The Academy Awards will be handed out on Sunday night, and for many people, this is their Super Bowl. The hype and speculation, even in a year that’s signaled major change for Hollywood, have been immense.
One voice we haven’t really heard from yet is us, the masses who go to the movies and rent or buy the DVDs. MIVA, a company that offers performance marketing services akin to what Google and Yahoo do with keyword advertising, is boldly trying to predict who will win the Oscars based on what all of us are searching for. MIVA looked at more than two billion search queries in the last month to see who’s getting the most traffic. The Wisdom of Crowds suggests that all of us are smarter than a few of us, so if you follow that logic, then we should be able to pick the winners, leaving the only remaining drama on Sunday to be how Jon Stewart performs and what runway shenanigans take place before the show. I think that it’s a giant leap from the most search traffic to the gold statue, so let’s put these predictions out there and let’s see how smart we are. At the same time, I’ll offer up my predictions (why not?), so we can spread the embarrassment all around Monday morning when I follow up this blog and see what happened.
Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) dominated the search activity, with 62% of queries. My take: The ingenue tends to win this category every year, and then they’re never really heard from again. I’m sure that’s what people were thinking as they searched, so count me in with the masses.
Best Supporting Actor: Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain) won the voting you didn’t know you were participating in when you typed in “Gillenhall.” My take: Oscar voters are a churlish lot, and perhaps even more superficial than the general public. I think they give the Oscar to Matt Dillon (Crash) because he played a bad guy in a movie they want to recognize but not with any of the bigger awards and he’s been around forever and people like him. It’s that kind of convoluted reasoning that tends to be how things really happen. It’s a popularity contest, but not one based on cheekbone structure. If this were 1983 and Matt Dillon had gotten a nomination for The Outsiders, he would’ve scored the teenage girl vote that Gyllenhaal clearly wrapped up to get the fan win here.
Best Actress: Charlize Theron (North Country) blew away her competitors, totaling 63% of searches. Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line) came in second. My take: Let’s be honest: A lot of those Theron searches are people who want to see her naked, not playing a single mother who works in a mine. So don’t be surprised if the masses are wrong on this one and Witherspoon wins.
Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line) edged out Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain) in search queries 47% to 42%. My take: While I agree that Phoenix was great, and I’d like to see him win, the category is best actor and not “best actor playing a famous singer from the 1960s.” Jamie Foxx won last year for “Ray.” If Phoenix wins, we’ll all have to sit through Eric Bana going for gold in The Steve Lawrence Story in about 18 months, so don’t be surprised if Oscar voters, sensitive to their reps, pick Ledger just to give the prize to someone who played a fictional character.
Best Director: George Clooney (Good Night and Good Luck) won the web vote, with 71% of searches. My take: Because Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) and Paul Haggis (Crash) aren’t considered to be this generation’s Cary Grant, it’s not all that surprising that Clooney beats the rest of his competitors here. I’m starting to see a bit of a flaw in relying on the masses to pick the Oscar winners. It’s a popularity contest! The Oscars are a popularity contest, too, but one where the voters factor in complicated ancillary considerations such as how much money the movie made, who says hi to them when they see them at lunch at the Ivy, and so forth. Go with Lee.
Best Picture: Brokeback Mountain (37%) edged out Crash (32%) and Munich (25%) in the voting. My take: Brokeback is the only best picture nominee that has had any populist buzz. It’s dominated the pop culture conversation since even before its release. The people have spoken.
See you Monday and we’ll see how we did.