Thursday, February 16, 2023

Oscar Predictions 2023

I'm now on a three year streak of correctly predicting six of the 10 Oscar categories that I guess at here. It doesn't seem to matter how many nominated movies I've seen, which is a good thing as I'm back to having seen almost none of them (as of this writing I've seen one and a half - Turning Red and half of Elvis, counting all the bits a saw between nodding off).

Random thoughts about other nominations:

* I have nothing against Diane Warren, but do find some level of humor in her Susan Lucci-style streak of not winning for Best Original Song. 

* The song category is also the only place where RRR was nominated, which was a surprise given its status as an international hit. India didn't submit it for Best International Film (for reasons mostly dealing with what the Indian selection committee thinks Oscar voters want to see), and it didn't crack any of the other categories.

* Speaking of international film, Ireland (or Irish people) snagged 14 nominations, including 9 for The Banshees of Inisherin. This total includes five acting nominations and a short film, An Irish Goodbye (which is from Northern Ireland, but I'm including here as NI is on the island of Ireland). I will try not to be too much of a homer for my ancestral homeland in the picks.

* As with last year, I'll update this with notes based on awards still to come (the Golden Globes and Critics' Choice Awards have already happened, and I'll mention those as I go). And as with every year, use of these picks to inform your own picks is highly contraindicated. You did see that I've only seen one and a half nominated films, right?

Anyway, on to another year of prognosticating mediocrity!

Best International Feature Film - I really, really want to go with The Quiet Girl, Ireland's first-ever nominee in ths category. But as recent history shows, if you have a film in this category that is also nominted for Best Picture, you pick it. So my pick is All Quiet on the Western Front, It lost to RRR for both of the awards I've already mentioned, but as previously noted that won't be an issue here.

(All Quiet on the Western Front won the BAFTA in this category)

Best Animated Feature Film - based on Pixar's history, you would expect Turning Red to be the obvious choice here. But looking at the awards already handed out, I am going to go with Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio.

(Pinocchio won the BAFTA)

Best Original Screenplay - I don't have a great read on this based on the awards previously handed out - The Banshees of Inisheern won the Golden Globe and Everything Everywhere All at Once won the Critics' Choice Award. While I like the idea of this award rewarding an original concept that may not get recognized in the big awards, I'm going with the more traditional The Banshees of Inisheern.

Best Adapted Screenplay - While I think this could go to All Quiet on the Western Front, I'm going to go with Women Talking, which won the Critics' Choice Award. From what I've heard about this film it sounds like it's writing-forward, if that makes any sense.

(Banshees and All Quiet won the BAFTAs, where Women Talking was not nominated. Everything Everywhere and Women Talking took the WGA Awards, which are not quite as predictive as the DGA Award, so there's still a chance I can get both of these... or miss both.)

Acting awards, rapid-fire as usual:

Best Suppoting Actor - Ke Huy Quan for Evertyhing Everywhere All at Once

Best Supporting Actress - Angela Bassett for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Best Actor - Brendan Fraser for The Whale

Best Actress - Cate Blanchett for Tár

I feel like Best Actress is the most likely one to go to someone else, most likely Michelle Yeoh for Everything Everywhere All at Once

(Speaking of Michelle Yeoh, she led an Everything Everywhere All at Once near sweep at the SAG Awrds, as she, Ke Huy Quan, and surprise winner Jamie Lee Curis took three quarters of the individual film awards. Brendan Fraser took the lead actor award for The Whale. Compare these results with the BAFTAs, where Blanchett was my only pick to win. Austin Butler won best actor for Elvis while both supprorting awards went to The Banshees of Inisheern.)

Best Director - I'm going with Daniel Kwan and Daniel Schienert for Everything Everywhere All at Once, based on the same logic that saw Alfonso Cuaron win for Gravity. It may not be the best film overall in the groip (though it very well could be), but has a level of technical and visual achievement that should be awarded. 

(The Daniels won the DGA Award, but Edward Berger - who is not Oscar noominated - won the BAFTA for All Quiet)

Best Picture - But like the year Gravity won, we'll have a split at the top. I'm going with The Banshees of Inisheern, which I don't have winning anything else among these picks, but can see getting the top prize for being the second best film in all of the other nominated categories. 

