2006 was a tough year to predict because, well, there was no real front runner, but The Departed snuck out some key victories, and it was finally time to give Martin Scorsese a hug. Not easy, but predicted by many. If you predicted Crash in 2005 I want to shake your hand, you did what no one did, but that's not because it was a close race throughout that's because of the homophobia of Oscars older voters, who refused to give the biggest prize of the night to Brokeback Mountain. While this not predicted this was not a foreseen conclusion.
In all honesty, for my young Oscar recollection I would have to go all the way back to 2000 when there was an actual competition between different films as to who would win Best Picture. Gladiator was the eventual winner, and in looking at the awards it won it should have been an easy prediction, it won at BAFTA, BFCA, and the Globes. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Traffic were the biggest competition, and many believed they had a shot. If you go to Oscar night Gladiator had won Best Actor, Sound, Costume Design, and Visual Effects, a total of 4 prizes, mostly minor. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon won Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction, and Best Foreign Language Film. Dragon surprisingly lost Direction, but many voters probably assumed Lee would win in the Foreign Language category, and the next film's director, was a double nominee, so makes sense. No Foreign Language Film has ever won Best Picture either. Traffic had won four Oscars, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing, and Best Director. If I were a betting many these four prizes typically mean an eventual Best Picture win. Traffic did not fit the "Best Picture mold" but Gladiator did a historical epic.
So for this year why isn't 12 Years a Slave a lock because of the historical epic quality? Is Gravity the most re-watchable? Is American Hustle going to pull of a Crash-like ensemble win? Only understanding the preferential ballot will help. What's preferential balloting? The video below from esteemed journalist Steve Pond explains the process thoroughly.
Now that you hopefully understand the actual system, lets make a guess at who the winner will be.
The Nominees for Best Picture are...
Dallas Buyers Club
The Wolf of Wall Street
12 Years a Slave
And the Oscar goes to....
You can eliminate Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, and The Wolf of Wall Street. That leaves the big three.
American Hustle-Hustle is one of the two most nominated films of the year with 10 nominations. There is wide support for this film, especially in the actors branch, this is second film, two years in a row, for David O. Russell to get nominations in all four acting categories, big accomplishment. Hustle won the Globe for Musical/Comedy, Musical Comedy Lead Actress (Amy Adams), and Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence). Hustle won the SAG ensemble prize but did not win either of its two acting prizes. Hustle won the BAFTA for Original Screenplay, and Supporting Actress (Lawrence again). This film is well liked, and has the Argo/King's Speech harmless vibe. Cons: I would have thought a film like this could have surprised at PGA, it did not, in fact the only other guild award it won was the ACE Eddie for Editing in a Comedy/Musical, it did not even win the Writer's Guild. If it does win Best Picture what other prizes does it win? Many suggest writing, maybe costumes, or even a second Oscar for Lawrence. My hunch is this film runs third at the moment, but never count out a film with this much rapid support.
Gravity-At the moment many are predicting this to win, let's start with the cons. No Globe/BAFTA wins, it's a "sci-fi" film (even though it's a safe one at that), only two films have won without writing nomination, but one was Titanic, epic from a well respected director, no SAG nomination, and no film has won Best Picture without a SAG nomination since Braveheart. Those are some big cons, but this is also one of the two most nominated films of the year, 10 nominations. Gravity has nominations in across, the board, even acting, does writing matter? Often yes, but maybe not here. Gravity won the PGA, although it was in a tie. It will have a lot of high votes from people across the board, and does well in a preferential ballot. Yet if you look at the simulated ballot done by the venerable Sasha Stone from awardsdaily.com you have a different outcome (http://www.awardsdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Preferential-Ballot-Results-Best-Picture.pdf)
12 Years a Slave-If you look at the way the ballots panned out 12 Years a Slave pulled off a win, and it seems like that that is the case here. At the end of the day at the Globes, BAFTA, BFCA, there was always a split Slave won Picture while Gravity won Director, much like in 1967, the message film wins Picture, while the hip director Cuaron-2014/Mike Nichols for The Graduate (1967) wins. Is this how it pans out. Slave seems to be losing everything else, except Lupita Nyong'o winning at BFCA, and SAG, and Chiwetel Ejiofor winning at BAFTA. Slave as stated above tied for the PGA. If you will notice this paragraph is light, and the other two seem to have so much going for them, but as this film has done in the end can this film squeak out the win like it has throughout award season?
Who Will Win: 12 Years a Slave
If I had a Vote: Gravity (but I need to re-watch Slave and Her)