Yes, Alex Ross designed the official ABC Oscar poster in 2002!

[No comics content here.  This falls under “pop culture” and general geekery. ]

So, your waistline (and gastrointestinal tract) has recovered from the Super Bowl.  You’re sick and tired of the weather.  You seek another diversion.  Well, next Sunday, Hollywood holds their soiree, handing out Oscar statuettes (“Academy Awards of Merit”, according to the rule book).

Situated right before March Madness, the Oscars allow for a warm-up to the office pools which proliferate during the NCAA tournament, and give the sports widows something to watch before hubby disappears into his mancave.

But… how to pick the winners?  The Academy has frequently been criticized for ignoring blockbusters, as most geeks realize when their favorite movies are relegated to the special effects category.  Sure, there is the glitz, the celebrity star power, but overall, the Oscars are a bit boring.  (But, then, so is football.)

So, unless you live in a major metropolitan area, the following nominees are probably the first time you’ve heard, let alone seen, of them.  ABSCAM?  Retroviral drugs?  Navy SEALs?  Nebraska?  And those are the Best Picture nominees!  Take a look at the foreign films!

Here’s the technique I use, and my picks.  I don’t know what Nate Silver likes, and I’m not a cinema geek, so take the following with whatever disdain and cynicism you use when reading online.  Of course, feel free to share your comments below!

Consideration #1:  Is the award voted by the entire AMPAS membership, or it limited?

Consideration #2:  Did Oscar snub a particular film which was later lauded by a guild?

Consideration #3: Which did the guilds select as winners?

Consideration #4:  What’s the buzz?  What did BAFTA and others pick?



[Rule Sixteen  Everyone votes for this one.  Pick this last.  Sometimes, a movie will sweep the show.  The results from the other categories will give some indication.  Any controversy can also effect voting.  Sometimes, a film can earn the technical awards, but lose this award.  Sometimes, the Oscars split awards between three good films, as happened at the 73rd Academy Awards.  So, Gravity… mid-year, some nitpicking on the scientific liberties, not great acting.  12 Years a Slave is trending online.  Does the Academy use a preferential voting system like they did in 2009, when there were ten nominees, allowing a second-favorite to pull ahead of the media darling?  There is nothing stated in the current rules.]

“12 Years a Slave” (unusual, in that it might only win two awards)
“American Hustle”  [SAG ensemble award]
“Captain Phillips”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
“The Wolf of Wall Street”


[Rule Ten  All members vote.  The Directors Guild of America is usually a good indicator, only missing seven winners.]

David O. Russell, “American Hustle”
Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”
Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”
Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

[Rule Six  All members vote.  The Screen Actors Guild Awards are the barometer.]


Christian Bale, “American Hustle”
Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”
Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”


Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
Judi Dench, “Philomena”
Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”


Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
June Squibb, “Nebraska”
Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”
Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”


Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”
Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”
Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”
Jonah Hill, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club” [Want to win an acting Oscar?  Cross-dress, preferably in a movie with a strong message.]

[Rule Twenty-Three  Everyone votes.  The Writers Guild of America is the barometer for these two categories.  Sometimes, a great movie which is too … innovative for the Academy will get a screenplay Oscar as a consolation prize.  Consider: “Pulp Fiction”.]


“American Hustle” – Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
“Blue Jasmine” – Written by Woody Allen
“Her” – Written by Spike Jonze
“Nebraska” – Written by Bob Nelson
“Dallas Buyers Club” – Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack


“Before Midnight” – Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
“Captain Phillips” – Screenplay by Billy Ray
“Philomena” – Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
“12 Years a Slave” – Screenplay by John Ridley
“The Wolf of Wall Street” – Screenplay by Terence Winter


[Rule Seven  Everyone votes.  There is no animation guild, although ASIFA does laud many animated films.  My gut choice is below.]

“The Croods”
“Despicable Me 2”
“Ernest & Celestine”
“Frozen” [Best Edited Film, GRA: Best editing of Music in a Musical Feature, CAS: Animated Feature, numerous VES visual effects awards]
“The Wind Rises”


[Rule Eight  Everyone votes.  The American Society of Cinematographers is the predictive guild.

