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DGA and BAFTA Awards Analysis: 'Nomadland' Holds Court, Acting Races Remain Fluid

 Courtesy of BAFTA

The Hollywood Reporter's awards columnist dissects a busy weekend.

The longest awards race in history is now just two weeks from the finish line — the 93rd Oscars — and came into a little clearer focus following the 73rd DGA Awards on Saturday and the 74th BAFTA Awards on Sunday.

The main headline: Chloe Zhao's Nomadland, the art house portrait of a slice of post-recesssion America, remains the clear favorite to win best picture and best director on April 25, having — as was universally expected — won both prizes at the BAFTAs on Sunday, on the heels of Zhao becoming the first woman of color, and only the second woman, to win the Directors Guild of America's top prize.

BAFTA is a hit-or-miss predictor of Oscar, and theoretically could be even more off than usual this year given that BAFTA — as part of a quest to recognize a more diverse pool of talent — implemented new voting processes to determine its nominations and the winners of some categories. But the DGA honor has predicted the best director Oscar on all but eight instances in its history (last year being one of them), and the film directed by the DGA winner has won best picture on all but 18 occasions.

The BAFTA voting body — of which, full disclosure, I am a voting member — is comprised mostly of Brits, and therefore has an understandable tendency to award close races to British nominees, whereas the Academy tends to break for Americans.

Does this explain the most surprising BAFTA result of this cycle, with The Father's Anthony Hopkins upsetting the late Chadwick Boseman, who has won at every other major awards show this season and was heavily favored to win again for his work in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, or is there actual late-breaking momentum for Hopkins? It's impossible to say at this point. We know that BAFTA has not honored many Black actors, and that BAFTA has twice honored Hopkins for film work (whereas the Academy has done so only once), so it could well be a false alarm. But it's hard to ignore the fact that Hopkins also held off another Oscar-nominated British actor, Sound of Metal's Riz Ahmed, with whom he easily could have split the British vote. So, at a time when the Academy includes more members from outside of the U.S. than ever before, keep an eye on this race.

Another notable win came in the best supporting actress race, where Minari's Yuh-Jung Youn followed her win at last week's SAG Awards with another win here, cementing her as the category's clear Oscar frontrunner. (The 73-year-old, who is also known as "Korea's Meryl Streep," would be only the second Asian winner of this category's Oscar, 63 years after Miyoshi Umeki won for Sayonara.) At the BAFTAs, only one fellow Oscar nominee was even nominated, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm's Maria Bakalova, whose prospects of building enough momentum to pull off a win are probably now exhausted.

And then, in the best actress competition, Nomadland's Frances McDormand finally got on the board with a big win. Some had begun to write her off because she, unlike her fellow Oscar nominees, did not prevail at the Golden Globe Awards (The United States vs. Billie Holiday's Andra Day), Critics Choice Awards (Promising Young Woman's Carey Mulligan) or SAG Awards (Ma Rainey's Viola Davis) — plus she has already won this category's Oscar twice before, most recently just two years ago. But my contention is that if this race is as tight as it appears to be, and if voters love Nomadland as much as they appear to, then I wouldn't feel more confident betting on anyone other than its leading lady. The wild card is that at the BAFTAs, probably because of the new voting process, Mulligan, a Brit, wasn't even nominated; if she had been, would she have won? Well, being Brit didn't help this category's fifth nominee, Pieces of a Woman's Vanessa Kirby, for whom this awards show was probably her last shot at building some momentum.

In terms of other BAFTA outcomes that were far from assured, Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller's script for The Father was awarded best adapted screenplay over fellow Oscar nominees Nomadland and The White Tiger; Tenet topped The Midnight Sky to win best visual effects, rebounding from a loss to the film at last weekend's Visual Effects Society Awards; and, for the prize honoring the best film not in the English language, the Danish film Another Round held off Minari (which won the corresponding prize at the Golden Globe and Critics Choice awards, but was ineligible for the best international feature prize at the Oscars) and fellow Oscar nominee Quo Vadis, Aida?.

Conversely, no one was surprised that Judas and the Black Messiah's Daniel Kaluuya, a Brit who has swept the awards circuit, won best supporting actor over two fellow Oscar nominees, One Night in Miami's Leslie Odom Jr. and Sound of Metal's Paul Raci; Brit Emerald Fennell's Promising Young Woman script triumphed over its primary Oscar competition, Aaron Sorkin's for The Trial of the Chicago 7; Pixar's Soul beat fellow Oscar nominees Onward and Wolfwalkers in the animated film category and Mank, Minari and News of the World in the original score race; the late-breaking Netflix doc My Octopus Teacher held off fellow Oscar nominee Collective; and that several other runaway Oscar frontrunners also prevailed: Nomadland for best cinematography; Mank for best production design (on Saturday it also won the Art Directors Guild Award for best period film, whereas fellow Oscar nominee Tenet won for best fantasy film); Sound of Metal for best editing and best sound; and Ma Rainey for best costume design and best makeup/hairstyling.

Finally, it is worth noting that the only Oscar nominee which was also nominated for the best short film BAFTA Award, The Present, won.


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