Thursday, February 25, 2010

Is This For Real?

If you happen to pop by the LA Times' Gold Derby blog, run by Tom O'Neil, who for many years was the happy-faced milquetoast who made predictions on all the E! channel's pre-awards broadcasts and is now the awards prediction guru/milquetoast, you may have noticed this little bit of gossip:

O'Neil is touting an Inglourious Basterds Oscar upset for Best Picture.

And he's sticking with it, calling his prediction "100% accurate."

O'Neil bases his pick on previous upset wins by Crash in 2005 and Weinstein's own Shakespeare in Love in 1998. Both of those films took the Best Cast prizes at the Screen Actors Guild awards -- since the acting branch represents the largest block of Academy voters -- over the season's presumed front-runners (Brokeback Mountain in '05, Saving Private Ryan in '98) and surged ahead for the eventual upset BP win. He also cites that, like The Hurt Locker, both Brokeback and Private Ryan won the Producers Guild and Directors Guild prizes their respective years, but the SAG winner took home Oscar gold. So...I get it. But history also shows us that both Crash and Shakespeare won the Writer's Guild award in addition to the SAG. And any sentient and knowledgable filmgoer will know that Tarantino is a writer first and foremost, and if Basterds was assumed to upset in any category, it would be for its screenplay. And Hurt Locker toppled Basterds at the Writer's Guild Awards this year. thoughts?

Read more after the jump...

Well, this is typical O'Neil, who has labeled himself to King of Award Predictions, even though he's just as fallible as anyone else. But, like any insider, he has access to a vast spectrum of Oscar voters and industry gossipers, and that kind of buzz is the stuff that helps formulate any guru's predictions. It is sensational gossip...but so, really, is any form of Oscar supposition. So, at this point, I am taking the prediction with a grain of salt...but acknowledge that it is not without merit.

Cinema Squared has consistently placed Basterds in the top three or four slots in all of our prediction charts, a fact that will be replicated on this week's charts. So it's always been right up there. And, in this expanded field, with the new system of tabulating the eventual Best Picture winner (which is now a weighted system as opposed to a simple count of first-place votes), its widespread love among Academy membership could carry it close to the top, probably in the top two or three. Plus, there is the added element of preferential voting, where a sneaky Basterd might list only one film and leave off all the others, thereby eliminating the possibility of the weighted system working the way it was intended to work. Or putting a movie like The Hurt Locker  very low on the list, hurting its overall vote count in the weighted system. These games can, have, and will get played. It happens on every possible side, so it will likely even itself out at the end of the day.

We cannot forget, too, that this season has been devoid of a complete juggernaut. The buzz was with Up in the Air at the beginning of December. Then Avatar became the front-runner because of its technical mastery and its record-breaking box-office, but then the novelty wore off and it began to fade. Then Hurt Locker started winning everything under the sun, and so it has naturally slipped into the role of "Front-runner." But the season, as a whole, has been devoid of any one film that totally grabbed voters from the get-go, like an American Beauty or, last year, Slumdog Millionaire. It has been tossed back-and-forth. So it would be consistent with that tendency for another film to rise at the last minute. And Harvey Weinstein is a nasty dog on the schmoozing circuit, and he hasn't had a potentially-successful horse in this race for a while now. He's hungry. I get it.

But I don't buy it. Not yet. There is enough consistent buzz about Basterds across the board that I am taking notice, and am thus putting you all on notice: the potential for an upset is out there, and Basterds is one of the only two films that can pull it off...the other is Up in the Air, for which there are still a few (well-deserved) murmurs out there. It certainly seems that Avatar has nearly faded into its own special ecosystem, and Hurt Locker is still wanting to ride the wave into a BP victory.

Ten nominees, four films with a legitimate chance, a few gossipy gurus trying to change the game with their picks, one award to rule them all...and a partridge and a pear tree.

Stay tuned, you basterds.

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