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Unpacking poor Oscars predictions

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Jim Burke, from left, Charles B. Wessler, Nick Vallelonga, Peter Farrelly and Brian Currie pose with the award for best picture for "Green Book" in the press room at the Oscars on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Jim Burke, from left, Charles B. Wessler, Nick Vallelonga, Peter Farrelly and Brian Currie pose with the award for best picture for "Green Book" in the press room at the Oscars on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (photo courtesy of Jordan Strauss, Invision, and AP)

Man – that stung.

I’m referring, of course, to my abysmal performance in predicting this year’s Academy Award winners. In years past, I haven’t written a follow-up to my Oscars preview. For the most part, this is because I always did pretty well and I’ve never been one to be all that inclined toward victory laps.

This year, however, was probably my worst prognosticative performance in my entire decade-plus as a professional movie-knower. I have never been as off as I was this year, so I thought it might be fun to unpack it.

For the record, I correctly predicted 14 of 24 awards. Considering the wild unpredictability we experienced this year, that’s not a terrible number. Compared to last year – when I went 21-for-24 – it IS a terrible number.

I did get a fair amount right. Three of the four acting categories. Best director and cinematography (both Alfonso Cuarón). Adapted screenplay and best song. Both animated film categories and feature documentary and foreign language film. Costume and makeup and production designs.

But that’s not what we’re here for. Let’s take a look at what went wrong.

The Non-Animated Shorts

These categories are always a crapshoot, but you need to hit on at least one if you want to put up a truly impressive number. Alas, I missed on both Live Action Short and Documentary Short Subject. My picks were “Marguerite” and “Black Sheep,” respectively. The winners were “Skin” and “Period. End of Sentence.” I didn’t see any of them, so they were just guesses – reasonably educated guesses, but guesses nevertheless. Hard to feel bad about these ones.

Best Visual Effects

I went with “Avengers: Infinity War” here. If I had known how much love the Academy was going to throw at “Black Panther,” I might have reconsidered; I just assumed this was where the blockbuster would get recognized. Instead, the win went to “First Man,” a film that I loved and expected to get recognition in one of the technical categories – just not this one.

Best Original Score

So many of my movie-knowing peers projected “If Beale Street Could Talk” as practically a lock here. And it did feel like it could potentially combine with the presumed coronation of Regina King as Best Supporting Actress to help make up for the relative lack of love shown Barry Jenkins and company. But hey – “Black Panther” was legit score-wise. Obviously, you want to be right, but it’s hard to complain otherwise.

Bohemian F---ing Rhapsody

I felt strongly that Rami Malek was going to win Best Actor for his work on “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I didn’t want to vote for the film anywhere else because honestly, I didn’t think it was that good a movie. But there was a little tickle in the back of my brain that said that this one might do some down-ballot damage. I should have listened to the tickle: “Bohemian Rhapsody” took the prizes for Film Editing, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing … and I didn’t pick it for any of them, going instead with “Vice” for Film Editing, “First Man” for Sound Editing and “A Star is Born” for Sound Mixing. Wrong, wrong and wrong. The lesson? Never underestimate the power of Queen.


These last three are the ones that I feel strongest about.

Original screenplay

My prediction: The Favourite

Winner: Green Book

I LOVED “The Favourite.” I thought it was an absolute delight, a weirdo sex farce dressed up like a costume drama. Such a brilliantly-conceived story – seemed like a solid choice. What I was not prepared for was the win for “Green Book,” particularly when taking into consideration the controversy surrounding the script – specifically, the lack of involvement by Don Shirley’s family. The work transcended the ham-fistedness of its message thanks to Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen; if anything, the screenplay made it harder for them to get it done. Bad call by the Academy – I’d probably have had this one fifth out of 5.

Best Actress

My prediction: Glenn Close

Winner: Olivia Colman

Meanwhile, in this category, my love of “The Favourite” was rewarded, just not in the manner that I anticipated. Look, we all knew Glenn Close was going to win for “The Wife.” Literally everybody knew. I knew it. You knew it. The movie knowers knew it. The other nominees knew it. EVERYBODY knew it. And then – boom. Olivia Colman happened. Don’t get me wrong; she was phenomenal, and this is very much an Oscar-worthy performance and she gave maybe the best speech of the night. But we all KNEW that Glenn Close was going to win. Instead, she’s now sitting on seven nominations without an Oscar. It might be time to consider the possibility that people just hate Glenn Close.

Best Picture

My prediction: Roma

Winner: Green Book

During the lead-up to the Oscars, I joked a couple of times – in print, on the air on “Downtown with Rich Kimball” – that every generation gets its “Crash,” the 2006 Best Picture winner whose victory has looked worse and worse with every passing year. It was a choice that felt bad in the moment and has only spiraled downward since. I made the joke because there didn’t seem to be any one film that was leading the conversation. All that being said, I still felt like quality would win out, so I went with “Roma” for my Best Picture pick. Instead, the trophy went to “Green Book” … and the list of Oscar travesties got a little longer. This is easily the worst winning film since that one, the result of an unfortunate confluence of preferential balloting choices, pushback against the expanding influence of Netflix and the reactionary grumblings of a stubborn subset of Academy voters. This perfect storm resulted in a winner that is already a little embarrassing (even to the winners) and will only grow more so in the years to come. I maintain that “Roma” should have won, but in truth, just about any other nominee would have been a better pick than “Green Book.”


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