Tomorrow, January 27th, 2022, will be one of the biggest blockbuster days in recent award season history, as the Producers Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America, and the Directors Guild of America all announce their nominations on the same day. Never before have all three guilds revealed nominations within hours of each other, which points to a massive day for the movies recognized by all or most guilds, and a potentially fatal blow to those snubbed by most or all of them. Yet when looking back at the history of PGA, WGA, and DGA nominations, it isn’t entirely that cut and dry. Maybe it will only look different this year because all these nominations are so close to each other, but the timing shouldn’t be that much of a difference-maker. As it is in most every year, those who do well with the DGA, PGA, and WGA aren’t entirely guaranteed to do as well or better at the Oscars – and those snubbed by the guilds aren’t automatically doomed at the Oscars either.
Of course, those movies that receive DGA, PGA, and WGA nominations will be considered safe and potential Oscar frontrunners, if they aren’t already. Historically, they would be right to believe that, given how things have gone in the preferential ballot era. Since 2009, forty-two movies have all been nominated by the DGA, PGA, and WGA, and the only one of them to miss a Best Picture Oscar nomination was “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” in 2011. Yet since there were nine Best Picture nominees that year instead of ten, it is easy to assume “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” would have been the tenth film in an expanded field. Though in a year where “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” made a field of nine films, any other wacky outcome could have been possible. Before the preferential ballot era, films that got DGA, PGA, and WGA nominations yet missed Best Picture were slightly more common, if only because Best Picture was only a field of five back then. They included “The Dark Knight” in 2008, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” in 2007, “Almost Famous” in 2000, and “Being John Malkovich” in 1999. Nonetheless, it is hard to imagine any of them would have missed a Best Picture field of eight, nine, or ten.
Many movies and Oscar frontrunners don’t even get the chance to hit all three guilds, considering how many are ruled ineligible by the WGA over one technicality or another. This year alone, “The Power Of The Dog,” “Belfast,” “Drive My Car,” and “The Lost Daughter” are among those who can’t get WGA nominations and can only get two out of three guild nominations on January 27th at best. If any movies get three nominations that day, they will likely be “West Side Story,” “Dune,” and “Licorice Pizza” with outside shots for “Don’t Look Up,” “CODA,” and “King Richard” and much longer shots for “Being The Ricardos,” “Tick, Tick…Boom!” “House of Gucci” and “Nightmare Alley.” Still, for whatever reasons, a film might get two of three nominations from the DGA, PGA, and WGA, making just two out of three cuts isn’t the near-guarantee for a Best Picture nomination that getting three out of three is. Last year alone, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “One Night in Miami,” and “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” were nominated by the PGA and WGA, missed the DGA, and then still missed out on Best Picture recognition. Other recent films that made two of those three guilds and still missed Best Picture include “Knives Out” in 2019, “A Quiet Place” in 2018, “The Big Sick,” “I, Tonya,” and “Molly’s Game” in 2017, “Deadpool” in 2016, “Sicario” and “Straight Outta Compton” in 2015 and the trio of “Gone Girl,” “Foxcatcher” and “Nightcrawler” in 2014.
At the least, movies that still have hopes to win Best Picture need to get into two of those three guilds. WGA rules kept future Best Picture winners “Nomadland,” “Birdman,” “12 Years a Slave,” “The Artist,” and “The King’s Speech” from nominations, but otherwise, they got into all the guilds they were eligible for. This will likely be the same for “The Power Of The Dog” and “Belfast,” while “West Side Story” and perhaps “Licorice Pizza” and “Dune” are likely to keep their Best Picture hopes alive with two or three guild nominations. But any movie that only gets one guild nomination or zero is almost certainly out since no film has won Best Picture with just one combined nod from the DGA, PGA, and WGA. As such, those movies that are looking for at least one nomination on January 27th need it merely to keep their Best Picture nomination hopes alive. Historically, this is where things get trickier since it will be very tempting to say that those with zero or just one combined nomination from the DGA, PGA, and WGA will be out for Best Picture consideration. Nonetheless, such assumptions have tended to be very premature.
In the twelve years of the preferential ballot era, the only years where at least one movie that missed at the DGA, PGA, and WGA didn’t get a Best Picture nomination are 2016, 2018, and 2019. Last year alone, “The Father” was shut out by those three guilds, and yet by the end of the season, it was a Best Picture nominee and an Oscar winner for Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. Since 2020 was such a long season and “The Father” was one of the last films most voters saw, it was better equipped to survive being ignored by the guilds. Particular circumstances also helped other films snubbed by the DGA, PGA, and WGA but not the Academy. In 2017, “Phantom Thread” survived those snubs after being one of the last films that most Academy voters saw that year, and the similarly snubbed “Darkest Hour” rode the coattails of Gary Oldman’s Best Actor victory to reach Best Picture anyway. “Room” also rode Brie Larson’s coattails to survive its guild snubs in 2015, while late momentum and other major nominations also got Best Picture nominations for the guild-snubbed “Selma” in 2014, “Philomena” in 2013, “Amour” in 2012, and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” in 2011.
This year is the first year to have a set Best Picture field of ten since both 2009 and 2010. And in both those years, movies snubbed by the DGA, PGA, and WGA still made the Best Picture cut, which bodes well for those who will be overlooked in 2021. “The Blind Side” rode Sandra Bullock’s coattails to make it in 2009, while both “Toy Story 3” and “Winter’s Bone” survived in 2010. Before then, the collective guild snubs who made Best Picture in the pre-preferential ballot era included “The Reader” in 2008, “Atonement” in 2007, “Letters From Iwo Jima” in 2006, “In the Bedroom” in 2001, “Elizabeth” in 1998 and “Beauty and the Beast” in 1991. As for movies that only made one out of three cuts, the only years where no such film didn’t get a Best Picture nomination in the preferential ballot era were 2020, 2013, and 2010. Otherwise, it didn’t stop the likes of “Ford v Ferrari,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Favourite,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “The Post,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Brooklyn,” “The Theory of Everything,” “Django Unchained,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “War Horse” and four movies in the 2009 field of 10 alone from making Best Picture, despite just one major guild nomination. To that end, if bubble films like “Drive My Car,” “Being The Ricardos,” “House of Gucci,” “Nightmare Alley,” “The Lost Daughter,” “The Tragedy of Macbeth” or even “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “No Time To Die” get just one or zero nominations on January 27th, it isn’t the final kiss of death for their Best Picture chances. It probably will be for the vast majority of them, yet if history repeats itself, at least one or maybe even two of these films can still survive a bad day – it’s just a matter of figuring out which one or two. Likewise, while those who get two or even three nominations that day are almost surely safe, history tells us at least one of them won’t be so lucky on Oscar nomination morning – it’s just a question of guessing which one.
When all the guilds are finished their work on January 27th, and when we all tally which films have zero, one, two, or three nominations that day, we will all have knee-jerk reactions in declaring some movies safe for the Oscars and some being finished completely. Maybe they will be warranted, at least when determining who still has a shot at catching the Best Picture frontrunners. But when it comes to those just trying to make the field, the odds are that at least one guild favorite will have been given false hope – whomever it may be – while at least one largely ignored film will have much better luck with the Academy, whomever it may be.
What do you think will be nominated for the PGA, DGA and WGA awards tomorrow?
Here are Matt Neglia’s predictions for the PGA:
And the WGA:
You can follow Robert and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @robertdoc1984