How to win an Oscar: which awards ceremonies are most crucial for a Best Film victory?

From left: Jenny Slate, Stephanie Hsu, James Hong, Michelle Yeoh, and Ke Huy Quan accept the SAG award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture.
From left: Jenny Slate, Stephanie Hsu, James Hong, Michelle Yeoh, and Ke Huy Quan accept the SAG award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Jonny Walfisz
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Not all awards ceremonies are created equal. As news of the SAG awards broke, predictions for the Oscars have come in hot and heavy.


Is there a tried-and-tested way to win an Oscar? While many critics will use terms like “Oscar-bait” in regard to melodramatic biopics or the films that navel-gaze at Hollywood’s past, there’s a school of thought that the only sure-fire way to guarantee yourself Oscar glory is winning a selection of awards in the run-up season for the big show on 12 March.

This year’s 10 Best Picture nominees are All Quiet on the Western Front; Avatar: The Way of Water; The Banshees of Inisherin; Elvis; Everything Everywhere All at Once; The Fabelmans; Tár; Top Gun: Maverick; Triangle of Sadness; and Women Talking.

It’s a strong field, but this weekend’s ceremonies at the Producers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild awards have put Everything Everywhere All At Once as a clear frontrunner. So how do these precursor awards ceremonies predict the Oscars?

In short, the theory is quite simple. If a film is able to win big at a selection of precursor awards shows, that ups the likelihood that a similar fortune will befall the film at the Oscars. Being an awards season darling is naturally a good metric for how the Academy will look at your film, but there are a particular few ceremonies that set the course.

The 10 Best Picture nominations for this year's OscarsAP/AP

The first is the Golden Globes. As per usual, the Golden Globes ceremony takes place before the Oscar nominations are even released and kicks off the awards season. While the Golden Globes gives the public a first taste of what’s in the running for the gongs that year, it’s not actually considered the best predictor.

A major reason you can’t rely on the Golden Globes to predict the Oscars is that its winning categories are split in two - separating drama films from musicals or comedy. With five nominations for Best Picture in these two categories respectively, the same nominees could pop up in the Oscars’ Best Picture category.

Eight out of this year's 10 Golden Globes Best Picture nominees show up in the Oscar nominations, with the musical or comedy nominees Babylon and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery replaced by the heavier-hitting (and far superior) dramas All Quiet on the Western Front and Women Talking.

At the Golden Globes, The Fabelmans and The Banshees of Inisherin both won in their categories. These victories may not translate to Oscar glory though, as many consider the next set of awards as far better predictors.

After Oscar nominations are released, then comes the highest-level British awards ceremony, the BAFTAs, followed by the selection of US Guild awards. These are the Directors Guild of America (DGA), the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards shows.

The big winner in the British ceremony came as somewhat of a surprise to a lot of commentators. All Quiet on the Western Front took an impressive seven awards home, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Not in the English Language.

What had seemed an outsider contender as a foreign-language film suddenly became a frontrunner after the BAFTAs. With that in the bag, awards season followers turned their heads to the Guilds.

At the DGA, PGA, and SAGs, there has been one film that’s been consistently making headlines: Everything Everywhere All at Once (EEAAO).

The top gongs of Best Feature Film, Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, and Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture all went to the EEAAO’s directors The Daniels, its producers, and its cast respectively.

It’s the SAG awards that are particularly indicative, as they are voted for by the SAG-AFTRA acting union, which comprises the largest group of Oscar voters. EEAAO also won Best Picture at the Critics Choice Awards and is now presumed a shoe-in to win at the upcoming Writers Guild of America Awards on 5 March.

Is winning all the Guild awards enough to guarantee victory at the Oscars? There are no certainties. As YouTuber The Oscar Expert points out, the complete disconnect between typical Oscar predictors – the SAG and the BAFTAs – is unusual. “The last time BAFTA and SAG had 0 overlap was 1998,” he wrote on Twitter.

So the jury is out on who will come out victorious at this year’s Oscars. Will it be the Golden Globe winners The Fabelmans and The Banshees of Inisherin? Will it be the BAFTA darling All Quiet on the Western Front or the Guild champion Everything Everywhere All at Once? Or will it be my personal favourite of the list, Tár? We’ll only know for sure on 12 March.

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