Over the weekend, the two biggest industry guilds, the Producers’ Guild of America and the Screen Actors’ Guild, held their awards. On the film side, the PGA went for 1917 as their best picture, and SAG gave Parasite the Best Ensemble Cast award, their equivalent of best picture. Parasite is now the first foreign-language film to win Best Ensemble at SAG. After this weekend, the Oscar race looks like 1917 vs. Parasite, with Joker drafting on the outside as a spoiler pick.
Obviously, I am stoked Parasite bagged such a big, historic win, because it’s one of my favorite films of 2019 and the 2010s. But this does not mean Parasite is a lock for Best Picture. The SAG awards and Best Picture line up 44% of the time. The PGA, however, predicts Best Picture a whopping 70% of the time, and that figure goes up to 80% since the Academy adopted preferential balloting in 2010 (the PGA also uses a preferential ballot). So, between the two, the PGA award is a better predictor for Oscar than the SAG, and 1917 is the frontrunner after this weekend.
That doesn’t mean Parasite is a hopeless case. This is clearly a film with a lot of support. Best International Feature is a virtual lock for Parasite, one of the surest categories of the night, if you’re filling out an Oscar pool. And while the director race is much tighter, with Sam Mendes and Bong Joon-ho in close contention, I will not be shocked if this is a year where all the top categories split for different films. I can see Mendes and Bong splitting Best Picture and Best Director, while Best Original Screenplay, Cinematography, and Editing split between some combination of Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, 1917, Parasite, and Ford v Ferrari (that’s your spoiler in the editing category).
One thing that will make a difference this year is the shortened award season and the potential impact of whisper campaigns. The Oscars are in three weeks, so there isn’t time for a manufactured backlash to “take down” a film. Everyone is too busy hustling from one awards body to the next—the Directors’ Guild is up next weekend—to sling mud, so don’t look for much of an effort to explain how some historical inconsistency in 1917 renders it meaningless. And good luck mounting an attack on Parasite, because that would just be advocating FOR class inequality, which no one is going to do on the record. (Also, I’m not sure rich people realize they’re the target of Parasite, because rich people keep saying they love Parasite and I am DYING to know what they think the message is.)
Our clear-cut Oscar frontrunners are 1917 and Parasite, but Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Joker, and Ford v Ferrari are still in the mix, too. This will be a year where the Oscars are spread around, and no one film wins an overwhelming number of trophies, which just speaks to the overall strength of film—at least, among the kind of films the Academy recognizes—2019 was. My favorite Oscar years are the ones where there is no consensus and the top awards split between several movies, and that certainly seems to be the case this year.