BAFTAs: Did 'Three Billboards' Just Reclaim the Oscars' Pole Position?

Somewhat unexpectedly, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a film about darkness in the heartland of America, was the big winner on Sunday at the 71st BAFTA Awards. It collected honors for best film (over The Shape of Water, which came in with the most BAFTA noms of any film in seven years), best actress (Frances McDormand), best supporting actor (Sam Rockwell) and best original screenplay (Martin McDonagh). Other major winners included The Shape of Water's Guillermo del Toro for best director, Darkest Hour's Gary Oldman for best actor, I, Tonya's Allison Janney for best supporting actress and Call Me by Your Name (James Ivory) for best adapted screenplay.

Can we deduce anything about the likely results at the 90th Oscars, which will take place in Hollywood two weeks from today, from the results of the U.K.'s equivalent ceremony?

Perhaps. The memberships of both BAFTA and the Academy number around 7,000. Roughly 500 people belong to both groups, meaning BAFTA's picks may reflect the preferences of seven percent of the Academy's, a healthy sample size. And, since the final round of Oscar voting only begins Tuesday (and extends through 5 p.m. PT on Feb. 27), BAFTA's picks could conceivably sway other Academy members to vote differently.

However, despite that sizable overlap and timing, there isn't a great track record of BAFTA winners repeating at the Oscars. Indeed, at the 17 previous BAFTA ceremonies since the BAFTAs moved in front of the Oscars on the calendar in 2001, only seven best film BAFTA winners went on to win the best picture Oscar, the most recent being 12 Years a Slave four years ago. (The nine discrepancies: BAFTA went for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Pianist, The Aviator, Brokeback Mountain, The Queen, Atonement, Boyhood, The Revenant and La La Land, while the Academy opted for A Beautiful Mind, Chicago, Million Dollar Baby, Crash, The Departed, No Country for Old Men, Birdman, Spotlight and Moonlight.)

What I think we can safely say is that losing out on best film honors with this British audience is a very bad omen for the best picture Oscar prospects of the two British films that were nominated along with and ultimately vanquished by Three Billboards — Darkest Hour and Dunkirk, which presumably had a bit of a home-field advantage. (Although, oddly, Dunkirk wasn't nominated for best British film and Three Billboards was, ostensibly because McDonagh hails from the U.K., and Three Billboards topped Darkest Hour for that award, too.) In other words, the BAFTAs may have confirmed what we already knew: Three Billboards' most formidable competition for the best picture Oscar is probably Shape of Water (which also has the most Oscar nominations) and Get Out, not another British pick, and it remains anyone's guess as to which of those three will prevail.

BAFTA's four acting winners, however, look far likelier to repeat at the Oscars, having also picked up Critics' Choice, Golden Globe and SAG award noms. Today was the day when one would have thought that a Brit — say, The Shape of Water's best actress nominee Sally Hawkins or Phantom Thread's Lesley Manville — might pull off a surprise win that would provide momentum heading into the Oscars. But such an upset did not materialize.

Weirdly, only one Oscar-nominated documentary feature and foreign-language film was also nominated for the equivalent BAFTA Award (Icarus and Russia's Loveless, respectively), and both lost to films that were Oscar-eligible last year (I Am Not Your Negro and South Korea's The Handmaiden, respectively).

BAFTA's results did confirm the presumed Oscar-frontrunner status of Coco for best animated feature, Shape of Water for best original score (Alexandre Desplat) and best production design, Phantom Thread for best costume design and Darkest Hour for best makeup and hairstyling. Dunkirk, meanwhile, won for best sound, which suggests that it will be a formidable contender for both sound Oscars. (BAFTA has a unified sound category, as the Academy also should, since few Academy members know the difference between best sound editing and best sound mixing, and even the sound branch of the Academy chose the same five nominees for both this year.)

It was somewhat more surprising to see Blade Runner 2049 chosen over presumptive frontrunner War for the Planet of the Apes for best visual effects (an Apes film has somehow never won the visual effects Oscar) and Baby Driver chosen over Dunkirk for best film editing. It will be very interesting to see if those outcomes are repeated at the Oscars.

But most interesting to me, Blade Runner 2049's Roger Deakins won the best cinematography BAFTA Award, hot on the heels of his win of the top prize from the American Society of Cinematographers, which suggests he may have the momentum to finally take home an Oscar — although, it must be acknowledged, he won both ASC and BAFTA awards 16 years ago as well, for The Man Who Wasn't There, and then still lost out on the Oscar.