(All Quiet won the BAFTA, while Everything Everywhere All at Once took the SAG Award for best ensemble, which is the closest thing they have to a best picture award. All Quiet was not nominated for the SAG Award)

That's it. Updates to come as more awards get handed out.

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Thursday, March 10, 2022

Oscar Predictions 2022

Back for another year of Oscar predictions, although a second straight year of going 6 for 10 suggests I'd be better off doing just about anything else than making Oscar predictions.

One positive step for me this year is that I've seen a nominated film that's not animated! While I don't think it will win any awards, it was nice to see CODA pick up three nods. As usual, though, most of the nominated films I've seen are animated (Encanto and Luca; one of the kids did watch Raya and the Last Dragon but I didn't really pay attention). 

Some observations before the picks:

* The Best Original Song category is fascinating. Nominees include Beyonce, Billie Eilish, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Van Morrison, and Diane Warren (who is 0 for 12 in the category). I tend to think Miranda will win (even if people are shirty that "We Don't Talk About Bruno" isn't nominated), but I don't think I've heard any of the other songs, so take my judgement at face value.

* I obviously watched the wrong Latinx live-action musical this year, as I did see In the Heights (which landed zero Oscar nods) but not West Side Story (which picked up seven). West Side Story is coming to Apple TV+ soon, so hopefully I'll correct this oversight before the Oscars.

* It's weird that Being the Ricardos picked up three acting nominations and nothing else. I feel like if you have that many notable performances then the film probably has at least one award-worthy aspect outside of acting. 

Like last year, I'm making my picks before the more predictive guild awards, and will update as those become available. On with the picks!

International Feature Film - the one rule I've come up with for picking the winner here is to go with a movie if it's also nominated for Best Picture. It's not exactly rocket science, I know, but it works, so congrats to Japan for their win with Drive My Car, which will be their first win since the 1950s.

Animated Feature Film - no Pixar film this year, but three Disney films that could theoretically steal votes from each other to open things up for one of the other two. Realistically, though, I'd be stunned if this went to any other film but Encanto

Original Screenplay - Each of the nominees here seem to have an issue. Belfast has been criticized as being rose-colored with regards to the reality of growing up in Northern Ireland. Don't Look Up is too heavy-handed. King Richard is about a domineering sports dad. Licorice Pizza raised concerns over the age difference between protagonists. And The Worst Person in the World is too Norwegian. 

So who to go with? I usually look at this award as a consolation prize for the best film of the bunch that won't win Best Picture, but with this group it could be any of them. So instead I'm going with the lifetime achievement angle and Kenneth Branagh for Belfast

(Belfast won the Critics Choice and BAFTA Awards, so I a may be on to something here. Don't Look Up won the Writers Guild Award, for which Belfast wasn't nominated.)

Adapted Screenplay - I am really pulling for CODA here, both as it's the one non-animated nominated film I've seen, and because it was filmed in and around where I live. But it's probably too much to expect the Academy to bend to my will. Instead, I will go with what would seem to be a bit of a make-up call for the writer not getting nominations elsewhere, and pick Maggie Gyllenhaal for The Lost Daughter. There's at least some argument that she and the film got snubbed for Best Director and Best Picture, and if voters buy into that they could make a correction here. 

(Sian Heder won the BAFTA and the WGA Award, Jane Campion the Critics Choice Award, so my theory is probably way off.)

Acting awards in rapid fire:

Best Actor goes to Will Smith for King Richard
Best Actress goes to Nicole Kidman for Being the Ricardos
Best Supporting Actor goes to Ciaran Hinds for Belfast
Best Supporting Actress goes to Ariana DuBose for West Side Story

(Three of these awards seem pretty set - Smith, DuBose, and CODA's Troy Kotsur have won the SAG Award, BAFTA, and Critic's Choice Award, so at this point it seems like it would be an upset for any of them to not win the Oscar. Big miss on my part to not go with Kotsur. Best Actress seems likely to go to Jessica Chastain - she won the SAG and Critics Choice Awards, but wasn't nominated for the BAFTA.)

