VES & the Oscars

Visual Effects Society 
(VES) and the Academy Award for Visual Effects

The VES awards will be held on Tuesday, February 1, 2011.  

Here are some statistics comparing the VES and the Academy Award for Visual Effects winners.  The purpose of delving into history and numbers is to perhaps aid in the predicting of the Oscar winners:
The VES consists of over 2,000 members who are also visual effects practitioners.  They began awarding films in 2002.  The number of films they nominate each year vary, but in recent years they have nominated 5.
2002-2004       – 3 nominees
2005                – 4 nominees 
2006                – 3 nominees
2007-2009       – 5 nominees
The Academy has been awarding films for their special effects achievements since 1939.  The Academy nominates 3 films every year for the Visual Effects award.  However, for the 2010 year, they nominated 5.  

VES & Oscar: Comparable Stats

VES winners match Oscar winners 75% of the time:

The VES and the Oscar have matched 6 out of the 8 years that the VES has been in existence.  That is a 75% match rate for wins.  Not too bad, but not that great either.  Below is where VES and Oscar differ:

Year    VES                                                                 Oscar
2007    Transformers                                                    The Golden Compass              
2004    Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban                    Spider-Man 2

75% could be higher considering the low number of Special Effects films that are released each year, but then again only disagreeing on 2 out of 8 is pretty good.  When the VES award winner is announced, we will have an even better idea on who the Oscar will go to this year.

VES nominees match Oscar nominees 71% of the time:

When VES nominates 3 films, they match the Oscar nominees only 58% of the time.  We have to consider that Oscar nominated 5 films this year which has never happened.  When VES nominates 5 films, they match the Oscar nominees 89% of the time when Oscar nominates 3.  We should expect this rate to go down since Oscar nominated more.  

VES & Oscar: For Your Consideration

Below are the VES and Oscar nominees.  Tron Legacy and Hereafter are the only inconsistent films between the two.  Both films have the lowest box office.
Film                                                     Box Office                  Genre
Inception                                              $293M                         Sci-Fi Action
Iron Man 2                                           $312M                         Action Adventure
Tron: Legacy                                       $149M                        Sci-Fi Action
AliceIn Wonderland                             $334M                         Family Adventure
Harry Potter & the DH1                $288M                         Fantasy

Oscar Nominees                               Box Office                  Genre
Inception                                              $293M                         Sci-Fi Action
Iron Man 2                                           $312M                         Action Adventure
Hereafter                                             $31M                           Drama
AliceIn Wonderland                             $334M                         Family Adventure
Harry Potter & the DH1                $288M                         Fantasy

Negative Points: Hereafter & Tron Legacy due to inconsistent occurrence

Precursor Thoughts

Not every awards organization gives out an award for best special effects, but so far this awards season there have been four to do so.  The Las Vegas, Florida, St. Louis & Phoenix Film Critics organizations have all given Inception the award for Special Effects.  Not even Avatar had such a common consensus among the precursors.

 – Point:  Inception due to precursor dominance

Box Office Thoughts

Special Effects are expensive, therefore in most cases, these films tend to have a bigger box office than others.  This is not always the case, but on average the box office for Oscar Special Effects nominees are over $280M.

The Average VES Winner Box Office is $351M
The Average Oscar Winner Box Office is $335M

Highest Oscar Winner BO    –           Avatar ($750M)
Lowest Oscar Winner BO     –           The Golden Compass ($70M)

Box Office might not mean much when it comes to predicting the nominees, but if a film is in the Best Picture race and has a relatively low Box Office, like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ($127M), then it could still win both the VES and Oscar.  Oscar has gone even lower when it gave the award to The Golden Compass ($70). 

 – Point: Alice In Wonderland due to high box office
– Doc:  Hereafter due to low box office

Genre Thoughts

There is a consistency between the genres of VES and Oscar winners:
Top 5 VES Winner Genres
1) Fantasy
2) Period Adventure
3) Fantasy Drama
4) Sci Fi Action
5) Sci-Fi Adventure

Top 5 Oscar Winner Genres
1) Fantasy
2) Period Adventure
3) Action Adventure vc
4) Fantasy Drama
5) Sci-Fi Adventure

Fantasy is the obvious one that sticks out being #1 on both lists.  The only Fantasy film this year that is nominated for Oscar and VES is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Iron Man 2 is listed as Action Adventure, which is not unknown to Oscar.  Both Inception and Tron: Legacy are listed as Sci-Fi Action, which is higher on the VES list than the Oscar list.  In fact, Sci-Fi Action has never even been nominated for an Oscar, nor has it won for either an Oscar or VES.  I think that will change this year with Inception.

– Point:  Harry Potter: DH1 and Iron Man 2


  • Inception –   Oscar snubbed Inception for Best Director and Film Editing.  It has received nominations for Directors Guild, Writers Guild & Producers Guild.  It is also nominated for Best Picture. 
  • Iron Man 2 –  This was not very well reviewed.  It did very well at the box office but wasn’t one of those films you heard talk about very long afterwards.  The first Iron Man was nominated for both VES and Oscar.  It’s over saturated with special effects.  It is Action Adventure, which is popular among Oscar nominations.  It was released pretty early in the year. 
  • Hereafter – The Academy REALLY loves Clint Eastwood.  I saw all of the special effects from the film on the trailer.  This is a joke.  Low box office.  Mediocre reviews.  No chance.
  • AliceIn Wonderland– made the most money internationally in 2010.  It has Johnny Depp in it.  It is mostly special effects.  I didn’t think it was that bad of a film either.  It may not win because the voters could get confused thinking it’s an animated film.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1– the best film of the series.  It has the third highest box office of the nominees and was an international success.  It is a Fantasy, which is the absolute favorite of the Academy’s.  Next year will be Harry’s year.

