Precursor season officially came to an end on Saturday night when the Film Independent Spirit Awards were handed out. Sunday night was the Oscars, meaning that most of what came in the week before was forgotten by this morning. As such, this article will be focused on which films came out of the precursors helped and hindered as we look at the entire season’s precursor winners and losers.
Before we get into that, let’s talk about what won and lost with the actual precursors. Starting with the big winners: The Farewell, which not only beat Jennifer Lopez in Supporting Actress at the Spirit Awards with Zhao Shuzhen’s surprise win, but it managed to surprise by winning Best Film as well. Uncut Gems was the other big winner with its three prizes from the Spirit Awards, including Oscar snubbee Adam Sandler. On the losers side, Marriage Story might have taken the previously announced Robert Altman Award as well as screenplay from the Spirit Awards, but as the sole Oscar Best Picture nominee on the Best Film list, its failure to secure that prize speaks to the film’s utter collapse during Oscar season with only star Laura Dern keeping the dream alive.
Another set of big losers this week were the nominees for the Golden Raspberry (Razzie) Awards. Although, these were predictably low-hanging fruit, Cats, A Madea Family Funeral, and Rambo: Last Blood were big losers with their eight nominations apiece. Other losers included Oscar nominees and winners Tom Hooper in Worst Directing, and actors James Franco, Matthew McConaughey, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and Judi Dench.
Now, to the purpose of this week’s articles, a look at the winners and losers of precursor season/Oscar season 2019.
Parasite entered Oscar season as a critic’s favorite after having won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes International Film Festival. It then proceeded to dominate the precursors in expected and unexpected ways (SAG Ensemble being the most unexpected). Then when BAFTA gave its awards to 1917, everyone thought Parasite might take two total awards at the Oscars. It won six including Picture and Directing. Not only was it the first South Korean film ever to win an Oscar, it was the first foreign language film to win Best Picture.
The four acting winners stormed through the televised awards ceremonies with Joaquin Phoenix, Renee Zellweger, Brad Pitt, and Laura Dern taking all of them. Pitt and Dern had already won a majority of prizes in their field (with Pitt the only one winning more than half the awards). Adam Driver and Lupita Nyong’o had topped both Phoenix and Zellweger, but Nyong’o wasn’t nominated leaving plenty of room for second-place winner Zellweger. Driver was nominated, but Phoenix developed the momentum and in the end all four became the most expected winners at the Oscars.
Ford v Ferrari started out on release as a major Oscar contender, but as the season progressed and more films took over the narrative, most didn’t think Ford would earn a Best Picture nomination, better yet two Oscars for Film Editing and Sound Editing. Neither prize was unexpected, but the film did well in the nominations count, making it a winner.
Toy Story 4 was this year’s dominant animated film, having won more than half of the precursors. Then two things happened. The Annie Awards went all-in on Klaus, shutting out the fourth film in the vaunted franchise, and then BAFTA followed suit. That gave everyone a pause in predicting the film for Best Animated Film, but in the end, the Academy likes its major players while indies continued to get shafted. It still won, but did so on the weakest of footing.
The Irishman started out the season with a National Board of Review win for Best Picture. From there, the well reviewed and once-thought-certain Best Picture winner began to falter, losing steam almost as quickly as it had gained it. Then, as luck would have it, the film still managed to pull off double digit nominations (barely with 10), including dubious nominations in Film Editing, Production Design and Costume Design. That bolstered its chances once again, but as the televised prizes were given out, the film had been utterly shut out and slowly its Oscar chances utterly dwindled. In the end, Martin Scorsese’s film went home empty-handed. Ironically, it was Scorsese’s second empty-handed night for a 10 nomination film as the same thing happened with Gangs of New York.
Marriage Story was well reviewed, picked up numerous awards for stars Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, and Noah Baumbach’s screenplay; however, after embarrassing performances at BAFTA and the Spirit Awards, it became clear that the film was going down largely defeated with Dern the only one with an Oscar.
1917 looked to have peaked at just the right moment as it dominated the guilds and precursors starting with the televised prize from the Golden Globes. The Producers Guild, BAFTA, and Globe prizes along with the DGA win for director Sam Mendes seemed to be pointing towards a strong Oscar finish. BAFTA may have over-inflated its chances though as the film took home three awards for Cinematography, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects, but whiffed in the top two categories in the biggest upsets of the night.
Little Women started awards season at a disadvantage. The studio publicity department messed up the film’s release leading to a near shut out with the guild awards. When the Oscars came around, none of its nominations were assured, but in the end, it still managed a healthy 6 nominations, but director Greta Gerwig narrowly missed becoming the first woman ever nominated for two Best Directing nominations, a fact which also led to a berating by women in Hollywood for having an all-male slate so soon after attempting to diversify its roster. Going into Oscar night, two categories seemed like they could go the film’s direction, Adapted Screenplay and Costume Design. The hopes for an Adapted Screenplay win went down in flames after it lost to Jojo Rabbit at the BAFTAs and in the end, a single Oscar is all it could take.