Oscar Preview: Precursor Winners & Losers, Week 9

As the precursor awards continue unabated through the month of December, I’m going to be providing a weekly update highlighting the films that have won and lost momentum through the precursor awards (this will be in place of my prior weekly article “Oscar Preview”. This week saw few precursors, but a major one did announce.

But, before we get into this week’s winners and losers, let’s take a look at what’s coming up this week:

Week 10

Sat., Feb. 1 – Annie Awards
Sat., Feb. 1 – American Society of Cinematographers Awards
Sat., Feb. 1 – Writers Guild of America Awards

Big Winners

Gravity followed up its historic tie at the Producers Guild of America awards (sharing the prize with 12 Years a Slave) with a win at the Directors Guild of American Saturday night. While the win had been widely forecast, the victory is nonetheless auspicious. Although the PGA has a good track record at Best Picture predictions, the DGA has a sterling one. It picked Argo director Ben Affleck even though he hadn’t been nominated by the Oscars. Argo won. So, the victory here should not be ignored. However, as Ang Lee can tell you, directing a popular, technical achievement or a critically acclaimed masterpiece (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain respectively) and then picking up the DGA award doesn’t guarantee a Best Picture win.

Big Losers

American Hustle may have been riding high from its expected Screen Actors Guild win for Best Ensemble, but the one award it needed to really make a stab at Best Picture, the Directors Guild of America award, didn’t materialize. It’s been 8 years since a film that didn’t win Best Director at the DGA took home the Best Picture Oscar, one of four such occurrences in the last twenty years (2005, 2000, 1998 & 1995). It’s been 7 years since the PGA Best Picture winner didn’t also win the Oscar, an occurrence 6 times in the last twenty (2006, 2005, 2004, 2001, 1998 & 1995).

The only hope the film now has is that an infrequent precedent is set. The PGA & DGA both failed to predict Best Picture only three times in the last twenty years (2005, 1998 & 1995). In those three cases, Crash won Best Picture in 2005, Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture in 1998 and Braveheart won Best Picture in 1995. In all three of those cases, the more critically acclaimed film won PGA & DGA (Brokeback Mountain, Saving Private Ryan and Apollo 13 respectively). In 1995, Apollo 13 won Best Cast and SAG (the only such occurrence of a film winning all three and not winning Best Picture), In 1998 and 2005, the SAG Cast winner took the Oscar. Based on this, there’s a 10% chance American Hustle can win Best Picture (twice in 20 years). It could happen, but losing the DGA trophy, after all the flogging the cast has done regarding David O. Russell being a brilliant director of actors, isn’t a good sign.

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