Update: So, I finally won the family Oscar pool. I got 22 of 24 right here, which is a family record … and I have to admit having some mixed emotions about it. The only two i missed were Live Action Short Film (Helium beat The Vrooman Problem — that was a toss-up going in) and Animated Short Film (I just KNEW Get A Horse wasn’t going to win but I didn’t know what else to pick). That means I got every single category for feature length movies right. And while that’s cool and all … I shouldn’t be able to to do that. The Oscars have become too predictable. I’m not sure what can be done about that, but it does cut into the fun.
Two other thoughts about the Oscars broadcast: One, I’m an Ellen Degeneres fan. I think she’s very funny and it’s interesting to watch her brain work. Her opening at the Oscars was pretty strong, I thought. And she’s just very likable. That said: I have no idea what happened after that open. It honestly looked like she and the writers wrote the opening monologue and then said, “OK Ellen, we’re done here. You just kind of wing it from there.” The producers literally had her just walking through the crowd and ad-libbing. This led to not one, not two, but three separate scenes involved with her ordering pizza. Apparently this concept — ordering pizza at the Oscars! Hey Brad Pitt you have any money! — was so comic-rich that they couldn’t leave it alone.
This improv at the Oscars also led to her taking the selfie that she said made history by crashing Twitter — like Twitter has never crashed before. I will admit the selfie did lead to one bit of gold — Meryl Streep happily shouting “I’ve never tweeted before!” after the photo was taken. I’m pretty convinced she thought the act of taking that picture was “Tweeting.” Which is awesome. Meryl Streep shouldn’t know how to Tweet. It’s part of what makes her glorious. But pizza and selfies? At the Oscars? Did the writers just decide to cut out early?
My other thought is sort of sports related: You have probably heard the line that a billion people around the world watch the Oscars. I believe Degeneres brought it up during the broadcast — the host almost always does. I’ve heard that line countless times and you probably have too — a billion people watch the Oscars! I honestly never questioned it, which is the point here.
As The New Yorker pointed out, there’s no way a billion people watch the Oscars. Nothing CLOSE to a billion people watch the Oscars. And here’s the kick in the head: We intuitively KNOW that a billion people don’t watch the Oscars, we utterly and completely know it, but we keep repeating this bit of nonsense because … well, because we just do. We keep repeating it for the same reason that people keep repeating that pitching is 90% of baseball or that time of possession is a key to winning football games. It’s somehow stuck in our heads.
As Daniel Radosh points out, 43.5 million Americans watch the Oscars. Think about that for a second — the Oscars would have to get 950-plus million people OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES to get a billion. Uh, that’s ridiculous. It’s more than ridiculous. It’s irrational. When I mentioned this to family, one said: Well, I guess a lot of Chinese people watch the Oscars. Uh … no. By best estimates, last year, seven million or so watched in China. Still 950 million to go.
The Oscars are huge and they are broadcast in 150-plus countries and that is not to be under-appreciated. But a billion? Stop already. There probably are not a quarter of a billion people around the world who watch. Also, dinosaurs didn’t turn into oil.
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If you are interested in my picks — and i have no idea why you would be — this is what I wrote before the Oscars:
Back when we started our annual family tradition of picking the Oscars — that was 1977, Annie Hall — it was all but impossible to find a ballot that featured all of the Oscar nominations, much less find other people’s predictions for every category. The Cleveland Press used to run the nominations of the five major categories (Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress) and maybe director. And that was it. You couldn’t even find which movies were nominated for original and adapted screenplays. These were the dark ages.
Now, there are roughly 27 million people out there predicting all 24 Oscar categories.
With so many people picking — and so much information out there — is it as fun as it used to be? That’s hard to say. Now I know so much more going in. I used to know only what I saw in the theaters. Now, for various reasons, I see many fewer Oscar nominated movies but I know a lot more going in. For instance, I know now that there’s an battle going on in the Documentary Feature category between the uplifting and popular “20 Feet From Stardom,” and the perhaps more accomplished but significantly darker “The Square” and the even darker “The Act of Killing.” Twenty years ago, I would have definitely predicted “Cutie and the Boxer” because of the name. So, in that way, knowledge is better.
On the other hand, maybe it was more fun picking “Cutie and the Boxer” just based on the name.
I have not won our family Oscar pool in a few years. I used to win regularly because I saw the most movies but then everyone in the family started doing more research … and the family expanded to include in-laws and kids … and I stopped winning. I’m not bitter about this.
Really. Not bitter. Last year I got 19 out of 24 categories right, which might be the best I’ve ever done. My mother got 20 right. As I wrote before — it came down to Brave unfairly beating Wreck-It Ralph in best Animated feature. So it goes. Like I say, I’m not bitter about it. Not at all. Not even a little bit.
OK, so here’s this year’s picks based on an absurd amount of research — time I could have spent helping people. For the record, I have seen exactly one of the Oscar nominated movies — American Hustle — which I liked very much.
