So far, four industry groups have announced nominations this year: the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the American Cinema Editors (ACE), the Art Directors Guild (ADG) and the Producers Guild of America (PGA). And so far, only five films have been recognized by all four groups: “Birdman,” “Gone Girl,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Imitation Game” and “Nightcrawler.” (Nominations for the Annie Awards have also been announced, but none of these films received support there for obvious reasons.) That grouping is probably not what we were expecting.
Let's talk screeners, and specifically about “Selma” first. A lot will be made of its miss today with the PGA. What I think it reveals, as will a DGA snub of Ava DuVernay, is that voting bodies are far too dependent on screeners. Granted, this is a very late-breaking film. DVDs could not be made until mid-December and then, only a select number were sent: to the Academy. (Update: Just a note, Pathé is handling outreach in the UK and apparently screeners were sent to BAFTA.) It's hard to get out to the theater over the holiday. Etc. But we're seeing an interesting test case here, because at the end of the day, I'll still be shocked if the film doesn't land in a number of key Oscar categories.
Screeners for “Interstellar,” meanwhile, didn't hit doorsteps until just before the close of the year. But its fate appears more sealed than ever with the PGA miss. It certainly wasn't for lack of trying. It just didn't connect, or it needed more time to marinate. It has its fans (producers Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger, for instance, just hosted a screening last night). But a number of films are angling for that passion play this year and, well, there's only so much passion to go around.
“Nightcrawler,” meanwhile, is certainly the least likely suspect on that list of movies above. Part of it, as I've already written, has to do with the film catching hold at exactly the right time and playing like gangbusters on screener. People love it, as in number-one-votes-on-ballots love. At this point I don't think too many should be shocked if it does manage the trick and become Open Road's first Best Picture nominee to date.
Screeners for “American Sniper” went out super early, not long after the AFI Fest premiere and ahead of the Academy screening (which is rare). Warner Bros. was Johnny on the spot with it, helped along certainly by the fact that the film was ready to go sooner than “Selma” (whose AFI debut was a work in progress, not a completed product). Eastwood's film is strong, and again, timing is key here.
“Birdman” and “The Imitation Game” are thoroughbreds in the race, but “Gone Girl” is hanging on, too, despite the fact that the studio couldn't quite run the campaign it would have liked to thanks to director David Fincher's controlling ways on the marketing side. And that's not a huge deal to me, really, because the film – any film – should sink or swim on its own merit. But will this be akin to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” a movie celebrated for its parts that doesn't come together as anyone's true favorite – i.e., a Best Picture nominee – in the final analysis? I wonder.
Which brings me to “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Let the record show that Greg Ellwood keeps nudging me to chalk it up in the predictions. He's stuck by his favorite film of the year from the beginning. I need a little more, though. “Moonrise Kingdom” did alright in the lead-up, though admittedly missed a few beats “Grand Budapest” has unsurprisingly nailed. Nothing about this film's trajectory so far should be a surprise to anyone. A Directors Guild nomination, however, would get my attention.
Which brings me to the rest of the schedule. I covered this once, but to review, the writers, cinematographers and costume designers will announce nominees Wednesday. The makeup artists and hairstylists will speak up Thursday. Two days after the Golden Globes, the sound mixers and directors will announce next Tuesday, with the visual effects artists and the sound editors coming in the following day. The next 10 days will be the definitive statement from industry groups, which have crossover with Academy membership.
And even then, again, timing. None of these groups received “Selma” screeners, and it's clear people are nominating what they received. (Which is another reason to be heartbroken over the fate of “Beyond the Lights.” Sigh.) But Academy members have had the movie for three weeks now and could watch it over the holiday. So it's the long game, and it should work out. Also, voting timetables differ between the guilds and the Academy enough to sometimes reflect different spectrums. You just never know.
But you certainly have a fairly clear picture of who's on the track and who's not. “Unbroken,” for instance, got that Art Directors Guild mention this morning, but the PGA miss is a big blow. “Mr. Turner” is coming up dry, while “Foxcatcher” and “The Theory of Everything” are maintaining an even keel. “Whiplash” is serious. And “Boyhood” is “Boyhood,” the frontrunner to many.
I'll say this and only this, though. Look at that picture at the top of this post. Look how WHITE and MALE it is. That's all I'm saying…
What do you think of how the race is taking shape? Sound off in the comments.