Sunday, July 14, 2024

How BAFTA & SAG Could Set The Stage For A Historic Best Actress Showdown At The Oscars

While some major Oscar races already seem settled, Best Actress is not considered to be among them. To most, it is a 50/50 two-woman race between “Poor Things‘” Emma Stone and “Killers of the Flower Moon’s” Lily Gladstone, or even a three-woman race that includes “Anatomy of a Fall’s” Sandra Hüller. Yet thanks to the BAFTA and SAG nominations, Stone has a significant historical advantage merely by being nominated in both. The BAFTAs on February 18th will proceed without Gladstone as a nominee, just as the SAG Awards will proceed on February 24th without Hüller as a nominee. As such, if either Gladstone or Hüller wins the Oscar anyway on March 10th, it will put one of them on a very select list of Oscar winners.

Since 2000, only eleven acting Oscar winners have won without even being nominated at the BAFTAs, for one reason or another. But that is nothing compared to how, ever since the SAG Awards’ inception in 1994, only three actors have won an Oscar without a SAG nomination. That would seem to put the SAG snubbed Hüller at a far greater disadvantage than the BAFTA snubbed Gladstone, yet both have a lot of history to overcome.

When it comes to the BAFTAs, the last Oscar winner who wasn’t nominated there was Jessica Chastain in 2021 for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” But the entire 2021 Best Actress race was one big anomaly since not a single Oscar-nominated lead actress that year received a nomination at BAFTA, and the year’s most prominent Critics’ Awards winner – Kristen Stewart in “Spencer” – only barely made the Oscars at all.

Gladstone has also been this year’s biggest precursor winner to date, and yet she got overlooked by the BAFTAs. Of course, given that half the BAFTA nominees are selected/saved by a jury system, it puts a big asterisk on any surprising miss. Then again, since Gladstone wasn’t one of the top three vote-getters who got in without a jury, it shows she never had broad support from BAFTA voters – who have made countless headlines over the years for overlooking minority actors and actresses. One of them was Regina King in 2018, despite otherwise dominating the Best Supporting Actress race that year for “If Beale Street Could Talk.” But she is also an enormous anomaly because she also somehow missed out on a SAG nomination that year, making her one of the three actors in SAG Awards history to win the Oscar without a SAG nomination. King’s double BAFTA and SAG exclusions are all the more bizarre because she pretty much swept the entire season anyway. Yet considering that 2018 was also the year of “Green Book” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” leading Best Actor Critics winner Ethan Hawke did not even get nominated for “First Reformed,” and of the likes of Olivia Colman and Spike Lee winning Oscars despite so many more unpopular outcomes, it’s tempting to write 2018 off as one massive exception to everything.

At the least, Gladstone and Hüller got one combined nomination from SAG and BAFTA, so they don’t have to repeat King’s path. If anything, there is one far more ideal path that Hüller can follow – that of Christoph Waltz’s 2012 Oscar win for “Django Unchained” despite his own lack of a SAG nomination. Unlike King, Waltz was a BAFTA nominee in 2012 and, in fact, won Best Supporting Actor there – which likely put him over the top to beat a very divided Supporting Actor field at the Oscars. This is something Hüller has a chance to repeat this year, especially since she is Stone’s top competition at BAFTA with Gladstone out. If she can beat Stone at BAFTA, and if “Anatomy of a Fall” has a big BAFTA performance even beyond that – to the point of winning Best Original Screenplay, Best Film, or both – it could be an alarming signal that “Anatomy of a Fall” is poised for a big Oscar night, and Hüller along with it. Just as “Django Unchained” won screenplay and acting Oscars at BAFTA before doing the same at the Oscars, so too could “Anatomy of a Fall” do the same. And just as Waltz’s SAG miss didn’t derail his late momentum in 2012, so too could Hüller’s SAG miss be canceled out by late momentum as well – as long as BAFTA shows just how strong that momentum is.