Final Consensus
VES Winner                Inception
Oscar Winner             Inception

Since 2002, every Visual Effects Oscar winner also received a Best Sound Mixing Oscar nomination.   Inception is the only Visual Effect nominee with a Sound Mixing nomination. 

The last 9 times a Visual Effects nominee was also nominated for Best Picture, that film has won for Visual Effects every year!  


SAG & the Oscars

Here’s a rundown of what we can expect (if anything) from the Academy Awards based on the nominations and winners of the SAG awards:

Actor – SAG & Oscar            75% Match Rate
The SAG and Oscar have matched the Best Actor winner for the last 6 years in a row.  However, they didn’t match the 4 years prior.
When they don’t match, it’s either a close race (Day-Lewis for Gangs of New York vs. Adrien Brody for The Pianist) or a category issue, like Benicio del Toro who won the SAG lead and Oscar supporting for Traffic.  Other than that, every SAG winner was nominated for an Oscar and every Oscar winner was nominated for a SAG.  The Only anomaly being Benicio del Toro.
This year, SAG and Oscar nominees match 4 of 5.  Whenever there is a 4 out of 5 nomination match, the SAG and Oscar winners match 63%.  Based on these numbers, the SAG and Oscar winner should match.
I feel it safe to say that Colin Firth has it in the bag.  James Franco and Jesse Eisenberg have won scattered precursors but Firth has been the consistent figure here. 
Oscar PREDICTION: Colin Firth

Actress – SAG & Oscar                    63% Match Rate
The Actress categories are a little more sporadic.  There is a category issue regarding Kate Winslet in 2008.  Winslett won both the Supporting SAG and Lead Oscar for The Reader.  She was also nominated for Supporting SAG for Revolutionary Road in that same year and received no Oscar nomination.  Other than that, every SAG winner was nominated for an Oscar and every Oscar winner was nominated for a SAG.  However, the Actress nominee consistency is 91%.  That is 91% of the SAG Actress nominees have matched the Oscar Actress nominees.  This is very high especially for a 63% win rate.  They agree on who the top 5 are, but no necessarily the winner.

This year, SAG and Oscar nominees match 4 for 5.  Whenever there is a 4 out of 5 nomination match, the SAG and Oscar winners match 57%.  This could go either way but I would say, based on these numbers, the SAG and Oscar winner should match. 
It’s seems that it’s down to Natalie Portman and Annette Benning.  Portman has won the vast majority of the precursors, but you never what might happen win it comes to the SAG and Best Actress.  Also, I wouldn’t count out Jennifer Lawrence.
SAG PREDICTION: Natalie Portman
Oscar PREDICTION: Natalie Portman

Supporting Actor – SAG & Oscar                 56% Match Rate
The SAG and Oscar have matched the Best Supporting Actor winner for the last 3 years in a row.  Aside from the del Toro irregularity, all of the non-matching winners were nominated for the SAG or Oscar. 

This year, SAG and Oscar nominees match 5 for 5.  Whenever there is a 5 out of 5 nomination match, the SAG and Oscar winners match 100%.  (Martin Landau for Ed Wood and Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds).  Based on these numbers, the SAG and Oscar winner should match.
I don’t see anyone other than Christian Bale winning this one.  He has completely dominated the precursor awards winning 24 of the 32 (78%).  The stats show that SAG and Oscar couldn’t go different directions, but this year seems like a sure thing, although Geoffrey Rush was brilliant.
SAG PREDICTION: Christian Bale
Oscar PREDICTION: Christian Bale

Supporting Actress – SAG & Oscar             56% Match Rate
A couple of things stand out.  The first is the Kate Winslet 2008 issue mentioned above.  The second is that in 2001, Jennifer Connely won the Supporting Oscar and was nominated for a Lead SAG.  Also, Marcia Gay Harden won the Supporting Oscar in 2000 for Pollock, but didn’t even receive a nomination for SAG.  There is virtually no consistency with Supporting Actress.  SAG and Oscar can’t even seem to get which category they want to nominate a supporting actress for.  Other than that, ever non-matched SAG winner was nominated for an Oscar and Oscar winner was nominated for a SAG.
This year, SAG and Oscar nominees match 4 for 5.  Whenever there is a 4 out of 5 nomination match, the SAG and Oscar winners match 67%.

Melissa Leo is the clear favorite here especially after she took home the Golden Globe.  She has won most of the precursor awards, though Hailee Steinfeld is very close behind her in that race.  I don’t see Steinfeld winning the Oscar so the SAG could award her.  Also, you can’t count out Amy Adams.  I can see the SAG and Oscar splitting on this decision.
SAG PREDICTION: Hailee Steinfeld
Oscar PREDICTION: Meliisa Leo

