//Oscar 2011: Is Best Picture a Three Horse Race?

Oscar 2011: Is Best Picture a Three Horse Race?

Disclaimer: Alex does the Oscar predictions for Film Misery, not me. So the opinions of this article are not at all relevant in the charts or Alex’s or Murtada’s posts reflecting this year’s Oscar race. That said, here is my two cents:

Well the Oscar nominations are upon us and I think we can all agree that this was one of the most predictable years in recent memory. Unlike last year when there were such potential nominees as Star Trek, Crazy Heart, The Hangover, Nine, Invictus, and The Messenger, this year only had two close calls: Another Year and The Town. And even beyond the Best Picture category, the upsets were few and far between. Steve Pond correctly predicted 44 of the 45 nominations in the top 8 categories. Alex’s total predictions were over ninety percent. While this is impressive on both parts (as much as one can claim “impressiveness” to predicting the Oscars), it also goes to show how fundamentally predictable the year was. Will the race continue to be so predictable? Perhaps.

Last year The Hurt Locker went up against Avatar in what was poised as a very close race. But I found that those predicting Avatar quickly found themselves outnumbered in what seemed more and more like a landslide as the season drew to a close. This year appears to be the inverse. While The Social Network seemed the inevitable victor only a week ago (following the Golden Globe win, many bloggers declared Social Network’s win “inevitable”), now every single one of the Guru’s of Gold is predicting The King’s Speech. How did this happen? First (and I would argue more importantly) The King’s Speech took the PGA top prize. The PGA is known to be a grouup persuaded just a tad by money (Winter’s Bone  and A Serious Man both missed nominations while still earning Oscar nods), but also influenced by critics (The Hurt Locker  won over Avatar). In this year’s race, The Social Network held the upperhand both by being a box-office nominee and the critic’s darling. Hence, the PGA is about the last ceremony I expected The Social Network to miss. Yet it did. Then the Oscar nominations rolled in and The King’s Speech is resting comfortably with 12 nominations to The Social Network‘s 8, a difference large enough to warrant commentary. Does this mean that The King’s Speech is now the frontrunner? Perhaps.

As I previously stated, last year’s race was made out to be very close, but by most accounts, I felt that The Hurt Locker was expected. This year, I feel, is much more ambiguous. Also as previously stated, while the Guru’s of Gold at Movie City News have unanimously declared The King’s Speech the frontrunner, it was only last week that Social Network was about as powerful and in the coming weeks, the guild awards could go any direction. From where I am standing, this is looking less and less like a two-horse race. The question then arises, what is film number three? The SAG awards are just around the corner and there is at least a lingering possibility that The Fighter will win. Considering that the actors are the largest branch of the academy and The Fighter earned both director and screenplay nominations whereas Black Swan, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3 and Winter’s Bone only earned one of the two, The Fighter is arguably the third horse. This math also leaves True Grit as a possibility.

True Grit  is the inverse of The Fighter in that it received an unwhelming amount of attention from the Guilds, the critics, and pretty much every other conceivable precursor. But it has great reviews, a strong box-office, and now, a stunning amount of Oscar nominations (10). Dave Poland at Movie City News has been championing this idea from the start, and today Roger Ebert endorsed this theory by claiming that “On the basis of this showing, True Grit may pass the presumed leader Social Network. My feeling is it may even out-talk the King and win for Best Picture” (his “basis” referring to the nominations). While it may have missed Matt Damon’s supporting actor nod, the film scored almost everywhere else, most notably Best Director, where the Coen’s edged out Christopher Nolan.

So where does that leave us? Well, a lot depends on SAG awards. My prediction is that The King’s Speech will take it in the beginning stages of domination (as part of the campaign, everyone in the SAG got a screener, which is rare and expensive). But I could be very wrong. If The Fighter wins, it may prove to be the third film in contention (or it could mean that it actually had the best ensemble cast). If The Social Network wins, then I suppose that is the presumed frontrunner. Despite the fact that True Grit is competing with The Fighter for the not-so-coveted “dark horse” title in the race, I think its odds at a surpise victory would be best in the event of that very film being victorious at the SAG. At the bare minimum that would show a lack of support for the supposed front-runners. I just can’t imagine Kids or Swan winning. But I suppose Coen fans can always hope.

There is one final factor that plays to the advantage of an underdog: the voting system. Along with the expanded Best Picture field, a new voting system was put in place last year that incorporates a ranking system. Therefore, the film that places second and third on most people’s list has a fair shot at winning (depending on how many rounds of voting are needed). In a year as close as this (making the assumption that those voting for Social Network will choose not to put King’s Speech  as their second choice and vice versa), the voting system could very easily push True Grit or The Fighter over the edge.

At the end of the day, I am starting to see a True Grit upset, but that might be my own bias shaping my predictions. The most likely outcome right now seems to be The King’s Speech. But unless it wins every single guild award from here on out, I don’t think we will be able to predict in great confidence what title will be read after the fateful phrase “And the winner is…”

Davin was born in Ohio, lives in Wisconsin, attends a university in Oregon, and previously lived in Asia. Yet despite all this adventurous traveling, he spends most of his time away from reality...Full Bio.