Last week it was the New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review getting the ball rolling, teasing us with a taste of what to make of this year's sprawling awards race. Then it came turn for the next round of nationally recognized groups to offer their perspective. Two major cities, two organizations that call themselves critics or journalists and the first of many guilds to come made the first formal formation of where the players stand. Though we'll have another two weeks of city critics adding a drop of fuel or water here and there, this is where we are going to be until the Producers, Writers and Directors report to camp in early January.
Five Groups of Varying Percentages
Whatever attention voters may pay to the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (aka the Golden Globes) may hopefully be waning. Of the 51 nominations they posted in the major categories (i.e. Picture, Directing, Acting and Writing) -- which includes its additional comedically musical nominees -- the Globes matched 35 with Oscar or a mere 68% which is about what it has been averaging of late as it has been recognized as more of a fun party than a legitimate precursor. Same goes for the boastful BFCA; always first to tell you how well it predicts the Oscars with its choices. We did not hear a lot of bragging last year as only 60% of its 50 nominations in the big eight were invited to the big dance.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association winners are 54 for 73 (73.9%) since 2002 and the Chicago Film Critics Association is 81 for 120 (67.5%) with Oscar choosing its nominees since the 2009 expansion rules. The BFCA is slightly better at 70.3% since '09 and the Globes are averaging 63.5%. Compare those numbers to the Screen Actors Guild at 88.3% the past three years as they have missed a grand total of seven matches amongst its 60 acting nominees in that time. So we know how important those nods can be.
Here is one area that the Screen Actors Guild does not directly affect. Sure it has that whole Ensemble category but a big, best cast does not always mean a big, Best Picture. Since the advent of the expanded Best Picture list in 2009 though a film to receive both a BFCA and a Globe nomination has a 94.1% chance of being nominated. Only one out of 18 films (Nine) has missed in those three years. There were six in 2009, five in 2010, seven last year and now eight in 2012:
Argo, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Moonrise Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty
If we are to look for the bigger favorites from that list, we must break it down into further percentages. For example, 89.6% is the number since 2002 when Chicago also nominates one of the BFCA/Globe pair-ups. That translates to Argo, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty. For those who do love to track SAG's Ensemble category, the number is 88.8% when a BFCA/Globe pairing gets a nomination there instead of Chicago. That also puts Les Misérables and Silver Linings Playbook above the rest giving us what would very likely be your five Best Picture nominees... if the year were 2008.
Keeping Django Unchained, Life of Pi and Moonrise Kingdom up there, we still have at least five more films to consider before we even contemplate the chances of others like The Impossible and Skyfall that have been getting some love from other critic groups. (Sorry Hobbit fans but I don't think it's your year.) We can also quash the hopes on you Salmon Fishing in the Yemen lovers out there. While we search for proof that HFPA members were given such a trip to ensure three nominations (a la Burlesque), we can tell you that in our decade sample size, the 37 Globe nominees for Best Picture (in either category) that stands alone from the BFCA, L.A. Chicago and the SAG Ensemble goes unrewarded by the Academy. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel's Globe nomination got some company amongst the Ensemble nominees at SAG. That was good news when it was The Kids Are All Right. Not so good news for Bridesmaids, Hairspray and Bobby.
