Thursday, June 20, 2024

The Final Four Films Competing For Best Picture At The Oscars

The first of two mega pre-Oscar weekends this month ended with “Everything Everywhere All at Once” going from the highest of highs at the DGA to the lowest of lows at BAFTA. But one perhaps near Best Director clinching win by the Daniels at the DGA may well cancel out a near shutout at the BAFTAs, depending on how the next mega pre-Oscar weekend goes with the PGA Awards on February 25th and the SAG Awards on February 26th.

Yet, after this first massive doubleheader, we can at least be more confident of who else is still alive as the final Oscar weekend nears. Fittingly, Oscar night on March 12th is the same night as the NCAA Tournament’s Selection Sunday. And with three weeks left until the grand finale, it seems clear there is already a “Final Four” of Best Picture contenders still standing, even if some are longer shots than others for the win.

Assuming Steven Spielberg’s DGA loss and now longshot Best Director odds are the final kiss of death for “The Fabelmans” and that lead acting victories are still the most that “TÁR” and “Elvis” can do, here is what we are left with as the Final Four to win Best Picture – and what their most realistic paths are to the ultimate prize.

“Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Best Director + Best Supporting Actor + either Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay OR Best Editing

As much as “Everything Everywhere All at Once” lost at the BAFTAs, pretty much none of its defeats seriously hurt it and maybe even helped it in a way. No matter what doom and gloom pundits proclaim, not one of its BAFTA losses indicated any severe trouble for the Oscars, at least for the time being.

Thanks to the Daniels winning at the DGA, their defeat at BAFTA the next night was far less concerning, especially considering who did win. If “All Quiet on the Western Front’s” Edward Berger had gotten the final Best Director Oscar nomination over Ruben Ostlund – as he probably should have – before winning Best Director at the BAFTAs, then there would have been a real problem. Instead, since the Daniels were not beaten by a fellow Oscar nominee like Todd Field or Martin McDonagh, and since Spielberg wasn’t even nominated at the BAFTAs, all signs are still more apparent than ever for an all-important Director Oscar.

As for the far more surprising BAFTA result of Ke Huy Quan actually losing a Best Supporting Actor contest for once, it would seem to be a minor speedbump. Should Barry Keoghan somehow repeat this upset at SAG, there will indeed be something to worry about in this category for the first time all season. Otherwise, a Quan SAG victory should restore order – and with that win secured again along with Best Director, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” would be one short step away from clinching total victory.

Winning an acting Oscar and a Director Oscar alone doesn’t guarantee Best Picture, as “The Revenant” and “La La Land” proved in 2015 and 2016. Therefore, assuming the Daniels and Quan remain all but locked in, all it would take to wrap up Best Picture is a win in just one of three other major categories – which could be somewhat more challenging to overcome.

Two acting wins for Quan and Michelle Yeoh, combined with Best Director, would surely end the Best Picture suspense. Yet Yeoh’s hopes for Best Actress may do or die with SAG, as one more major loss to Cate Blanchett might prematurely settle the year’s biggest acting showdown.

If Yeoh falls, a combination of Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Original Screenplay should still be enough. However, “The Banshees of Inisherin” now has the slight lead in that two-handed race after BAFTA too. Yet its ineligibility for the WGA should pave the way for an “Everything Everywhere All at Once” win there and put them back at 50-50 before Oscar night. But by then, if “The Banshees of Inisherin” has nowhere else to go for a win except Best Original Screenplay, that could pave the way for a “consolation” win there.

Conceivably, winning just Best Director and Best Supporting Actor could be enough to secure Best Picture on their own. Still, it wouldn’t be 100 percent foolproof, especially with losses in Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay. As such, the last chance for a significant victory to erase all doubt may come in Best Editing – the only category “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won at BAFTA.

No Best Picture has also won Best Editing since “Argo” in 2012, so maybe it isn’t a perfect bellwether. Nonetheless, a Best Director/Best Supporting Actor/Best Editing combination should be formidable enough to bring it all home. But if it has no other major winners besides the Daniels and Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” cannot breathe easily before the final envelope – especially if one of its three biggest rivals left is still on their Best Picture path by then.

“The Banshees of Inisherin”
Best Supporting Actress + Best Original Screenplay

The Banshees of Inisherin” looked poised to completely sweep BAFTA, as it needed to after wins for Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, and a much-needed Best Supporting Actress victory for Kerry Condon. But when Colin Farrell saw his Best Actor chances practically destroyed after Austin Butler won, and when “All Quiet on the Western Front” pulled the upset for Best Film, “The Banshees of Inisherin” went from revived frontrunner to being right back on the edge of elimination.

Nevertheless, it did make clear that if “The Banshees of Inisherin” can still win Best Picture, there’s only one way left. Assuming Farrell can’t rally at SAG and Keoghan can’t somehow pull off a second straight upset, Condon is the film’s last hope for an all-important acting win. Even then, it’s questionable that she would have more pull than Angela Bassett among SAG voters.

