I... am not convinced. Not yet, anyway.
Yes, Boyhood has been winning Best Picture prizes left, right and centre for the last two months, but let's put things into a bit of context: Every award it's collected all season has been from some critics or media group. It's the sort of ambitious, artistically inspired movie that was always going to appeal to them, but these people don't vote on Academy Awards.
There is an Oscar season from years past that immediately springs to mind when I consider the pattern of this season thus far: The 2010/2011 season, in which
The Social Network won every critics honour under the sun before its momentum was snatched away by The King's Speech. When was it that the eventual Best Picture winner made its move? --- At the Producers Guild of America Awards.
In the last five years, the PGA has grown from being just another industry guild to being THE definitive Oscar bellwether. The only occasion in that time when the PGA results have not been useful in predicting the Academy's favourite movie was last year, when the unprecedented tie between Gravity and 12 Years a Slave caused the biggest collective spit-take in Oscar-watching history!
It has less to do with overlap between the guild and AMPAS, but everything to do with the balloting system. As has been discussed on every awards blog and movie media outlet since the Academy switched to this format, the preferential ballot indiscriminately favour films with broad appeal. 2nd and 3rd place votes suddenly become much more important than 1st place votes (assuming the nominee in question at least has enough #1 placements to survive the first elimination round).
If this season turns out to be the uncanny duplicate of the 2010/11 season that it's shaping up to be, then people should not be surprised if The Imitation Game triumphs at tonight's PGA Awards, becoming the inevitable Oscar champion and the scourge of Boyhood fans everywhere. Like The King's Speech before it, The Imitation Game is a solidly executed, easily digestible British drama inspired by true events. Also, like The King's Speech, it's being ushered through the awards circuit by the infallible PR strategizing of the wicked Harvey Weinstein, naturally.
That's not to imply that the decent, if unremarkable, Alan Turing bio has it all wrapped up. I'm ready and able (and oh so willing) to change my tune if Boyhood maintains its supremacy with a PGA win. But all things considered, I'm bracing myself for the worst.
PGA Best Picture prediction: The Imitation Game
Best Picture isn't the only category that the PGA could shine some light on with tonight's proceedings. Best Animated Feature is still anybody's race with The LEGO Movie out of the running. Will the guild still stump for the Oscar-snubbed comedy in an inspired display of solidarity, or will they be reactionary in jumping ship to the new presumed frontrunner How to Train Your Dragon 2?
Or -- also entirely possible -- could it be that Dragons 2 was going to be more well liked within the industry all along? I'm currently guessing that the DreamWorks adventure firms up its grip on this category with a victory tonight, but if it goes to Big Hero 6 or The Boxtrolls, then get ready for a wild race!
PGA Best Animated Feature prediction: How to Train Your Dragon 2
PGA Best Documentary prediction:
(EDIT: I totally forgot that this is one guild that CitizenFour missed! Instead I'll predict Virunga.)
And then what of the Screen Actors Guild? Three of the four acting categories feel pretty ossified at this point, but there's still lots of wiggle room in Best Actor.
Interesting trivia: I hasn't happened since 1999(!) that all four Oscar acting winners have won for playing fictional characters (ie; not based on any real-life figure).
If we assume that Arquette, Simmons, and Moore are all locked up to win, then the onus is on Michael Keaton winning Best Actor, as he's the only nominee in his category not playing a person who actually existed.
But rather than looking forward to finally breaking the curse, I actually feel nervous that Keaton will get pipped at the last minute by a baity biopic role.
We've seen it happen a number of times in the not-so-distant past: Julie Christie got burned by Marion Cotillard for playing Edith Piaf, Mickey Rourke got burned by Sean Penn for paying Harvey Milk, Viola Davis got burned by Meryl Streep for playing Margaret Thatcher.
I think Eddie Redmayne's impressive embodiment of Stephen Hawking is in a much better position to spoil Keaton's chances then most are willing to admit. Now, if Keaton does take Sunday evening's SAG Award, I'll feel slightly less nervous about picking him for the Oscar (but only very slightly).
As for the Best Acting Ensemble prize, that's completely up in the air. I can see any of them but The Theory of Everything winning, but it won't mean much in the wake of the PGA's ultimate decision.
Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne
Best Actress: Julianne Moore
Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette
Best Ensemble: Birdman
Best Stunt Ensemble: The Hobbit