It was a big weekend for awards season, with a number of awards shows, including the BAFTAs in London and the Critics’ Choice Awards in Los Angeles (with a London outpost for the BAFTA crowd) on Sunday, and the Directors’ Guild Awards and Annie Awards (for animation) on Saturday. Let me tell you, it was CHAOTIC, which has become the defining term of this awards season. The Best Animated Feature race is total chaos, for instance, as Encanto picked up the BAFTA, but the Annie and the CCA went to The Mitchells vs. The Machines, and it’s not for nothing I call Best Animated Feature “Pixar’s Annual Oscar”. While Luca hasn’t won any major hardware beyond a People’s Choice Award, do you really want to count Pixar out on the night? Who knew Best Animated Feature would turn into one of the closest contests of awards season?
Also, Best Adapted Screenplay has tumbled into anarchy after CODA notched a surprise win at the BAFTAs against presumed favorite Jane Campion and The Power of the Dog. Screenplay wins are important for Best Picture, and while Dog ultimately took the top prize from both the CCA and the BAFTAs, CODA logging a screenplay win is significant. I think Dog retains the edge, but CODA is coming in strong and still building momentum, and final balloting for the Oscars begins on Thursday. I don’t think CODA is punching in the same weight class as Dog, but it is a good film, it’s hardly a party-crasher like, say, Crash, or even Green Book. It’s sweet, it's heart-warming, it’s exactly the kind of middlebrow crowdpleaser the Oscars used to be so good at recognizing. It’s a feel-good movie gaining tons of word of mouth just as everyone is looking for some positive escapism. A Best Picture win wouldn’t be shocking, especially since it keeps winning in the precursor events.
But the DGA’s top honor went to Jane Campion, further cementing her path to Best Director on Oscar night, and in a preview of what might be, Chloe Zhao presented Campion her award at the DGA ceremony, the first time one woman has handed off the honor to another. We could be in for a Best Picture-Director split, if Campion wins for directing but CODA takes the top prize. With ten Best Picture nominees and only five Best Director nominees, this will happen more and more over time, so we might as well get used to the possibility. But Dog turned their weekend around with the BAFTA and CCA wins, so Best Picture is yet another unsettled category.
What is looking the most settled are the supporting actor categories. Troy Kotsur and Ariana DeBose both won, again, at both the BAFTAs and the CCAs. Kotsur gave another lovely speech, cracking a joke about being the first deaf double-oh, and then citing the accessibility appointments of the BAFTAs, with sign language interpreting available on a screen in the room, and further thanking the CODA producers for putting burn-in captions on the film on Apple TV+, which are screen captions that cannot be turned off, unlike subtitles. It’s also nice to see how many people are picking up silent applause, there’s more and more at every awards show.
Ariana DeBose was equally charismatic in her winning moment, uttering a visible “oh sh-t” when Hamesh Patel announced her name, and then being tackle-hugged by Emma Watson. Her acknowledgment of casting directors was especially lovely, and rather pointed, as the Academy refuses to add a Best Casting award. In fact, her whole speech kind of plays like a tacit indictment of the Academy’s decision to demote certain awards, including Best Sound, and her namechecking the contributions of these vital collaborators in the filmmaking process will undoubtedly go a long way with below-the-line voters. Don’t forget, Oscar voting starts in just three days, and the last impression Ariana DeBose made was recognizing, even defending, the importance of below-the-line contributions. This awards season might be chaotic, but Troy Kotsur and Ariana DeBose are the closest thing to sure bets we have.