Ensemble – SAG & Oscar                 47% Match Rate
There’s not much of a trend here.  It’s a very low match rate and SAG and Oscar have never matched more than 2 years in a row.  In 1996, The Birdcage won SAG Ensemble and wasn’t nominated for Best Picture Oscar.  In 1995, Braveheart won Best Picture Oscar and wasn’t nominated for SAG ensemble.  Since then, all of the non-matching SAG Ensemble and Oscar Best Picture winners were nominated for the other.  
Concerning nomination counts; of the 15 years of the SAG Ensemble award:
– 6 winners had the most nominations, 3 won Best Picture
– 4 winners had the least nominations, 2 won Best Picture
– 5 winners were in the middle of the pack, 2 won Best Picture
No Trend.  Dead-end trail.
This year, SAG and Oscar nominees match 5 for 5.  Whenever there is a 5 out of 5 nomination match, the SAG and Oscar winners match 0%.  It has happened twice before (2004-Sideways/Million Dollar Baby & 2001-Gosford Park & A Beautiful Mind) and neither SAG winner won the Oscar for Best Picture.  Based on these numbers it could be said that the SAG ensemble will not match the Oscar Best Picture this year. 
Oscar PREDICTION: The King’s Speech

SAG Nomination Counts
The King’s Speech                   4
The Fighter                               4
Black Swan                              3
The Kids Are All Right             3
The Social Network                 2
True Grit                                  2
127 Hours                                1
Get Low                                   1
Rabbit Hole                              1
Winter’s Bone                          2
Conviction                                1
The Town                                 1

Directors Guild of America (DGA) & the Oscars

The Directors Guild of America awards are this Saturday, January 29, 2011.  For 60 years the DGA has awarded films for their directorial achievement.  The DGA is BY FAR the most telling precursor awards there are.  By this we can accurately predict the Best Director Oscar and Best Picture.  Every year, the DGA, Best Director and Best Picture nominate 5 films.  Below are the 2011 nominees for DGA, Director and Picture:

Directors Guild                                             

David Fincher               The Social Network
Tom Hooper                The King’s Speech
Darren Aronofsky         Black Swan
David O. Russell           The Fighter
Christopher Nolan        Inception

Best Director & Best Picture Oscar
David Fincher               The Social Network
Tom Hooper                The King’s Speech
Darren Aronofsky         Black Swan
David O. Russell           The Fighter
Joel & Ethan Coen       True Grit
Here’s what you need to know:
Almost always, 4 of these 5 films are also chosen for Best Director and Best Picture.  On average, 1 film gets replaced every year.  This was the case this year as well. Oscar chose for Director and Picture 4 of the 5 from the DGA.  Unfortunately, this is the 2nd time in 3 years that the Academy has snubbed Christopher Nolan (2008 for The Dark Knight).
I predicted that Oscar would bring in the Coens because the public is suddenly infatuated with them ever since No Country For Old Men.  However, I fully expected David O. Russell to fall, not Nolan.  The only thing missing from the coups is Stephen Daldry.
                                    Win Statistics
Awards                                                           Match %
DGA & Best Director                                          90%
DGA & Best Picture                                        80%
Best Picture & Best Director                           82%
All 3 Same Winner                                           77%
All 3 Different                                                  2%

