Unfortunately, there are no saber metrics for the Academy Awards but with an understanding of voting techniques, past history and basic pool strategy you can be in contention year in and year out.
Pick an Underdog
Assuming none of the categories are weighted, don’t be afraid to shy away from the favorite. I’m not saying you should have picked Toy Story 3 for Best Picture – although calling that upset should be rewarded with a cut of the winnings but pick a nominee who will probably come in a close 2nd. Annette Benning, Geoffrey Rush, or The Social Network (Best Picture) all qualified under this principle.
As important as the major categories appear, in a pool they are only one category. I picked The Social Network to win best picture because I knew The King’s Speech was going to get a lot of love from my co-workers. If there was an upset, that could push me over the edge when it’s all said and done.
While strategy can help, I DO NOT recommend you apply this to your entire ballot. Favorites are such for good reason and a good portion of academy voters are just going to vote for whatever gets the most buzz. However, if you apply this to one or two categories and lose, you will make it up in the long run.
More Often Than Not, Match Your Best Picture and Director
A little known fact: Producers, not directors, get the Best Picture award. The Academy feels bad about this, so they give their Directing award to the film that leads their Best Picture rankings. Unless you are picking Best Picture as your underdog, match this category with the Best Picture Favorite.
There are years where the consensus is that the categories will split but this hasn’t happened since 2007 when Crash upset Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture (No going into the reasons for that debacle). This was another one of those years as people were convinced David Fincher would win for directing The Social Network even if The King’s Speech won best picture.
Look at (Recent) History
Did you see how I used a stat from the 2007 awards in explaining last night’s winners. The human element certainly hurts the Oscars from being a pure stat’s game, more so than sports but they’re still useful. There’s no need to look at trends from the more than five or ten years ago which can easily be done on IMDb.
Don’t Pick the Popular Foreign Films
Another little known fact: Only the Academy members who attend designated screenings and see all the films nominated in the foreign category, vote for the category. This is the major reason why, Pan’s Labyrinth, Waltz with Bashir, The White Ribbon and A Prophet – all of which were extremely popular – didn’t win in their respective years. Use this to your advantage and eliminate those from your mind and just pick one of whatever’s left.
There are exceptions to the rule. If a foreign film is nominated for Best Picture a la Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, vote that film in the foreign category.
Pick the Blockbuster Best Picture Nom. in EVERYTHNG Else.
The move to ten Best Picture nominations allows hit blockbusters to get some respect from The Academy. Last year it was Avatar, this year it was Inception. For better or worse, these movies are generally considered out of the running for the big prize.
Inception was almost universally loved. This love helped it win for Cinematography, Visual Effects, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. The “popular” films are generally a given for many of the technical categories.
Don’t Pay Attention to Any One Prior Award Show
I wrote an entry about this after The Golden Globes last year. Neither that or any other award show solely decides the Oscars. While that particular awards show was precise in the acting categories but so were other shows. All I can say on these is focus on the other shows as a whole, particularly those from the Globes on. Past Oscar stats are more important though.
Other Things to Keep In Mind
• Anything with a non-linear narrative is a safe bet for editing.
• If there’s an obvious choice for make-up, i.e. The Wolfman, is a sure thing more than not.
• Period pieces almost always win for Costume
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