Best Director - I'm tempted to move away from The Power of the Dog, thinking it might be this year's Mank. But I'm not going to, as I fear that I'm over-reacting. I'm also going to resist the temptation of splitting the director and best picture awards, and go with Jane Campion. Which means...

Best Picture - I'm going to go with Power of the Dog.  CODA won the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast, but that's not particularly predictive. The winner of that award wins the Best Picture Oscar about half the time (10 times in the last 21 years). I fell like if I'm going to be wrong here it's going to be with a film like West Side Story, which as a big pedigree spectacle may get a lot of votes.

(Playing it safe seems like it might work out - Power of the Dog won both the BAFTA and Critics Choice Awards, and Campion won the Best Director award at both as well. But! CODA won the Producers Guild of America Award for best picture, which is generally highly predictive for winning the best picture Oscar but has deviated more recently than over the entire history of the award. Campion did win the best director award from the Directors Guild of America, so maybe we're on our way to a split?)

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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Tarnished Gold

 In case you were wondering why NBC pulled the plug on the Golden Globes, give this a read. While the lack of diversity among Hollywood Foreign Press Agency members got mentioned a lot on TV reporting, always follow the money.

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Monday, April 5, 2021

Oscar Predictions 2021

Time once again for me to guess wildly at who will win the Oscars this year in ten selected categories, and hopefully improve on my woeful 6 or 10 performance from last year (thanks to my over-thinking the screenplay awards and missing on Parasite, like a large number of people).

The good news for this year is that with streaming in place I've watched more movies in the past year than usual. The bad news is that almost none of them were nominated. The two that were are both animated, which is par for the course for me. Also par for the course, using my picks as the basis for your own is highly contraindicated.

Before the picks, thoughts on other nominations:

* I thought Tenet might get more nominations than it did, but I may have been over-estimating how well it would do based on all the attention it got for being released in theaters in the middle of the pandemic.

* I also thought One Night in Miami would get more nominations, and was sad to see Regina King shut out. Once again, I wonder why there are ten Best Picture spots if the Academy isn't going to use them (I'm sure Spike Lee may be wondering the same thing about Da 5 Bloods, which was actually shut out completely). I was happy to see that two of One Night in Miami's nominations involved Leslie Odom, Jr. (Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Song).

* Speaking of Odom, I was saddened that the Hamilton film wasn't eligible. This apparently has something to do with it being a recording of a stage performance - I may have this wrong, the articles I read weren't particularly clear and the references to the Academy's rules didn't help - even though it's a mix of live performance and scenes filmed specifically for the movie. I don't feel as strongly about its exclusion as some do, but I would have been curious to see how it would have fared.

* Also happy to see Emerald Fennel pick up nods for directing and screenplay. She was great on Call the Midwife and have similar hopes for her on The Crown (just getting to the end of season 3 now).

* While I originally made these picks cold, the Producer Guild of America Awards and the SAG Awards have been handed out since then, so I've incorporated them into my prognostication, with notes where I changed my mind from my original selection.

On to the picks!

Best International Feature Film - it's sooooo much easier to pick this category when there's a film that's also up for Best Picture. I usually go with the film that involves the most obscure language (which would be Quo Vadis, Aida?, which is in Bosnian), but in this case I'll go with the film that allows the Academy to make a political statement, Hong Kong's Better Days

Best Animated Feature - the two nominated films I've seen are in this category - Soul and Wolfwalkers - though I could have seen as many as four (I did not watch Onward when other members of the family did, and we somehow missed A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, which I say in all seriousness as the younger boy is a big fan).  I'll admit to being biased for Wolfwalkers given its Irish roots, but I do think it was the more visually interesting of the two films I saw.

That being said, a Pixar movie is in the field, so I'm picking Soul. Though if Onward pulls away some votes...

Best Adapted Screenplay - My usualy theory of this award going to a film that got snubbed for Best Picture would lead me to pick One Night in Miami. And at this point I don't have a good reason to move on from this, so One Night in Miami it is.

Best Original Screenplay - Similar theory, but harder to pull off given that there are multiple films here that could qualify. I think I'll go with Mank as I feel like it's not going to convert on many of its 10 nominations.

