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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Early Oscar predictions

First, the shoo-ins: Actor to Jeff Bridges, Supporting to Christoph Waltz and Mo'Nique.  In the last case, there doesn't seem to be an opposing candidate to coalesce around.

Actress: the money is on Sandra Bullock, but her film was too marginal. There may be a lot of affection for her, but there's even more for Meryl Streep, whose performance made the mediocre Julie and Julia memorable. I suspect Academy voters will finally award her a third statuette. 

Director: Kathryn Bigelow. She's a trailblazer, and even co-producer of a film that was not easy to make. Besides, no one likes ex-hubby James Cameron, and who doesn't admire the amount of craft that went into The Hurt Locker? 

Picture: The Hurt Locker is the front runner, having won almost every key award from significant subsets of the Academy: directors, producers, editors, etc. It also won many of the most prestigious critics' awards. Courageous as the act of filming it may have been, the movie doesn't have a whole lot to say, however precise and well made it might have been.  To use a Winter Olympics analogy, it's the Nancy Kerrigan to Avatar's Oksana Baiul: all craft and perfection, but a bit soulless and horsey relative to the competition.  So while the voting of individual academies ought to give Hurt Locker the edge, I'm not quite ready to say that Hurt Locker has it locked up.

There's more, however, to the story. This year there are ten nominees, not five, and the decision will be made by preferential voting, an enlightened electoral system which is, therefore, not generally known in the United States outside of Cambridge, Massachusetts. A quick explanation via Vanity Fair:
Round one is simple enough. You create 10 piles, one for each nominated film, and in each pile you put all the ballots that ranked that film No. 1. The piles for The Hurt Locker and Avatar are likely to be large, while the pile for The Blind Side … not so much. Barring ties, one of the 10 piles is the largest (let’s say Avatar got the most No. 1 votes) and one is the smallest (let’s say A Serious Man got the least).
In the second round, the nominee with the smallest pile is eliminated and all the ballots in its pile are redistributed to the nine remaining piles. To follow our experiment, if A Serious Man had the smallest pile, then all the ballots in its pile are re-examined, and the film ranked second on a given A Serious Man ballot gets that ballot placed in its pile. Once all the ballots that ranked A Serious Man have been redistributed, the process is repeated, next eliminating the smallest of the nine remaining piles.
I long assumed that this system would naturally Bigelow's film, and I still do. It's hard for me to imagine that a member giving A Serious Man a first place vote would proceed to rank Avatar over The Hurt Locker.  My first place ballot for Up followed by Avatar and only then (maybe) The Hurt Locker, would surely be anomalous.

So my suspicion is that Avatar will unexpectedly start out in pole position on the first ballot, then remain stagnant while The Hurt Locker, recent charges of Tonya Harding-like unsportsmanlike conduct notwithstanding, racks up the second (and fourth and eighth and tenth) place votes to win the race.

3 comments :

omen said...

hurt locker wasn't as good as i anticipated it might be. fell flat. i thought it cowardly how it tried to have it both ways, politically.

omen said...

ha!

the director was on 60 minutes. now when the movie is up for a vote with the liberal leaning academy members, she's calling it an anti war movie. but when it was out in the theaters, she bent over backwards in interviews to stress it was neither anti or pro.

Sini said...

Smart woman. That's how elections are won, and good on her for beating her ex-husband. But I still wouldn't vote for that film.