Oscar winner predictions based on budgets, gross, media exposure, odds, and campaigning

People often vote for their favorite films come Oscar time and wonder what exactly happens when a film like LINCOLN or ARGO takes home the most awards. How can DJANGO not win with all its humor and style? you might say. What about AMOUR? That was good? I completely hear where you're coming from. AMOUR was certainly an emotional powerhouse compared to our other contenders. At the same time, we need to understand that this is a political race, where campaigning is being done with Academy members--mostly Actors who constitute the largest voting bloc, numbering 1,311 members (22 percent) of the Academy's composition. This makes the public's opinion of what is the best film fairly moot when it comes to the final winners, but it will certainly dictate who ends up being nominated. According to Aisha Harris in When Box-Office Hits Get Nominated, Do Oscar Ratings Go Up?:

"Ratings for the Oscar broadcast have been in a fairly steady decline over the last 35 years, but spikes have occurred when a blockbuster film was nominated: In 1998, when Titanic was nominated, the telecast rating jumped to 34.9, the highest since 1983, when E.T. was nominated in 1983."

Therefore, the actual voting that we're waiting to see happen is really based on the very privileged 1% of the Hollywood community--namely the 6,000 voting members of the Academy--who get to choose. That's why the major Oscar winners this year will be the ones with the most money behind their productions and post Oscar announcement advertising campaigns (ARGO & LINCOLN: hint, hint).

Here is the breakdown of production budgets:
  • LIFE OF PI, $120M
  • LINCOLN, $65M 
  • ARGO, $44.5M
  • AMOUR, Unlisted. 

Does that mean we can expect the winning film to be the one with the highest world gross?

Here is the breakdown of money earned:
  • LIFE OF PI, $578M
  • LINCOLN, $236M
  • ARGO, $204M
  • AMOUR, $4.08M. 
As you can see, LIFE OF PI and DJANGO are the clear money winners for the year. They're included for ratings, but the winners will not come from these films. They may give PI a Visual Effects award and DJANGO a writing award, but this is just so they can include the big money makers in the broadcast. Why won't they win the Best Picture Oscars? Because neither film is making as big a campaign as ARGO and LINCOLN. It's a classic battle between old (Speilberg) and young Hollywood (Affleck and Clooney). Obviously, the splits will be between ARGO and LINCOLN. SILVER LININGS will come in third, with everyone trying to get on Jennifer Laurence's good side, because this business is about following what people think will be a success tomorrow: ARGO and Jennifer Laurence are the future. LES MISERABLES will be the chink in both of these films' chances and just might run away with Best Picture, because it has made the most money, and it also has a larger cast of Hollywood heavyweights to throw their weight around to Academy members. Throw in a couple awards to the best campaigned film between ARGO and LINCOLN, a Best Supporting Actress nod to LES MISERABLES for making the most money, and then factor in the old vs. new Hollywood players (check your odds) and you've got a list like this:

Best Picture: Argo Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers
Best Director, Lincoln Steven Spielberg
Best Actor, Daniel Day-Lewis Lincoln
Best Actress, Jennifer Lawrence Silver Linings Playbook
Best Supporting Actor, Tommy Lee Jones Lincoln
Best Supporting Actress, Anne Hathaway Les Misérables
Best Animated Feature, Wreck-It Ralph Rich Moore
Best Animated Short Film, Paperman John Kahrs
Best Foreign Film, Amour Austria
Best Original Screenplay, Django Unchained Written by Quentin Tarantino
Best Adapted Screenplay, Argo Written by Chris Terrio
Best Cinematography, Life of Pi Claudio Miranda
Best Editing, Argo William Goldenberg

(Choose the one that's the period film or sci-fi intense)

Best Costume Design, Anna Karenina Jacqueline Durran

(I haven't seen any of the documentary ones below, but let's just go with the one that's made the most money or had the most exposure.)

Best Documentary, Searching for Sugar Man Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn
Best Documentary Short, Open Heart Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern
Best Short (Live)Curfew Shawn Christensen
Best Original Score, Life of Pi Mychael Danna
Best Original Song, "Skyfall" from Skyfall Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth  (They want to see her on TV.)
Best Production Design, Les Misérables Eve Stewart (Production Design); Anna Lynch-Robinson (Set Decoration)
Best Sound Editing, Zero Dark Thirty Paul N.J. Ottosson
Best Sound MixingLes Misérables Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
Best Visual Effects, Life of Pi Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott

Oh, yeah, and if you want to see a film in Chicago that'll never get an Oscar, see SHOPLIFTING FROM AMERICAN APPAREL on 3/14 at the Logan Theater.

When I watched THE MATRIX for the first time

I was visiting my brother for the weekend on my many trips to the city in 1999. He was living near the Virgin Megastore--when it was still around--so I only had to go around the block and down the street past Silver Spurs to the movie megaplex on the right. I was just killing time, so I didn't even know what the film was about. I saw that it might be sci-fi and that Keanu Reeves was in it. That gave me flashbacks of when I had seen Johnny Mnemonic in 1996 down at the Delaware shore with some members of the band Cecil's Water. I remember that being a horrible film, but I was a geek for sci-fi, so I figured, why not? I could always leave if it was bad. (I am fairly famous for doing this. I just don't stay in movies that don't hold my interest. I think it began with Under Siege 2 with Steven Segal, but I had learned that I could just exit a theater and go to another film if it was that bad in the first ten minutes.)

The first 20 minutes of THE MATRIX is a lot of set-up. I was confused by the club scene and the whole white rabbit thing. Even when they offered the reveal of people being batteries, I was still a bit confused. It wasn't until Neo meets The Oracle that it suddenly clicked for me. I'm not sure why it took so long, but I was very much into the story after that. Then, when all hell breaks loose for saving Morpheus, I was just amazed by the special effects. Each action sequence builds upon the one before it. It was almost like the Wachiowski brothers were saving these tricks for a while. Neo does that aerial kick. Then they fly up the elevator, while he says, "There is no spoon." Once they get to the apartment rooftop, we get machine-like-speed from Neo dodging bullets, and then Trinity tells an Agent to, "Dodge this," and then blows him away.

Once the helicopter is downloaded and Neo blows up some more agents to free Morpheus, I think I was literally on my feet in the theater. I even consciously began to notice that there were other audience members who were responding out loud to the action.

"Woo!" I would hear. "Aw, man," another audience member would say. 

Then came the ultimate ending: a flying Neo with Rage Against the Machine in the background.

The feeling I had when I walked out the theater was pretty strong. I felt like I was in The Matrix for a bit. That's how deeply I got entrenched into the world of the film.

I don't think I've felt that too many times in the cinema: changed by what I'd seen. I tried to hold onto that feeling as long as I could. I walked out the theater, went around the block, and felt like life was possible--uplifted. I know that's strange. Why would a stupid sci-fi film give me that? But it did. I was ecstatic--almost like I was on a drug.

The next day I had planned on going to the MOMA, but I couldn't resist. I went right back to the theater and watched the film again. I knew it was going to be a hit, but at that time, I felt like I was in on a secret, and I didn't want to let it go.

Loren Goodmans' Top 500 Songs: 281-290

Poet and teacher, Loren Goodman, strikes again with his eclectic collage of popular songs throughout music history. Today's installment of 281-290 includes a rare performance from THE KINKS, some Bollywood gems, and a rendition of Katy Perry's "Fireworks" by Yoko Ono.