Acting awards, in rapid-fire style as usual:

Best Supporting Actor - Daniel Kaluuya for Judas and the Black Messiah
Best Supporting Actress - Youn Yuh-jung for Minari
Best Actor - Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Best Actress - Frances McDormand in Nomadland

My original choice for Supporting Actress was Glenn Close, more or less as a lifetime achievement award, but given how often the SAG Award winner in this category goes on to win the Oscar I made the change. The Best Actress SAG Award is only slightly less predictive, but enough so that I'm sticking with my original choice. Probably to my detriment.

Best Director - No attempts at analysis, just riding the early returns and going with Chloe Zhao for Nomadland.

Best Film - And for the same reason, Nomadland. The Best Ensemble win at the SAG Awards for The Trial of the Chicago 7 isn't changing my mind, as of late it's not been particularly predictive (six of the ten SAG Award winners in the 2010s went on to win the Best Picture Oscar). Nomadland also wasn't nominated in the ensemble category, which complicates things, but I'm going to stick with it.


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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Oscar Predictions 2020

So it turns out I actually did worse last year than I did in 2018, probably because I didn't really know too many of the award winners (especially the guild awards) when I made my picks. This year is kind of a hybrid, as I do know a fair number of the other award winners, but at least a couple (BAFTAs and WGAs) haven't been held yet.

As with last year, I have seen zero nominated films. The lone film I saw in the theaters was Cats. I expect it will do well in Razzie Award nominations.

The only random observation I have is that Cynthia Erivo, who is nominated for Best Actress in Harriet, is also performing the Best Original Song nominee from the movie, which she co-wrote. I hope she wins here, as I don't see her as having much of a chance for Best Actress based on how awards season has been going.

Oh, one other. Apollo 11 not getting a documentary nod seems ridiculous. I saw this on TV rather than in the theater, but it was still spellbinding.

Your picks!

Best International Feature Film - new name, same award for films from outside of the US that are in a language other than English.  Like last year, there's a nominee that's also a Best Picture nominee, so I'm going to go with it. Kudos to Parasite, South Korea's first nomination in the category. If they win, they'll join Cote D'Ivoire and Bosnia and Herzegovina as the only countries with a perfect record in the category (both are one for one).

Best Animated Feature Film - Toy Story 4 is the only Pixar film nominated so...

Best Adapted Screenplay - once again this is going to be a make-up award for a director who didn't get a Best Director nomination. Only question is, which one? I'm going with Little Women, as it seems like all the reviews I read of it made specific, positive mention of the way she re-ordered the book's chronology.

Best Original Screenplay - there's make-up potential here, too, between Noah Baumbach not getting a Best Director nod for Marriage Story and Rian Johnson not getting anything for Knives Out (this being the film's lone nomination). Baumbach seems like the more likely pick here, given that the film was nominated for Best Picture and has a number of acting nominations as well, but I'm going to buck this and go with Knives Out. 

The acting awards all seem pretty locked up at this point:

Best Supporting Actor - Brad Pitt for Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
Best Supporting Actress - Laura Dern for Marriage Story
Best Actor - Joaquin Phoenix for Joker
Best Actress - Renee Zellweger for Judy

All four have won Golden Globes and SAG Awards, and all four are nominated for BAFTAs. I think it would be a huge surprise if any of them did not win. In past years I've suggested alternatives, but this all seems so pre-ordained that I'm not even going to bother this year.

Best Director - I'm going with Sam Mendes based on the technical achievement. It also helps that he won the DGA Award, which is highly predictive of winning this award.

Best Picture- But I'm not going with 1917 here, as from what I've read the story leaves something to be desired. It's also pretty rare for a film to win this award when it has no acting nominations (the last film to win Best Picture without any acting nominations was Slumdog Millionaire, before that it was Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and before that The Last Emperor).

So who does win? I don't have a great feel for this, but think it winds up being Joker, as divisive as that's been. Unless the academy voters can't get over the comics connection, in which case maybe Little Women get it.

This is where it would help if I actually saw movies. Anyway, happy Oscars!

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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Most Things are Better than Cats

I had no plans to see Cats. I did read a few reviews, which confirmed my disinterest by being uniformly negative, many apocalyptically so.

But when one of your kids has a birthday, and he says he wants to see Cats, you go see Cats.  

