Gurus & Goldies Shoot Back

Greetings, Gurus & Goldies! Please read this piece I tapped out a while ago (“Oscar Predictions Are Always Muddled“) about the real-deal, deep-down deliberative process of Gurus of Gold and Gold Derby handicappers, and please, if you can (or if you’re allowed by our editors), address the central observation of the piece, which I’ve excerpted as follows:

“Once a Guru or Gold Derby-ite has decided that this or that film or filmmaker deserves award-season favor, he/she thereafter concludes that the entertainment community (Academy, guilds) has (a) almost surely come to this judgment on their own or (b) eventually will come to this judgment once they shake off their shallow or misguided attachments to other films or creative contributions that the Guru or Gold Derby-ite doesn’t approve of.”

Thanks & I hope to hear back from most if not all of you. Please keep your responses short & succinct, if possible.

From Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone: “I would argue that we all expose our biases — some just more obviously than others. I would also argue that there are too many so-called ‘objective’ Oscar writers, which is of course a pretense of being objective, but they aren’t all that interesting to read. It’s kind of like the difference between Wolf Blitzer and Rachel Maddow. But that’s just me.

“This isn’t an exact science, obviously. We read the race as we think it’s going to go. But for instance, Silver Linings Playbook is a movie that won the audience award at Toronto. Without that award I would not even be considering it in the Best Picture race because of my own personal feelings. But since I have to at least sort of be on target I include it knowing that (a) it won in Toronto (four films that have won there went on to win Best Picture for the past many decades, (b) it’s Harvey Weinstein and (c) Dave Karger and Steve Pond have it in the winning spot. Their names on it alone puts it in the race. Similarly, I take Life of Pi more seriously as a contender because Anne Thompson has it in the number spot. I loved Life of Pi, and hated (or mostly hated) Silver Linings. I can’t trust my own judgment on either of them. The point is, we all have our different ways of going about this.”

Scott Feinberg puts Silver Linings at #4 because he is good at predicting Oscars. He is the most objective of all of the predictors, save perhaps Steve Pond. I personally love people like Anthony Breznican and Pete Howell who are courageous and predict off-the-wall things. I am personally interested in how little earthquakes can sometimes shakes things up. It’s a big world and the Oscars are very very small.”

From Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil: “Your suspicions are probably right — that Gold Derbyites or Gurus add a dash (or shovelful) of their own taste to their predictions, but, if so, they risk gagging on the gruel. At Gold Derby we keep strict scores and records and so your crazy predix can haunt you later. We’re SUPPOSED to be crystal-balling this derby, not campaigning for poor Bill Murray or Matthew McConaughey because they need the push. Still, when you look over some pundits’ predix, it’s obvious that that’s what they doing. If not, maybe they’re just Oscar idiots?”

From TheWrap‘s Steve Pond: “I’m not Nate Silver, with a foolproof way to accurately forecast this silly thing. (My thing is silly, not his.) And I’m pretty sure I’m not Karl Rove, forecasting based on what I want to happen. With limited, conflicting and biased information, and sometimes with my own likes and dislikes nudging in there, I try to figure out what 6,000 other people are going to do. As Clint Eastwood said and as Sasha used to say on her site, deserve’s got nothing to do with it.

“My top 5 currently has a film I love in the top spot, plus two I like very much and two I haven’t seen. I expect that one of those last two will actually win, but until I see them (and talk to voters about them) I’m not putting them at #1. The film I would most love to see win is down at #7, and it’s conceivable that the only reason it’s on the chart is that I want it to get a nomination. But I can also give you an argument about how it’s going to get in because of the way they count nominating ballots — and I think that argument carries far more weight than my personal feelings about the movie.

“As for the idea that a film at #4 is a film about which the Guru/Gold Derby-ers has significant reservations — well, I have Argo at #4, and it’s only that high because so many other people have it at #1. So I’ll plead guilty on that count.”

From Deadline‘s Pete Hammond: “Gurus and Derby are fun games but NO one should take them seriously , especially in the middle of November. On that subject I wish the campaign consultants, Oscar hopefuls and other readers would not hang to these little prediction pulpits as anything other than that, just a game. Any ranking I do is only based on buzz, Oscar pedigree of the movie, my sense of Oscar history, voter conversations, other award shows later on and a hunch, and certainly not movies I like or dislike or any film I am trying to help.”

From Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson: “What a waste of time to speculate and generalize about such a disparate group of people. We all have different goals and ways of approaching Oscar coverage. Some of us have print journalism backgrounds, others are edited and published in print publications, some are columnists, others post online with less oversight, etc. Some throw opinions around with abandon, others try to objectively report and analyze the race.

“I would argue that Sasha Stone and you, Jeff, wear your causes on your sleeve, championing your favorites, while others like Tom O’Neil create catchy headlines to draw readers to Oscar debates of varying relevance. Some people are chasing traffic, others are serving a perceived constituency, whether inside the industry beltway or film consumers.

“Why throw us all into the same basket? It’s foolish. Each has earned their own following. We all know which writers we respect and why.”

From Toronto Star critic Peter Howell: “Jeff, you are being wilfully obtuse. Either that, or you have missed your calling as a drafter of municipal bylaws or writer of assembly manuals for Scandinavian furniture.