If anything, BAFTA represents Hüller’s do-or-die stand for this season. Otherwise, if she loses without even having the opportunity to bounce back at SAG, her only hope is to be like King – or like Marcia Gay Harden in 2000 for “Pollock.” Harden is the only other actor besides King and Waltz to win an Oscar without a SAG nomination – and she is the only other actor besides King to win an Oscar without being nominated at SAG or BAFTA first. But unlike King, Harden wasn’t sweeping critics season before the industry weighed in and didn’t win much of anything else the entire season, thanks mainly to Kate Hudson in “Almost Famous.” For many reasons, Harden’s victory still stands as one of this century’s most surprising and out-of-nowhere Oscar acting wins, in a bar first set right at the turn of the century. At the least, neither a Gladstone nor Hüller win would be as out of left field as Harden’s. But if Hüller doesn’t win the BAFTA, her winning the Oscar anyway would be just a rung below the level of a Harden-like upset. Then again, one could say the same about Gladstone if she loses at SAG but wins the Oscar anyway.

The historical odds are still more in favor of Gladstone than for Hüller, if only by comparison. Aside from Chastain, King and Harden, the other recent actors to win Oscars after missing a BAFTA nomination are both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto for “Dallas Buyers Club” in 2013, Melissa Leo for “The Fighter” in 2010, Sandra Bullock for “The Blind Side” in 2009, both Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman for “Million Dollar Baby” in 2004, and both Denzel Washington for “Training Day” and Halle Berry for “Monster’s Ball” in 2001. Yet almost all those other actors had something in common – winning SAG after not making BAFTA. In fact, among those who have won the Oscar without a BAFTA nomination in this century, only Washington and King won the Oscar without winning SAG too. And since King wasn’t even nominated at SAG, Washington is the only BAFTA-snubbed actor ever to win the Oscar after also losing on SAG Awards night. Of course, this was also the year that “A Beautiful Mind” BAFTA and SAG winner – and defending Oscar winner – Russell Crowe fought a BBC executive when his BAFTA speech/poem was edited for television.

Either way, it makes SAG Gladstone’s do-or-die moment for the season, just as BAFTA is for Hüller. In fact, if Hüller wins at BAFTA and Stone wins at SAG, it would arguably turn Oscar night into a showdown between Stone and Hüller, not Stone and Gladstone as it had seemed likely to be all season. On the other hand, if Stone wins the BAFTA but Gladstone wins the SAG, it would set the stage for the expected Stone vs. Gladstone final showdown at the Oscars, with Gladstone perhaps the slight favorite again thanks to the SAG victory taking place in the middle of Oscar voting. On the other other hand, if Stone defeats Hüller at BAFTA and then beats Gladstone at SAG, the race would be virtually over by Oscar night anyway – barring an upset of Harden-like proportions. As such, these next two weekends at the BAFTAs and SAG will all but decide the race no matter what, whether they all but clinch Stone’s second Oscar or settle who her top competition for it really is.

On one final hand, if Hüller wins BAFTA but Gladstone wins SAG, all bets are off then. Would Oscar night become a Hüller vs Gladstone showdown, or will it really be a three-woman race with Stone suddenly clinging to stay in the running? In that scenario, Stone would have to defy major history of her own, as only King, Harden, Washington, Crowe for “Gladiator,” George Clooney for “Syriana,” Sean Penn for “Mystic River,” and Chris Cooper for “Adaptation” have won Oscars in this century without winning either at SAG or at BAFTA first. Jim Broadbent technically did it in 2001 for “Iris,” but he won a BAFTA for “Moulin Rouge!” that year instead.

No matter what, barring a Stone sweep at BAFTA and SAG, this year’s Best Actress race is poised to have a winner overcome a significant historical trend. Whether it’s Hüller overcoming her SAG miss, Gladstone overcoming her BAFTA miss, or Stone overcoming losing both BAFTA and SAG, the odds are that this year’s Best Actress winner will defy the odds in some way. However, this coming Sunday at the BAFTAs and the following Saturday at SAG will settle just what odds are left to be overcome – if any.

Who do you think will win Best Actress at BAFTA, SAG and then the Academy Awards this year? Please let us know in the comments section below or on Next Best Picture’s Twitter account. Also, please check out their latest Oscar winner predictions here and the 2023 precursor awards tally here.

You can follow Robert and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars & Film on Twitter at @Robertdoc1984

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