Gurus of Gold


There didn’t seem to be a ripple over at Movie City News’ Gurus of Gold after the National Board of Review announcement. All but two of the pundits have The King’s Speech to win the Best Picture Oscar – that would be Dave Karger, Kris Tapley, David Poland, Pete Hammond, Anne Thompson, Steve Pond, SusanWloszczyna, Pete Howell, Eugene Hernandez, and Gregory Ellwood – all in the camp of The King’s Speech. The two holdouts are Yours Truly and Emanuel Levy. Anthony Breznican has True Grit to win it. Each little movement in the race shifts things. It is being said that The Social Network is, take your pick: two young thinking for the Academy, with non-likable characters, or it’s the Facebook thing because Academy members are out of touch.

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David Poland is running the Gurus chart weekly now and in the latest installment, they still have The King’s Speech in number one, but the curious thing about that is Best Director is all over the map. Only two of them have Tom Hooper down for winning, while many have Fincher down for winning. Also worth noting, Poland himself puts Darren Aronofsky in the winner’s seat. All I have to say about that is that Mr. David Lynch never won Best Director, even when he should have — that makes Aronofsky’s win a long shot.

Take a look.


The Gurus of Gold are predicting The King’s Speech to win the Oscar for Best Picture. They are also predicting Colin Firth for Best Actor and Annette Bening for Best Actress. The King’s Speech could then be in line, if they are right, to win Picture, Director, Actor, maybe Screenplay, maybe Costumes.

Let’s take a quick look back at the Gurus over the past few years around this time.

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Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all
–Emily Dickinson

It’s always more fun to imagine things that haven’t happened yet, isn’t it? There are no limits to our expectations. We can foist all of our hopes and dreams onto a contender and while that dream is alive, hope springs eternal. But sooner or later reality comes knocking. And when reality sets in, suddenly there are less questions, more resignation and a lot less enthusiasm.

I was surprised to see this Best Picture chart by Movie City News’ head Guru, David Poland, rank several sight unseen Best Picture contenders. In the number one spot he has True Grit. It’s the number one film and the one no one has seen. It’s easy to imagine a Best Picture frontrunner when it’s all still on the page. But right now, there is no THERE there. And right below The Social Network, which he has ranked at number 4, he has The Fighter, another sight unseen contender.

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I’ve just been schooled on what the Gurus of Gold is supposed to be. Apparently, it’s not a chart that predicts winners, but a chart that predicts “most likely to be nominated.” That is certainly not how I’ve seen it all of these many years, but it certainly would be a hell of a lot easier if so. If it was a list of “most likely to be nominated” my rankings would be slightly different.


If you want to know what film the pundits are naming the frontrunner, you can now officially call that film The King’s Speech. Although it isn’t a complete consensus, and there are holdouts. Kris Tapley put Toy Story 3 at number one (just like last time out), while USA Today’s Anthony Breznican and MCN’s David Poland both have True Grit in the number one spot. Many others, including Anne Thompson, Pete Hammond and Dave Karger all have The King’s Speech at number one.

The film’s acting nominations also lead in their field – Colin Firth is the one most likely to succeed, according to almost all of the members of this panel — the holdouts are Breznican, who says Jeff Bridges, and David Poland, who thinks James Franco wins. I don’t know much about this race at this stage of the game, and I haven’t yet seen 127 Hours, but bet against Firth at your own peril.

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You know how it goes: sight unseen best picture predictions seem unavoidable, although I have been detecting an ever-so-subtle shift in attitudes. For instance, Anne Thompson and Erik Childress will only predict films that have been seen on their respective sites. I have always tried to do the same (it makes no sense to predict movies no one has seen; this logic is unavoidable, and yet…) but when asked to contribute to a spitball-fest, how can one say no? David Poland does it this way in order to compare how people were thinking at a given point in time.

This should not be misconstrued as anything but what it is. It certainly isn’t Oscar buzz. You can’t say “The Social Network now has Oscar buzz because the Gurus of Gold are predicting it.” Boil it down and it doesn’t count as actual Oscar buzz. I feel I must qualify this every year. Nonetheless, we all tossed up our half-lame predictions. My biggest surprise was that I was the only one predicting Fair Game.

I left off Blue Valentine for the time being because I only have mine, Dave Karger and Guy Lodge’s opinions to go on. If it comes out strong after Toronto then, yes. But, as I’ve always said, it’s a tough sell. It’s a hard sit. What it has going for it is filmmaker Derek Cianfrance’s incredible and thorough research and dedication to this decade-long project. But it is a hard sit.

