This has been the most difficult to predict Best Picture race in recent memory. On Oscar day, as many as five films could have a legitimate shot at winning. Those are: The Shape of Water, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, Get Out, Dunkirk and Lady Bird.
To be upfront about it, I’m predicting Get Out. I came to my prediction two months ago for very specific reasons, and while nothing has made me completely confident in it, nothing has derailed my reasoning.
The obvious choice would The Shape of Water. It has 13 nominations. It’s going to win multiple awards. It’s going to win Best Director. It won the PGA award. That seems like it would be enough to overcome the lack of a SAG ensemble nomination.
But that’s what we said about La La Land last year, and The Shape of Water certainly has far less hype going into Oscar day than La La Land did.
The next obvious choice would be Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. It not only received a SAG ensemble nomination, but it won. It won the BAFTA award for Best Picture. It received PGA and DGA nominations. That seems like it would be enough to overcome the lack of a Best Director nomination.
But, when Ben Affleck was passed over for a Best Director nomination, he still won the DGA award and Argo still won the PGA award. And as we know from Hidden Figures, American Hustle and The Help, a SAG ensemble win doesn’t mean a Best Picture win. Three Billboards also falls into a La La Land-esque situation in regard to backlash; there has been plenty of press intensely critiquing the film’s racial politics.
At first, Lady Bird seemed like the preferential ballot friendly film that could sneak its way to a win. But it needed something throughout the awards season, and it didn’t really get anything.
That’s what brings me to Get Out. The last two Best Picture winners have been at least partially unexpected. Most people were predicting The Revenant two years ago — and if not The Revenant, many were predicting The Big Short due to its PGA win — and most people were predicting La La Land last year. So I looked at where Spotlight and Moonlight succeeded, at places that may have hinted at their potential win. At first, it seems like Spotlight‘s indicator might have been the SAG ensemble win. But like I said before, Hidden Figures, American Hustle and The Help all won that award without winning Best Picture. After further deduction, it came down, in my opinion, to the Best Original Screenplay WGA award (in addition to having some of the big prerequisites). Both Spotlight and Moonlight won that award, and then moved on to win their screenplay awards at the Oscars (Moonlight was nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category at the Oscars). Get Out‘s WGA win could be bigger than most people think it is.
Why I say “could” is because Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri was ineligible for the award. Had it been eligible and Get Out still won, things might be more clear. It wasn’t, though, so this angle is not entirely bullet proof.
But because I’m predicting Get Out in Best Original Screenplay, I believe that the film will also win Best Picture. In only five of the last 20 years has a film won Best Picture without winning a screenplay award and in each of those five years, the film that won Best Picture still had a Best Director nomination, with those directors winning three out of the five times. That suggests to me that if Martin McDonagh loses Best Original Screenplay, there is no chance that Three Billboards wins Best Picture without that Best Director nomination and without any of the guild wins that Argo had.
Some of the troubles Get Out runs into is its lack of below-the-line nominations, specifically a film editing nomination. Not since 1980 has a film won Best Picture without any below-the-line nominations. Get Out also only has four Oscar nominations, and a film hasn’t won Best Picture with that few in 84 years.
The reason why details like that don’t scare me this year is because each of the top five contenders will break or impact a stat/detail like that. Dunkirk doesn’t have any acting nominations or a screenplay nomination, and it’s been 85 years since a film won Best Picture in the same scenario. The Shape of Water, as said before, lacks a SAG ensemble nomination, and it’s been 22 years since a film won Best Picture in the same scenario. Lady Bird has five nominations, but it also lacks below-the-line nominations, and, as said before, it’s been 37 years since a film won Best Picture in the same scenario. As stated already, Three Billboards lacks a Best Director nomination, and before the Argo situation five years ago, a film hadn’t won Best Picture in the same scenario since 1989.
One of these stats is going to break or be impacted significantly. It’s just a matter of which one it’ll be. And because it is guaranteed that one will be broken/impacted, we also have to look at factors outside of stats, at the cultural feeling and the cultural moment. Black Panther released in February and the hype surrounding it occurred at the same time that Oscar voting did. The film features Daniel Kaluuya and engages in racism like Get Out does. And as Black Panther becomes its own cultural phenomenon, Get Out, a year after its release has solidified itself as a cultural landmark.
The helpful thing is, however, that Get Out, in fact, does have support from below-the-line branches.
Get Out received an American Cinema Editors nomination, a guild equivalent of the Best Film Editing category. So while it may not have received an Oscar nomination, there is support there. It also received nominations from the Art Directors Guild and the Costume Designers Guild (the contemporary category of each often doesn’t translate to Oscar nominations, but they are still evidence of support), and it won the Publicists Guild award (Public Relations is a branch of the Academy). There is support across the board. And with an acting nomination, a Best Director nomination, a SAG ensemble nomination and not only a screenplay nomination, but a potential screenplay win, Get Out is looking pretty good.
What’ll throw this angle off drastically is if Three Billboards wins Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars, which is definitely possible. But if Get Out wins, look out for the final award of the night.
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Shape of Water
Call Me by Your Name
Will win: Get Out
Could win: The Shape of Water
Should win: Get Out
Should’ve been nominated: Mudbound
Featured image via Universal Pictures.