In non-surprising awards news Alfonso Cuarón has won the Directors Guild of America prize for his long-in-the-making sci-fi epic Gravity. Though I've long been predicting him to win the Oscar, the Best Picture race still seems competitive. It's insane that 12 Years a Slave, a magnificent film and a historically significant drama in several ways, isn't steamrolling but it isn't. My guess is that even if Gravity sweeps the craft categories, Best Picture will be a nail biter down to the last envelope opening. The most famous 'dominated the Oscars but still lost Best Picture' year is, of course, 1972. Cabaret won 8 Oscars but The Godfather beat it in two of the top 8 categories Adapted Screenplay & the big kahuna Best Picture. The end result: they were both winners. Cabaret took home a lot of Oscars and has the impressive distinction of being the biggest winner among all Best Picture losers. (There are some who think that 2002 was heading toward a similar outcome had The Pianist had another month to gain momentum on Chicago)
Will we see another split year? No predominantly black film has ever won Best Picture which is depressing and bad news for 12 Years a Slave but no sci-fi film has won either which isn't exactly points in Gravity's favor. 12 Years has to convince voters who are resisting it to see the picture (if you ask me, AMPAS voters who won't watch all the Best Picture nominees each year before voting really ought to have their memberships revoked) and it needs to find a second wind with the media who have a predictable way of turning on frontrunners each year. I fear a Brokeback Mountain situation where the less evolved voters just won't give a seminal work its due because of the subject matter. Am I too pessimistic?
Gravity has the potentially easier task in that it only needs to convince voters that it isn't lightweight and that it won't age poorly (I'm not convinced on the latter). And, since it hasn't truly been the frontrunner at any point, it doesn't have much backlash to conquer. I'm leaning toward predicting Gravity to just (nearly) sweep the whole thing.