It was not great, but it wasn't the sort of generationally awful catastrophe some made it out to be. That being said, it's going to get nominated for a boatful of Razzies and should win all of them.

I think the problems start with the source material. There's not much of a narrative in Cats, and what does exist it not particularly coherent (for having said the word about a hundred times in the first five minutes, I still have no idea what a Jellical cat is).  There are ways around this on stage, based on the songs, dancing, and staging (such as having the cats go through the audience). This only goes so far for a movie, especially one where the dancing gets chopped up as much as it does here.

There's also the way cats show up, sing a song, and then drop out of the film for most of the movie. It's hard to develop any interest in the cats as characters, though I suppose in many cases it would be worse if the cats continued to be in the movie (for example, Rebel Wilson's Jennyanydots, who is forced to make a number of cat-themed puns during her time on screen).

This is probably the time to address the way the cats are depicted. I was less bothered by the humanistic depiction of the cats than many of the reviewers, and in some cases thought it worked OK (Francesca Hayward made a believable kitten, while Judi Dench looked like Judi Dench in an unfortunate cat costume). I'm also pretty sure we got the updated version of the film, which corrected some of the more egregious failures. It did not correct the problem of scale that ran throughout the film, where the cats could at any point in the film be the size of actual cats, of large dogs, or nearly human.

There are a variety of other things I could pick at, none of which of themselves derail the film but as a whole add to the general sense that the film is a mess. Just not enough of a mess to really be notable in that regard.

On the plus side to this foray into the theater, I did see a number of previews, any of which I'd have preferred to Cats:
  • Peter Rabbit 2, where Peter goes to the big city and learns some sort of life lessons. James Corden is much better off playing an actual animal.
  • My Spy, where David Bautista seeks to become the next pro wrestler to make the jump to movies, playing a CIA operative who learns some sort of life lessons from a nine year old girl who finds him out.
  • Dolittle, Robert Downey, Jr.'s latest foray into playing every leading male character from Victorian-era British literature. 
  • Sonic the Hedgehog, where the speedy blue video game character teams up with a small town sheriff to avoid capture by a shadowy government agency (led by Jim Carrey). 
  • Respect, the Aretha Franklin biopic starring Jennifer Hudson. The short bit of the title song she performs in the trailer is much better than the (expectedly) overwrought version of "Memories" she delivers as Grizabella.
  • The Call of the Wild, an adaptation of the Jack London story starring Harrison Ford which looks to have been made a bit more kid-friendly than the book.
  • Trolls World Tour, the sequel to Trolls that no one wanted. Apparently there are hard rock trolls that want to make their genre of music the only genre of music, and the trolls from the first movie fight them with the help of trolls who perform other genres of music.
  • Scoob!, which looks to reboot Scooby Doo while giving us an origin story as well. Scooby talks way too much in the trailer.

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Monday, January 28, 2019

Oscar Predictions 2019

Another year, another Oscars post, and another shot at the elusive 10 for 10. Looking back, I only missed the Best Foreign Language Film award (the Boston Globe critics swayed me to pick Lebanon's The Insult, but A Fantastic Woman from Chile took the prize).

Unlike past years, I am going to make my picks sort of cold, not waiting for any of the SAG, WGA, and DGA awards (the Producers Guild has handed out their awards, not sure how much that will sway me). And as the picks just came out this morning, Five Thirty Eight hasn't put up their model yet. I will update with winners and picks as time marches on.

Before the picks, though...

1. I was surprised to see that Lin-Manuel Miranda did not get a Best Original Song nod while a song from Mary Poppins Returns did. But then I looked at the soundtrack listing and he didn't do any writing for the film, which seems like a missed opportunity? 

2. Also surprised that "Pray for Me" from Black Panther didn't get a nod, but that's based solely on having heard the song on the radio every day for something like six months. I don't think I've ever heard "All the Stars."

3. My first two points probably don't matter, as I think "Shallow" is going to win in that category. Which means Lady Gaga will likely end the ceremony with more competitive Oscars than Spike Lee.

4. That's weird, right? I asked this on Facebook, and the one person who responded thought it would be consistent with Oscars history. 

5. I have literally not seen any nominated movies.  The only first-run movie I recall seeing in the theater in 2018 was Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which I took my kids to for another kid's birthday party.