Right now, Christopher Nolan’s mindbending spectacular spectacular is leading the chart. I like it that four out of the top five are films that have been seen, followed by The Social Network and True Grit (which haven’t been seen).

You can judge for yourselves if you think the Gurus are right or wrong. The chart, after the cut.

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David Poland asked the Gurus to submit their picks before this whole trashy story about The Hurt Locker emerged — and thus, I expect several may change their Best Pic predictions before all is said and done. Gurus are invited to change whatever they want. Two of them, Poland of course, are sticking with Avatar. For now, everyone else seems to feel that The Hurt Locker is ahead. You can find predictions in all of the categories (except the shorts) this time.

Usually they are just a group of scores on a chart, but this week the Gurus of Gold did something a little different – they had an essay portion. I did not get mine in in time so mine is blank – but I will offer it up here at the end of the piece in case you’re interested.

Meanwhile, here are a few quotes:

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Two big differences this year will ultimately affect the outcome of the race. The first is that there were ten Best Pic nominees.¬† The second is that they moved the Oscars back to March, not quite late March like they used to be – but at least they’re in March.¬† Changing the date changes the pattern of the way the Academy chooses its winners because there is more time to think about the general consensus.¬† The general consensus is set in place over at the Gurus of Gold, which has your usual suspects in first place — the only categories have some disagreement are Best Picture and the two screenplay categories.

One question that keeps nagging at me is the idea of The Hurt Locker, a tiny movie hardly anyone saw, actually winning Best Picture. It has everything going for it except that Avatar is more popular, Inglourious Basterds won the SAG.  What it has in its favor, of course, is that it has won when large voting bodies have come together, most importantly, the DGA. One crucial loss was the SAG ensemble vote.

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I told David Poland I didn’t want to participate in the Gurus of Gold this week because he was doing percentages. My experience awards watching has taught me that even when something is a sure bet, there are large groups of people who have a different contender in mind. I know this by the pre-Oscar interviews. And anyway, it’s just the nature of human beings: we don’t all think alike. The one with the most average votes wins (unless we’re talking about Best Pic). That is why my percentages here were so close — it isn’t that I think Mo’Nique or Christoph Waltz are weak contenders at all; I don’t. It’s that the Oscar race is almost never about the one person (unless it’s someone like Heath Ledger last year). Anyway, I seem to be the only one of the Gurus of Gold who felt this way, as everyone else is doing the 90% thing. Except me. Of course. I’m so bad at math.

Keep in mind that we don’t even know the nominees yet. And the nominees could change everything. I kind of like Dave Karger’s 50/50 scenarios. It’s a safe and effective way of guessing. I wish I had thought of that. But, alas.

Meanwhile, Inglourious Basterds appears to have some real momentum here. Could it be this becomes a three-way race?

Here are the top ten according the Gurus of Gold. Click here to see the rankings in the other top categories.

The Gurus of Gold have laid it down after screening many of the Oscar contenders — most of them have seen Nine, Invictus, Up in the Air — most have not seen The Lovely Bones nor Avatar. Interestingly, Anne Thompson sped Invictus right to number one. It is impossible, I can tell you, to predict the Oscars in any way, shape or form before the films have been released. If a person manages to do it it’s just blind luck. The Oscar race, as I always say like a broken record, is not static; it is fluid. It changes as the mood of the audiences changes. My final theory on this is that people choose films for two reasons. The first is because they were moved by the story. The second is that it somehow identifies them to the world at large. What they choose is who they are. That means that films have to be sexy and hot in order to do well in the race. If the Oscar race comes down to perception, perception now starts in how the voices online shape the image of the film long before it hits theaters.

So that, even if the film does well, it could still be carrying a stigma that will trickle down to voters eventually. This is probably one of the worst things about the race as it stands today; how are films to be judged on whether they are good or bad without the echo chamber and group think?

Here is how the Gurus shaped up for Thanksgiving week.

Screen shot 2009-11-25 at 8.34.14 PM

Your Best Picture, I can guarantee you, is on this list. I think Avatar is way too far down on the list, however. We’re still very much in the “nobody knows anything” phase. Trust me on this. I can’t state it more emphatically every year – this is a best guess. We won’t really know how it is going to go until the majors ring in. And every time they do this chart will shift.