1) 90% of DGA winners also win Best Director (54 yrs)
– only 6 times in 60 years has the DGA and Best Director not matched.  However, in the last 10 years, it has happened twice:
Year    DGA                                                   Best Director
            2002    Chicago                                                The Pianist
            2000    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon           Traffic
– this is a solid statistic.  I wouldn’t bet that the DGA and Best Director would split especially since it’s happened twice in the last 10 years.
2) 80% of DGA winners also win Best Picture (48 yrs)
– Twice out of every 10 years the DGA and Best Picture split.  In the last 10 years, they have indeed split twice:
Year    DGA                                                   Best Picture
2005    Brokeback Mountain                            Crash
2000    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon           Gladiator
– It could be argued that we are due for a split.  There was another split in 1995 and 1989, 5 years and 6 years separation.
– Note that both DGA winners above were directed by Ang Lee.
3) 82% of Best Director winners also win Best Picture (49 yrs)
            – However, the odds have been defied and a split has happened 4 times in the last 12 years:
Year    Best Director                                     Best Picture
2005    Brokeback Mountain                            Crash
2002    The Pianist                                            Chicago
2000    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon           Gladiator
1998    Saving Private Ryan                              Shakespeare In Love
– In the last 12 years, this stat is only 67%.  Based on this, I would say that the Best Director and Best Picture would be the same.
– However, if I am detecting a trend, then it could be said that we are overdue for a split since roughly every 2-3 years from those above there has been one. 
4) 77% of the time all three awards match exactly (46 yrs)
– this is another strong statistic because there are 3 different awards that need to line up.
5) Only once have the DGA, Best Director & Best Picture not matched
– you might have noticed the year 2000 being the common year between the 3 points above.  In 2000, there was a freak anomaly.  The 3 awards were all different:
Year    DGA                                                   Director                      Picture
2000    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon           Traffic                          Gladiator         
– I don’t know that I would ever predict this to happen again.  Too many different things need to be happening.  I especially wouldn’t apply it to this year.
6) Only 4 times as the DGA been alone in its winner (9%)
            – that’s once every 15 years and in the last 15 years it’s happened twice:
Year    DGA                                                   Director                      Picture
2000    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon           Traffic                          Gladiator
1995    Apollo 13                                             Braveheart                    Braveheart
– I don’t see this happening again for a while.  Especially since the Academy would have to split it’s 2 awards and agree with a different body of people for Best Director.  It’s more probable that the Academy stays uniform. 
It all hinges on the DGA.  As I said above, it would be stupid to go against these statistics.  Any given year if you predict the same winner for DGA, Best Director and Best Picture, then you are bound to be right. 
I really think that David Fincher will win the DGA for The Social Network.  If he wins then there’s a 90% chance that he will win the Best Director so I will go with Fincher for Best Director as well.  Tom Hooper, director of The King’s Speech, is a newcomer and still pretty young (38), so I don’t really see him winning the DGA. 
However, as of right now I have sensed a surge in buzz for The King’s Speech.  It has 12 total nominations and it seems that the Academy favors it slightly above The Social Network, which got 8.  Based on points #2 & #3 from above there could feasibly be a split this year according to past statistics.  I am not trying to shoe-horn this in either.  We are set up for a possible split with the 2 big frontrunners: The Social Network and The King’s Speech.  The Academy has been known to award great work with the Best Director Oscar and then award their favorite, for Best Picture.  
DGA Winner:               The Social Network
Best Director:              The Social Network
Best Picture:                The King’s Speech
We Will know more on Saturday, when the DGA announces it’s winner.
This is a bold move that I am sure to regret come Oscar night, which is why I will probably change it  at the last minute.  Therefore, when I do change it, it will be to the prediction below:
DGA Winner:               The Social Network
Best Director:               The Social Network
Best Picture:                 The Social Network
More Statistics:
1) 90% of DGA winners also win Best Director (54 yrs) – 6 times no match
Year                             DGA                                                    Best Director
2002    Chicago – Rob Marshall                                               The Pianist – Roman Polanski
2000    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Ang Lee                 Traffic – Steven Soderbergh
1995    Apollo 13 – Ron Howard                                             Braveheart – Mel Gibson
1985    The Color Purple – Steven Spielberg                            Out Of Africa – Sydney Pollack
1972    The Godfather – Francis Ford Coppola                        Cabaret – Bob Fosse
1968    The Lion In Winter – Anthony Harvey                          Oliver! – Carol Reed
2) 80% of DGA winners also win Best Picture (48 yrs) – 12 times no match
Year                    DGA                                           Best Director
2005    Brokeback Mountain – Ang Lee                                 Crash – Paul Haggis     
2000    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Ang Lee            Gladiator – Ridley Scott           
1998    Saving Private Ryan – Steven Spielberg                    Shakespeare In Love – John Madden   
1995    Apollo 13 – Ron Howard                                              Braveheart – Mel Gibson         
1989    Borth On the Fourth of July – Oliver Stone               Driving Miss Daisy – Bruce Beresford  
1985    The Color Purple – Steven Spielberg                          Out Of Africa – Sydney Pollack           
1981    Reds – Warren Beatty                                                   Chariots Of Fire – Hugh Hudson          
1968    The Lion In Winter – Anthony Harvey                      Oliver! – Carol Reed    
1967    The Graduate – Mike Nichols                                      In The Heat Of The Night – Norman Jewison   
1956    Giant – George Stevens                                                Around the World in 80 Days – Michael Anderson       
1952    The Quiet Man – John Ford                                         The Greatest Show on Earth – Cecile B. DeMille          
1951    A Place in the Sun – George Stevens                         An American In Paris – Vincente Minnelli    

3) 82% of Best Director winners also win Best Picture (49 yrs) – 11 times no match
Year              Best Director                                      Best Director
2005    Brokeback Mountain – Ang Lee                                 Crash – Paul Haggis
2002    The Pianist – Roman Polanski                                     Chicago – Rob Marshall
2000    Traffic – Steven Soderbergh                                        Gladiator – Ridley Scott
1998    Saving Private Ryan – Steven Spielberg                    Shakespeare In Love – John Madden
1989    Borth On the Fourth of July – Oliver Stone               Driving Miss Daisy – Bruce Beresford
1981    Reds – Warren Beatty                                                  Chariots Of Fire – Hugh Hudson
1972    Cabaret – Bob Fosse                                                     The Godfather – Francis Ford Coppola
1967    The Graduate – Mike Nichols                                      In The Heat Of The Night – Norman Jewison
1956    Giant – George Stevens                                                Around the World in 80 Days – Michael Anderson
1952    The Quiet Man – John Ford                                          The Greatest Show on Earth – Cecile B. DeMille
1951    A Place in the Sun – George Stevens                           An American In Paris – Vincente Minnelli

6) Only 4 times as the DGA been alone in its winner (9%) 
DGA Winner                                                                        Best Picture/Best Director        
2000    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Ang Lee                  Gladiator – Ridley Scott           
1995    Apollo 13 – Ron Howard                                             Braveheart – Mel Gibson         
1985    The Color Purple – Steven Spielberg                             Out Of Africa – Sydney Pollack           
1968    The Lion In Winter – Anthony Harvey                          Oliver! – Carol Reed     

