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Oscar Handicap 2008: Best Picture of the Year

By EdwardHavens

February 18th, 2008

We conclude this year's series of articles with the most important and prestigious award in all cinema.

Oscar Handicap 2008: Best Picture of the Year

Can one win an Oscar even though they appear in the lowest-grossing film nominated in that category? Or win in an acting category being the only one whose film is not also nominated for Best Picture? We took a look many of the major categories over the past 29 ceremonies (for the films of 1978 through 2006), as well as select statistical data from all 79 previous ceremonies, and found some surprising mathematical data, which may give some pause about who might win on February 24.

Please note: These are not predictions on how the awards will turn out. Like in baseball, there are always more stats that could delve deeper into any category (like how well Alex Rodriguez hits with men in scoring position, with less than two outs, in his home stadium, during day games, against left handers, when the count is 3-1, etc.), but these numbers are meant to entertain and start some interesting discussions about the nominees.


How to read these numbers: With each category is a breakdown of factors with a percentage listed how many times this has happened in the past twenty-nine years (or with an award like the Screen Actors Guild or the Art Directors Guild, since those awards were created), followed by the titles which are helped or hurt by that factor. By The Numbers adds up the positives and negatives and comes up with a raw score and percentage. For example, the By The Numbers for the Best Art Direction category will read like this:


American Gangster: +1, +2, -3, -4, +5 (78 of 127, 61.42%)
Atonement: +1, +2, +3, -4, +5 (97 of 127, 76.38%)
The Golden Compass: +1, +2, -3, +4, +5 (81 of 127, 63.78%)
Sweeney Todd: +1, +2, -3, -4, +5 (78 of 127, 61.42%)
There Will Be Blood: -1, +2, +3, +4, -5 (70 of 127, 55.12%)
The pluses mean American Gangster is positively affected by factors 1, 2 and 5, and negatively affected by factors 3 and 4. Most of the factors we are using for this category have been around throughout the past three decades, except for the Art Directors Guild awards, which have been given out since 1997. Being positive with Factor 1, not being the lowest grossing nominee at the time of the nomination announcement, is worth 27 points for American Gangster, Atonement, The Golden Compass and Sweeney Todd. As the lowest grosser at the time of the nominations has only won twice over the past twenty-nine years, this gives There Will Be Blood only two points for this factor. Three more factors that have existed for the past 29 awards ceremonies have a positive point value of 25, 24 and 17 points, while the Art Director Guild awards have a positive point value of 7. With four factors existing for the past twenty-nine years and one existing for the past 11 years, we would calculate the maximum points possible: (4*29)+11=127. A positive factor would affect a film positively, unless of course, the factor in question is more a disadvantage than not. So in this case, with Atonement having four strong positive factors and one weak negative factor, it would appear to be the front runner based on the factors we have been tracking.

For clarification purposes, when there is mention of a pre-award favorite, this describes how this person won at least two of the top five pre-Oscar awards, between the Golden Globe for Drama, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the National Board of Review, the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle. Also, when there is mention of someone playing a real person, the character that actor played must not be a fictionalized version of a real person, such as with Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada or Joe Pesci in GoodFellas. Had Pesci won for Raging Bull, that would count. Joey LaMotta was a real person. But Tommy DeVito in GoodFellas is a fictionalized version of Lucchese family gangster Thomas DeSimone, and thus does not qualify for this category.

And now, on with the show...


Best Picture
In this writerís opinion, this is one of the weaker years for Best Picture nominees. The two main contenders werenít really all that great, especially There Will Be Blood, which is little more than an excellent if one-note performance and beautiful cinematography, and the lack of exciting films like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Zodiac in this category makes me wonder whatever happened to the young blood that was supposedly coming in to reinvigorate the continually staid Academy. Juno is not invigorating; itís just this yearís left field pick. That slot seemingly reserved for a feel-good film not initially expected to be a Best Picture contender. You know, that slot previously filled by the likes of Breaking Away, Chariots of Fire, Babe, The Full Monty, Life is Beautiful, Crouching Tiger, Moulin Rouge, Finding Neverland and Little Miss Sunshine. If No Country does end up winning, Iíll have the same reaction I had last year. It was nice a Scorsese-directed film finally won Best Picture, but it was a shame it could not have been one of five others that were all far more deserving. Itíll be nice a Coens-directed film finally wins Best Picture, but itís a shame it could not have been one of five others that were all far more interesting.

The Breakdowns
1) As long as you're not the lowest grossing nominee at the time of the nominations, you've won 29 of 29 times (100%). Advantage: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men
2) Best Picture winners have had a nominated director 28 of 29 times (96.55%). Advantage: Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood
3) Best Picture winners have had a nominated screenplay 28 of 29 times (96.55%). Advantage: All films
4) Best Picture winners have also been nominated for Best Editing 28 of 29 times (93.10%). Advantage: No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood
5) Best Picture winners have had at least one acting nomination 26 of 29 times (89.66%). Advantage: All films
6) The director of the Best Picture winner has also won the DGA Award 46 of 59 times (77.97%). Advantage: No Country for Old Men
7) Stories not predominantly set in the present day have won 20 of 29 times (68.97%). Advantage: Atonement, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood
8) The picture with the most nominations has gone on to win Best Picture 53 of 79 (67.09%) times. Advantage: No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood
9) The Best Picture winner has also won the PGA Golden Laurel 11 of the 18 times the latter award has been presented (60.11%). Advantage: No Country for Old Men
10) The Best Picture winner has come from a movie released after October 1st 19 of 29 times (65.52%). Advantage: All films
11) Pictures that have received the Golden Globe for drama have won 18 of 29 times (62.07%). Advantage: Atonement
12) Pictures based on an adapted screenplay have won 17 of 29 times (58.62%). Advantage: Atonement, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood
13) Pictures that the director(s) are not also listed as a producer have won 16 of 29 times (55.17%). Advantage: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton
14) The winner of the SAG Ensemble Acting Award has won 5 of 13 times (38.46%) Disadvantage: No Country for Old Men

By The Numbers
For most of the Oscar season, the Coen Brothersí neo-noir film has been designated the front runner for Best Picture, and the numbers certainly add up here. But buyer beware... the last time movie with the best percentage ended up winning was ďThe Lord of the Rings: The Return of the KingĒ in 2004.

Atonement: +1, -2, +3, -4, +5, -6, +7, -8, -9, +10, +11, +12, +13, -14 (226 of 459, 49.24%)
Juno: +1, +2, +3, -4, +5, -6, -7, -8, -9, +10, -11, -12, +13, -14 (223 of 459, 48.58%)
Michael Clayton: +1, -2, +3, -4, +5, -6, -7, -8, -9, +10, -11, -12, +13, -14 (223 of 459, 48.58%)
No Country for Old Men: +1, -2, +3, -4, +5, +6, +7, +8, +9, +10, -11, +12, -13, +14 (334 of 459, 72.77%)
There Will Be Blood: +1, -2, +3, -4, +5, -6, +7, +8, -9, +10, -11, +12, -13, -14 (281 of 459, 61.22%)

Personal prediction for Best Picture: No Country for Old Men
Personal choice amongst these nominees: Michael Clayton
Personal choice for Best Picture of 2007: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford


All articles in this series:
Best Picture of the Year
Best Director
Best Actor and Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress
Best Cinematography
Best Score, Best Editing and Best Art Direction
Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Feature