Gurus of Gold


Boyhood is clearly in the number one spot to win Best Picture as of the end of September 2014. With many films still yet to be seen, Oscarwatchers often bet on that which they know already as opposed to that which they do not. David Poland had the pundits rank the films from 1 to 5 and anything after that gets an asterisk.

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All of this is expected to change in the coming months but Boyhood has a huge head start over the competition since it’s already opened in theaters and word of mouth has helped it earn $20 million against a $4 million budget. Tough to get made over a 12 year period, only the dedication of the actors and filmmakers could they have pulled this off. That gives the film that something extra voters often need. But, it’s early yet. We still have to wait and see how the other films do as they roll out.

The films here that are in the top five are all films that have been seen except the film in the number 5 slot, the one Dave Karger has at number one, Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken which looks about as good as you can possibly look on paper but, last time I checked no one has seen.

The most difficult part of Oscar season is managing expectations. High expectations destroy a perfectly good film because the movie not only has to meet and surpass expectations of the critics but it has to then be a desired prospect by thousands of industry voters. In all of the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never seen a movie people predicted at number one actually win Best Picture. I bet even in the Titanic days people were predicting LA Confidential to win.

The first time I learned this lesson was when Spielberg’s Munich was set to open. I was being interviewed by USA Today about the Oscar race and I was explaining how everyone believed Munich was going to win. He asked me if anyone had seen it and I said no. Doesn’t that matter, he asked? No, I didn’t think it did. But I’ve come to discover that yes, it does matter. It puts double the pressure on the film it wouldn’t ordinarily have.

This is why films released before or during Telluride and Toronto tend to do better – they don’t have as much time to build up those impossibly high expectations. How do we curb this problem? There isn’t really a way unless we Oscar pundits stop predicting movies we haven’t seen, as Indiewire’s Anne Thompson is doing this year. She is simply refusing to play along with the crazy game we all play to guess on films no one has yet seen. It is an interesting experiment. I’ll be curious to see how it plays out next year when we dissect the post-mortem.

Right now, three pundits at Gold Derby and the lone Dave Karger at Movie City News are predicting Unbroken to win. Hopefully it will live up to all of the expectations and then some. Hopefully it will be the movies pundits are seeing in their head. But I can tell you this much: the Oscar race would be better served if we all followed Anne Thompson’s lead. That might give late breaking movies a chance to do well without the birdshit dump of a hundred projected fantasies on its head. I don’t know. Just a thought.

***Please note – you might be wondering where Kris Tapley is. He’s decided to bow out of Gurus of Gold for the time being. You can seek out his predictions over at In Contention (I happen to know he’d have Boyhood at number 1 also).


Check out David Poland’s latest Oscar column. It’s full of great pull quotes about this silly season. One of the reasons he’s able to see the bigger picture is that he, and his group of Gurus, turn in a top ten for Oscar – they are fairly close to how the Oscar Best Picture race turns out year after year, give or take a film or two.  The same goes for the AFI and the PGA now that the race is down to more than five, closer to ten.  At the end of the day, it’s isn’t that hard to suss out the films that are going to be in the race. This, because the way they vote on Best Picture now is that a film has to have a significant number of number one votes to get in. You have to find the handful of favorites.  The danglers, the films that are pushing through in the 11th hour, will have to knock out one of the mainstays.  American Hustle, for instance, had its place held in the top ten long before anyone say it. So its last minute buzz is really not about whether it will get nominated, but about whether it will win.   Here are a few quotes from Poland’s column:

We just did our 7th Best Picture chart for Gurus o’ Gold and the thing that strikes me most powerfully, is that the movies that were in the Top Ten are still the same 10 movies that are there today and none of them have ever dropped out of the 10… and obviously, nothing new has broken in.

This is what I figure. I think that movie journalists, bless our hearts, have gone from keeping score on the pinball machine of the season to being under the glass… part of the game. Every time there is a noise, instead of just reporting it in the perspective of the hundreds of other sounds—and the biggest story, which is whether the ball is still in play—each noise is A GAME CHANGER.

All groups are now reading off the same small list of “legit contenders.” They have been for months and will be throughout the rest of the season. There will be—and have been—variations of which films and performances are chosen from that list. There is even the possibility of someone or something coming from completely off the small list.

Trends do start to happen. This is completely legit. But they don’t happen because of award nominations.

So stop, look at the movies, and don’t listen too much. You’re likely being sold a duck in a barrel… the very best one.