Oscar Nominations – The Snubs and Surprises

Well the obvious blemish is the Inception snubs, that is Christopher Nolan for Director and Lee Smith for Film Editing.  These were shoe-ins, but for some reason, the Academy didn’t think Inception worthy of such nominations.  This is detrimental for Inception in the Best Picture race as no film has EVER won Best Picture without both a Film Editing and Director nomination.  Even Driving Miss Daisy in 1989 won Best Picture without a Director nomination, but it was nominated for Film Editing.  So that’s over and it’s a sad thing.  Inception was easily one of the top 5 films of the year, if not the best.  The Academy doesn’t see things as we do.  They make a hobby out of snubbing Christopher Nolan.  Until Nolan makes a talkie, something more up their alley, it seems he may not get the acclaim he deserves.  I hope he doesn’t take it personally.  I hope he keeps doing his thing, because I love it.
The Surprises:
Inception snubs for Director and Film Editing.  Javier Bardem getting an Acting nomination for his performance in Biutiful, but this is no real shocker.  David O. Russell held his Director spot.  I thought the Coens would get in over O. Russell, never Nolan!  Also, Hereafter for Visual Effects.  Please.
The Locks:
Firth, Portman and Bale are pretty much locked for Actor, Actress and Supporting Actor.  Aaron Sorkin for Adapted Screenplay.  Toy Story 3 for Animation will win (though I detect a non-Pixar movement brewing).
The Not-So-Locked:
The real race is in Supporting Actress.  Some say it’s between Melissa Leo and Hailie Steinfeld.  Leo’s been here before for Frozen River. She’s a veteran.  However, we haven’t seen a performace like Steinfeld’s in True Grit for a long time.  The thing is, she just turned 14.  This shouldn’t mean anything, but if history tells us anything the chances are not good for a win for Hailie.  Amy Adams might be the dark horse here.  Her performance in The Fighter along side Leo was much more subdued and subtle.  The Supporting Actress race far more wide open than the others.
The Academy never ceases to amaze with its inconsistent nomination procedures.  For years, they have only nominated 3 films for visual effects.  This year they nominated 5.  Not that that’s a bad thing, but it just exposes the lack of structure.  In years past, The Academy has found a way to show their love for Clint Eastwood.  This year is no different as they give Hereafter a Visual Effects nomination.  Inception should walk away with this one.
Sound Editing and Mixing are as arbitrary as ever.  The only common film between the two categories is Inception and I feel that it will win both here to make up for its awful snub.  Although, look for the eventual Best Picture winner to snag an Editing/Mixing win (The Social Network, The King’s Speech).
Makeup is always an odd choice.  I’m no makeup expert, but every year The Academy leaves off the more obvious films like, Black Swan and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Anything goes with this category, but does anyone care about movies they probably haven’t seen?
Costume Design goes right up there with makeup.  No Black Swan.  Although, look for the eventual Best Picture winner to snag the Costume win (The King’s Speech)
Cinematography could go to anyone.  Deakins has been snubbed in the past.  They could give it to him for that reason (as I don’t believe this is his best work).  Libatique for Black Swan deserves it in my book, but one can never count out the Best Picture frontrunners, The Social Network and The King’s Speech; The King’s Speech having the edge here.  Pfister’s work on Inception is some of the best of the year, but I don’t see the Academy awarding it to the same film they snubbed earlier just to make amends.  This is wide open.
Original Score will go to the either The Social Network or The King’s Speech, both of which are the Best Picture frontrunners at the moment. 
I think Fincher takes home the Director Oscar, but I’m not as sold on The Social Network’s Best Picture chances.  85% of the time a film wins Best Direct it also wins Best Picture.  Only 7 times (15%) has a Best Picture winner not won Best Director, the most recent being Brokeback Mountain in 2005.  That’s about once every 6 or 7 years.  We could be due for another!

PGA Statistics

Predicting the PGA & Oscars
The 2011 Producers Guild Awards are Saturday, January 22, 2011.  The Producers Guild of America awards films with the finest producing work of the year.  They have over 4,000 members.  The PGA began awarding films in 1990.  The PGA tends to nominate the same number of films as Oscar.   I will use PGA and Oscar statistics to predict the PGA winner and the Oscar nominees.

1) PGA winners match Oscar winners 71% of the time:
                  PGA Win Statistics
PGA & Oscar Match               15        71%
Don’t Match                              6         29%
TOTAL Years                        21        

The PGA and the Academy have matched 15 out of the 21 years that the PGA has been in existence.  That is a 71% match rate for wins.  That’s really not that great, but it can still tell us a lot.  For the last 3 years, the PGA and Oscar winners have matched exactly, but the 3 years before that, they did not match.  Below is where the PGA and Oscars deviate:
             PGA  Best Picture               Oscar Best Picture
2006    Little Miss Sunshine                 The Departed
2005    Brokeback Mountain                Crash
2004    The Aviator                              Million Dollar Baby
2001    Moulin Rouge!                          A Beautiful Mind
1995    Apollo 13                                  Braveheart*
1992    The Crying Game                    Unforgiven
*Also, note that in 1995 Braveheart won the Oscar for Best Picture, but was not even nominated for PGA.  This is the only time that has ever happened and as long as there are 10 nominees each year, I don’t see this ever happening again. 
2) PGA nominees match Oscar nominees 78% of the time:
PGA Nom Statistics              
PGA & Oscar Match               67        79%
Don’t Match                            18        21%
TOTAL Years                        18        

This is actually a pretty good match rate.  The last 5 years that both the PGA and Oscar nominated 5 films, the nominees matched 4/5 each year.  Last year, when both nominated 10 films, they matched 8/10 (Oscar replaced Star Trek and Invictus with A Serious Man & The Blind Side).  This averages to right at 80%. 
3) Precursors Thoughts
The Social Network has been completely dominating the precursor awards.  The only other films that have won a precursor best picture award are Winter’s Bone, Inception & The King’s Speech.  The Social Network has won all 26 other best pictures out right and has tied for two other ones with Black Swan and 127 Hours.
Based on the 80% rule that the PGA and Oscar seem to follow year after year, I will assume that 2 of the 10 PGA nominees will be replaced by Oscar.  Right now there are 3 films that are in danger.  The problem is, I have no idea the other movies that could replace them and be nominated for the Oscar Best Picture. Below are my first out-first in thoughts.
First Out – First In
1) The Town                              1) Winter’s Bone
2) 127 Hours                              2) ?????
3) The Kids Are All Right            3) ?????
I think that Oscar will deviate from their tradition of nominating 80% of the PGA nominees.  Oscar will nominate the all of the films on the PGA nominee list except for The Town.  It will be replaced by Winter’s Bone.  As far as the Best Picture winner… 3 years in a row PGA and Oscar didn’t match.  The last 3 years they did match.  Can they make it 4 in a row?  I think so.  I think it’s dumb to bet against The Social Network at this point, especially if it wins the PGA.

