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Oscars: What The Academy Members Are Voting For, Plus Golden Globe Predictions

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist January 10, 2014 at 12:09PM

We're at T-minus 6 days before the announcement of Oscar nominations, and various prognosticators are busy trying to get their final ducks in a row, reading tea leaves and chicken intestine (or whatever) to try and get a sense of how one of the most fiercely competitive awards season in memory is going to play out in the next phase. The DGA nominations this week brought few surprises, and the Golden Globes on Sunday will be too late to affect anything (Oscar voting has closed, and counting is underway), so now it's just a question of waiting and second-guessing yourself.
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Oscars: Who's Voting For What, Plus Golden Globe Predictions

We're at T-minus six days before the announcement of Oscar nominations, and various prognosticators are busy trying to get their final ducks in a row, reading tea leaves and chicken intestine (or whatever) to try and get a sense of how one of the most fiercely competitive awards season in memory is going to play out in the next phase. The DGA nominations this week brought few surprises, and the Golden Globes on Sunday will be too late to affect anything (Oscar voting has closed, and counting is underway), so now it's just a question of waiting and second-guessing yourself. 

Our final and irrevocable Academy Award nomination predictions will arrive next week, but we wanted to sneak in one more awards update before then. We'll have some brief predictions for the Golden Globes on Sunday on the next page, but first, now that the votes are in, we wanted to talk a little bit about the people who actually did the voting.

Well, we say people, but we mean stereotypes that we've mostly invented. But there's a serious point here—for all that some like to roll their eyes at the Academy and their choices, they're far from a homogenous organization. Sure, for the most part, they're white, male, wealthy, and old, but like any decently-sized group, there's plenty of diversity of opinion, even if not actual diversity. Tough, there has been a push to create a more diverse Academy with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Paula Patton, Michael Pena, Emannuelle Riva, Chris Tucker, Ava DuVernay, Pablo Larrain, Jafar Panahi, Steve McQueen, Todd Phillips, Lena Dunham and Danny Trejo among the 2013 invitees. So always remember that when you diss the Academy, that Machete himself is a member, and could be coming for you.

Again, the majority are likely to be more on the Old White Guy side of things, but the Academy is changing, and that's been born up in recent years by things like Best Picture nominations for "District 9," "A Serious Man," "Winter's Bone," "Black Swan," "The Tree Of Life" and "Amour," as well as last year's Directing nominations, which saw Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin given the nod over more traditionally establishment figures. So, for a little insight into who's been voting for what, we've broken down the likely groups and factions within the Academy, and what their ballots are likely to have been topped by. Take a look below, Golden Globe predictions are on the next page.

And, we hope it goes without saying that this is all to be taken with something of a pinch of salt—we're painting with broad strokes here, and this is mostly for fun (though there's some serious points underlying it).

Gravity, Clooney

The Studio Executives

Who: Started in development or as a low-level producer, worked their way up the studio ladder, are now fully-fledged moguls. Like and respect the art, but doubly so if the art made a bunch of money. Not a huge group, all told.

Example: Disney head Alan Horn, or Sony chairwoman Amy Pascal.

First Choice: "Gravity." A mix of state-of-the-art craft, and a shitload of money in the bank. They might not have been willing to press the greenlight button themselves, but they're glad someone did. And they're probably developing at least one rip-off by now.

Other Options: Muscular commercial fare like "Captain Phillips," or the celebrating-the-studio-system message of "Saving Mr. Banks" could also appeal. "American Hustle" and, depending on their constitution, "The Wolf Of Wall Street" have also made enough money to make an impact.

Least Likely To Vote For: "All Is Lost." They respect Robert Redford, and are glad he's doing a Marvel movie, but a $7 million box office total is not something that registers on their radar.  

American Hustle

The Studio Lifer

Who: Never rose to be the big boss, but worked quite happily in the system for a long time. Might be prone to more maverick tastes than the higher-ups, but still leans mostly mainstream. Includes not just junior executives and producers, but also publicists and similar outliers.

Example: These guys and girls mostly work in the shadows, but someone like former New Line boss/"The Social Network" producer/current Columbia co-President of Production Michael DeLuca fits here, along with his younger colleague Hannah Minghella.

First Choice: "American Hustle." An old-fashioned kind of movie, not as vulgar as the Scorsese picture, smart and '70s-ish, and sold principally on stars rather than high concept.

Other Options: Those who retired already might be more likely to go for "Saving Mr. Banks," while "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Lee Daniels' The Butler" are also possibilities.