“The Grandmaster”
“Inside Llewyn Davis”


[Rule Nine  Everyone votes.  The Costume Designers Guild awards achievement.  Blue Jasmine won a CDG for contemporary design.  Factor that into Best Picture.  For you geeks, Hunger Games: Catching Fire won the fantasy award.]

Michael Wilkinson, “American Hustle”
William Chang Suk Ping, “The Grandmaster”
Catherine Martin, “The Great Gatsby”
Michael O’Connor, “The Invisible Woman”
Patricia Norris, “12 Years a Slave”  [GDG Period]


[Rule Eleven  Everyone who has watched all nominated films may vote.  For both documentary categories, you can scan other awards, as well as guess which is the most politically correct or reflects the spirit of the times.]

“The Act of Killing”Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
“Cutie and the Boxer” Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher
“Dirty Wars” Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill  [Best Sound Editing of a documentary]
“The Square” Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer [Directors Guild Award]
“20 Feet from Stardom” Nominees to be determined [best edited documentary]


“CaveDigger” Jeffrey Karoff
“Facing Fear” Jason Cohen
“Karama Has No Walls” Sara Ishaq
“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed
“Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall” Edgar Barens

[I’m going with “Prison hospice” as part of the HIV zeitgeist.]


[Rule Twelve  Everyone votes.  American Cinema Editors hand out the Eddies.

“American Hustle” Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten (comedy or musical)
“Captain Phillips” Christopher Rouse  (drama)
“Dallas Buyers Club” John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
“Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
“12 Years a Slave” Joe Walker


[Rule Thirteen  Voting open to everyone who has seen all five nominated films.  If a movie is nominated for Foreign Film and Best Picture, it will most likely win BFLF and not BP.  Same goes for Best Animated Feature.  These films are the official selection of each country’s film society.  Best strategy: consider other Oscar nominations, then check Rotten Tomatoes and online buzz.]

“The Broken Circle Breakdown” Belgium (RT: 79/74%)
“The Great Beauty” Italy  (RT’s pick, 92/93%) (BAFTA winner)
“The Hunt” Denmark (93/92%)
“The Missing Picture” Cambodia (97/100%, 30 reviews)
“Omar” Palestine (89/96%)


[Rule Fourteen  Everyone votes.  The Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild gives out awards.

“Dallas Buyers Club” Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews (best period/character makeup
“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” Stephen Prouty (special makeup effects)
“The Lone Ranger” Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny  (Johnny Depp received a special award.  Which goes without saying… McFarlane Toys should do a Johnny Depp line of figurines.)

[Rule Fifteen   Everyone votes.  Hey, there’s a Best Musical Award (15.I.C)!  There is a union for musicians, and some sort of composers guild, but neither seems to give out awards.  My suggestion?  Check online reviewers for buzz.  John Williams is the record holder for Oscar nominations.]


John Williams, “The Book Thief” [11 more nominations and he passes Walt Disney as the record holder.  Disney gets an asterisk…he produced many of the films which won.]
Steven Price, “Gravity”
William Butler and Owen Pallett, “Her”
Alexandre Desplat, “Philomena”
Thomas Newman, “Saving Mr. Banks”


“Alone Yet Not Alone” from “Alone Yet Not Alone”
Music by Bruce Broughton; Lyric by Dennis Spiegel

“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2”
Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams

“Let It Go” from “Frozen”
Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

[Of note: each film can nominate three songs.  Disney choose to nominate only one song from Frozen, possibly to avoid splitting the vote.  Idina Menzel will perform the song at the Oscars.  It may be the highlight of the show, along with U2.]

“The Moon Song” from “Her”
Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze

“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”
Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson


[Rule Seventeen   Everyone votes.  The Art Directors Guild honors achievement in this field.]

“American Hustle”
Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler

Production Design: Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard [fantasy film]

“The Great Gatsby”
Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn [period film]

Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena [contemporary film]

“12 Years a Slave”
Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Alice Baker

[Rule Nineteen  Everyone votes who has watched all of the nominated films.  Check online for critics picks.]


