Only two films have maintained a consistent presence through the industry precursors. With citations by the Screen Actors Guild, Producers Guild, and Writers Guild, historical data implies that both American Hustle and Dallas Buyers Club are shoo-ins for a Best Picture nomination. However, there are certain technicalities that ought to be addressed before we move further. For one, perceived 12 Years A Slave was ineligible for a Writers Guild nomination. This in large part has to do with certain qualifications that are needed in order to procure entry for WGA voting. Perceived front-runner number two Gravity is a different case as it’s largely considered for its technical merit. Securing a SAG-ensemble award was never in the cards for a film hoisted by a single performance in Sandra Bullock. It’s omission from the WGA falls more in line with the critical flaw of the picture: it’s simply not perceived as a film of considerable merit in terms of writing.
The Best Picture race has been in constant flux throughout the year, with so much subversion of expectations. When the year began, questions arose on whether Steve McQueen’s tendencies would make 12 Years a Slave too overwhelming and violent to register. Following its screening, it immediately jumped on most pundits’ predictions with the belief that it would sweep the critics’ precursors. Gravity followed a similar pattern, relegated to number two. They both remain frontrunners, but the sheen of untouchability they once had has faded, with films like American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street attempting to shake up the 12 Years a Slave/Gravity dynamic. And now resurgences, with films like Dallas Buyers Club and Fruitvale Station registering, unexpectedly, with industry folks.
And in spite of the constant pendulum swinging in momentum, the whole race registers as particularly dull. It likely has to do with two of my favorite films of the year (Inside Llewyn Davis and Before Midnight) simply floundering in the year’s races. Neither film has made much of an impact, both commercially nor with these industry precursors, leaving me with little vested interest in who comes out of these things. Not to mention the vanilla championing of films like Dallas Buyers Club and American Hustle, which bewilders and disappoints in equal measures. How the race shapes up in the end, when nominations are announced on January 16th, is left to be seen. The Directors Guild is the only group left to announce their nominees though it’s unlikely that they will make much of an impact on my predictions; my final predictions can be found here.