Least Likely To Vote For: "Inside Llewyn Davis." The Coens' latest is a film about failure, and failure is not something that these guys like to engage with, because failure means they're losing their jobs.

The Wolf Of Wall Street Leonardo DiCaprio Margot Robbie

The Auteurists

Who: Directors, cinematographers and the occasional actor or producer who believe that the filmmaker is king. Probably leaning under 60, for the most part, they reward distinctive voices and A-list filmmakers, and aren't afraid of a bit of blood and guts. This is the group that got Terrence Malick and Michael Haneke Director nominations, or "Django Unchained" in the Best Picture race.

Example: Filmmakers like David Fincher, Kathryn Bigelow and Quentin Tarantino probably tick this box, or younger actors like Seth Rogen or Jessica Chastain.

First Choice: "The Wolf Of Wall Street"—they probably grew up on Scorsese's movies, and are delighted to see him back on the territory where he flourishes best. The length and the language/sexuality doesn't phase them much either (though some of the backlash against the film might give them a little pause, if it's on their radar).

Other Options: "12 Years A Slave" and "Gravity" both display distinctive directorial voices, as does "American Hustle" (though this group is much more likely to go for full-fat Scorsese, rather than Russell's more freewheeling version). "Her" and "Inside Llewyn Davis" could also pick up votes here.

Least Likely To Vote For: "Saving Mr. Banks" or "Dallas Buyers Club"—performance-driven movies directed by people that they've barely heard of.

Inside Llewyn Davis

The Cinephiles

Who: Close cousins to the Auteurists, but lean a little artsier. Not necessarily averse to sex and drugs and violence, but prefer their films a little quieter, paying more attention to the festival circuit and international filmmakers than most. They know that a vote for "Blue Is The Warmest Color" in Best Picture might be a wasted one, but they don't care. They pay more attention to critics' top 10 lists than to guild award or Golden Globes. Likely to include a big bulk of international filmmakers and crew members too.

Example: Steven Soderbergh or Ang Lee probably fall somewhere here, or international filmmakers like Michael Haneke (does Haneke vote? Gosh, we hope so).

First Choice: "Inside Llewyn Davis." A Cannes premiere + "difficult' material" + a brace of fine performances + a reminder of their early struggling days + critical adulation.

Other Options: "Her" will also be a big one here, and "12 Years A Slave." Expect scattered votes for "Gravity," "Nebraska" and "Blue Jasmine" too.

Least Likely To Vote For: "Lee Daniels' The Butler." The director might have toned down his style, but it's still pretty crude stuff. Plus they may well have had a run or two with Harvey Weinstein over the years.

12 Years A Slave

The Hollywood Liberals

Who: The art is important to this group, but comes second to the message that they're sending with their vote. Sometimes that message is about the film ("Milk," "Precious"), sometimes the director (they would never have voted for Polanski for best director, as much as they liked "The Pianist"). Most likely to cause controversy with their acceptance speech if they were won something.

Example: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins or Jane Fonda.

First Choice: "12 Years A Slave," easily. They felt uncomfortable about "Django Unchained," but Steve McQueen's film is the best ever film about slavery, and one that treats its subject matter with bracing honesty.

Other Options: "Dallas Buyers Club," although they find the decision to make an AIDS movie about a straight protagonist problematic. "Philomena" is also a possibility, though it's a little too comforting for them.

Least Likely To Vote For: "Gravity." The craft might be dazzling, but they dismissed it as a blockbuster long ago.

Lee Daniels' The Butler

The Sensitive Hollywood Liberals

Who: The parents of the Hollywood liberals, who remember the Civil Rights struggle and wore AIDS ribbons in the 1980s. They're still true-blue Democrats, and give money to causes, but prefer their political fare comforting rather than abrasive, and they've heard that "12 Years A Slave" is awfully hard to sit through, and if they do sit through it, it made them feel guilty rather than uplifted.

Example: Generally on the older side of things, so someone like Barbra Streisand could fit this category (though that's probably unfair to her). Michael Moore's reaction to "Wolf Of Wall Street" suggests he's heading this way too.

First Choice: "Lee Daniels' The Butler." A touching and powerful reminder of the Civil Rights struggle, and watching it didn't make them feel like Benedict Cumberbatch's "12 Years a Slave" character.

Other Options: "Philomena" will play really well with this contingent, and "Dallas Buyers Club" will definitely pick up votes too.

Least Likely To Vote For: "The Wolf of Wall Street," which they worry might be more in love with Jordan Belfort's lifestyle they they'd like.

This article is related to: Awards, Academy Awards, Oscars, The Golden Globes


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