Saturday, March 1, 2014

86th Academy Awards Analysis & Predictions: Best Picture

Andrew: Hello dear readers! It's Day Five of Two Tickets For…'s analysis and predictions and we're only one day away from the 86th Academy Awards. This week we've given you our analysis and predictions for all four acting categories, both screenplay categories, director, special effects, score, song and animated feature. Tomorrow we'll post our full and final predictions, but today we tackle the big one - Best Picture.

Best Picture

The nominees for Best Picture are:

12 Years a Slave
- American Hustle
- Captain Phillips
- Dallas Buyers Club
- Gravity
- Her
- Nebraska
- Philomena
- The Wolf of Wall Street

A: Okay Sarah, before we get to talking about the nominees themselves I just want to take a second and explain how the voting for Best Picture goes again, which will be instrumental in explaining my prediction later.

Ever since the nominees for Best Picture expanded in 2009 voting has gone by a preferential voting system. The simplest way to explain it is like this:

- This year every voter rank the nominees from 1 to 9, with 1 being their 1st place vote and vice versa. (Side note: voters are not required to fill out all 9 spots, they can just vote for their 1st place movie or cut it off at 5. It's weird that way.)

- The ballots are then separated into piles by movies that got 1st place votes. After this step if there's a movie that has a clear majority (more than 50 percent) of 1st place votes it's declared the winner.

- If there's no clear majority, the ballots from the movie with the fewest 1st place votes are then redistributed by the film that was voted 2nd on that ballot. This process continues in the same fashion until there's a movie with more than 50 percent of the ballots.

Got it? Good. So Sarah, let's look at the actual nominees. As I see it there are only three nominees that have a legitimate shot at winning the award, agreed?

Sarah: Oh agreed. It really comes down to 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, and Gravity. These are three pretty strong movies and all so very different  but I really think there are only two when it comes down to it. 12 Years a Slave and Gravity have the best chance of winning. On one hand, you have a movie that's historically very important and was the clear winner at one point, until, a movie came along that was such a technical marvel that it really made people rethink what makes an Oscar movie. 

A: That's a perfect description of these two films. 12 Years a Slave was the presumptive front-runner as soon as it premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in late August and then screened at the Toronto Film Festival in early September. It's a film that deals with an incredibly sensitive subject, based on a true story from the perspective of a free black man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery - a rare perspective on the topic - and it's directed by a black Englishman to boot. It has a phenomenal cast, it's expertly directed…it has it all. About the only thing holding it back is the raw and harsh depiction of Solomon Northup's tale. Two years ago an L.A. Times study found that 94% of Academy voters are white. It's not beyond belief that a number of them felt uncomfortable with the film and could vote accordingly.

S: I mean possibly but at the same time I really think this one was Oscar bait. And in that respect I think that for the same reasons you think it won't get the votes, I think it will get the votes. This movie pushes the envelope and has really put a realistic look at one of the darkest times in our nation's history. So that will be interesting.

But then there's Gravity. This was really like watching a play on the big screen. A one person play. The way that the character development was so flushed out was beautifully done. I really think that's the best way to describe it; a stage performance…in space.

A: Gravity is such a perfect foil to 12 Years a Slave in this category because it's so different. Whereas 12 Years a Slave was a long, arduous look at a very dark time in America's history with a large cast, Gravity is a 91 minute visual spectacle with a cast of two that revels in the technological marvel of 3D. By that way, I like your description of Gravity as a stage performance.

So let's really break this down now. Who do you think WILL win the award and why?

S: I think that Gravity will take the award home tomorrow night. It has everything; suspense, humor, heartbreak, astonishing performances and let's not forget that visual masterpiece. It was new, it was different and for that I think it will win. And it should win!

A: I'm actually a little surprised by your answer, particularly because you choose McQueen to win Best Director.

S: It's because I think this is the year where they will want to give recognition to the directorial aspect of 12 Years a Slave, which is a big reason why it was so good. Whereas with Gravity I think it was an overall collaboration - the visual effects, the music, the sound, the acting, the directing. Everything. And maybe that's just my opinion.

A: Fair enough! I, too, think that Gravity will win and here's why. Remember when I explained the voting process earlier? We've seen from a number of websites and publications (such as Entertainment Weekly) that a number of voters have Gravity as their number one movie, and a number of those voters also shared that they ranked 12 Years a Slave as low as 6th or if they didn't have Gravity 1st they had it in 2nd or 3rd while 12 Years a Slave was ranked somewhere below it.

This leads me to believe that, yes, 12 Years a Slave will have plenty of 1st place votes but from voters who did NOT vote number one they may have put it pretty far down their list. On the flip side, Gravity seems to have a lot of general support to the point that even if it didn't get ranked 1st by a voter that voter may have it 2nd or 3rd and will get those redistributed votes. Maybe that's poor rationale, but it's what I believe will happen. Unlike the nominations process where you need at least five percent off all 1st-place votes to get a nomination and therefore you NEED people to love your movie over everything else, now you just merely need to be really liked. Fairly certain that's how Argo won last year.

Who We Think Should Win: Sarah - Gravity   Andrew - Gravity
Who We Think Will Win: Sarah - Gravity   Andrew - Gravity

S: Okay readers! That's it for our analysis lead-up to tomorrow night's broadcast! Tomorrow morning we're going to post our full and final predictions!

A: And don't forget that we will be doing our 3rd Annual Oscars Live Blog, too! We'll jump online right here at Two Tickets For an hour before the show begins at 7pm EST to start chatting with anyone who wishes to join us about the year in film, the night's nominees, predictions, whatever! Hope to see you there, and as always, thanks for reading!

Previous Analysis and Predictions:
Best Supporting Actor & Actress
Best Animated Feature, Best Song, Best Score
Best Lead Actor & Actress
Best Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Director

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