Oscar Predictions: Where Do We Stand on Best Picture?

Meet our new awards expert Joe Reid — keep up with his column for the predictions, news and opinions you’ll need to sound well-informed at parties for the entire awards season.

It's a race, you guys! An honest-to-God Best Picture race with multiple contenders to walk home with the night's big award. There are three major indicators that have yet to be decided that will ultimately let us know which way the wind is blowing — the SAG ensemble award, the Producers Guild award and the Directors Guild award — but until then, it's all about the power of the campaign. And there are some good ones out there. Let's see how they stack up.


Current Position: Rolling around in its 12 nominations like they're dollar bills on Demi Moore's bed in "Indecent Proposal."

Credits: The most-nominated film has won Best Picture 56 times in the previous 84 years of Oscar history. Those 12 nominations include a heck of a lot on the tech categories, indicating a broad base of support. The hugely likeable Steven Spielberg will be campaigning. Roughly half of all working actors in Hollywood are either in "Lincoln," married to someone in "Lincoln" or owe a favor to someone in "Lincoln."

Demerits: In the last eight years, the most-nominated film has lost Best Picture five times. There is a reputation building for "Lincoln" that it is respectable but not loved. An extended six-week lag between nominations and the Oscars could give voters a long time to get bored and choose something else.

Historical Precedent: "The English Patient," which had to endure the indie-cred waves of "Fargo" and "Secrets & Lies," the feel-goodery of "Shine" and the Hollywood glitz of "Jerry Maguire" to hold on and win like everybody said they would.

Mathematically Inaccurate Chances of Winning: 81%

Silver Linings Playbook"Silver Linings Playbook"

Current Position: Putting on their trash bag windbreakers and their ballroom shoes because it is GO TIME.

Credits: It's the first movie since "Reds" to get nominations in all four acting categories, so obviously the actors love it, and the actors represent the largest bloc of Oscar voters. Producer Harvey Weinstein has made a career of muscling so-called "lightweight" Oscar contenders across the finish line.

Demerits: While the film has its fans, it also has its major detractors. A contemporary romantic dramady hasn't won Best Picture since "Terms of Endearment" in 1983, and that one had big fat tears and death (not to mention Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine) in its corner.

Historical Precedent: "Shakespeare in Love," which was the last time that Harvey took down Spielberg (unless you're counting last year, when "The Artist" beat "War Horse," but "War Horse" was never really a contender, now was it?).

Mathematically Inaccurate Chances of Winning: 33%


Current Position: Momentarily panic-stricken by the realization that there's no one flying this plane!

Credits: Actually, read the "Demerits" part first, then come back here. Okay! The weird thing is, for "Argo," weakness is strength. Affleck not getting nominated was such a surprise that now, a vote for "Argo" isn't just a vote to reward an amiable guy who got his career back on track, it's a vote to correct an injustice. As patently ridiculous as that sounds, it's a narrative that is beginning to take shape.

Demerits: Ben Affleck's shocking omission from the Best Director list puts "Argo" behind the historical eight ball. Winning Best Picture without a nominated director is extremely rare, and particularly for a film that seems very "directorly," Affleck's miss would seem to indicate very weak support. However ... (here's where you go back up to "Credits")

Historical Precedent: "Driving Miss Daisy" was the last film to win Best Picture without a nominated director, making Affleck both the Bruce Beresford and the Jessica Tandy of this little tale.

Mathematically Inaccurate Chances of Winning: 56% (and gaining)

"Les Miserables"

Current Position: Getting to the part where life has killed the dream it dreamed.

Credits: At any minute, Academy voters could regain the enthusiasm for musical theater that propelled "Chicago" to a Best Picture win. Or at least the enthusiasm for Tom Hooper that propelled "The King's Speech" to a win.

Demerits: Neither "Chicago" nor "The King's Speech" were unmitigated bummers filmed in uncomfortably tight closeup.

Historical Precedent: I guess "Chicago" wasn't all hearts and flowers, but it had that Teflon layer of cynicism and wit to protect it.

Mathematically Inaccurate Chances of Winning: 7%

"Zero Dark Thirty"

Current Position: Resisting the temptation to play the martyr, for now.

Credits: There's still time for everybody to get over the torture controversy and look at the movie as a filmmaking achievement and not a moral treatise.

Demerits: Looking at movies like moral treatises rather than filmmaking achievements is what we like to do best.

Historical Precedent: "A Beautiful Mind" took a whole lot of crap for its inaccuracies, its supposed whitewashing of anti-Semitism and its depiction of mental illness, and yet it survived.

Mathematically Inaccurate Chances of Winning: 9%

Life of Pi"Life of Pi"

Current Position: Playing it cool, which has been working out so far.

Credits: 11 nominations put it a strong second behind "Lincoln." With Best Picture votes very possibly spread out between as many as three other serious contenders, the mountain may have a chance to come to Mohammed.

Demerits: None of those 11 nominations was in an acting category, and the actors have a huge influence on who wins. Nobody's really talking about it at the moment.

Historical Precedent: "Chariots of Fire" let "Reds" and "On Golden Pond" knock each other out before ascending to the podium to be the last film standing.

Mathematically Inaccurate Chances of Winning: 22%

"Django Unchained"

Current Position: Seated several rows back with the other movies that aren't expected to win.

Credits: The film has its passionate fans who will tell you quite insistently that Quentin Tarantino was robbed of a Best Picture nomination.

Demerits: The year-end hoopla over the movie has died down a good bit, and everybody seems more or less comfortable with this movie being an also-ran.

Historical Precedent: "Moulin Rouge," another divisive movie without a Best Director nomination that went on to lose Best Picture.

Mathematically Inaccurate Chances of Winning: 1%


Current Position: Chasing pigeons, as ever.

Credits: Surprise Best Picture and Best Director nominations indicate that we were all underestimating it a little. Or were we underestimating it a lot?

Demerits: Foreign language movies face enough of a challenge when they're uplifting. "Amour" is not uplifting.

Historical Precedent: "The Deer Hunter"? That was an American movie but also probably the bummer-iest Best Picture winner in recent history.

Mathematically Inaccurate Chances of Winning: 12%

"Beasts of the Southern Wild"

Current Position: Running around in a field full of sparklers.

Credits: Much like "Amour," the surprise nominations could indicate that everybody's predictions were way, way off.

Demerits: Nobody's really talking about it like it could actually win, and Oscar voters don't like to feel like they're throwing their vote away.

Historical Precedent: "The Hurt Locker," if they can get a campaign going that trumpets the little indie that could.

Mathematically Inaccurate Chances of Winning: 16%