Research & Insights

By Jeremy Mathews, March 6, 2010

And the Oscar Goes to…

oscar1.jpg In honor of tomorrow’s Academy Awards ceremony, CrowdFlower decided to use its crowd-sourcing technology to find out who people thought would take home the film industry’s most coveted awards. Whether by pure instinct or osmosis, many of the respondents’ choices lined up with those of Oscar-predicting experts.

The overwhelming favorites in Best Supporting Actor and Actress, Christoph Waltz for “Inglourious Basterds” and Mo’Nique for “Precious,” both won CrowdFlower’s survey. Curiously, however, both second place slots went to actors who no experts think have a chance: Matt Damon for “Invictus” and Penelope Cruz for “Nine.” Morgan Freeman also had a surprise second-place finish in the Best Actor category, which was easily the tightest of the bunch. But ultimately, the results favored the consensus opinion that the long-ignored Jeff Bridges will finally take home an Oscar after decades of fine work. (And that’s not just, like…my opinion, man.) They also confirmed the less-gratifying call for Sandra Bullock to win for her comeback roll in “The Blind Side.”

While all the acting predictions were in line, there were a few surprises in the remaining categories. In Best Original Screenplay, Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” edged out “The Hurt Locker” by Mark Boa. Those are definitely the two favorites, and I agree with the respondents that Tarantino will win it, but many others believe “The Hurt Locker” has a better chance.

More notably, CrowdFlower’s results suggest a huge upset in Best Adapted Screenplay. Geoffrey Fletcher’s “Precious” beat out “Up in the Air,” the clear favorite that plowed through the awards season without giving the opposition a second thought. I have two possible explanations: (1) CrowdFlower’s crowd knows something we don’t—perhaps “Up in the Air” writer/director Jason Reitman’s general grumpiness and poor treatment of the film’s co-writer, Sheldon Turner has turned people sour—or (2) the general public follows the acting awards more closely, and the strength of “Precious” there led them to believe that it was also a favorite here.

The largest margins of victory came in two categories that most experts consider the closest: Best Picture and Best Director. Even most gurus who foresee a Best Picture win for “Avatar” think that Kathryn Bigelow will finally break the glass ceiling and become the first woman to win Best Director, but respondents backed James Cameron to repeat his “Titanic” victory and win for “Avatar”—by an even wider margin than they picked his film to win Best Picture.

Again, we’re left wondering whether CrowdFlower has special powers, or the experts will prove correct. Part of this discrepancy likely boils down to the films’ respective audience sizes. “Avatar” made more than 53 times “The Hurt Locker’s” domestic gross (and let’s not even think about worldwide numbers), so it’s safe to assume that considerably more people have seen it. And it’s had a lot of hype since its wildly successful release, including victory at the Golden Globes.

But everyone will have to wait until tomorrow to find out who’s right and who’s full of it.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Mo’Nique, “Precious” 43
Penelope Cruz, “Nine” 20
Maggie Gyllenhaal, “Crazy Heart” 16
Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air” 11
Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air” 10

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds” 36
Matt Damon, “Invictus” 26
Stanley Tucci, “The Lovely Bones” 15
Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station” 13
Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger” 10

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
“Precious” – Geoffrey Fletcher 33
“Up in the Air” – Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner 24
“District 9” – Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell 21
“An Education” – Nick Hornby 18
“In the Loop” – Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Ianucci, Tony Roche 4

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
“Inglourious Basterds” – Quentin Tarantino 34
“The Hurt Locker” – Mark Boal 26
“A Serious Man” – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen 17
“Up” – Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Thomas McCarthy 16
“The Messenger” – Alessandro Camon, Oren Moverman 6
District 9 (not nominated) 1

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side” 33
Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia” 25
Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious” 21
Carey Mulligan, “An Education” 12
Helen Mirren, “The Last Station” 9

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart” 29
Morgan Freeman, “Invictus” 20
Colin Firth, “A Single Man” 19
Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker” 16
George Clooney, “Up in the Air” 16

Best Achievement in Directing
James Cameron, “Avatar” 62
Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker” 18
Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds” 9
Jason Reitman, “Up in the Air” 5
Lee Daniels, “Precious” 6

Best Motion Picture of the Year
“Avatar” 57
“The Hurt Locker” 19
“An Education” 6
“Precious” 5
“Inglourious Basterds” 4
“Up” 3
“The Blind Side” 2
“District 9” 2
“A Serious Man” 1
“Up in the Air” 1

Update: “The Hurt Locker”-awareness gap was the one thing separating CrowdFlower’s predictions from 100-percent accuracy. Of the eight categories surveyed, Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq War film’s three victories were the only failed predictions. As I suspected, the film’s relative obscurity with mainstream audiences put the the hive-mind at a disadvantage.

In the Best Adapted Screenplay category, however, the collective brain out-smarted the experts’ consensus by calling the surprise “Precious” victory over “Up in the Air.” In the four acting categories, the respondents correctly backed the front-runners.

Jeremy Mathews has been a film critic for over 10 years. You can read his other movie musings at The Same Dame.