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The British Shake Up The Acting Oscar Races

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts had its awards show Sunday night; it’s the last major award show for the vast majority of the categories we monitor in our win-prizes-get-points Oscars tracking model.1 Timing-wise, it’s a great way for movies and performers to get inside the heads of the people picking the Academy Award winners: Oscar voting starts today!

Still, while the BAFTA awards gave us a lot of clarity in the Oscars race, they also underlined how much we do not know — and made a few races more interesting.

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Three races that appear to be settled are best picture, best director and best supporting actress — the BAFTA awards cosigned with the consensus and backed “La La Land,” its director, Damien Chazelle, and Viola Davis of “Fences.”

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Another three Oscar races got more interesting because of the BAFTAs. (As a people, Britons are known to prefer unexpected outcomes following popular referenda, so this isn’t super out of the ordinary.) The first: best supporting actor. Dev Patel (“Lion”) beat out strong favorite Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”), and it’ll take a few days for betting markets to tell us something about the effect that has on the competition. Still, perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into a London native’s victory at BAFTA over a performer from a film that hasn’t been released widely in the U.K. yet.

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The documentary and animated feature categories also were subverted by BAFTA voters, who gave a boost to two films that haven’t held the front-runner spot in our model — “13th” and best-movie-of-the-year-if-you-ask-me “Kubo and the Two Strings.”

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As for what we don’t know, there’s more uncertainty clouding the top acting prizes than it may seem. The best actress and actor BAFTAs went to Emma Stone (“La La Land”) and Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”), the two Oscar front-runners, but neither performer was competing against their closest Oscar competition; Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”)2 and Denzel Washington (“Fences”) weren’t nominated. So although their wins at BAFTA are good news for Stone and Affleck, those wins would be sweeter if they were against their main competition. If there’s going to be an upset, look for it here.

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In summary: good news for Chazelle, Davis and “La La Land”; positive but somewhat hollow victories for Stone and Affleck; and, based on our model, a huge last-ditch push for Patel, “13th” and “Kubo and the Two Strings.”

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Footnotes

  1. Or, slightly longer: Our model awards Oscar nominees points for nominations and wins in guild and critic awards, with the points distributed according to the historical predictive power of those awards.

  2. Who is, admittedly, tied with Natalie Portman (“Jackie”) in our model. But Portman is batting a big zero this season on guild wins, which are the truly predictive indicators. Huppert, on the other hand, had a big win at the rather predictive Golden Globes, which gives her the edge.

Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.

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