Friday, April 19, 2024

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

Thanks to the SAG Awards and PGA Awards this past weekend, there are really no more above-the-line Oscar races in doubt except the one for Best Actress. As such, all our powers for predictions and arguments in the next two weeks will be spent on whether BAFTA winner Emma Stone will hold on for her second Oscar after all or whether Lily Gladstone’s SAG win will put her over the top at the end. I mentioned in my previous article how BAFTA and SAG could set the stage for a historic showdown between the two ladies at the 96th Academy Awards. Well, now we’re here, and to that end, we must ask ourselves whether a recent BAFTA or SAG win is a more significant sign of strength and momentum with the Academy. To help with that, we have to look back on past acting showdowns between different BAFTA and SAG winners. In recent years, such showdowns have favored SAG winners, but perhaps that might be deceiving.

Separate BAFTA and SAG acting winners have faced off at the Oscars 20 times since 2009, and the SAG winner has won the Oscar in 14 of them. However, that lead only became lopsided last year – whether or not this is misleading or a real sign of a new trend. Everyone remembers and cites last season’s split when the BAFTAs wholly shut out “Everything Everywhere All at Once” in their acting categories before it got three acting wins at SAG and the Oscars anyway. While the BAFTAs had Cate Blanchett outlast Michelle Yeoh, Barry Keoghan defeated Ke Huy Quan, and Kerry Condon beat Jamie Lee Curtis. It was the exact opposite at both the SAG and the Oscars. Yet to complete the trend, BAFTA had Austin Butler defeat Brendan Fraser in Best Actor, only for Fraser to draw even at SAG and break the tie on Oscar night.

That night established SAG as the decisive precursor of 2022 in a way it never had been before. One could say the ground was also laid for that in 2021 when Jessica Chastain used a SAG Best Actress win to leapfrog past the Oscar field. But it barely counted against BAFTA since it didn’t nominate Chastain or any other Oscar Best Actress nominee that year. Likewise, no BAFTA nominee, including BAFTA winner Joanna Scanlan, was able to face off against Chastain at the Oscars. Nonetheless, these last two years have seemingly proven that SAG winners have far greater momentum than BAFTA winners, which would now appear to be a big point in Gladstone’s favor this year. However, there might be a simple reason for this difference – these last two years are the first in which the SAG Awards have been held after BAFTA.

The last time BAFTA was the final major pre-Oscar awards show was in the 2020 season, in which things were a lot different and not just because of the pandemic. When SAG was held a week earlier, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” swept the lead acting categories for Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis. But when Anthony Hopkins beat Boseman at BAFTA afterward, and Frances McDormand beat a Best Actress field that didn’t include Davis, it turned out to be a major last-minute sign.

BAFTA and the Oscars had a perfect 8/8 match in the major categories that year, in contrast to a 0/8 match in 2022. Would it have been a different story in 2020 if SAG had been held after BAFTA – and would voter perceptions have been different if Boseman and Davis won the last major pre-Oscar awards of the season instead of Hopkins and McDormand? If one believes Yeoh and Curtis won their close races in 2022 thanks to SAG having the last word that season, then it stands to reason Hopkins and McDormand benefited the same way when BAFTA had that last word instead.

The same could also be said in 2018 when Olivia Colman won Best Actress at the BAFTAs after Glenn Close beat her at SAG two weeks earlier. Yet back then, most everyone was so convinced the overdue Close had an unbeatable narrative – despite having a far weaker film in “The Wife” – they saw Colman’s BAFTA victory as a blip in the road. But whether it’s because BAFTA was fresh in voters’ minds, or because “The Favourite” was due for some collective win after losing all its other categories, the BAFTA winner beat the SAG winner in the end.

2016 was a split year, in which BAFTA winner Casey Affleck held off SAG winner Denzel Washington for Best Actor while Supporting Actor favored SAG winner Mahershala Ali over BAFTA winner Dev Patal. Even so, Ali swept every Best Supporting Actor contest that year except for BAFTA and the Golden Globes, while Affleck won almost everything in lead except for SAG. In that case, two frontrunners who swept the vast majority of the season had too big a lead to lose at the last minute.