Gurus chart:


Gold Derby’s chart:


Here is how the Gurus of Gold, a collection of Oscar pundits, thinks the Best Picture race looks:


Here is how the chart looked last year around this time – only one film – Django Unchained – wasn’t present on this list (and was a late breaking film) and the winner was in the number one spot. That would change, however, in the weeks that followed – Lincoln would take the lead, then Zero Dark Thirty, and finally Argo again.  You have to go back to 2005 to find a year when the winner of the Best Picture race was not on the Gurus list.   Other than the fluke that was last year, generally speaking, the Gurus do not — I repeat — do not have the Best Picture winner decided this early.  The one time that they did have the winner in place this early was Slumdog Millionaire. With 12 Years a Slave it’s probably either going to have that kind of trajectory (winning everything) or another film will eventually beat it.

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David Poland, over at Movie City News, has divided up the predictions into “seen” and “unseen.” I know, shocker. What, predicting movies people have actually seen?  Gravity lands on top for the second time since the Gurus began.   It appears, at this stage of the Oscar race, to be down to Gravity vs. 12 Years a Slave. They couldn’t be more different. The only similarity they share is both directors are not American.   The reason for the enthusiasm for Gravity, btw, is that people keep reporting on how Academy members “loved” Gravity.  Gurus of Gold is here.

Thing about Gurus of Gold is that, for the most part, you can bet dollars to donuts that the winner is on either of these two charts. The odds are usually, since 2004, that the film will have been seen already.  If there is a sea change in how Best Picture is won, the winner will be among those that haven’t been seen. Things like this never seem possible until they happen.  There is still enough time for another movie to catch fire and win the whole thing. Here’s the trick: whatever it is it has to be better than Gravity or 12 Years a Slave.  If any other movie moves ahead of those two, whether it’s seen or not, it will be because it is the general audience crowdpleaser or because the voters want to recognize a beloved, unrewarded director (like Alexander Payne or David O. Russell or even George Clooney).

Full charts after the cut.


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Rather than ranking the movies this time, the Gurus of Gold have instead put the top movies and a second group of films they were less sure of or haven’t seen. Movies I think will or might be in I put in my lower group — it isn’t a top ten, however. It is still too early to rank any kind of reliable top ten. This is an attempt to curb the madness a bit.



From Movie City News.



Everybody wants to rule the world.

Maybe the worst thing about the Oscar race is how we build up contenders to impossible heights before the season has begun. I feel it necessary to remind everyone this time of year what Oscar predicting used to be and what’s it’s become. I can do this since I showed up right at the beginning, fifteen years ago when the only Oscar predictions online came from Zeusefer, Tom O’Neil’s Gold Derby and the print happenings, including Kenneth Turan at the LA Times, and probably Anne Thompson when she worked at Premiere. Siskel and Ebert also famously did them.

The difference between then and now, other than Oscar season “starting” the March after the Oscars, is that many pundits freely predict films that not only they haven’t they seen, but films that no one has seen. This creates, year after year, unrealistic expectations for films out of the gate. The reason being, it sets up the dynamic for the scrappy underdog to win the whole thing. To me, that seems to defeat the whole purpose of rewarding “best.” The big win has very little to do with the film that will have the best chance at a lasting legacy heading into the future but, rather, with a kind of a virus that catches hold and doesn’t really pass until the Oscars end.

To that end, the job of publicists and studios now is to “manage expectations.” Because once anyone starts even mentioning films “in the conversation” that translates to “Oscar buzz” and before you know it, people are walking around saying “I hear that movie is supposed to be big with the Oscars this year — huh, really? THAT?” You can see how fast word travels and how expectations rise too high too fast. No film can really live up to them unless they’re Schindler’s List or Return of the King. Even Titanic, after all, had lowered expectations heading into the race.

That’s why the hype machine is being tamped down a bit on George Clooney’s Monuments Men. The word is that it’s a jaunty, breezy thriller like oh, I don’t know, another movie that was a jaunty, breezy thriller that, oh, I don’t know, WON BEST PICTURE LAST YEAR.

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In a year when the Directors Branch did what critics long complain that they don’t do — they thought for themselves — an irresistible narrative emerged.  When Argo faced off Silver Linings all the way back in Toronto, Silver Linings won the broad consensus vote. However, the press built the “snubbed Ben Affleck” meme and it has really swallowed up the race.  Neither Lincoln nor Silver Linings, nor Life of Pi could ever catch the “little movie that could” train, and especially not now.   These are all very good films and deserving of more than a popularity contest.   The press needs the narrative hook.  Maybe the people do too.  The awards race IS the movie and the reality show all in one.  Is it any wonder Stephen Soderbergh wants to quit the movie business?

