Voting is over, ballots are being counted and all that there is left to do is wait. The last few awards are trickling in (Spotlight won four Satellite awards! The Big Short won the USC Scripter! Mad Max won big at the Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards!) and nominees still have a lot of decisions to make before Sunday night (what to wear, who to thank in the new “thank you scroll” that will appear on screen when they win, how to gracefully sidestep any #OscarsSoWhite questions asked on the red carpet, etc.). It’s been a whirlwind of a season, with many frontrunners (anyone remember when people thought Joy was going to win?) and a host of controversy (with entirely white acting nominees, threat of boycott and an Academy diversity overhaul). The Hollywood Reporter catalogued this year’s best and worst moments, including as a “best,” of course, Jacob Tremblay’s Instagram.
The main thing on our minds (save for planning that perfect Oscar party — I recommend serving a Big Shortcake and Leonardo DiCap’n Crunch) is Academy Awards prediction, whether it’s for an office pool or *shameless plug* the Kroll Poll (due today). Every reputable news outlet, Oscar blogger and Internet rando has released a predictions list, and many are firmly convinced that their predictions will hold. Here’s a brief take on who looks like the favorites right now for the top six races:
Some people try to predict the Oscars using math. The Hollywood Reporter’s math guy predicts that The Revenant will take Best Picture. (See here and here.) Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight has a ton of articles about the Oscars (predictions are here, and links are at the bottom), though Oscar bloggers have poked fun at Silver in the past. As quoted in my senior essay:
On February 22, , [Nate Silver] published his best guesses for six major categories — Best Picture, Best Director and the four acting awards — for the third year, relying solely on pre-Oscar awards as predictors. On February 24, he discovered that he went four for six (13 for 18 over three years), incorrectly predicting Steven Spielberg over Ang Lee for Best Director and Tommy Lee Jones over Chistoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor.
The criticism, at least from those who deemed themselves Oscar prognosticators, was scathing, especially after a July announcement that Silver’s post-New York Times work at ABC may involve Oscar prediction.
“Memo to Nate Silver: The Oscars Ain’t Politics” read one Hollywood Reporter headline. “Nate Silver Can’t Predict the Oscars” cried another at Salon. While admittedly these Oscar bloggers may have feared the entrance of a new competitor in the Oscar prediction market, their main criticisms involved his overreliance on numbers, under-reliance on narrative and “mediocre” past Oscar forecasts. Oscar forecaster Scott Feinberg, who bragged that he went 17 for 18 in the same categories Silver tried his hand at, noted that Silver did not even attempt the “‘below-the-line’ categories that separate the experts from the rest” and concluded that “the simple fact of the matter is that Oscar voting is simply not quantifiable.”
“To be a consistently strong Oscar prognosticator,” he said, “you have to watch everything (dozens if not hundreds of contending films), know your history (familiarizing yourself with lots of older movies and the dynamics of past Oscar races), show up everywhere (there are rubber-chicken dinners and awards ceremonies almost every week), build relationships (with talent, awards strategists, publicists, voters) and know what and who is and isn’t worth factoring into your projections. It’s a full-time job, though it doesn’t look as if Silver … intends to treat it as such.”
Other people try to predict the Oscars based off of real-life conversations with voters, trying to tap into the zeitgeist and momentum. The Hollywood Reporter publishes “Brutally Honest Oscar Ballots” (the first two are here and here), which are at the very least fun to read. (The first voter wrote, “I dislike The Revenant intensely — it’s a beautifully shot Road Runner movie, in the sense that Leonardo DiCaprio keeps falling down and getting up, and who cares? I don’t.” The second wrote about the Production Design race, “The Revenant was outside the whole time so who’s the production designer? God?” Maybe I just like it when other people make fun of The Revenant.)
This year’s Academy Awards will begin at 8:30 p.m. EST (though the red carpet starts at 7) and will be hosted by Chris Rock. Rock last hosted the 77th Academy Awards in 2005, when Million Dollar Baby ended up winning the top prize. (Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated for The Aviator that year but lost to Jamie Foxx in Ray.) That year, his monologue was markedly political (“When Bush got into office they had a surplus of money. Now there’s a $70 trillion deficit. Now, just imagine you worked at the Gap. You’re closing out your register and it’s $70 trillion short. The average person would get in trouble for something like that, right? Not Bush, no. Then he started a war!”), which should give a sense about how he plans on handling diversity at the Oscars.
The hope, at least from the Academy, is that Rock will pull in a large number of viewers. A New York Times article (“Oscars Pin Hopes on Chris Rock for Ratings”) noted that while viewership fell during Rock’s last hosting gig (42.2 million viewers, down 5% from the year before), it took almost a decade for a host to do better (Ellen DeGeneres in 2014). It will be interesting to note how the “boycott” affects Academy Awards ratings, especially in a year with so many blockbusters scoring major nominations (including The Revenant, The Martian, Mad Max and Star Wars).
- Right actor, wrong year: A Hollywood Reporter article looks into the well-established phenomenon of an actor or actress winning an Oscar for a “career of great work” rather than for the specific performance nominated. It also posits that Leonardo DiCaprio may be the latest benefactor of this treatment.
- Same character, different year: Sylvester Stallone was nominated for playing the same character twice, in Rocky (1976) and Creed (2015). According to the Hollywood Reporter, “he currently holds the record for most years between nominations for portrayals of the same character (39 years),” though there are five other actors who have also received multiple nods for the same character.
- Same character, one is real though: This side-by-side compares this year’s nominees to the real-life people they portrayed.
- Recent diversity news: This New York Times article looks at the performances that have earned black actors and actresses Oscars and nominations, this New York Times article notes that “Hollywood’s inclusion problem extends beyond the Oscars” and this New York Times article interviews non-straight white men in the film industry.
- Weird Oscar presentation speeches: A list in the Guardian includes the time that Walter Matthau actually forgot to bring the envelope with him, which, I think, is the only job that a presenter has to do.
- Boston Globe journalists happy to be portrayed onscreen by celebrities: To the surprise of no one, the real-life inspirations behind Spotlight are big fans of the movie.
- Rehearsal actors: The Los Angeles Times profiled the five rehearsal actors who have worked on at least 10 Academy Awards “standing in for awards show presenters and nominees as the program’s producers plot out the telecast.” It’s fascinating to read about these people, especially the times they are asked to drag out their speeches “so the producers can practice playing off verbose winners with music.”
- Mark Rylance on film: The Bridge of Spies star joked that director Steven Spielberg “rescued me from the slums of the theater!”
- Jennifer Lawrence is rich: Lawrence is this year’s highest-paid nominee with $52 million, or about equal to Leonardo DiCaprio ($29 million) plus Matt Damon ($25 million).
- Thank you WarGames: According to this New York Times article, Ronald Reagan got freaked out by the Matthew Broderick movie WarGames and that is responsible for U.S. cybersecurity.
- Tips for future years: The New York Times offered several tips for “spicing” up the Oscars, including allowing viewers to vote on the awards (bad idea), incorporating the red carpet into the actual show (worse idea) or eliminating Best Picture nominees one by one over the course of the ceremony so that the final reveal is down to two (actually pretty interesting, though a bit horrible to know that you are the worst Best Picture of the year).