1) Box Office Thoughts
Avg BO PGA Winner               – $158M         
Highest BO PGA Winner         – $600M         – Titanic
Lowest BO PGA Winner          – $17M           – The Hurt Locker
Avg ROI PGA Winner              – 416%
Highest ROI PGA Winner        – 1600%          – The Crying Game
Lowest ROI PGA Winner        – (7%)               – The Aviator   
Here is a list of the 2011 PGA nominees with their Box Office information.  The average Box Office for a PGA winner is right at $150M.  
Box Office
Black Swan
 $               76,628,084
 $     13,000,000
 $     63,628,084
The Kids Are All Right
 $               20,811,365
 $       4,000,000
 $     16,811,365
True Grit
 $             129,904,663
 $     38,000,000
 $     91,904,663
The King’s Speech
 $               48,597,317
 $     15,000,000
 $     33,597,317
The Fighter
 $               68,046,030
 $     25,000,000
 $     43,046,030
The Town
 $               92,186,262
 $     37,000,000
 $     55,186,262
The Social Network
 $               94,922,241
 $     40,000,000
 $     54,922,241
Toy Story
 $             415,004,880
 $  200,000,000
 $  215,004,880
 $             292,576,195
 $  160,000,000
 $  132,576,195
127 Hours
 $               11,159,720
 $    18,000,000
 $    (6,840,280)
Based on the statistics above, 127 Hours is out.  It’s ROI is way too low.  This is unfortunate because it’s a great film, but was released horribly.  Danny Boyle won the PGA in 2008 with Slumdog Millionaire and had a very good chance to do the same with 127 Hours.  Judging by this, one might think that Black Swan and The Kids Are All Right are clear favorites with a +400% ROI.
OUT:              127 Hours
2) Genre Thoughts
Below is a top 5 list of PGA and Oscar wins by Genre.  Genre may not mean anything at all when it comes to the PGA’s.  The genres that PGA awards look pretty diverse, but it’s clear to see that the Oscars favor dramas.
     PGA                                                    Oscars           
Drama                         2                     Drama                           3
Musical                        2                     Crime Drama                 2
Romance                     2                     Historical Epic                 2
Western                     2                      Romance                        2
Action/Thriller              1                      Comedy/Drama              1
Below is a list of the 2011 PGA nominees and their genres.  6 of the 10 films are categorized as some type of drama.  True Grit is listed as a Western, which is another multiple PGA winning genre.  I wouldn’t count out The Kids Are All Right, though.  The PGA has awarded different comedies in the past like Little Miss Sunshine, Shakespeare In Love & Forrest Gump.  The PGA has never awarded a Sci-Fi Action or Animation, though.  Perhaps this means that films that cost too much are not as likely to win (except for Titanic).
2011 PGA Nominees
The Town
Crime Drama
Black Swan
The King’s Speech
Historical Drama
The Fighter
Sports Drama
The Social Network
True Grit
The Kids Are All Right
Sci-Fi Action
Toy Story 3
127 Hours
OUT: Inception, Toy Story 3, 127 Hours
2011 PGA Winner Prediction:
These statistics don’t really say a lot as far as predicting the PGA winner.  Gun to my head, anything crossed off the list above is out for reasons specified earlier.  
The Town  was released too early.  Good reviews but not enough buzz.
The Kids Are All Right – was released too early.  Good reviews and buzz.  Great Box Office
The Fighter  hasn’t gotten quite as much buzz as the others.  
True Grit –  an okay film.  great box office.
The King’s Speech – was released perfectly.  A great film, but the buzz has died down
Black Swan – was awesome at the box office, which is just what you want from a film
The Social Network – has won everything.  good box office.  great buzz.  DVD release this month.
2011 PGA Winner Prediction:           The Social Network
Note: as soon as the Oscar Nominations and Guild Awards  come out, I will revise my predictions.
All of the films nominated for PGA can be found on Netflix, Redbox or in theatres in the Nasvhille area.

2011 Golden Globe Predictions

Here are my 2011 Golden Globe Predictions.  These awards don’t necessarily mean a whole lot in comparison to the Guilds and other precursor awards.  The Golden Globes seem a bit silly at times as you can plainly see by the multiple nominations for Johnny Depp and Burlesque.  Nevertheless, it’s very interesting to see just where these films stand at this point in the race.  The King’s Speech could up its stock with a win and make it a tight Oscar Best Picture race between The King’s Speech, Inception and front-runner, The Social Network.  There are some locks as well like Christian Bale, Aaron Sorkin & Natalie Portman.  A win for these three all but officially locks an Oscar win in late February.  