At any rate, the Gurus of Gold are divided about which film they think will win this year.  Those sticking to Lincoln have mostly stuck throughout the season, or will until the DGA attempts to “correct” what they think the Academy got wrong.   But the “anything but Lincoln” pundits have been all over the map. The usually steady Dave Karger was Silver Linings then Les Mis then Lincoln and now Argo.  Steve Pond was Silver Linings then Zero Dark Thirty then Lincoln then Argo. Kris Tapley was Argo then Les Mis then Lincoln and now back to Argo.  Scott Feinberg was Silver Linings then Lincoln then Argo. I think I started out Argo but have only switched once, to Lincoln.  Anne Thompson had Life of Pi at one point before switching to Lincoln and  will probably do so until the DGA anoints Affleck.  The awards community doesn’t need one more blogger switching to Argo at this point. For me, I’m sticking with Lincoln because Argo still has to overcome some enormous hurdles to win, or as Nate Silver would say, his paths to victory are fewer.

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The Gurus have shifted position after Ben Affleck won Best Director and Best Picture from both the BFCAs and the Globes.  The folks over at Gold Derby are similarly split up — with most choosing either Argo or Lincoln. Here is how they think it will go at Movie City News:



We’re at that time of year again when pundits are predicting a director but not the best picture or the best picture but not the director.  The last time this happened was the last time Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg were both up for director. In fact, it’s funny to think of it like this but Ang Lee has been involved in most of the odd occurrences that have happened over the past few decades in the director category.  If it happens again this year it will be the 4th time:

1995-Sense and Sensibility – Ron Howard won for Apollo 13 at the DGA but lost Pic and Director to Mel Gibson for Braveheart (Gibson had won the Globe for director and was nominated for both DGA and Oscar).
2000-Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Ang Lee won the DGA, but Gladiator won Best Picture and Steven Soderbergh won Best Director at the Oscars.
2005-Brokeback Mountain – Ang Lee won the DGA and the Oscar but Best Picture, famously, went to Crash.

We were asked for these right after the Golden Globes but they didn’t get posted until now. Had I sent them in recently I would have done what Scott Feinberg, Anne Thompson and David Poland have done here – put Silver Linings at number 2.

Here is Best Director:

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The Los Angeles Film Critics will announce tomorrow — and soon the Golden Globes and SAG. And that will pretty much be it until the Oscar ballots go out on the 17th of December.  Between the time they are turned in and nominations announcements, the DGA and PGA will announce. So we will have no idea what movies are the consensus pick by the Academy.  We have a good sense of how they will go.  The Gurus of Gold have a pretty good track record, but get better as December winds down. Let’s take a look at this week’s:

It’s a goodly race so far this year, looking like the least predictable in a while. One straight shooter remains Anne Thompson — who says, as we’ve been saying, that it’s down to Lincoln vs. Zero Dark Thirty. Two movies about settling things. Or not. Two movies about fixing something that feels permanently broken. Bravery, heroism – America at war. So far, 2012 is one hell of a year for film. If it does come down to these two movies, they are both equally deserving. And in fact the votes might split. I suspect Zero Dark Thirty will make a decent amount of coin, too, being that it’s about the Bin Laden raid. No film, though, is going to beat Lincoln at the box office.

$90 million and still only in 2,000 theaters, Lincoln is on track to make bank.  It might even edge upwards of $130 mil.   Sure, Oscar winners aren’t always about box office, but all the better when a movie no one thought could make that much money, does. It renews faith in American audiences that if you build it, they will come.

Let’s take a look back at the Gurus around this time of year.

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Over at Movie City News, David Poland put up a quickie chart for Best Picture. As of now, Dave Karger is still confident Silver Linings Playbook will take home Best Picture. Karger faith + Weinstein Co + sappy crowdpleaser has equaled Best Picture for two years running. Can it win a threepeat? We will have to wait and see. Kris Tapley says that he makes his predictions on “most likely to get a Best Picture nomination,” as opposed to “most likely to win.” Steve Pond figures he might as well predict Zero Dark Thirty to take the whole thing since he believes he has not yet seen anything that CAN win. Other outliers include Susan Wloszczyna, who has Les Miserables at number 1.  Ellwood, Feinberg, Hammond, Poland all have Argo to win.  And EW’s Anthony Breznican has Life of Pi to take the top prize. It feels as though we have a real race this year as opposed to something all locked in. That always makes for a more exciting Oscar season.

Currently over at Gold Derby, Argo is in the number one spot and Lincoln is third, with Les Miserables at number 3.

