This is not a post about the films of the Oscars, since the only of those I’ve seen is Her. This is also not a review of the Oscars, which can be summarized thusly: not bad, Ellen had some fun, why Kim Novak? Why Adele Dazeem?
This is a post regarding how, despite having seen almost none of the films nominated, I managed to go 20 for 24 on my Oscar ballot. Now: three of those were freebies, since Queta and I forgot about doing our ballots until half an hour into the show. But one of those was Jared Leto, and that was an easy guess (more on that later). Even with that, I did better than I had in a long time.
As with most award predictions, this is not about who should win, but about who was going to win based on factors like hype, popularity, and who lost the most weight for the role. Onward…
12 Years a Slave – The horse race this year was between this and Gravity, and it came down to, paraphrasing Linda Holmes on the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, which is the more important movie versus which is the one that pushed the filmmaking envelope further. In a case like this, I will always defer to the “important” movie. Proof: Crash won Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Editing in a year where it was only nominated for 3 other awards, and it beat Brokeback Mountain. No one expected Crash to win. To this day, no one wanted Crash to win. But it did. So, 12 Years a Slave it is.
Gravity – There’s a simple rule: if a movie that’s up for Best Picture is also up for a bunch of technical awards, go ahead and bet on the technical awards for it. Maybe not Picture, but it’ll get Effects and Sound and so forth. See also: Titanic, Avatar, Return of the King. I had Gravity running the board on the technical awards, and it didn’t disappoint.
American Hustle – David O Russell managed the amazing feat of having two movies in a row with a nominee in every acting category. But one simple thing detracted from this monumental achievement this year: people really didn’t like American Hustle. No one seemed to hate it, but it managed to make it on a lot of critics’ and viewers’ “Meh” lists. Despite everyone’s love of both Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, awards weren’t in the cards for anyone. I didn’t pick it for anything, which was the right move.
Dallas Buyers Club – The Golden Globes aren’t a 100% analog to the Oscars (ie: Avatar winning Best Picture at the GGs but not the Oscars, The Tourist being nominated for anything at all when no one liked it), but from it trends can be divined. I feel the hype machine for American Hustle started breaking down when it lost both Actor awards to Dallas Buyers Club, and consequently, the hype machine for DBC ramped up. Couple these wins with near-universal acclaim for McConaughey and Leto, and the answer seemed clear.
Frozen – When it comes to animated films, it’s a good bet to go with the Disney film with the best reviews. Normally, I would specify it to Pixar, but Monsters University wasn’t even nominated, so that leaves Frozen. As for Original Song, “Let it Go” has become something of an anthem lately, gaining much more notoriety than any of the other songs (including that one from that religious movie no one saw).
Her – The Best Original Screenplay award has usually been considered the “consolation prize” for the film that’s too off-center for a Best Picture win. It went to Django Unchained last year, it went to films like Juno and Lost in Translation, and, in a three-year-span, it went to Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, and Fargo, none of which won Best Picture. It’s where the “crazy” ideas can often become winning ideas. The near-future sci-fi of Her is about as out-there as it got with the nominees, so it was the safe bet.
20 Feet From Stardom – If you were to ask me which documentary would win Oscar Night, I was on the Act of Killing train. Two things often guide the winners of Best Documentary Feature: notoriety and subject matter. Act had both, and though many felt 20 Feet was the more enjoyable watch, it seemed like Act was a lock to me. But then, 20 Feet won the Independent Spirit award the night before, and that was enough to convince me to choose it as the winner.
Look, I know the Oscars aren’t critically important in the “necessary for human life” sense, but I’m not a sports guy, nor am I particularly inclined to gamble. The Oscars are as close to a sportsbook as I’ll ever get, and, if nothing else, it makes an often-boring evening watching actors make interminable acceptance speeches in between fifteen different montages of the same fifty movies at least a little more fun. If we really wanted to make it fun, we would’ve put money on it.
A penny per category. That’s as deep as I’ll roll with this.