Some may figure that beating “Everything Everywhere All at Once” for Best Ensemble would be enough for “The Banshees of Inisherin” to stay in the race. But without an individual win, too, it will remain right where it was, with no room to win anything besides Screenplay and very shaky hopes it could pull a “Spotlight” and win with Screenplay only. Therefore, even if it loses Best Ensemble and Farrell can’t pull what would be a massive upset at this point, it will still roar back to life if Condon wins anyway.

It may still be a long shot, but that is the best “The Banshees of Inisherin” has to go on. Otherwise, the odds are that, at most, it will only win Best Original Screenplay as a “collective” Oscar and nothing else. However, if Condon resurges to win the Oscar and if it holds on in Screenplay, a Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay win would put “The Banshees of Inisherin” right on the brink of Best Picture – just like other recent winners that had an acting and screenplay combination such as “Moonlight,” “Green Book,” and “CODA.”

Of course, this combination isn’t perfect since “The Father” won Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay but lost Best Picture in 2020. Still, it is otherwise the most reliable Best Picture-winning formula of this era – and it is “The Banshees of Inisherin’s” only hope left. And right now, Condon looks like that formula’s only hope left, no matter how good of a shot it really is.

“All Quiet on the Western Front”
Best Adapted Screenplay + Best International Film + a few tech wins

As the biggest BAFTA winner of the year, “All Quiet on the Western Front” is now ready to be hailed as the next “CODA” that breaks stats and surges at the very last second to win it all. But to do that, it would go beyond “CODA’s” stat-shattering awards season run.

All Quiet on the Western Front” would have to win Best Picture in a way that only “Braveheart” has ever done – without even a PGA nomination. Plus, no film in decades has won Best Picture with no other above-the-line victory – and since Berger and all the film’s actors were snubbed, the only chance for another above-the-line win is in Best Adapted Screenplay. Though it may well now be the new Adapted favorite after winning BAFTA, it was ineligible at the WGAs and cannot build any momentum from here until Oscar night.

The popular theory may be that Netflix will defy the odds and outspend its way to victory, stats be damned, as Apple did for “CODA” at this time last year. But in all honesty, after the way Netflix lost Best Picture at the final leg of the race for the previous four years, and after it looked likely to get zero Best Picture nominations for most of this season, does it really make any sense that they would somehow stumble into getting it right now? It’s possible if “All Quiet On The Western Front” can position itself as a true alternative to “Everything Everywhere All at Once” but there simply may not be enough time left.

Some can point to “Parasite” as a movie that surged to victory, as a Best International Film winner and a screenplay winner. However, it would not have gotten over the top without Bong Joon-ho also winning Best Director. As such, Berger not even being nominated looms especially large now and could very well go down in history as the only thing that stopped “All Quiet on the Western Front” on the 11th hour of this awards season war.

“Top Gun: Maverick”
PGA victory + WGA and Oscar Best Adapted Screenplay victory + a few techs

The PGA Awards have long been considered the do-or-die Oscar moment for “Top Gun: Maverick.” If it were to win on that preferential ballot, the year’s biggest live-action blockbuster would instantly be seen as the new Best Picture favorite, like “CODA” was when it upset at the PGA last year. However, while that would keep the film in the race, it alone would not be enough to make it a frontrunner.

CODA” only kept surging to Best Picture after the PGA win because it then won Best Adapted Screenplay at the WGA awards and the Oscar from there. This is the exact formula “Top Gun: Maverick” has to repeat at the WGAs on March 5th, as it has to defeat presumed favorite “Women Talking” to prove it has all the momentum at the right time. Otherwise, even a PGA win will look like a fluke unless it wins Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars.

For all the likely arguments that “Top Gun: Maverick” is popular enough to win on a preferential ballot, without any other above-the-line wins, it must be stressed that the preferential ballot is not that powerful. Otherwise, “Avatar,” “Black Panther,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” or “Dune” would have won on it after winning tech awards and nothing else. Even “Spotlight” needed a Screenplay win to take Best Picture, despite winning nothing else beforehand.

Top Gun: Maverick” and “All Quiet on the Western Front” are in nearly the same situation – both with Best Adapted Screenplay nominations and with no other chances to win anything above the line before Best Picture. If both of them lose to “Women Talking” on Oscar night, they are almost certainly both out right then and there, and Best Picture will come down to “Everything Everywhere All at Once” or “The Banshees of Inisherin” after all. Yet if one of them wins this quasi-semifinal matchup, they will at least advance to stay alive at the final envelope.

But for “Top Gun: Maverick,” it will breathe much easier if it wins the PGA, then the WGA, then Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars – especially if it wins the technical awards it is supposed to. That exact formula could be enough to fly away with the upset win or at least put it right on the doorstep before the final dogfight. Yet if it loses either the PGA or WGA in the next two weeks, that may already ground Maverick for good, no matter what.

Which of the final four will win Best Picture? Will it be All Quiet on the Western Front,” The Banshees of Inisherin,” Everything Everywhere All at Once” or Top Gun: Maverick?” How will they do it? Please let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account and check out our latest Oscar predictions here.

You can follow Robert and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @robertdoc1984

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