Anyway, you can check out the full chart over at MCN.

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(Colin Firth, leaving the IMAX screening of Avatar because he has more important places to be.)

Vowed last year that I wasn’t going to do this again before December, but all the other movie writers have taken the plunge so I’ll give it a shot too. This is my own personal speculation. If my list didn’t differ substantially from the Gurus of Gold and a half dozen other predictions of the 10 Best Picture nominees, there wouldn’t any point making it public. But my attitude is different and that effects my results.

The major point of departure is my hesitation to hand out Free Pass nominations to alleged big-name contenders I haven’t yet seen. Choosing movies based on musty pedigrees and past performance is how we end up with predictions like Frost/Nixon. Yes, that was an early assumption that became a self-fulfilling prophecy, but only because the imaginary momentum became impossible to overcome. (If you can call having our feet encased in concrete ‘momentum’). I’d just hate to sit idly by again this year and let the same sort of stubbornly feeble weeds take root. So I’m bucking the trend on 3 or 4 titles that most everyone is else has been calling locks for months.

We know the question all year long has been, What will the Academy do with twice as many BP nominees? My theory is pretty simple: they’ll give us double the amount of the same kinds of movies they always give us. A mostly brilliant double-dose of dazzle and prestige, with twice as many grumbles and groans to make sure nobody is entirely happy.

  • An Education
  • Bright Star
  • (500) Days of Summer
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Julie & Julia
  • The Lovely Bones
  • Nine
  • Precious
  • A Single Man
  • Star Trek
  • Up in the Air

I’m still open to the possibility that everyone else’s ‘locks’ that I’ve dropped might blow me away when I see them. And I won’t hesitate to adjust my predictions if any of them ultimately prevail next month. But for now I’m not giving a free ride to any movie that I don’t have a solid gut feeling about. I need more reason than “The Academy loves _____!” or “Never underestimate _____!” My philosophy: Don’t overestimate _____ either.

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I decided to have some fun with the latest Gurus chart – no I didn’t do anything so dramatic as to flip the world on its axis but I did predict Sophia Loren a sentimental nod for Nine and Zach Galifianakis for The Hangover – I kind of wish I’d read the comments on the Star Trek post first – I might have put down Leonard Nimoy. Here’s the thing about Oscar predicting – at this stage, one has nothing to lose so why not play around a little.

Oh, and I’m the only Guru who is not predicting Up for Best Pic – I’ve stated my reasons enough on this site.¬† So many live actions to choose from….animated has its own category…Wall-E didn’t even get in….I am sure I will have egg all over my face. There is always that movie readers get to grapefruit my face with and Up will probably be it.

What would be your wild card picks? They have to be people no one saw coming, though. It’s the kind of thing that, if it pays off, it pays off big!

TCM’s Robert Osborne gets into the prediction game with the latest assemblage by Tom O’Neil over at The Envelope. You can click over to see the full list, but this is, more or less, how it shook down:

Also participating in the our pundit panel are Thelma Adams (Us Weekly), Erik Davis (AOL Cinematical), Scott Feinberg (AndTheWinnerIs), Paul Gaita (The Circuit, The Envelope), Pete Hammond (Notes on a Season, The Envelope), Elena Howe (The Envelope), Dave Karger (Entertainment Weekly), Kevin Lewin (World Entertainment News Network), Steve Pond (TheWrap), Richard Rushfield (Gawker), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), Jeff Wells (Hollywood-Elsewhere) and Susan Wloszczyna (USA Today).

Only “The Hurt Locker” and “Invictus” get backing from all 16 sages. Scoring 15 is “Precious” (Lumenick doesn’t pick it) and “Up in the Air” (Lewin is a hold-out). Two gurus spurn “Up” (Feinberg and me) and three don’t back “Nine” (Gaita, Pond and Wloszczyna).

Missing from the “Avatar” bandwagon are Hammond and Wells. Pond and Travers are among the five gurus who don’t buy that “The Lovely Bones” will make it. And there’s less support for “An Education” than I thought there’d be (Karger and Hammond don’t think it will make the grade).

