Four films stand atop the industry precursor awards circuit

Posted by · 3:40 pm · January 15th, 2014

With the announcement of the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ Golden Reel Awards nominees this afternoon, all of the various industry guilds and societies have had their say on the season. And it’s just under the wire, too, as we’re all preparing for the Oscar nominations announcement tomorrow morning. So how did the various contenders fare?

First and foremost, as it pertains to the Oscars, these awards are more notable than things like the Golden Globes, the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and the various other critics notices throughout the early part of the circuit. They represent the industry’s take on the film year and the crossover membership with the various branches of the Academy makes them more relevant to the season. That said, the voting deadlines for many of these organizations fall far earlier than the Academy’s, and therefore they can often reflect buzz that is much different than that which exists at the end of the year, when Academy members have ballots in hand.

David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” has turned out the most mentions this season, landing 10 industry award notices. They are (and to get the bulk of the acronyms out of the way): Producers Guild of America (PGA), Directors Guild of America (DGA), Writers Guild of America (WGA), Screen Actors Guild (SAG), American Cinema Editors (ACE), Art Directors Guild (ADG), Costume Designers Guild (CDG), Makeup and Hairstylists Guild (MHG) and Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE). The film also landed a BAFTA nomination for Best Film, which is worth mentioning throughout here as it’s also an industry award. For those reasons, it’s largely considered the frontrunning contender in this year’s Best Picture race.

However, “12 Years a Slave” is just a step behind with nine industry mentions. And it would probably have 10 as well had it been eligible for WGA. It missed with MHG but picked up an American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) nomination where “American Hustle” did not.

Then there’s “Gravity” and “Captain Phillips.” Like “12 Years,” both films landed nine industry mentions, though “Gravity” missed out on a WGA nod for which it was eligible. Both films were nominated by PGA, DGA, SAG, ADG, ASC, ACE, MPSE and the Cinema Audio Society (CAS), though neither was chalked up by CDG or MHG. “Gravity” managed BAFTA nominations for both Best Film and Best British Film and was also nominated by the Visual Effects Society (VES).

Those are the four dominant players of the season, no question about it. And everyone else is a fair distance back. Probably landing in the fifth spot, if I were to put forth a guess, is “Nebraska.” That film landed six industry nods from the PGA, WGA, SAG, ASC, ACE and CDG, a very strong showing for such a modest production.

Also chalked up for six industry mentions were “Her” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Each landed nods from PGA, WGA, ACE and ADG, but neither was nominated by SAG despite being eligible and seen by the nominating committee. “Her” filled out with CDG and MPSE mentions, while “Wolf” was chalked up by VES and, crucially, DGA.

Getting toward the back of the pack there’s “Blue Jasmine,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “Saving Mr. Banks” with five mentions each. Three of them – “Blue,” “Dallas” and “Banks” are out in front a bit with more important/relevant notices. All three were PGA- and SAG-nominated, as well as CDG players. “Blue” and “Banks” were nominated by ADG while “Dallas” picked up a MHG mention. (“Banks,” however, was nominated for Best British Film by BAFTA, which ignored “Dallas” entirely.) “Davis,” meanwhile, was more of a below-the-line player with notices from ADG, ASC, ACE, MPSE and CAS.

“August: Osage County” is pretty close to that tier with four mentions, including a SAG ensemble. It was also WGA-nominated with below-the-line mentions from ACE and MHG.

And bringing up the rear are “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and “Philomena” with two industry mentions each. Both received SAG nominations and some below-the-line support (MHG for “The Butler,” CDG for “Philomena”). But these numbers are a little bit deceptive. “The Butler,” for instance, picked up a SAG ensemble nod, indicative of wide-spread support throughout the Academy’s largest branch. “Philomena,” meanwhile – and most notably – was nominated for Best Film by BAFTA and would have, in all likelihood, been a WGA nominee had it been eligible. That puts it a hair out in front of this tier, and really, given its late-breaking buzz, remains a threat to land a Best Picture nomination despite its paltry industry awards showing.

All in all, those are the 14 films duking it out for anywhere between five and 10 Best Picture slots tomorrow. Anything else cropping up would be a shock indeed. It’s up to you to bank on what all these numbers mean when crunched, if anything (and you can overthink this stuff). But we’ve settled on our predictions here ate HitFix, which you can see in the gallery below. Let the chips fall where they may.

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