“You know, or ought to know, that the drill for both Gurus o’ Gold and Gold Derby is based entirely on likelihood of Oscar success, NOT personal preference.

“At this stage of the game where not all of the films have been seen, we’re all proceeding on hunches and (hopefully) informed speculation. Once the guilds start weighing in, our predictions are very likely going to change, once again reflecting what we think will win over Academy voters, not what we personally prefer. This is what we’re supposed to do, at any rate.

“I have a suggestion. Why don’t you start your own panel, whereby participants rank only the films that they feel deserve Oscar attention? Make it based entirely on preference, rather than trying to pretend that the Gurus and Gold Derby are something that they’re not.”

More from Sasha Stone: “There are two ways of approaching Oscar predictions. You go by ‘wishful thinking’ or you go by reality. You have to combine several factors, audience satisfaction being just one of those.

Silver Linings Playbook has less of a chance to win than these other films. That is just an opinion, of course, and you wait for the guilds to ring in to solidify it. Some years are easier to do this than others. Silver Linings Playbook is light in subject matter even compared to The Artist and The King’s Speech. Romantic comedies rarely win Best Picture. Can it win? Sure. It would be an unusual win. A more likely win is either Argo or Lincoln. The former has a newbie actor turned director who has just made his second $100 million movie. It is a crowdpleaser, though not perhaps of the Silver Linings type. And then Lincoln, Spielberg’s best film in years and currently the best reviewed of all the Oscar contenders.

Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty will change the race possibly, though the later the entry the harder the chance to win. It is a guessing game. That’s all it is. Some are better at divorcing their personal feelings from that guessing game than others. But I’ll tell you this straight up: you are grossly, horribly misjudging Lincoln.”

Wells to Stone: I just heard from a friend who went to see Lincoln last night at the Arclight, and she said she found it slow and slogging, and that a few people walked out. You’re living in a Lincoln bubble. An industry-centric Lincoln bubble. Reality will filter in eventually. It’s a good film but forget the Best Picture Oscar.

  • gradystiles

    Regardless of what your friend said, I don’t for one second believe that between 15 and 20 people walked out of a show of Lincoln at the Arclight. I’ve NEVER been in a theater in L.A. with that many walkouts.

    Wells to gradystiles: She might have been exaggerating. I’ve taken the number out.

  • Jeffrey Wells

    I wasn’t there. I’m just passing along what she told me.

  • gradystiles

    I know. And I’m saying I don’t believe her.

  • Rashad

    I hope Spader can get a nomination.

  • Jesse Crall

    With parking included, the Arclight is about $20 a pop. Lincoln’s playing to packed houses, meaning people who went to Jeff’s friend’s showing were willing to deal with Saturday night movie crowds and traffic to see a limited release film. Presumably, they’re fans of either Spielberg or the subject matter and dealt with an expensive, hassle-filled night to see the movie.

    I’ve never seen more than 5 people walk out of a regular showing, and the Arclight prices keep asses in their seats even if the flick is dull. Your friend is either exaggerating or the popcorn had some bacteria giving people the runs.

  • Frank O’File

    Re: Audience reaction to LINCOLN: It’s getting an “A” on CinemaScore.

  • Jeffrey Wells

    I need to call my friend and ask her again and ask for more specifics..

  • jery

    The Academy screening was last night and word is the place was packed to the gills.

  • C.C. Baxter

    Yeah, an ‘A’ on Cinemascore, a 91% Rotten tomatoes rating, and nearly cracking the top ten this weekend with only 11 theaters — Lincoln is clearly reviled by everyone. Doesn’t stand a chance.

  • joe banks

    the only major wild cards left outstanding in the Best Picture race are Life of Pi and Les Mis (maybe Zero Dark Thirty but it doesn’t feel like Oscar bait from the subject matter alone). the crowd at AFI fest loved LIncoln, fwiw. in any event, it seems like a major studio release will take home the award this year no matter what

  • ghost of a ghost

    Steve Pond said: “And I’m pretty sure I’m not Karl Rove, forecasting based on what I want to happen.”

    In the spirit of naming adjectives after people (a la “Furmanek-ing”) I propose we start to call what Wells does regarding the Oscars “Rove-ing.”

    Because it sure ain’t “predicting.”

  • http://www.mattawards.com MattAwards

    You should always have 2 prediction lists going. What will win and what should win. The “will win” list will mostly be a consensus based on reviews and audience reactions. The “should win” list could be all over the place. Every year we have our favorites that we think should win and they rarely match the “will win” list. In December when reviewers publish their favorite films of the year, not surprisingly most of them were not a part of awards season.

  • Omar

    I have a friend who is a manager at the Arclight Hollywood and she says NO ONE has asked for their money back from a LINCOLN screening and she’s heard no reports of a single walk out. Most people are loving it.

    Stop trying to make Silver Linings happen. It’s embarrassing. It’s a cute movie about people supposedly mentally ill who are still attractive and completely functional and their mental illness just apparently really makes them love sex.

  • gradystiles

    Nice retraction. So basically your friend made up something, then you used her “exaggeration” as the centerpiece of your bitchy little comment to Sasha.