“THE HURT LOCKER” (16) ‚Äî Adams, Davis, Feinberg, Gaita, Hammond, Howe, Karger, Lewin, Lumenick, O’Neil, Osborne, Pond, Rushfield, Travers, Wells, Wloszczyna

“INVICTUS” (16) ‚Äî Adams, Davis, Feinberg, Gaita, Karger, Hammond, Howe, Lewin, Lumenick, O’Neil, Osborne, Pond, Rushfield, Travers, Wells, Wloszczyna

“PRECIOUS” (15) ‚Äî Adams, Davis, Feinberg, Gaita, Hammond, Howe, Karger, Lewin, O’Neil, Osborne, Pond, Rushfield, Travers, Wells, Wloszczyna

“UP IN THE AIR” (15) ‚Äî Adams, Davis, Feinberg, Gaita, Hammond, Howe, Karger, Lumenick, O’Neil, Osborne, Pond, Rushfield, Travers, Wells, Wloszczyna

“UP” (14) ‚Äî Adams, Davis, Gaita, Hammond, Howe, Karger, Lewin, Lumenick, Osborne, Pond, Rushfield, Travers, Wells, Wloszczyna

“NINE” (13) ‚Äî Adams, Davis, Feinberg, Hammond, Howe, Karger, Lewin, Lumenick, O’Neil, Osborne, Rushfield, Travers, Wells

“THE LOVELY BONES” (11) ‚Äî Adams, Davis, Feinberg, Gaita, Hammond, Howe, Karger, Lewin, Lumenick, O’Neil, Wloszczyna

“AVATAR” (10) ‚Äî Adams, Davis, Feinberg, Gaita, Karger, Lumenick, O’Neil, Pond, Travers, Wloszczyna

“AN EDUCATION” (10) ‚Äî Adams, Feinberg, Gaita, Howe, Osborne, Pond, Rushfield, Travers, Wells, Wloszczyna

I feel it is my duty to remind everyone that these are blind guesses, the way one might throw down some green at the Kentucky Derby, lay it all on the line for some good ink and a stellar track record.¬† Movies are, quite simply, magic. Everyone involved hopes that all of them will be the best things ever made, but half of the time, the results don’t match either the hype or the hope.¬†¬† At this stage in the game, you can’t really talk about who’s “ahead,” but rather, how perceptions are shifting. I suppose this is what ultimately drives the stock market, right? Perception? So maybe if they do it long enough there could end up being some “there” there, but for now, it is a game. A fun game, but a game nonetheless.

The first Gurus of Gold went up today, the pre-Toronto version, where a few folks take a stab at the fifteen most-likely. I found this especially difficult as I am not, nor have I ever been comfortable with, sight unseen predictions. Nonetheless, they, like Ryan’s reader polls, are interesting to look at after the fact. Notice how I’m dangling out there with A Serious Man, the Coen fan in me can’t help this. I also wish District 9 had gotten a little more love. And you all will happily gloat that I didn’t include Up on my list, though plenty of others did, kicking it into the top fifteen! So there you go. Here is how it went down — the top fifteen:

The Hurt Locker
Up in the Air
An Education
The Lovely Bones
Bright Star (I actually did add this to my list but too late perhaps)
A Serious Man
The Road
Capitalism: A Love Story
The Informant!
Inglourious Basters (I didn’t add it at the time – I probably would now)
Julie & Julia
District 9
Where the Wild Things Are
Star Trek
The Tree of Life
500 Days of Summer
The Fantastic Mr. Fox

There are also films that got one votes, like It’s Complicated (lol, Pete!), The Hangover, etc.¬† Jeff Wells at Hollywood-Elsewhere threw his own picks into the mix, and those are here. He added Tree of Life to the mix.

Then there are the Actor, Actress categories wherein you’re supposed to find a dark horse. All but two of them on the list are valid dark horses. But, sorry, neither Jeremy Renner nor Matt Damon can be considered as such: they are pretty much known potentials at this point. The rest of them, yeah. Sharlto Copley for District 9, Hal Holbrook for The Evening Son, Tobey Maguire for Brothers, Alfred Molina for An Education, Viggo Mortensen for The Road (maybe not a dark horse either actually), Liam Neeson for Chloe (my choice), Peter Sarsgaard for An Education, Paul Schneider for Bright Star and Michael Sheen for The Damned United (love that pick).

Actress would be Abbie Cornish for Bright Star, again, hardly a dark horse at this rate, Gabourey Sidibe for Precious, Robin Wright Penn for Pippa Lee (my choice), Catalina Saavedra for The Maid, Melanie Laurent for Inglourious Basterds, Carey Mulligan for An Education (you’ve got to be fricking kidding — dark horse? Dave Karger! Cough, frontrunner…), Natalie Portman for Brothers, Charlieze Theron for The Burning Plain and Shohreh Aghdashloo for The Stoning of Soraya M.

