAFTA anointing a non-Oscar nominee here, like it has to in Best Actress. Tell me you would not like to see a Balfe, Negga or Ann Dowd shocker.

SEE Post-SAG Awards slugfest: Who’s winning Best Actress now?

Christopher Rosen: I would love that because [sickos haha yes]. But I don’t think it’s going to happen. Still, if I had to pick a completely deranged upset winner at BAFTA from that trio it would be Negga. I’m still a little surprised she didn’t land in the Oscars’ final five (like you have said previously, a lone acting nominee is getting harder and harder to materialize), and it would be great to see her performance get some kind of reward this season. Let’s wrap it up here, Joyce. I’ll leave the last word to you — which I hope will be about “West Side Story”?

joyceeng: In that case, I, uh, feel pretty great about DeBose winning. At the Oscars, I’m not even sure who’s second — Ellis? Kirsten Dunst, who was snubbed by BAFTA? What if it’s Judi Dench? (Kidding, but not really.) This “West Side Story” sadly won’t win 10 Oscars, but at least all signs point to it being able to call itself an Oscar winner. And if my favorite Jet can’t go all the way, I’m glad someone else from the film will.

PREDICT the 2022 Oscar winners by March 27

Oscar odds for Best Supporting Actress
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