Two films with a better shot of breaking into a list of 10 are The Master and Beasts of the Southern Wild. The two leading nominees from Chicago are in a small group of films since 2002 which got nominations only from two of the five organizations we are looking at. (BFCA being the other.) Four of 10 films with nominations from just these two groups went on to a Best Picture nomination and three of four since 2009 with Drive being the lone exception. A Serious Man, Winter's Bone and The Tree of Life all ended up in the running and the films by Paul Thomas Anderson and Benh Zeitlin seem to fit that same mold. The greatest wild card of all though might be Michael Haneke's Amour, awarded Best Film from Los Angeles where seven of its last eight choices (sans WALL-E) have all received a Best Picture nomination. Any of these films can hope to get a boost to their chances with a Producers Guild nod in January. Twenty-four of its 30 choices (80%) since 2009 have been nominated. Until then, though, the power rankings for the Best Picture Oscar nominations remain as such:
BEST PICTURE NOMINATION POWER RANKINGS
(1) Zero Dark Thirty (2) Lincoln (3) Argo (4) Les Misérables (5) Silver Linings Playbook (6) Life of Pi (7) Django Unchained (8) Moonrise Kingdom (9) Amour (10) The Master (11) Beasts of the Southern Wild (12) The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (13) Skyfall (14) The Impossible (15) Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Using the above breakdown, we know that 23 of 25 Best Director nominations equaled by Chicago, the BFCA and the Globes get their shot. That gives us Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow and Steven Spielberg. Taking 2004 out of the equation when Chicago just announced winners and no nominees, that means a BFCA/Globe combo registers a 50% (three-for-six) chance for Ang Lee. When Chicago and L.A. agree apart from the pack on a Director choice (even with just a nomination and victory, respectively) it worked out well for Paul Thomas Anderson in 2007 and for Terrence Malick last year. The Globes and BFCA snubbed Paul Thomas Anderson this year, but the two cities did not. L.A., in fact, is on a 10-for-11 streak in seeing its choices nominated since '02. The lone exception being Olivier Assayas (Carlos) whom it tied with David Fincher (who was eventually nominated) in 2010. Meanwhile only 20% of Chicago's lone choices have gone on to the Oscars. Benh Zeitlin may have a better shot in another category though. Tom Hooper and David O. Russell were singled out only by the BFCA, which is four for 12 the last decade. Getting singled out by the Globes, as Quentin Tarantino did, gives him better odds at five for nine. Yours truly likes the chances of Hooper moving up to the fifth slot alongside the Top Four, but until his DGA nod is official, we'll go with the numbers in hand.
BEST DIRECTOR NOMINATION POWER RANKINGS
(1) Kathryn Bigelow “Zero Dark Thirty” (2) Steven Spielberg “Lincoln” (3) Ben Affleck “Argo” (4) Paul Thomas Anderson "The Master" (5) Quentin Tarantino "Django Unchained" (6) Ang Lee “Life of Pi” (7) Tom Hooper “Les Misérables” (8) David O. Russell “Silver Linings Playbook” (9) Benh Zeitlin "Beasts of the Southern Wild" (10) Wes Anderson "Moonrise Kingdom"
Great news for Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained. They were nominated for Best Screenplay by the Globes, the BFCA and Chicago. Every one of the 13 original scripts nominated in this regard over the last decade have been nominated and 15 of the 16 adaptations. Also good news for Argo, Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook. When it is just Chicago and the BFCA agreeing on an adaptation, six of the last seven have been nominated. On an original screenplay, five of the last six. Good news for Looper, The Master, Moonrise Kingdom and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. That really only leaves us with one spot in the Adapted category. The closest challenger to sneaking into Original at this point is Flight (nominated with a 45.4% chance solely by the BFCA) while other groups have put The Cabin in the Woods, Take This Waltz, Arbitrage and Seven Psychopaths into the race. You may not want to rule out Amour either.
Over in Adapted the final spot may be coming down to a kids-on-rafts-with-fantasies showdown between Life of Pi and Beasts of the Southern Wild. BFCA chose the former while Chicago went for the latter. The "critics" in the BFCA have gone rogue nine times from the rest of these groups and only registered two Oscar nods for its efforts with Seabiscuit and, eventual victor, Precious. Chicago, meanwhile, has done it 16 times and watched as seven of its choices got recognized by the Academy; a list that includes About a Boy, American Splendor, A History of Violence, In the Loop and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Bet on Beasts right now.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY NOMINATION POWER RANKINGS
(1) Mark Boal “Zero Dark Thirty” (2) Quentin Tarantino “Django Unchained” (3) Paul Thomas Anderson "The Master” (4) Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola “Moonrise Kingdom” (5) Rian Johnson “Looper” (6) John Gatins “Flight" (7) Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard "The Cabin in the Woods" (8) Sarah Polley "Take This Waltz" (9) Nicholas Jarecki "Arbitrage" (10) Michael Haneke "Amour"
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY NOMINATION POWER RANKINGS
(1) Tony Kushner “Lincoln” (2) Chris Terrio “Argo” (3) David O. Russell “Silver Linings Playbook” (4) Stephen Chbosky “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (5) Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin "Beasts of the Southern Wild" (6) David Magee – “Life of Pi” (7) William Nicholson "Les Misérables" (8) Christopher and Jonathan Nolan "The Dark Knight Rises" (9) Ben Lewin "The Sessions" (10) Tom Stoppard "Anna Karenina"
Next time we'll be back to see where the four acting categories stack up with the recent results.