Now that the SAG Awards are over, we’re halfway through the precursors with both BAFTA and the Critics Choice Awards announcing their winners on March 13th. The BAFTAs are slightly more important of a precursor since their membership overlaps with the Academy and Oscar voting ends on March 22nd.
The acting branch is the largest branch of the Academy and it’s important to remember the Academy votes as a whole for the winners. Regardless of what race a film is trying to win getting the stamp of approval from the acting branch matters. Let’s take a look at where the contenders stand.
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: CODA (Winner)
For the discussion of Ensemble/Best Picture we need to include the presumed (or once presumed) frontrunner The Power of the Dog. The Power of the Dog, went 0 for 3 – this could be problematic but we’ll have to see how the film performs as the other guilds begin to weigh in. Nomadland, didn’t need a SAG Award win last year to win Best Picture. The Oscar race for Best Picture was supposed to be between Belfast and The Power of the Dog but with their biggest competitor out of the way Belfast, couldn’t seize the opportunity to change the trajectory of the race now they have to hope for BAFTA to throw them a life-line. Then there’s the underdog we all need to start seriously paying attention to CODA. Which went into the evening with no expectations and walked away the big winner taking home Ensemble and Supporting Actor (Troy Kotsur). Again, we’ll have to wait and see as to what happens with the PGA, DGA, BAFTA and other various guilds as CODA a feel good film just made themselves known as a serious competitor. One thing for sure Netflix (The Power of the Dog) definitely does not want to lose Best Picture to Apple TV+ (CODA).
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role: Will Smith King Richard (Winner)
In the Oscar race between Will Smith and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog) it’s now — Smith 2, Cumberbatch 0. In tennis lingo it’s 30-0 and Smith is serving. Cumberbatch should enter the BAFTA’s with an edge being not only British but British acting royalty as both his parents are respected actors. If he’s so beloved why in eight previous BAFTA Film and TV nominations has he never won? Helping Smith, is narrative that it’s his turn (to win) has successfully taken off. Everyone in the end wants to be on the winning team. Remember Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) bested Brit Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl) on his way to a BAFTA and eventual Oscar win (2015).
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role: Jessica Chastain– The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Winner)
Few would’ve thought Jessica Chastain would win. The fact that neither Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter) or recent Golden Globe winner Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos) can be saved by BAFTA. The BAFTA winner will be irrelevant in the Oscar race since there’s no overlap. Joining Chastain, Colman, and Kidman will be Kristen Stewart (Spencer) who got exactly what she needed —anarchy. The more chaotic the better her chances of sneaking off with a win. It would help her case or Colman’s for that matter if either picked up the Critics Choice Award. If we’re truly in chaos we cannot count out past winner Penelope Cruz (Parallel Mothers). This is truly anyone’s to win or lose.
Helping Chastain’s case is she also appears in the Limited Series Scenes from a Marriage and it’s possible she could parlay two performances for the price of one into an Oscar. Matthew McConaughey won Best Actor for The Dallas Buyers Club while his series True Detective (2013) was airing. Ironically Mahershala Ali used the same strategy to win his second Best Supporting Actor prize for Green Book while his season of True Detective (2018) aired.
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Troy Kotsur– CODA (Winner)
Like Actor this is also a two-man race between Kotsur and Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog). Kotsur scored a major upset grabbing the SAG Award from the presumed frontrunner. Heading into BAFTA Smit-McPhee from Australia might have the upper hand. That is if Smit-McPhee wasn’t 25. The youngest Best Supporting Actor winner was Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People, 1980) at the age of 20. Should Smit-McPhee win he would be the second youngest winner in the category’s history. Best Supporting Actor typically is given to character actors or as a lifetime achievement award to elder statesman. This could help Kotsur sneak off with at BAFTA on his way to potentially a historic Oscar win as the first deaf-male actor to win.
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role: Ariana DeBose– West Side Story (Winner)
This was Kirsten Dunst’s (The Power of the Dog) last chance to change the trajectory of this race since she was snubbed at BAFTA. Heading into the BAFTA and Critics Choice Awards, Ariana DeBose now has a Golden Globe and SAG Award. But DeBose, will need to worry about the late arrival of Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter). Buckley, was snubbed by both the Globes, SAG, and Critics Choice Awards now nominated at one of the final precursors a win here could send shockwaves through this category. Helping DeBose is her films status as a Best Picture nominee. Since the Academy expanded Best Picture race in 2009 only three ladies have won without their film also being nominated: Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, 2015), Alison Janney (I, Tonya, 2017) and Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk, 2018). So regardless of an upset at BAFTA, DeBose should be feeling pretty good about her status as the frontrunner.
Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture: No Time to Die (Winner)
The stunt category doesn’t parlay into any specific Oscar category. But it doesn’t hurt the latest James Bond film on its quest to win Best Original Song. It may help the films chances of possibly picking up either Best Visual Effects or Best Sound. Keep in mind Skyfall won Best Original Song and tied for Best Sound Editing (2012). Having the support of the actors is always beneficial, so No Time to Die is certainly happy to have it here.