Why 5 Oscar experts pick ‘Gravity’ to win Best Picture

Sure, the vast majority of Oscarologists polled by Gold Derby predict “12 Years a Slave” will win Best Picture (19 out of 25), but five of us dare to disagree. “Gravity” gets the backing of Pete Hammond (Deadline), Steve Pond (The Wrap), Keith Simanton (IMDB), Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby) and me.

Below are the pundits’ explanations. (Be sure to make your predicitons at the bottom of this post using our easy drag-and-drop menu.)

I agree with all of these reasons — the preferential ballot, the unlikeliness of a Best Picture/Best Director split — but I have another thought, too. Sweep voting.

Since the Oscars are chosen by a popular ballot, we often see landslides because voters can’t stop checking off boxes for their Best Picture choice once they get going. (“Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” not only tied the record for most wins — 11 — but it didn’t lose a single race.) Usually, the sweep occurs from the top category down. This year I think the opposite will be true. “Gravity” will win so many lower slots (at least six or seven) that voters will be forced to check off the top one for Best Picture, too.

PETE HAMMOND: I had been predicting “Gravity” for much of the season and then moved on briefly to “American Hustle” and then “12 Years a Slave.” But I have gone back to “Gravity” because simply I think it could be a “consensus” film. It may not be on a majority of ballots as a number one choice, but I bet it is on many as a number two.

This is a year where a number of good films will likely split that number-one passion vote. I doubt any of them will get over 50% first time out. That’s when the number two choice makes a huge difference. Right now I am betting that number two is “Gravity,” with a lot of help from below-the-line branches. I was given pause by its loss at the ACE Eddies but not enough to cause great concern. BAFTA will be the next litmus test. Until then I will stick with this strategy.

STEVE POND: In a year in which I don’t think any film will have near enough votes to win after the first round of counting, the movie that wins will need to be toward the top of most voters’ ballots. And I think “Gravity” is probably more of a consensus pick than “American Hustle” or “12 Years a Slave” — its nominations are spread out across eight different branches, which means it’s well-liked all across the Academy.

But the other reason is that like most of my colleagues, I was predicting a picture/director split. And I’ve always had the nagging feeling that it’s dangerous and foolish to do that, unless it’s last year and Ben Affleck isn’t nominated. If Alfonso Cuaron is a favorite for director, as I believe he is, then I needed to realize that “Gravity” is the favorite for picture, too.

I still think it’s too close to call … but since it’s part of my job to call it, I had to switch to “Gravity.”

PAUL SHEEHAN: Remember, this is the only Oscar category decided by a preferential ballot. All that will matter is which of the final two nominees still standing is ranked higher than the other on the eliminated ballots.

If, as we expect, it is comes down to “Gravity” versus “12 Years a Slave,” I expect that “Gravity” will be ranked higher by the “American Hustle” voters — which is likely to be in third place — as well as on enough of the other eliminated nominees to cross the threshold of 50% plus one vote.

KEITH SIMANTON: “Gravity” is the film that becomes Best Picture because of its general accessibility. “12 Years a Slave” is a film (which I love) that is a “hafta watch” instead of a “wanna watch.” It is a difficult, painful experience and people know it and will, if they can, avoid it. “Gravity” (and “Argo” the year before it) are “wanna watch” films and thus will be seen by the largest number of AMPAS voters.

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