Tom O’Neil’s Oscars update: Why ‘Gravity’ zooms ahead in Best Picture race

For the past two months, “Gravity” has been hovering in second place in our Experts’ Best Picture predictions, but will soon lift off, take the lead and remain there throughout the Oscar derby ahead. The reason: predix leader “12 Years a Slave” just failed to win the top prize at four kudos events in a row where it was considered to be the frontrunner: the Gotham Awards, National Board of Review, New York Film Critics Circle and now the Los Angeles Film Critics’ Association.

Today “Gravity” tied with “Her” for the L.A. critics’ Best Picture prize (read news report here). Check out Gold Derby’s racetrack odds and you’ll see that most of our Experts overwhelmingly pick “Gravity” to snag the director’s, editor’s and cinematographer’s laurels even though they take an abrupt left turn and opt for “Slave” in the Best Picture race by a wide margin — 16 pick “Slave,” 5 go for “Gravity,” 3 prefer “Saving Mr. Banks” and there are 1 each for “American Hustle” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” That’s strange.”Gravity” just won the L.A. critics’ awards for Best Director, Film Editing and Cinematography in addition to the laurels for Best Picture. Notice the parallels? If “Gravity” is truly ahead to win the Oscars for Best Director and Editing, every Oscarologist knows that those are usually two of the best tea leaves to predict Best Picture.

I have been predicting “Gravity” to win the top Oscar ever since Nov. 18. The reason: it’s the most likely winner of DGA and that’s usually the most accurate Best Picture indicator of all.

But, yes, we do need to be careful about going overboard for “Gravity” with our Oscar predictions. For starters, as Paul Sheehan points out, LAFCA is usually a lousy Oscar prophet. It’s only agreed with academy voters twice over the past 20 years: “The Hurt Locker” (2009) and “Schindler’s List” (1993).

Another drawback for “Gravity”: No film set in outer space has ever won Best Picture. Also, it’s unlikely to get a nomination for its script, which is usually essential. Only a few movies like “Titanic” (1997) and “The Sound of Music” (1965) managed to bag the top Oscar without one.

But keep in mind that the film that wins Best Picture usually has the strongest Rooting Factor – and that’s “Gravity,” which has the highest repeat-viewing statistic among regular movie-goers of all pix in the derby

“Argo” had the largest Rooting Factor last year and it was enough to win even though it wasn’t nominated for Best Director. Check out the charts below – notice how “Argo” fared on our graphs at this time last year. It was hanging in there steadily in that second-place position, much like “Gravity” is doing right now. A coincidence? I don’t think so.


BELOW: Make your early Oscar predictions. Change them later as often as you like.


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