The Gurus of Gold over at Movie City News has put out their first full list of the top categories (minus screenplay) for November. The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg is at last a part of the group.

As you can see, top predictors Dave Karger, Steve Pond and David Poland are all sticking with Silver Linings Playbook to win.  The rest of us are going for Argo, while Anne Thompson sticks with Life of Pi.  Marc Olsen is down for Lincoln.

Last year, roughly around this time, in the lead categories the name in the second slot won the Oscar. The Decendents led, The Artist won. Clooney led, DuJardin won. Davis led, Streep won. That was last year. Go back a year prior to that around the same time, or a little later, Gurus of Gold had The King’s Speech at number one (after Toronto) and David Fincher to win Best Director.

Previously, November charts looked like this:

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A lot can change in a few weeks in an Oscar race that is back-loaded with some of the biggest films still to be seen – Flight, Lincoln, Les Miserables, The Hobbit, The Promised Land. It’s crazy making that these movies have not yet been seen. One thing is for sure – they won’t be killed by too much early hype – but at the same time, it will be that much harder for those movies to get and hold their place in line. It’s a risk and we’re making this thing up as we go this year.

The Gurus of Gold have put out their second predictions of the year.  Part one is Best Picture and then the acting long shots. Part two will be the actors and actresses and will go up later today. I really thought I’d put Richard Gere down as an acting long shot but it doesn’t appear so on the chart. Either way, I DO count him as an acting long shot for sure in Arbitrage – one of his best performances.

It’s a tricky thing to predict too early. Even though Dave Karger has both The King’s Speech and The Artist in the number one slot, he then has Invictus at number 1 to win in November. That was, of course, before any of us had seen the movie. You can see how easy it is to fumble with a sight unseen prediction. Meanwhile, going back to 2009 at east the Best Picture winner will have already been seen by this point.

Anne Thompson was one of only two (along with Eugene Hernandez) predicting The Hurt Locker to win it. She also famously had The King’s Speech.  It looks like the winner is either one Anne picked or one Dave Karger picked, which would put the race right now between Life of Pi and the Silver Linings Playbook.  But we don’t how 2012 is going to play out. For one thing, Oscar ballots have to be turned in before the DGA announces their nominations. The DGA are usually the harbinger for Oscar – the guidepost, the lighthouse. But without the DGA? It shall be anyone’s game.

In the meantime, Tom O’Neil has challenged Scott Feinberg to a bet that Life of Pi is one of the frontrunners.

October 2012

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It’s hard to believe a whole year has gone by since the last time we played this game. Last year it was all too predictable and agonizingly so. But maybe things might change up a little this year with wild cards in the mix like Beasts of the Southern Wild or The Dark Knight Rises or Sarah Polley’s odd but moving Stories We Tell. Or maybe none of those movies will be in play. We just don’t know. Meanwhile, Movie City News has launched their Gurus of Gold. We were asked for twenty titles for Best Picture, without ranking them. And here’s how it came out. But you want to click over to see the full list. I was surprised that the Toronto Star’s Pete Howell had the good sense to put down Stories We Tell. He was the only one who had seen it but he knew it was something special.

If there were any doubts before, there are no doubts now.  The black and white silent French film, The Artist, has taken the lead in this year’s Best Picture race, according to we Gurus of Gold and of course, over at Gold Derby.  There is always that point in the year when you just know.  And there is no stopping this movie. If there had been any stopping it it would have happened months ago.  But the hype is not destroying it.  If anything, it’s helping it.  It reminds me of the Slumdog Millionaire year, where there was just this one movie that took everything in front of it.  If we go by Anne Thompson’s branch-by-branch theory, The Artist has it all: actors, check. Director, check. Writers, check. Art directors, check. Cinematography, check. Costume, check. Score, check. Editing, check.  Sound, mais bien sur! Well, let’s say imaginative sound mixers would nominate the Artist for its clever and specific use of sound.  What it’s missing: gravitas.  That old song Oscar requires so that something feels bigger and more “important.” Of course, Chicago didn’t have it and that movie had what the Artist had (yes, Weinsteins pushing it but also) it was just a good time to be had by all.  The universal appeal of The Artist is what has it winning critics, industry and audiences alike.

Universal appeal is what gets the big house votes, the 9,000, the 6,000, the 100,000 guild voting blocks – ain’t no way they’re going to grow a pair and pick something outside that realm of “you can sit anyone down in front of it and they will get it if not love it.” What can override that, of course, is love for the filmmakers (Coens, Scorsese), or the desire to push forth real change (Bigelow).  But mostly, yeah, you get the idea.  What pleases, massages, comforts the most people wins.  It’s as simple as that. As far as those kinds of movies go, if the Artist wins it will be one of their better choices.