Best Motion Picture, Drama

Black Swan 
The Fighter 
The King’s Speech 
The Social Network

Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Alice in Wonderland 
The Kids Are All Right 
The Tourist

Best Director – Motion Picture
Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan 
David Fincher – The Social Network 
Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech 
Christopher Nolan – Inception 
David O. Russell – The Fighter

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network 
Colin Firth – The King’s Speech 
James Franco – 127 Hours 
Ryan Gosling – Blue Valentine 
Mark Wahlberg – The Fighter

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
Halle Berry – Frankie and Alice 
Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole 
Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone 
Natalie Portman – Black Swan 
Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy
Johnny Depp – Alice in Wonderland 
Johnny Depp – The Tourist 
Paul Giamatti – Barney’s Version 
Jake Gyllenhaal – Love and Other Drugs 
Kevin Spacey – Casino Jack

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy
Anne Hathaway – Love and Other Drugs 

Julianne Moore – The Kids Are All Right Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right 
Emma Stone – Easy A 

Angelina Jolie – The Touristy

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Christian Bale – The Fighter 
Michael Douglas – Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps 
Andrew Garfield – The Social Network 
Jeremy Renner – The Town 
Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Amy Adams – The Fighter 
Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech 
Mila Kunis – Black Swan 
Melissa Leo – The Fighter 
Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
127 Hours 
The Kids Are All Right 
The King’s Speech 
The Social Network 

Best Animated Feature Film
Despicable Me 
How to Train Your Dragon 
The Illusionist 
Toy Story 3 

Best Foreign Language Film
The Concert 
The Edge 
I Am Love 
In a Better World

Best Original Song – Motion Picture
Bound to You – Burlesque 
Coming Home – Country Strong 
I See the Light – Tangled 
There’s a Place for Us – Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 
You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me – Burlesque

Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Alexandre Desplot – The King’s Speech 
Danny Elfman – Alice in Wonderland 
A.R. Rahmin – 127 Hours 
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross – The Social Network 
Hans Zimmer – Inception

What was it like working with Stanley Kubrick?

Last Saturday, January 8th at the Belcourt theatre, Nicole Kidman attended a very special screening of her new film, Rabbit Hole, of which she both is the producer and star of the film.  Following the screening, she gave a very engaging question and answer session…and I was there!  Not only was I there, but I got to ask her a question!!!
My wife and I sat on the third row of the theatre and on the brand-spankin’ new chairs that the Belcourt has pretty recently installed.  (They’ll always feel knew for those of us that remember those old seats!)  The closeness to the screen for the duration of the hour-and-a-half film was more than a fair trade-off for being just fifteen feet from Mrs. Kidman for the twenty minute Q&A.
Ever since I knew that Nicole Kidman had moved to the Nashville area, I knew that there was a slight possibility of running into her in a coffee shop in Franklin or at a restaurant in Green Hills.  These past few years I have had ready my one solitary, go-to question that I would ask her whenever that splendid opportunity occurred.  Last Saturday, I got my shot.
My Question: “What was it like working with Stanley Kubrick?”
It didn’t take my question to bring up the name, “Kubrick”, in the Q&A.  Kidman, herself brought him up almost right away when speaking on her role as a producer of Rabbit Hole, a low budget film, and the struggles that go with it like cutting costs and making location and off-set sacrifices in order to stay below budget.  Nicole compared this to Kubrick’s ability to always stay under budget.  It wasn’t beyond him to make those sacrifices for the sake of the film.  Stanley Kubrick was one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.  His last (complete) film was Eyes Wide Shut.  Nicole Kidman’s role in this film is hauntingly sensual.  It’s hard to describe the vibe that she projects through the screen, but her performance is powerful, yet subtle and under control.  Darkly angelic would be a good way to describe it.  I didn’t feel like I was really breaking topic (which was a bit of a concern of mine) by asking my question when it was my turn.  What I found very exciting was her engaging and thoughtful response.
 “What was it like working with Stanley Kubrick?”
Nicole gave an answer that spanned from a minute-and-a-half to two minutes.  She said working with Stanley Kubrick changed her life.  He ignited a pursuit of excellence in her.  At a point in time when she was a bit ashamed of being an actress, he challenged her, opened her up and stretched her as an actress.  Beforehand, if I were to guess I would probably have said that her experience with Kubrick was nightmarish.  He was a great director but was rather difficult to work with.  My expectation couldn’t be further from the reaction that I got from Nicole Kidman.  She said that Kubrick kept an office just off of the set and that he would let her and only her in his office all by herself, going through his books and just hanging out.  Nicole got special treatment.  But who wouldn’t cave in to the delightfulness of Mrs. Kidman?  Nicole’s appreciation for Kubrick remains adamant even today as she reminisces back to the days of working with him on set.  It seems the ambition and desire that imbues within her to this day can at least be partially accredited to the late and great Stanley Kubrick. It is very odd indeed that her experience with Kubrick was such a positive one.  After all, he has been called the “actor’s enemy” by Robert Duvall at a recent actors roundtable.  It’s been said that he was extremely demanding and first-hand accounts from the likes of Matthew Modine and Michael Herr can attribute to that.  Whatever the case, our friend Nicole Kidman seemed to have found his soft spot. 
Rabbit Hole begins its run at the Belcourt Friday, January 14 and is based on the very recent Broadway play.  Her performance in this film is BY FAR one of the best performances of her career.  In fact, the performances of the entire ensemble as a whole and individually were some of the best of the year.  Aaron Eckhart and Miles Teller give fantastic performances as does the great Dianne Wiest.  Rabbit whole is one of the top movies of 2010 and you absolutely must see this film. 
Rabbit Hole ****

