Best Oscar predictions: Our 3 contest leaders spill their juicy secrets

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More than 3,500 people entered our contest to predict the 2015 Oscar nominations and three users reaped the highest scores on our Oscars leaderboard: JasonOsia in the win position, Madadude in the place position and James_Fenimore in the show position. Since all three are eligible for our prizes as per our contest rules, they have each won Amazon gift certificates. So, how did they pull off such an impressive feat? Scroll down to hear their prediction secrets and tips in their own words.

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Screen name: JasonOsia

Real name: Jason Osiason

Rank: 1st place with 83% accuracy and 29,521 points — See Osiason’s Oscar predictions

Contest prize: $500 Amazon gift certificate

City: Tampa, Florida

Occupation: Senior at the University of Florida

Prediction secrets and tips: How I did so well? I literally follow this stuff year-round and put A LOT of time and effort into it. I listen to all the chatter I can. I listen to podcasts (such as the Indiewire and OscarPoker ones), follow the big film festivals, how films played to the guilds or academy, and stay updated on all the latest film news (distribution and acquisition news, predictions, trailers, festivals, etc). I stay active on social media so I can stay in the conversation (especially on twitter, @MichaelNotCera), I read every prediction analysis I can get my hands on. I also read reviews, weekly updates on potential films in the Oscar race, trade pieces, predictions from several of my favorite awards pundits, discussion boards, how films play at test screenings, etc. I also attend film festivals these past few years.

Shocks and surprises: I am saddened to see Idris Elba‘s fearless performance in “Beasts of No Nation” ignored, and I honestly felt good about him after his film scored SAG Ensemble, and his performance hit SAG, Globes and BAFTA. I think the nail in the coffin there was his severe lack of campaigning and how his film wasn’t tied to a Best Picture contender. Finally, “Carol” being snubbed is a national travesty that I will not recover from any time soon. I implore all to embrace the #JusticeForCarol hashtag across social media to spread awareness of what the academy has done to the best motion picture of 2015.

Oscars 2016: Complete list of nominations

Screen name: madadude

Real name: Adam Norbury

Rank: 2nd place with 82% accuracy and 38,066 points — See Norbury’s Oscar predictions

Contest prize: $300 Amazon gift certificate

City: Scottsdale, Arizona

Occupation: Full-time student/Movie theater worker

Prediction secrets and tips: In terms of doing well on the Gold Derby contest and predicting the Oscar nominations in general, it just came from a lot of reading the market, following news and especially looking at what was getting nominated for the precursors and guild awards. I also kept some predictions locked in for quite a while so I could retain good odds and earn plenty of points, which resulted in me getting lots of points in the contest as well as a high percentage of nominations correct. An example is soon after BFCA or Golden Globe nominations came out it became clear to me that “The Big Short” was a sure thing in Best Picture, yet it was still very underrated here on Gold Derby with 100/1 odds. So I added it in for picture along with my other nominations and ended up getting 8/8 correct. I also locked in “Mad Max” with 33/1 odds, which helped, plus I put my 500 point bet in that category due to these sure things with great odds. I was tempted to change it at last moment because I still had “Inside Out” in there and I felt “Straight Outta Compton” was far more likely to get in over it. (I also thought “Carol” was sure thing but nooooooooo.)

Shocks and surprises: Personally, I can’t say I’m too happy with the nominees. I have seen almost all of them for the major categories (besides “Trumbo”) and I must say it is the worst slate in a while. “Mad Max” and “Brooklyn” are the only picture nominees I think are anything special (“Carol” missing was devastating to the soul). Fassbender is the only one of the four actor nominations I had seen that I even liked (DiCaprio and Redmayne were bad, just like the films they were in, face it) and Damon was barely more than serviceable. Overall it has been an exciting season and this will be the first time I will be watching the ceremony with legitimate anticipation for the winners in a lot of categories. Last year it was pretty much only director/picture/editing, where I was still pulling for “Boyhood” to win over “Birdman.” Sadly my dreams crumbled.

Oscar nominations prediction scores: Best performances by our Experts, Editors and Users

Screen name: James_Fenimore

Real name: Joseph Schiltz

Rank: 3rd place with 81% accuracy and 29,434 points — See Norbury’s Oscar predictions

Contest prize: $200 Amazon gift certificate

City: St. Paul, Minnesota

Occupation: Advisor to high-achieving, low-income high school students applying to college

Prediction secrets and tips: My main strategy for predicting nominations was to look at history. In particular, I would take movies/performances that I was considering and see if I could find precedents in recent years for other movies that took similar paths to a nomination, or filled similar “slots.” For example, I predicted Tom Hardy for a nomination because his situation seemed really similar to that of Jonah Hill for “The Wolf of Wall Street”: a supporting candidate in a strong Best Picture contender that missed out on early precursors because of its late screening, but started picking up heat in the last few weeks before nominations. Likewise, I predicted “Bridge of Spies” in sound mixing because it seems like almost every year, a few strong Best Picture candidates get in for somewhat unusual sound nominations (like “Birdman,” “Argo,” “Lincoln,” “Moneyball,” “The Social Network”). This was especially helpful with the short categories — basically, I read descriptions of the shortlisted candidates and picked ones that reminded me of shorts that had been nominated in past years. For example, “Everything Will Be Fine” reminded me of “Just Before Losing Everything,” while “Chau, Beyond the Lines” sounded a lot like “Inocente,” and so on.

Shocks and surprises: I’m actually pretty happy with how the nominations went, although a lot of that might just have to do with the fact that I’m a HUGE fan of “Room.” I actually had been predicting Lenny Abrahamson for a couple of months — I thought he might sneak in sort of like Benh Zeitlin — but I chickened out at the last minute. Darn! With the craft categories, it’s kind of alarming how many times “Mad Max,” “The Martian” and “The Revenant” are nominated against each other. That made it easy to predict nominations but will, I think, make it really hard to predict wins, since there isn’t one obvious “technical giant” that will sweep the categories the way that movies like “Gravity,” “Life of Pi,” and “Inception” did.

7 Best Picture Oscar Winners WITHOUT Screenplay Noms: Jump to our photo gallery

What will win Best Picture? Make your Oscar predictions beginning with this category to the right or at the bottom of this post.

You’ll compete to win our contest prizes for best picks — $500 (first place), $300 (second place) and $200 (third place) in Amazon gift certificates — a place of honor on our leaderboard and a starring role in next year’s Top 24 Users (the two dozen folks who do the best predicting this year’s Oscar winners). Be sure to read our contest rules.

Photo Credit: Oscars/AMPAS/ABC

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