6. The lack of Oscar nods for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is not surprising.

Anyway, your picks!

Best Foreign Language Film - I've only found one rule that seems to work for picking a winner here: if the film is also nominated for Best Picture, pick it. So Roma gets my pick here, though there's a possibility that Cold War could win here (its director is nominated for Best Director but the picture wasn't nominated for Best Picture) based on the same theory I use to pick screenwriting awards. Roma is a legitimate Best Picture contender, so voters could go with Cold War thinking Roma could win the big prize.

(BAFTA: Roma won for best film not in the English language)

Best Animated Feature Film - I am actually going to pass on my only rule here - Pixar wins - and go with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. What little I've read about Spider-Man and Incredibles 2 (the Pixar film) suggests the former is much better. That might not be enough to hand Pixar a rare loss in this category.

(BAFTA: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)

Best Adapted Screenplay - I'm thinking this won't be A Star is Born, based on being a Best Picture contender and on this being like the fourth or fifth time the film's been redone. BlacKkKlansman seems like the most viable way to get Spike Lee a competitive Oscar, and the film does seem unlikely to win Best Picture. But I'm thinking this award will go to If Beale Street Could Talk as a make-up for not getting a Best Picture nomination.

(Aside: now that there are 10 Best Picture slots, why are we not getting 10 nominees?)

(BAFTA: BlacKkKlansman)
(WGA: Will You Ever Forgive Me?)

Best Original Screenplay - I'm thinking not Green Book, which has seen some controversy as to how the film portrays Don Shirley's familial relationships, and for questions on how accurately it depicts the Jim Crow South (and as it's a Best Picture contender). Also thinking not Roma due to its Best Picture chances.

For me it's down to Vice versus The Favourite. Both have Best Picture nods but seem unlikely to win (which is weird to say of The Favourite, which co-led with 10 overall nominations). I'm going to go with The Favourite pretty much as a hunch.

(BAFTA: The Favourite)
(WGA: Eighth Grade, a film which got royally shafted by the Oscars, from what I've read)

Acting seems more open than years past, but I feel reasonably confident in these picks:

Best Supporting Actress - Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk

(SAG Awards: won by Emily Blunt, who wasn't nominated for an Oscar. Regina King was not nominated in this category.)
(BAFTA: won by Rachel Weisz for The Favourite. Regina King was not nominated.)

Best Supporting Actor - Mahershala Ali for Green Book

(SAG Awards: won)
(BAFTA: won)

Best Actress - Glenn Close for The Wife
(SAG Awards: won)
(BAFTA: Olivia Coleman for The Favourite)

Best Actor - Christian Bale for Vice
(SAG Awards: Rami Malek)
(BAFTA: Malek again, looking like I backed the wrong horse)

Unlike past years I don't feel like any of these are locks - though Ali comes close - so if given a second bite at the apple I'd go with Amy Adams, Richard E. Grant, Lady Gaga, and Willem Dafoe. I don't know if these are all sensible choices, but they reflect the sort of lifetime achievement/TV moment voting that could get one (or more) of these folks a win.

Best Director - Full disclosure, I originally picked Alfonso Cuaron, saying he would pull the unlikely back to back win. Of course, last year's winner was actually Guillermo del Toro. This is why someone who actually sees movies should make these picks.

That being said, I'm still going with Alfonso Cuaron, especially if he's not trying to win it back-to-back.

(DGA Award: won)
(BAFTA: won)

Best Picture - Roma. I have no great analysis for this other than what I've read generally about the films that are nominated. Though I do wonder how many voters will be confused that the movie doesn't take place in Italy. I also wonder if the film could win this and the foreign language prize - could the larger voting block for Best Picture pass on it assuming it will win elsewhere?

(PGA Awards: Green Book. Over the last 20 years the winner of this award has won the Oscar about 2/3 of the time, though in very recent history - the last five years - it's more like 50/50.)
(SAG Awards: they don't have a best picture award, but there are folks who see the Outstanding Performance by a Cast award as an analogue, so I will mention that Black Panther won this. I will also say the movie that wins this award wins Best Picture about half the time.)
(BAFTA: won)

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