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With so much going on here at Awards Daily and it being the time of year when we can barely stay above water, I forgot to put in my Gurus of Gold predictions. Between sending them over there and updating the ones on Gold Derby, it is becoming a bit of a problem to find time, and/or rational thought, to stay on top of it. Right now nobody knows anything. And I mean that. The critics have all but scattered in different directions. We’ve yet to hear from the Guilds. The Globes, Boston, LA are all announcing this weekend. That will probably confirm the one thing we already do know — it’s either The Artist or Hugo. But probably the Artist. When you’re an Oscar predictor you can do one of two things. You can do what you think is going to happen or you can do what you hope might happen. Even the safest among us sometimes go with what they hope might happen, or else, have the chance to sway opinion. There are a couple of people who can sway opinion, and Dave Karger from EW is most certainly at the top of that list, I’d say. His prediction for the Artist goes way, way back. And with nothing else to really see as beating it at this point, most everyone else follows suit. Karger is reliable; after all, he and Anne Thompson were among only two who stuck with the King’s Speech even when all signs pointed to, well, you know.

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When I was asked by Gurus of Gold to submit my predictions for Adapted and Original Screenplay I had to stop and think about it.  I’ve worn a groove over the years knowing how to predict in these categories.  Best Screenplay almost always means a second prize to a Best Picture/Best Director nomination.  It is usually the dumping ground for brilliant films that can’t get traction in the Best Picture/Best Director categories at best.  But most of the time, when you think of the major categories you start with Best Picture and Best Director. If it gets those two, chances are (unless its name is James Cameron) it will also get a screenplay nomination.  This year, like every other year, the Best Picture race is dominated by adaptations.  Adaptations of tested stories that have been brought to the big screen by great filmmakers.  But the story itself isn’t an original one.

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It’s that time of year again for spitballing the Best Picture nominees.  You won’t be surprised by the titles floating around in this year’s chart – in fact, any one of you readers could probably come up with a similar scenario.   It’s not the most fun thing in the world, participating in this.  For one thing, you have to predict movies you haven’t even seen — movies no one has seen.  So you get to look like a fool if there are any major changes.  Also, last year I deliberately refused to predict The King’s Speech to win on that chart as a matter of protest (silly, I know) — which means I have to relive the nightmare all over again! Yay!  Meanwhile Dave Karger fiercely held on and never let go.  Either way, here is how it’s went down.

There seems to be some disagreement about Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Tinker Tailor and of course, The Help.  Interesting to see more diversity in this year’s selection than last year’s (listed below).

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Even after the critics votes came down this past week, the Gurus still have the King’s Speech in the number one spot to win the Best Picture prize. Their votes in the graphic below, and their current Golden Globe predictions. Not much has changed, according to Kris Tapley, Anne Thompson, Dave Karger, etc. King Speech still in the lead. The two films I feel like are surging right now, other than the obvious one, would be The Fighter and The Kids Are All Right, both coming on very very strong.¬† The Gurus have The Fighter jumping to the number 3 spot, which is pretty good, but The Kids Are All Right is way too far down on the list, I think. Also, Black Swan is doing well with critics and guild voters (we only have one guild to go on, but still).

Speaking of Golden Globes predictions, Gold Derby also queried several Oscar peeps to get their Golden Globe predictions (I abstained because I think it’s too early…). I was asked to rank them for Movie City News, not to predict them.


In addition to the Los Angeles Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Online announcing on Sunday (FYI – LA Film Critics will be tweeting their winners around 12:30pm PST – follow them @LAFilmCritics, and us, @awardsdaily), and New York Film Critics Circle announcing on Monday, the Golden Globes will announce their nominations Tuesday morning. That makes this one of the most intense few days of the early part of the awards race. After we hear from the major critics, we will then start hearing from the industry – the guild awards, like the SAG, the DGA and the PGA and eventually, the AMPAS will carry their heavy load to the final gasp of awards season. You have to kind of feel for the AMPAS of late. When I first started this back in 1999, there weren’t that many other awards shows or award announcements leading up to the Oscars. Now, it’s an odyssey. It’s an exodus.

It is because of this that the AMPAS can sometimes go against the grain and provide an upset or two. One notable recent upset was Geoffrey Fletcher winning screenplay for Precious. Another was the year Alan Arkin beat Eddie Murphy for Supporting Actor.

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