“Feral” Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden
“Get a Horse!” Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim
“Mr. Hublot” Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares
“Possessions” Shuhei Morita
“Room on the Broom” Max Lang and Jan Lachauer


“Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)” Esteban Crespo
“Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)” Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras
“Helium” Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson
“Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)” Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari
“The Voorman Problem” Mark Gill and Baldwin Li


[Rule Twenty  Everyone votes.  The Motion Picture Sound Editors give out the Golden Reel Awards.  There’s also the Cinema Audio Society which honors sound mixing.]

“All Is Lost” Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
“Captain Phillips” Oliver Tarney [GRA: dialogue and ADR]
“Gravity” Glenn Freemantle  [GRA: sound effects]
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Brent Burge
“Lone Survivor” Wylie Stateman


[Rule Twenty-One  Everyone votes.]

“Captain Phillips” Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
“Gravity” Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro [GRA:sound effects, CAS:Motion Picture]
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson
“Inside Llewyn Davis” Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
“Lone Survivor” Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow


[Rule Twenty-Two  Everyone votes.  The Visual Effects Society (winner of this year’s best industry logo) gives out accolades.]

“Gravity” Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould (Visual Effects feature, plus numerous others)
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds  (Best Feature Film character)
“Iron Man 3” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick
“The Lone Ranger” Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier (regular feature)
“Star Trek Into Darkness” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

My picks for the Razzies?  Movie 43 for every category.  I watched this on NetFlix with friends (yeah, we were drunk), and I wished I’d hadn’t.

Just in case anyone from ABC or AMPAS is reading…

Please schedule the Oscars so that the ceremony starts at 7PM EST/4 PM PST.  Run the red carpet pregame show from 5-7 PM.  The show itself usually runs under four hours, giving ABC plenty of time to stage the show.  If it ends early, then ABC can fill the remaining time with post-game interviews and commentary.  The extra time can be filled with stuff that keeps the viewers watching… and might even allow more names to be added to the always controversial “In Memoriam” segment.

Yes, I know it’s unlikely, but at least they moved it from Monday, when ABC would routinely waste an hour of prime time with a forgettable Barbara Walters interview special.  They will also finally start streaming the Oscars live this year!  (That’s what you get when your membership is old, white, and male.)


  1. FWIW, I think you’re off on the shorts. Nobody else picks the prison film, and pretty much everyone has predicted Lady in Number 6. A film about how an entertainment medium saves lives? Please. Most folks are predicting Voorman as the live action winner. Course I haven’t seen any of these. They’re always the least predictable ones.

    Gravity’s probably gonna sweep all the tech categories, including editing, and I’d vote Gatsby on costumes. Original screenplay is the only real squeaker of the bunch (and 12 Years for adapted, for sure). Anybody’s guess whether it’s Her or Hustle. I think Her has got its detractors and American Hustle has “more words”.

    My rule is, where everyone votes, you have to think what actors like since they’re the predominant group and what old people like, since the average age of members is somewhere in the high sixties.

    Also, apropos of nothing, did it bother anybody else in Her when Samantha gets the protagonist’s letters published in a book? There’s no bloody way he’d have the rights to put his name on the phony correspondence he wrote on company time! Can you say work for hire?

  2. Supporting Actor: Jared Leto
    Costume Design: Great Gatsby
    Makeup/Hairstyling: Dallas Buyers Club
    Animated Short: Mr. Hublot (upset)
    Animated Feature: Frozen
    Visual Effects: Gravity

    One hour down…

  3. Short Film: Helium
    Documentary Short Subject: The Lady in Number Six
    Documentary Feature: 20 Feet From Stardom
    Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty
    Sound Mixing: Gravity
    Sound Editing: Gravity
    Supporting Actress: 12 Years A Slave
    Cinematography: Gravity
    Film Editing: Gravity

    And the second hour is over…

  4. Production Design: Great Gatsby
    Best Score: Gravity
    Best Song: Frozen
    Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years A Slave
    Screenplay: Her

    Third hour done…

  5. Director: Gravity
    Actress: Blue Jasmine
    Actor: Dallas Buyers Club
    Picture: 12 Years A Slave.

    …and we’re done!

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