Live Short Action Film: The Voorman Problem.
Voorman is a prisoner who believes he’s a God. I have actually downloaded and watched this — it’s quite wonderful. I have no idea what the other ones are about. It seems Helium might win also.
Animated Short Film: Get A Horse!
Well, I have seen this one too — several times, in fact. It’s the Disney feature that plays in front of “Frozen.” It’s really quite awesome; a black and white Mickey Mouse cartoon explodes into color. The experts all seem to think this will win. I’m actually a bit dubious but hopeful.
Visual Effects: Gravity.
Film Editing: Gravity.
I have not seen Gravity. I’ve seen the trailer and, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really want to see Gravity. It kind of looks like a special effects feast over the top of the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away, with Clooney and Bullock and no volleyball with a face painted on it. Maybe I’m wrong about that, I don’t know. Everyone seems to believe it’s going to dominate the technical categories.
Sound editing: Gravity
Sound mixing: Gravity
I remain somewhat confused why these are two categories. I know they reward different things — sound people have told me they are as different as grape and grapefruit — but they usually do go to the same movie. I don’t know what kind of sounds they have in space, but everyone seems to believe they are Oscar-winning sounds.
Makeup: Dallas Buyers Club
Well, I couldn’t tell it was Matthew McConaughey.
Documentary Short: The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life
I’m told by reliable sources on the Internet who I have never met that this is the slam dunk of the night. So, OK.
Documentary: 20 Feet From Stardom
I spent a painfully long time trying to pick between this and The Act of Killing, which is insane because I have not seen either movie and probably won’t see either movie.
Original Score: Gravity.
Man do they have good sound in space.
Original Song: Let It Go from “Frozen.”
My daughters actually love that “Happy” song from “Despicable Me 2.” I’ve also read some people predicting that Oscar voters will go for “Ordinary Love” that Bono wrote for Nelson Mandela. It’s possible … but one thing I’ve learned picking Oscars choices through the years is that you can really take some bad turns when you start trying to get into the heads of Academy members. Let It Go is a good song from the best animated movie of the year, I think it will win.
Costume Design: The Great Gatsby
Production Design: The Great Gatsby
I saw Gatsby … and thoroughly, utterly loathed it. There’s a small scene at the end of Gatsby that still makes me shudder — it’s so awful that I keep telling myself that maybe it didn’t happen the way I remember it. But you can make a big mistake picking Oscars if you let your personal feelings get involved. People who know this stuff seem to think Gatsby will win Costume Design and Production Design, so I’ll go with them. I did think the costumes in American Hustle were pretty awesome (to me they were better than Gatsby) so I wouldn’t be surprised if that won. Then I’ll be ticked off at myself for not going with my gut.
Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years A Slave
The movie I most need to see.
Original Screenplay: Her
The movie I most want to see.
Foreign Film: The Great Beauty
After interviewing Italy’s bronze medal figure skater Carolina Kostner, I was so smitten that I basically wanted to move my entire family to Italy the next day. I suspect this movie is just a variation on that theme.
Animated Feature Film: Frozen
I’ve seen it three times. Such is life with two young daughters. It is pretty fantastic, actually. To me it has some of the heart — and the humor — that Brave lacked last year.
Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o in “12 Years A Slave.”
Jennifer Lawrence was ridiculously good in American Hustle. I mean RIDICULOUSLY good. She’s 23 years old, and she is completely different in every movie she’s in, she disappears into a part so completely that you don’t even think “Hey, that’s the Hunger Games girl.” It’s absurd. She’s the Mike Trout of acting, and I’m willing to bet that of all things that have been written about Jennifer Lawrence and all the things that will be written, that I’m the only person who will ever call her the “Mike Trout of acting.”
That said, she won the Oscar last year so I’m going with Nyong’o.
Supporting Actor: Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyer’s Club.”
Again, I’m told it’s a lock.
Actress in a Leading Role: Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine.”
Hey, another movie I’ve actually seen. Cate Blanchett was remarkable in it, especially when you think about the movie being a modern version of “Streetcar Named Desire.”
Actor in a Leading Role: Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club.”
That’s what everyone’s saying anyway. I’m really interested in seeing Bruce Dern in Nebraska. Christian Bale was, I thought, pretty awesome in American Hustle.
Directing: Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity
Picture: 12 Years A Slave
Not sure how Gravity can win a million Oscars and not win best picture, but in a way I would like that to happen. Movies, like books, like television shows, like baseball teams, are not simply the sum of great parts. They need a certain flow and momentum and even magic to become transcendent. It seems to me that Gravity might have the best everything — the best sound, the best effects, the best score, the best editing, the best directing, the best movie stars — and still not be the best movie. Of course, maybe I should see Gravity before making that statement. And Gravity will probably win Best Picture and make this whole ballot useless.
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