They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don’t They?


By J. Don Birnam

March 3, 2014

Lupita's brother is totally stealing her spotlight.

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Well, that happened. Welcome to the completely predictable and unsurprising Oscars. The Academy has shown that it basically goes online to check who everyone thinks they’re picking, and then pick that. Pretty remarkable.

I have been asked by some the meaning of the title of my movie column. Older people may see in it the name of a now-forgotten movie from 1969 starring Jane Fonda, called “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” The movie is brilliant, in my view, because it captures the anxiety and ennui of the lower middle class in America at the time it was produced, a message that resonates clearly in the shrinking middle class world of today. Minor spoiler alert: as the movie and its characters dive deeper into their despair, one person commits an unthinkable act. When asked to explain his actions, he deadpans with the title of the movie - explaining that one shoots horses when they are in pain, out of pity.

So too, if you will allow me the hyperbolic drama, is the life of an Oscar prognosticator. One can study and read tea leaves all one wants, but in the end predicting the collective consciousness of these 6,000 odd wildly different individuals across 24 wildly different categories is a thankless and despairing endeavor. There are always surprises, and after six months of awards season, one feels like throwing one’s hands up in the air and asking for a pity execution, horse in pain style.

Okay, that was a bit much, but you get the drift. So here is a list of winners as they were announced, with some thoughts here and there. I will do full post-mortem of what it all means for movies, Hollywood, the meaning of life, etc., later this week.

Best Supporting Actor. Jared Leto. Not a surprise and a completely deserving win. Probably the best speech I have heard in several Oscars.

Best Costume Design. The Great Gatsby. The Academy again showed that it does not like more modern fare like American Hustle, as I had thought, and that being a Best Picture nominee does not necessarily matter. Gatsby is a deserving winner and my first miss of the night. Early on, it makes me wonder whether American Hustle is going to go home empty-handed?


Best Original Make-up. Dallas Buyers Club. Another deserved gimme.

Best Animated Short Film. Mr. Hublot. The deserving winner and my second miss of the night. Goes to show that opening the voting to everyone will not necessarily change the outcome of the race in these shorts - most people probably didn’t see them and abstained.

Best Animated Feature. Frozen. Deserved and expected. A nice win for one of my favorite movies of the year.

Best Visual Effects. Gravity. What, you were expecting The Hobbit?

Best Live Action Short. Helium. The emotional aspect probably pushed this over the top. Miss three and it’s early. This is when I started getting worried.

Best Documentary Short. The Lady in Number 6. Deserved, and may she rest in peace.

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