Jack Mathews dies: Dean of Oscar Experts helped to launch Gold Derby

Oscar just lost his best friend – and we lost one of ours. Jack Mathews – the dean of all Oscarologists and one of Gold Derby’s original expert predictors – died last night of pancreatic cancer in Walport, Oregon, where he retired after his esteemed career writing for the New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and Detroit Free-Press.

I met Jack in 1999 when he interviewed me in his office at the Daily News about my new book “Movie Awards” (Penguin Putnam Perigee), which Jack loved so much that he gave it a whole page write-up! Not only that, but Jack said “yes” when I asked him to be part of a new website I planned to launch that tracked Experts’ Oscar predictions beginning in November every year.

I couldn’t pay contributors. And, of course, media companies would never allow their employees  to write for outside websites, but those journalists could (probably) make predictions for free as long as their media outlets were flagged, I assumed. I’d already discussed my website idea with some top Oscar writers, who I knew personally and who’d agreed to contribute. But I hadn’t tested the idea with other journos yet.

“Do you need anyone else on board?” Jack asked me eagerly. “I’ll be happy to help. Hey, the New York Film Critics’ Circle is having our awards ceremony next week. Why don’t you attend as my guest and I’ll introduce you to some more critics?”

I did and Jack did and then Gold Derby was born. Thank you, Jack.

Jack’s predictions for us were always brilliant and often brave. Back in October, 2014, for example, when nearly all Oscarologists were going ga-ga for “Boyhood” to win Best Picture, I remember Jack telling me, “You’re all fools. It’s going to be ‘Birdman.’ Trust me.” In addition to his savvy prognostication, Jack also ended up contributing many articles to Gold Derby in recent years since his retirement from full-time staff work.

Jack Mathews was one of Hollywood’s greatest Oscar experts, who had the guts to write about the awards all year ’round back when it wasn’t the fashion. Now everybody with a blog is a constant Oscar writer and expert, of course, but Jack was the original and he was the best.

Here’s proof: Listen to our podcast chat about Oscar predictions and his own esteemed, often crazy career covering them for major media outlets.

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