Winnowing the Oscars 2016 field via social media


Some of my handiwork at work at USA TODAY

Oscar predictions have hit critical mass this week — from both critics’ standpoints and mass opinions online.

Sealed envelopes? Puh-leaze. Such an archaic messenging device. And no one wants to wait four days for the reveal. These days social media is a prism that doubles as crystal ball.

Who says the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences secret ballots are impregnable?

On the heels of a USA TODAY/ poll among 1,000 well-versed moviegoers predicting who’ll win, Hewlett Packard Enterprise analyzed thousands of online conversations surrounding the “top six” categories. It monitored top social media sites and thousands of news sites, using its enterprise search and analytics platform HPE IDOL, to come up with these crowdsourced best bets:

Best Picture: Spotlight

Best Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Best Actor: Matt Damon

Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance

Best Actress: Brie Larson

Best Supporting Actress: Rooney Mara

Interesting subplot: Although what HPE dubs “social sentiment” leaned one way, the volume of interest in particular nominees largely leaned another. Of split minds, just as so many other movie fans and pundits, like my Predictions & Picks system. Coin toss time.

Buzziest Picture: The Revenant
38% of mentions in posts related to that category

Buzziest Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio – 61%

Buzziest Actress: Brie Larson – 35% (we have a match!)

Buzziest Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu – 70%

Buzziest Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone – 95%

Buzziest Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet – 33%

oscar1wordIf such analytics prove inaccurate Sunday — as in not mirroring the opinions of the 89% male, 84% white and roughly 50% 60-or-older voting members of the academy — at least we can be sure they reflect the public’s tastes in movies and performers.

Using the same mobile tools as the revolutionaries at Maidan or the activists behind the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, perhaps We the small-screen People can help direct future big-screen endeavors.

Meanwhile, my Oscar marathoning score, with just four days and three nights to go: 30/37+12/15 or 81% of all nominees in 23 of the top 24 categories (does not include the Original Song nominees, because I’m not so masochistic as to force myself to watch Fifty Shades of Grey).


Oscar picks: Supporting Roles

This should be fairly straightforward. Besides my husband thinks I should write shorter posts. How’s this, dear?

Actor in a Supporting Role

It’s a fairly green field.

The nominees

Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips). Too green, and too raw.

Bradley Cooper (American Hustle). He seems to be doing the same drill as in his Oscar-nominated role for 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook.

Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave). Who? Oh him. Steve McQueen’s pet actor. This is the third full-length feature McQueen has directed and Fassbender has starred in all three. Problem is: He’s not Jared Leto.

Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street). I’m rooting for him (this is his second nomination as sidekick). But he’s not Jared Leto enough, either.

Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club). BINGO. Works for me.

My prediction & pick: Jared Leto

Here is a glimpse of Leto as the frontman for the band 30 Seconds to Mars. All of their music videos are produced like mini-movies. He is dreamy and, guess what? Apparently not  transgender.

Actress in a supporting role

Three of the five gals are new to the Oscar pool, while this is Julia Roberts’ fourth nomination (she won once for her leading role in “Erin Brockovich”) and Jennifer Lawrence’s third nod (she also won a leading role Oscar, last year for “Silver Linings Playbook”). I’m canceling both veterans out. It’s a race among newbies.

The nominees

Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine). She is my one curveball. I like her, I really like her …  I kinda like her better than Cate Blanchett, and I might be crazy enough to pick her. Anyone nominated can win, right? (I have to say I didn’t even realize she was British until I saw she narrated the animated short nominee “Room on the Broom.” That makes her doubly good.)

Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle). Love her work and her acceptance speeches, but not this time, chica.

Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave). Smart money is on her, but no betting.

Julia Roberts (August: Osage County). Could happen. But I like living dangerously, at least in one catty category.

June Squibb (Nebraska). Her performance was a bit cultish. And every time I see her I think of Janet Yellen.


My pick: Sally Hawkins

My prediction: Lupita Nyong’o

Bummer for Christopher Plummer?

