When the Oscar nominations come out, there should be a couple of surprises. Knowing where they will crop up is the hard art of predicting.
The most important factor in determining Oscar upsets is looking at the preferential voting process that is different from most other award groups. You can read about it in detail here but the bottom line is: a contender which appears 4th or 5th on every ballot will get trumped by a contender that appears 1st or 2nd on just over one sixth of ballots. A candidate with a small pocket of passionate support will get in over broad consensus choices. It’s how “Letters From Iwo Jima” and “The Reader” were able to unseat “Dreamgirls” and “The Dark Knight” in their respective years.
Let’s have a look at this year:
Look out for “Philomena” which not only is loved by those who like it but also is the clearest choice to appeal to the large British block of the academy.
“Dallas Buyer’s Club” which got a surprise nod for SAG ensemble also seems to have some passion behind it.
And “Blue is the Warmest Color” is a polarizing film which will either be ranked high or not at all on ballots although it may be too niche and isn’t really in the academy’s wheelhouse.
“Her” has a lot of passion from those who love it so Spike Jonze can sneak in here. If he does it the question is which two of Martin Scorsese, Alexander Payne and Paul Greengrass won’t get enough passionate support to secure nods. If I were to wager I’d say Scorsese and maybe Payne.
Emma Thompson from “Saving Mr. Banks” will get on a lot of ballots but she could struggle for No. 1 votes and she may have fellow Brit Judi Dench taking some of her voters. I’d also worry a bit about Meryl Streep who doesn’t have the buzz she usually does.
With four supporting nods under her belt and being in a film with much more passionate support look out for Amy Adams from “American Hustle.” Although don’t fool yourself into thinking her Globe win will help now: Oscar voting had already closed and there is a 0% overlap between Oscar and Globe voters.
Like her film, Adele Exarchopoulos from “Blue is the Warmest Color” could benefit from passionate voters, although the question remains just how much appeal this film and role have to the conservative academy.
Which leaves Leonardo DiCaprio in the polarizing “The Wolf of Wall Street” which could draw some 1 votes, although Leo has never been an academy favorite. Perhaps both men get left in the dust by Joaquin Phoenix for “Her” after he was able to sneak in last year also for a small film with passionate support.
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