It would seem that some people are confused by the whole dark horse thing. It should be someone no one is really expecting to be in the race, no?

Who has special plans for the Big Night? Me, it’s never fun.¬† It’s only fun if most of my predictions turn out to be right – other than that, it’s usually a tense, taut misery.

It’s that time of year again.

Okay, so maybe no one gathers at the watering hole like they do for the Superbowl, and maybe it is no longer a communal event, like the Superbowl, and maybe no one is jumping up and down about the potential ads running the event, like the Superbowl (you do know there are whole websites designed after just the Superbowl ads?) – there is still no reason not to think about the grub. One of my favorite blogs has it covered – and unlike my sloppy google image hunt for the five best pic nominees, The Kitchen’s choices are elegant – I’m leaving in their links because they link off to some great recipes (also, check out their party round-up from last year, quite inspired):

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

• Benjamin Button Mushrooms. These Stuffed Mushrooms from Gourmet may not technically be button mushrooms, but close enough. Or consider sautéeing some button mushrooms with wine and herbs and putting them over chicken.
• Button cookies. Circle-shaped sugar cookies, iced, with four chocolate chips as button holes.
‚Ä¢ New Orleans gumbo. The movie is based there, so we’d suggest this Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo from Emeril Lagasse.
‚Ä¢ Wrinkled baby vegetables. An homage to the tech gurus who made the infant with the face of an 80-year-old. Take brussels sprouts, baby carrots, and baby artichokes (maybe some baby cabbages?) and roast them until they’re shriveled and crunchy.

More after the cut.

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Check out the Gurus of Gold on Movie City News with current predictions of the top two in every category. A general consensus has emerged with a few disagreements as to who might take the second slot in each category. Mickey Rourke vs. Sean Penn is not really an argument but a few of us are still predicting Rourke to take it, though it feels like Sean Penn will probably win. This, for a variety of reasons, but the first is that “they” will want to give a prize to Milk and that might be the big one. The Milk screenplay is also a possibility, though most of the gurus are predicting Wall-E’s Andrew Stanton to win that one. There is also the dark horse possibility of Courtney Hunt taking it as well; Frozen River has gotten a lot of post-nomination buzz and heat. She is a woman, which would help to (slightly) even the score in this category. How many women have won in Screenplay? You can count them on one hand (I think). No one should vote for her because she’s a woman, I’m just saying, they might think of that while voting. I’d say it’s a toss up between those three. Cut to: “And the Oscar goes to Martin McDonagh for In Bruges.”

The Gurus of Gold have posted a recent survey of people who make guesses about how the Oscars are going to turn out. Two films appear to be most highly thought of to win, Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire, while there is some debate about what’s next in line. The interesting thing is that The Dark Knight has jumped to the fifth slot, which shows that many more people are seriously considering the film’s chances where they weren’t before. What does this mean? Well, not much. Blinded guesses at best. Next week, the picture will become more clear, whether it confirms general predictions or not. The DGA and the PGA announce in the New Year and then we’ll know.

In the meantime, the Hollywood Reporter’s Oscar columnist says no way, no how (no McCain) can the Dark Knight ever manage a Best Picture nomination:

The Dark Knight, the dark horse: It’s a shoo-in for best picture! No, they’ll never nominate it in a million years! The Batman tentpole yielded as many alleged certainties as it did critics’ top 10 spots. Now that the dust has settled, its prospects are where many thought it would be — an Oscar lock for Heath Ledger and an outside shot for director Christopher Nolan.

That’s fine, I can accept that. In fact, it’s the norm that the Academy misses the boat more often than not when it comes to finding the best picture of the year — the last two years have been a respite and if the Dark Knight is snubbed this year it would be mostly in keeping with their history, especially since it’s the dreaded “comic book movie,” and the even more dreaded “Batman movie.” And it’s a sequel. And some people think it wasn’t that good. My thinking on this is if The Fugitive could get nominated and Tommy Lee Jones could win a Supporting Actor Oscar for it, The Dark Knight should not only be nominated but it should be one of the frontrunners to take it home. Why? Because it made upwards of $550 $530 million domestically, because it is a dark tale, brilliantly directed, with a memorable turn by Heath Ledger. But you don’t want to hear all of this because you’ve heard it all by now. So let’s move on to the race as it stands.

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