Oscar Index: Get Ready For the Upset of the Century!
As we race toward O-Day, Movieline's Institute for the Advanced Study of Kudos Forensics has worked tirelessly to parse the latest input, insight and insanity to arise in the build-up to the 83rd Academy Awards. It hasn't always been pretty, but it's as close to empirically accurate as you're going to get without a peephole at PricewaterhouseCoopers. And this week we've been especially busy. To the Index!
[Click the graphs for larger images]
1. The King's Speech
2. The Social Network
3. Black Swan
4. True Grit
5. The Fighter
6. Winter's Bone
8. The Kids Are All Right
9. Toy Story 3
10. 127 Hours
Notes: If I'm being honest, the last week in Oscarology didn't really yield that many revelations. The world still thinks The King's Speech is the movie to beat overall, with insiders rolling out everything from statistical analyses to the implied endorsement of no less than Queen Elizabeth II to put further distance between Speech and its perceived closest competitor The Social Network. Marshall Fine, meanwhile, implored his peers to stop whining, already about either film's standing; two full weeks of voting remain, after all, and anyway, he added, "I'd be worried if the Oscars picked The Social Network. To me, that would be the true harbinger that [David] Fincher's film isn't the great leap forward that so many touted it as being."
Fine's piece is also interesting insofar as it illuminates one of the biggest myths of the race to date: That, as another pundit noted this week, The King's Speech over The Social Network signifies some devastating rebuke of critical culture. "[Critics] have been rendered irrelevant once again -- and so we're back to the great divide, which is how it was when I started watching them back in 1999," wrote Sasha Stone. "The film is usually well reviewed, just not the one the critics liked best." In fairness, she's talking about the results of critics' awards vs. industry awards, but even that defies some pretty crucial context. For starters, critics associations are relatively tiny bodies that go through rounds and rounds of voting, often fraught with the kind of real-time politicking and grudges that we awards-beat folks try to impose on the Oscar race itself yet which, because the guilds and Academy vote member-by-member, does not and cannot exist. I mean, good luck finding an Academy member who can even understand his or her Best Picture ballot.
Furthermore -- and not to ascribe some definitive critical faculties to Rotten Tomatoes, but the site seems germane since we're all so obsessed with the Academy's own alleged hive-mind function -- why should critics feel so disenfranchised to see a 95%-approved film (e.g. King's Speech) win Best Picture over a 97%-approved film (Social Network)? If that's the case, why are we not going to war on behalf of Toy Story 3 (99% approved) or True Grit (tied at 95% approved)? Must this really be a two-horse race at this point? And if so, who's ultimately responsible?
Seriously -- I'm asking. Of course we onlookers must assume some blame (particularly those who continue to state the obvious well after it's already been stated), as must usual suspect Harvey Weinstein, who has so exquisitely calibrated his Oscar machine you'd think a slave gang of Scientologists spent thousands of man-hours crafting it to his exacting specifications. A recent profile in Vanity Fair accompanied a kind of hypnotic industry inculcation affecting thousands of guild voters at a time. One can only assume Michael Moore's lawsuit against Harvey is a strategically timed smear (by Moore himself, I should add -- not Sony, which likely has its hands full enough figuring out if/how the ongoing Winklevi brouhaha impacts TSN) and that TSN's "love fest" with Mark Zuckerberg has its own campaign advantages. David Fincher and Scott Rudin, meanwhile, have become increasingly hands-off -- at least publicly. Make of that what you will.
In short, the supposed TKS/TSN death match has resulted in a tired awards orthodoxy with its heads up its asses. Let's shake it up, people! I propose this alternative: Black Swan will sneak in and win Best Picture. You heard it here first. Upset of the century! And why not? I mean, screw the guilds, seriously: SAG's ensemble award has predicted fewer than half of the eventual Best Picture winners, and the PGA hasn't done a whole lot better at two-thirds. The DGA Awards are a formidable predictor of the Academy's Best Director, sure, but even in the case of all three going one way -- as they did in 1995 for Apollo 13, which Braveheart eventually beat at the Academy level -- shockers occur.
And laugh or scoff all you want, but when I see things like the Gold Derby Film Awards reflect a kind of user-generated groundswell for a movie like Black Swan -- whose gross is easily outpacing the also-R-rated King's Speech and will surpass Social Network's own in the days ahead -- I can't help but wonder how that voting body overlaps with all the random others. Who's influencing who? What is Fox Searchlight up to while Harvey hogs the spotlight? If our emotional reaction to King's Speech qualifies it for awards glory, then what does our emotional and visceral reaction to Black Swan worth?
Again, I'm really asking! Well, that and predicting. Call it a hunch. I feel good about it. Last thing: I cannot believe the exposure Winter's Bone received last weekend in Saturday Night Live's most high-profile, even historic spot. Boner jokes or no, this is good for at least a temporary Index spike.