There's a dual purpose to this post: to provide my Oscar picks and to introduce a contest that will allow someone to win a fabulous prize for doing a better job than me. I don't consider myself an expert Oscar prognosticator; I average around 67% which is good enough for a D in school and might be moderately impressive if about 50% of the picks weren't "gimmes." My sense is that this year's awards are more difficult to predict than usual. The number of "locks" is smaller than usual. If my rationale proves faulty, I could go down a spectacular fireball. The potential exists for a score in the 30% range. Cringe. That would make a lot of entrants eligible to win. More on the contest in a few paragraphs. First, the picks and, more importantly, the whys underlying those picks.
For a complete list of my picks (in all categories except the shorts, which I traditionally ignore), click over to this link.
Around the end of the year, I was asked by a talk show host whether I had a sense of what the early Best Picture favorite might be. After a moment's consideration, I replied, "The Descendants." He seemed surprised. I explained: "The Help isn't strong enough, although it will probably score a nomination. Hugo is a good film in search of an audience. The Tree of Life is too obscure. The Artist is a silent film, and what are the odds of a silent film winning Best Picture in 2012?"
Pretty good, as it turns out. The Descendants has faded from consideration like bright paint on a sun-facing wall. The buzz surrounding The Artist has risen to tsunami-like proportions. When a movie gets talked about in Hollywood circles the way this one is, it doesn't just win Best Picture. It sweeps a lot of the "little" awards along with it. The central rationale behind my picks is that The Artist is going to do very well, taking three of the majors and five of the minors. There are only two categories in which it was nominated where I don't think it will win: Supporting Actress and Original Screenplay.
But, despite the chatter, The Artist is not a lock in any category. It's the favorite at the moment, but an upset isn't out of the question. Its strongest category is Director, where Michel Hazanavicius stands poised to re-affirm the synchronicity between the DGA winner and the Oscar winner. If you're betting, don't bet against Hazanavicius, even with Scorsese in the mix. Remember: he got his award a few years ago. In the Lead Actor category, Jean Dujardin will face a stiff challenge from George Clooney. But Clooney has already won (albeit in the Support Actor category) and the momentum wheels have fallen off The Descendants. Dujardin will need strong coattails from The Artist to sweep him past Clooney. I'm predicting he'll have them.
In the non-Artist-winning categories, I'm expecting good showings from Hugo (in the technical categories) and The Help (in the acting categories). There's a lot of appreciation for The Help; it's not viewed as much of a Best Picture contender, but I expect both Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer to walk home with gold statues. Who could mess that up? Meryl Streep, for one. Never count her out. But The Iron Lady is such a subpar film, it's hard to see her winning for that performance. Supporting Actress is a crapshoot - always has been, always will be. Consider this scenario: Spencer and Jessica Chastain split the The Help vote, leaving the door open for... Melissa McCarthy or Berenice Bejo. This could be a test of how long The Artist's coattails really are. If Berenice Bejo wins, it's all over folks. No need to watch more except for Billy Crystal.
Supporting Actor is the only lock out there. Christopher Plummer will lap the field and finally get his moment in the sun. It will almost feel like a Lifetime Achievement Award. My bet here is that he won't mention The Sound of Music in his acceptance speech.
I don't have a strong feel for Documentary. Pina is a shot in the dark. I'm pretty certain about my Foreign Language Film and Animated Film choices. If Rango wins the latter, it will be a repudiation of 3-D since the film was not made available in that format. Would Hollywood make such a bold statement? I know the executives are sold on 3-D but what about the rest of the 6000 voters? That's the interesting subplot here. If a 3-D movie beats Rango, a different message is being sent.
Hugo will get its consolation prize in the Adapted Screenplay category. It should also take home most of the technical awards for which The Artist is ineligible. Hollywood's infatuation with Woody Allen should get him an Original Screenplay nod for Midnight in Paris. Another consolation prize. If there's a perceived weakness in The Artist, it's that the screenplay is ordinary (perhaps because of the lack of spoken dialogue). So that opens the door for something else.
Enough about the predictions. Now to the contest.
What's the Objective/How to Win: Simple. You accrue points for each correct winner (except the shorts - that makes 21 categories). If your point total exceeds my point total and that of everyone else who enters, you win. In the case of a tie, there are two tiebreakers. In the highly unlikely event that no one beats my total, no one wins. (Please note: when considering my score, the operative term is "beat" - if you tie me, there are no tiebreakers and you do not win.)
To the Victor Go the Spoils: The winner, if he/she has an address in the United States, gets to choose between two options: (1) Any DVD or Blu-Ray valued at less than $50 available directly from Amazon.com. You must have a mailing address that UPS can deliver to, or (2) I'll review a movie of your choice. The only limitation is that the movie has to be available for rent from Netflix. In the event that the winner does not live in the United States, only Option #2 is available as the prize. For anyone interested in reading a review that was written for a contest winner, check out Don't Look Now.
How to Enter: Fill out the ballot found in the ReelViews forums (see link below) by removing all the titles in each category but the one you choose as the winner. (Refer to the sample, which is my ballot.) Cut and paste your ballot as a follow-up entry in the forum. Important: Your entry must appear in the forum for it to be valid. If you don't have a forum login and are unable to register (registration is limited to weekend hours), send me an e-mail with the subject line: BEAT BERARDINELLI CONTEST and I'll enter your ballot for you. Confusing or incomplete ballots will be rejected. The contest link will be "open" from approximately noon EST on Saturday, February 18 until exactly noon EST on Sunday, February 26. E-mail entries will be accepted from noon EST on Saturday, February 18 until noon EST on Friday, February 24. If you post an entry to the forum, you are free to change your selections (by editing your own post) until the deadline when the forum is locked. The winner will be announced in the forum and by e-mail. Hopefully, this will happen on Feb. 27, although it depends how many ballots I have to score.
There is a point system involved this year. Awards are grouped into three categories. MAJORS - Picture, Director, Lead & Supporting Actor, Lead & Supporting Actress. MEDIUMS - Adapted & Original Screenplay, Foreign Language Film, Documentary Feature, Animated Feature. MINORS - Everything else (ten total). MAJORS are worth three points each. MEDIUMS are worth two points each. MINORS are worth one point each. Maximum total points: 38.
There are two tiebreakers. The first is simple: If two (or more) entrants are tied in points, the one with the highest total of correct nominations wins. In the event that this doesn't resolve the tie, we move to "Guess the time (EST) when the Best Picture winner is announced." This should appear at the bottom of your ballot. It's optional, but if you don't fill it in and you end up in a tie-breaker, you lose. The time used is the official time per www.time.gov, not the time on your living room clock (unless that's tied to the official time). I'll post the time as part of the live event coverage. My decision is binding. Whoever gets closest to the time wins the tiebreaker. If there are still ties after the second tie-breaker, I'll figure out something - could be multiple winners or I could come up with something devious as a third tiebreaker.
Here's the link to the section of the forum where the ballots can be entered. Please copy-edit the ballot template into a new follow-up post. Also, take a look at the sample ballot for an example of how to fill it out.
Good luck. I feel certain I'll be soundly trounced. (And if The Artist doesn't sweep, I'll be humiliated.)