Final Oscar balloting started today, right on the cusp of a weekend that will unveil the winners of the Directors Guild of America and the British Academy of Film and Television. A number of the Oscar categories still feel maddeningly close a full three weeks after they were announced, so the pending results of this weekend's kudos could be the litmus test we need.
Or they could just be a bunch of red herrings.
Take the Best Actor race, for instance:
If Michael Keaton wishes to keep his hopes alive, it's essential that he hold off hometown favourite Eddie Redmayne (the expected winner) at the BAFTAs.
But even if Redmayne capitalizes on his English connection, that doesn't take into account the Bradley-Cooper-factor, an actor who was not nominated by the Brits. Cooper's Hollywood stock has skyrocketed from being 'that guy in The Hangover' in 2009 to being a four-time Oscar nominee headlining two of the highest grossing movies of 2014. Many in the Academy may just not be able to resist voting for him, and no decision the BAFTAs make can simulate his vote-pulling effect.
A similar point can be made for that nutso Best Film Editing contest, in which BAFTA nominated six movies, none of which were Boyhood or American Sniper (the mostly frequently predicted Oscar frontrunners)! I've got my fingers 'Tom Cross'ed for Whiplash, in hopes that it might provide a splendid surprise on Oscar night as well.
Other categories in which I'll be looking to the BAFTAs for potential telltale signs include makeup, score, foreign film, and the extremely problematic original screenplay duke-out.
And then there's the DGA. This the chance for Boyhood to reassert itself as a Best Picture threat, or at least to shore up Richard Linklater's chances in Best Director. But if Inarritu takes the prize for his far flashier direction of Birdman, then it's game over, man. Game over. The last thing I wanna do is lump Inarritu -- an undeniable modern master -- in with the likes of Tom Hooper, but yeah, this may be his 'Tom Hooper moment', snatching away the Best Director prize from the critical frontrunner at the onset of this last furtive voting window.
We'll have to wait and see what answers (if any) this weekend holds.