I won’t hold it against Canadian-wanna-be-British actor Christopher Plummer that when we met on a set in London 34 years ago, he never spoke, only sneered. I’d pissed him off by humming “Something Good.” He famously despises “The Sound of Music.”

But if he doesn’t win an Oscar on Sunday for his charming turn as a geriatric who comes out to his son four years before dying of cancer, it will be my turn to be pissed.

Touring the city as a teen while my sister studied at the Royal College of Music, I had been lingering near Albert Hall, when I spied a glowing house on the edge of Hyde Park. Klieg lights everywhere. I fancied myself a “film student” then, and was drawn like a moth. (Though, technically, moths aren’t drawn, just disoriented, and they don’t make a beeline for anything, but I digress.)

Wearing my London fog reporter’s garb and flashing my instamatic camera, I slipped into the Victorian house along with a cadre of curious tourists and climbed two stories, until a bouncer announced, “Closed set” and started pushing folks away. I managed to peek inside the door at the top of the stairs, and randomly waved to a bearded beefeater bloke in a huddle of grips and carpenters and boldly fibbed, “I’m with him,” so he reeled me in on crooked finger. “No pictures, though,” the bouncer growled.

That’s when I made a sweep of the hazy room — artificial smoke was being pumped in for a dingy lighting effect — and spied Christopher Plummer, in his own little corner, all alone, much smaller than I’d imagined. My inner Julie Andrews did somersaults over to him. I tried making small talk, about the smoke and torturous working conditions, about my love of films and, eeek, did I mention “The Sound of Music”? Possibly. He just eyed me cautiously, down the slope of his nose, when I broke into song, “Perhaps I had a wicked childhood … perhaps I had a miserable youth …” and lost the lyrics. Music, the universal language. He had nowhere to escape to, so I took my cue and sauntered over to my fake friend, Dennis Bovington, with whom I got along famously and who, after the shoot, invited me to share a pint with the union boys and a baby-faced Harrison Ford, who also happened to be working on the movie. Say, what?! And I cared more about Christopher Plummer!?

“Hanover Street,” that was the film, a 1979 World War II bomb. But I was issued a three-day studio pass and given the red-carpet treatment, courtesy of Master Bovington, as well as a visit to Stanley Kubrick’s estate and a tour of “The Shining” set (just the exterior of a fake Overlook Hotel, used in the scenes when Danny is trying to escape out the window and Wendy is working on getting the Snowcat to work), as well as the “Star Wars” graveyard, where I combed through spare C3PO and R2D2 body parts. It was an aspiring-film-student’s dream.

But back to Plummer. The poor sod has never won an Oscar. Never even nominated for Best Actor. I believe this is only his second Best Supporting Actor nom. And though the stage actor despises fluff and loves playing villains, he was brilliant as an over-the-hill gay man with vistas yet to conquer.

A look at his competition:


  • Kenneth Branagh (“My Week With Marilyn”) — Lost in the character of Laurence Olivier, he nonetheless seemed to be wearing some sort of fat suit. Too distracting.
  • Jonah Hill (“Moneyball”) — Loved him, proud of him to cross over from goofy sidekick to geeky sidekick, but he later lost his fat suit. Let’s give this guy some more serious roles. Too soon for his award.
  • Nick Nolte (“Warrior”) — The recovering-alcoholic-deadbeat-father-dismal-has-been role was written for him, and I totally soaked up his relapse scene, but the role fits him like a glove. Too tailored.
  • Max von Sydow (“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”) — His silent performance was waaaaay better than Jean Dujardin’s, and he provided one of the few emotional entry points to this disappointingly clinical film. But, sorry. Too muted.

Neither von Sydow nor Plummer has won an Oscar before. Both are 82. It’s extremely tough and incredibly close, but flipping a coin here: Plummer had lines AND a death scene. The Shakespearean actor must get his due. If not, it would be truly a bummer for Plummer.

Chris, you can thank me later for supporting you in your time of need.

“Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could …
But somewhere in (his) youth and childhood
(He) must have done something good.”

More educated-guessing picks tomorrow.