The Kids Are All Right **1/2 out of ****

The Kids Are All Right is really just alright.  I don’t see what all the fuss is about.  It is a decently written movie that is decently acted and decently directed.  The fact that the two main women Jules and Nick (Bening & Moore) happen to be very good actresses that happen to play a lesbian couple seems to over-exaggerate their performances, which are both good.  Ruffalo’s character, Paul, is a very laid back yet successful restaurant owner who has found out that he is the father, via sperm donor, of the lesbian couple’s kids, Joni and Laser, (Mia Wasikowska & Josh Hutcherson) who happen to be very normal kids. 
The movie is nothing special.  The acting is slightly above average though I would give the nod to Julianne Moore over Annette Bening and would consider Wasikowska’s performance above them all.  The fact that this film is considered a comedy causes the audience to take the subject matter of the film less seriously, but since the film is about a lesbian couple, we are meant to take the film as a whole very seriously, indeed. 
Mom #1 (Nick) is a doctor who requires organization and Mom #2 (Jules) is much more laid back and can’t figure out what she wants to do professionally.  Nick is the bread-winner and Jules is the victim of much nagging from Nick, who constantly stays on her regarding her lack of ambition and commitment.  Joni gets straight A’s and Laser is a jock.  The main question I have is this, how many different colored 2009 Bonarroo shirts do these characters have to wear before the filmmaker is convinced that we GET IT.  This is not your typical, conventional family.  Mission accomplished.
The film tries to be really funny, but doesn’t quite get there.  It confuses shock value with comedy.  The film tries to get dark, but doesn’t quite get there, either.  The film tries to get awkward, but really the whole film is awkward.
Perhaps my critical eyes have become keener upon watching this film due to all of the buzz that this film has gotten over the past year.  There are talks of Bening winning Best Actress.  I can’t help but think that this would be more of a lifetime achievement award because her performance in The Kids Are All Right was not at all Oscar-worthy.  Her performance is in no way close to Natalie Portman’s in Black Swan.  If they wanted to give Bening the Oscar, they should shoe-horn her into the Supporting Actress category.  True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld is the frontrunner there followed closely by The Fighter’s Amy Adams and Melissa Leo.  But none of that really matters if the Academy is bent upon award Bening.  They can make easier excuses in this category because Steinfeld is young and Adams and Leo are destined for multiple Oscars sooner or later.
 It’s also been mentioned in the Best Picture race.  I can’t help but think this has more to do with what the film is about than the actual level of filmmaking.  The Kids Are All Right is a decent movie, but by no means is it in the top 10 of the year.  If you’re like me and you want to have a clue about what’s going on Oscar night, then see the film.  

Black Swan **** out of ****

Black Swan has been called many things.  People have tried to put a label on it or shoe-horn it into a genre.  Whatever it is one thing is for certain, Aronofksy does something completely different each time at the plate.  The film is about Nina, ballet dancer (Natalie Portman) who has landed the part of playing the Swan Queen.  Due to the nature of her profession and upbringing, she is near perfect in her form.  Perfection being her goal for so long, it seems strange to have to learn how to do something imperfectly.  However, the part of the black swan calls for a little looseness in her dancing, which she finds very difficult to execute. 
Her dance instructor, Thomas (Vincent Cassel) only adds to the pressure as he constantly berates Nina.  Not overly so, but in a creepy ballet instructor sort of way; using seduction and bordering on molestation to motivate and inspire his student.  We also see the downfall of Beth (Winona Ryder), the former premiere dancer.  We get the impression that she was let go by Thomas and that there was more to their relationship than just teacher/student.  Beth is irate, drunk or incapacitated in some other way each time we see her.  Nina’s mother (Barbara Hershey) was a former dancer and seems obsessively devoted now to the dancing career of her daughter.  She lives through Nina.  Needless to say, the stress is unbearable for Nina to withstand. 
However, there is also the new transfer to consider.  A new dancer, Lily, arrives.  Seeing the world through Nina’s stressed and paranoid eyes, Lilly is a rival.  Nina over thinks the compliments given to Lilly from Thomas and lets his criticisms of herself weigh her down. 
Nina’s character is a parallel to the black swan.  In the ballet, the swan is cursed and turns into the black swan.  In the film Nina is desperately trying to become the black swan and at the same time hallucinates (or is she?) an actual metamorphosis of her physical body gradually taking place, which is really a skin-picking impulse (or is it?).  Nina sees a lot of things.  Whether they are real or not, one can’t be sure until the very end and even then, not sure about some things.  Nina sees both violent and sexual things happening to herself.  She sees these very same things happening to other people.  She sees herself doing these things to others as well.  The immense stress combined with the constant paranoia leads our dancer to see and do many strange things.
Aronofsky has left me speechless again.  I needed time to mull this one over, but there was never a doubt that he had done something special.  I best director nomination should be coming up for him.
Matthew Libatique’s cinematography is very thoughtful and imaginative.  The brilliant use of mirrors in the film is awe-inspiring and I hope there is some insight into it’s execution on the DVD release.  The film is shot in a grainy style similar to The Wrestler though a little less bumpy.  An Oscar nomination is due here.  Also, look out for an art direction nomination for Therese DePrez as well as costume designer Amy Westcott.
Natalie Portman deserves the Oscar.  She took a complete transformation by turning herself into that of a ballet dancer.  She was in every single seen and her performance is by far the best of the year.  They Academy can’t not give it to her.
You can find Black Swan at several theatres in the Nashville Area.