They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?
Best Picture, Redux
By J. Don Birnam
February 24, 2016
Let’s revisit the most confusing category from the 88th Academy Awards: Best Motion Picture of the Year. I just finished talking about why The Revenant is going to win, but I’m so unsure of that prediction that here I am, a day later, revisiting this once more.
Although tallies of online experts show most of them coalescing around The Revenant as the pick (myself included), there could be group think going on here. To prove this to you, we’ve created a table that exemplifies just how split this year truly is.
We’ve gone back to the last 10 years of Oscar history until we found a year that was as divided as this one: it happened way back in 2006 when The Departed triumphed after critical and industry prizes were split all over. Here are our findings:
Findings by Columns (aka, by Groups)
- First, let’s state the obvious, what we have been saying all along: critics are not Oscar voters. The early critics groups are A) not trying to predict the Oscars and B) have their awards occur way too early, before any sense of consensus has formed, and so they are all over the place. The New York Film Critics somehow do better than their L.A. brethren, but only marginally. This year, their pick wasn’t even nominated.
- L.A.'s pick was nominated this year - it was Spotlight. But Los Angeles is one for nine over the last several years. Ditto the National Society of Film Critics - they're one for nine over the past years, and they went for Spotlight. Ouch, Spotlight.
The Golden Globes, as we have always known, are not much better as Oscar predictors, despite the fanfare around them. This is probably a result of both their composition - 80 or so foreign reporters - as much as their schedule: they definitely are trying to predict the Oscars, but vote way too early to be able to do that effectively.
The Critics’ Choice is, surprisingly, much better at it. They are seven for nine in the last nine years, perhaps because they vote by the time Oscar voting is happening as well. They picked Spotlight, so there is hope for that movie yet.
Of the Guilds, as we know, the Producers and the Directors are the best of the best. They are both eight for nine over the last years, although the Producers did cheat by declaring a tie the year of 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. Moreover, the Directors only missed the year that it was “agreed” that Gravity would win Director and 12 Years a Slave Picture. The DGA is the only one that got The Departed right in that crazy year. Those two, of course, are split between The Big Short and The Revenant, hence our problem.
BAFTA was not very good before the switch to preferential ballot - they liked to pick British-centric films back then. Since the 2009 switch, they were on a roll until last year, when they tried to stop the Birdman swell.