Monday, February 28, 2011

Tips for Next Years Oscar Pool

If you are one of the few people who walked with an extra skip in their step today because you won your Oscar pool last night, congratulations to you. However, the rest of us are listening to friends and co-workers gloat as they collect their winnings. Maybe next year.

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.

This also helps out with those pesky technical categories like cinematography or visual effects. Directors often work with the same people, especially if they made a similar movie. Take the Coen Brothers True Grit, similar tone and landscape to No Country for Old Men. Both were shot by Roger Deakins. If Deakins hadn’t won for No Country, he probably would’ve won this year.

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

As always make sure to follow Audible Motion on Twitter at for news and updates on the blog.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Lights Go Out in Dillon, Texas

The following post is a retrospective on not only last night’s Friday Night Lights Series Finale but the entire series as a whole. There are spoilers ahead. So if you haven’t seen this weeks series finale or plan on watching the entire show on your own time – why haven’t you? It’s on Instant – then you best stop reading.

Like most contemporary television shows, I find myself in the awkward spot with Friday Night Lights. I’m not one of the die-hard fans who were there from the premiere all the way to the end. In fact I was against the entire idea of building a show based on the solid sports movie, based on the book of the same name. I even went as far as to playfully mock others on my dorm floor with being captured by what appeared to be (and still is) a predictable sports show pilot. A year later, one of my best friends and fraternity brothers came back to school with the first season on DVD. As soon as he finished a disc, he would pass it on to me. From that point on, we were hooked.
Now that the spotlight on the fictional town of Dillon, Texas has been shut down for good I can say I never felt as connected to a place and its citizens. Yes, The Wire is still the best television drama ever and the understanding it gave me to Baltimore at that time is something this white-suburban male couldn’t find any other way. But I could never see myself, nor would I want, in that world. I would, however, be satisfied growing up in Dillon. I would long leave and go on to bigger and better things beyond football like Julie, Matt, Landry or Tyra but like those characters I can also see the value in living in Dillon which is best summed up by the show’s intro.

This love for Dillon and its citizens kept me through the shows down period which is basically the second season. Said season includes a number of plotlines beyond Landry’s murderous rampage that I completely forgot about (Street and Riggins’ trip to Mexico, Tyra’s short-lived volleyball career and Tami’s sister living with the Taylors). There were others in subsequent seasons (Matt’s internship with the metal sculpture artist) but no matter how off-beat the storylines were, myself and the other dedicated fans stuck with the show with the hope we would be given the glory of that first season and more often than not, we were rewarded.

Through the few failed plots, cast changes and small changes in tone, the show has always had two excellent leads in Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton to hold our attention as seen in the final shots of season three and season five, both of which were meant as a series finale.

There has been plenty said about how Chandler and Britton played the most realistic, happily married couple in the history of television. This is all true so I won’t spend a paragraph discussing it. All I’ll say is hopefully they get their second consecutive Emmy nominations and hopefully a win for at least one of them and go on to lead roles on other shows of a high caliber.

The same goes for the rest of the cast. Some who left the cast early are already making some noise. Gaius Charles (Smash) did four movies in the past two years including Takers, Salt and The Messenger. Minka Kelly is currently in theaters with The Roommate and is in the pilot for the Charlies Angels reboot. Based on their talents seen throughout Friday Nights Lights is potentially endless.

It’s going to be hard to live without a show with the quality of Friday Night Lights, possibly harder than something like Lost. I look forward to hearing friends ask, “Do you know about this show Friday Night Lights,” in the future and revisiting the show with them through a discussion about each season. Until then we’ll have to keep our eyes clear and hearts full and know that the show never lost as it left on its own terms.