2015 had a few technicalities that kept it from being a telling example. SAG Best Supporting Actress winner Alicia Vikander won the Oscar over BAFTA winner Kate Winslet. Yet, Vikander didn’t face Winslet at the BAFTAs because they nominated her for “The Danish Girl” in Lead Actress instead. Also that year, BAFTA Supporting Actor winner Mark Rylance didn’t have to beat SAG winner Idris Elba at the Oscars because the Academy didn’t even nominate Elba.

In 2013, SAG Supporting Actress winner Lupita Nyong’o wasn’t derailed by Jennifer Lawrence beating her at BAFTA almost a month later. It was a different story in 2011 when SAG Best Actress winner Viola Davis lost the BAFTA to Meryl Streep and the Oscar. Yet in 2010, SAG Supporting Actor winner Christian Bale more easily brushed off a loss at BAFTA to Geoffrey Rush en route to winning the Oscar, just as 2009 SAG Best Actor winner Jeff Bridges defeated BAFTA winner Colin Firth.

There are examples of SAG/Oscar winners overcoming their lack of a BAFTA nomination, like 2013 SAG/Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, 2010 Supporting Actress winner Melissa Leo, and 2009 Best Actress winner Sandra Bullock. On the flip side, 2012 BAFTA Best Supporting Actor winner Christophe Waltz got past missing a SAG nomination to beat SAG winner Tommy Lee Jones for the Oscar. But on the other hand, 2012 BAFTA Best Actress winner Emmanuelle Riva missed SAG and then lost the Oscar to SAG winner Lawrence.

This year, Gladstone is in line to join McConaughey, Leto, Leo and Bullock, in winning both SAG and the Oscar after not getting nominated at BAFTA. As such, the Stone vs. Gladstone showdown doesn’t exactly match last year’s splits since Fraser, Yeon, Quan, and Curtis all made BAFTA and lost before avenging those losses at SAG and the Oscars. It also doesn’t match because Yeoh, Quan, and Curtis won with the eventual Best Picture winner – a winner almost completely shut out by BAFTA for one reason or another – and Fraser defied various trends by winning Best Actor for “The Whale” despite it missing a Best Picture nomination.

This year, Stone and Gladstone represent respective Best Picture nominees in “Poor Things” and “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Yet thanks to “Oppenheimer,” neither movie has a chance at winning Best Picture anymore, so neither can ride their film’s coattails the way Yeoh, Quan, and Curtis got to – or like McDormand could in 2020 thanks to her own Best Picture winner in “Nomadland.” Hopkins rode a late-breaking film in “The Father” that won a lead acting and Screenplay Oscar, but “Poor Things” faces long odds in Best Adapted Screenplay, and “Killers of the Flower Moon” wasn’t even nominated in that category.

Stone is a lead in a Yorgos Lanthimos film, who could bank on her BAFTA win to hold on at the Oscars, just like Colman did for “The Favourite.” However, “The Favourite” was a double-digit Oscar nominee that lost in every category until Best Actress, which is almost the exact path “Killers of the Flower Moon” is headed towards now.

Maybe when it comes to BAFTA and SAG acting winners facing off at the Oscars, the edge is really something so simple as being the last one to win before the Oscars. That’s how all four acting winners did it last year, how both Hopkins and McDormand did it in 2020, how Colman did it in 2018, and how Affleck did it in 2016. In fact, the last one who didn’t do it was Patal in 2016, and he was never considered a serious threat to beat Ali on Oscar night.

Given that Gladstone’s SAG win occurred right in the middle of the final Oscar voting period, the timing couldn’t be any better for her. If that proves correct at Oscar night, it will further cement the SAG Awards as the real precursor tiebreaker of awards season for the third year running, at least where acting races are concerned. However, that may only hold as long as the BAFTAs don’t return to being the season’s last televised Oscar precursor.

Who is going to win the Oscar for Best Actress? Will it be SAG winner Lily Gladstone for Killers of the Flower Moonor BAFTA winner Emma Stone for Poor Things?” 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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