Democracy, it seems, will make the Oscar guessing game a challenging exercise this year. So far, apart from a select few categories, a significant number are in disarray because of eligibility regulations in guilds, individual interpretation of placements (especially in both screenplay categories) and shocking snubs.

The series of shudders keep getting bigger, even though by this late in the award season, the more respected of the ceremonies are done and over with.

Boyhood, a power-house destined for Oscar greatness, is seriously butting heads with Birdman, which popped up to secure wins in all the prestigious guild awards. Richard Linklater, once a shoe-in for Best Director is against Alejandro González Iñárritu. Alternately in Best Picture, Birdman is set to beat Boyhood. But then again, it’s also highly likely that Iñárritu may win Best Director and Best Picture would go to Birdman.

The envelopes are signed and sealed, salon appointments made and dress fittings finalised, all that remains now is the ceremony to announce the winners of the 87th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood!

Other messed-up awards fall in Adapted Screenplay, Score (probably the most ingenious and competitive of all categories), Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Foreign Film nominations.

Big Hero 6
Big Hero 6

As far as top-tiered titles go, American Sniper — our least favoured of the heavy-hitters — is still formidable in the race because of the geography, mindset and the genre it may represent (Clint Eastwood’s least persuasive movie). 

The Grand Budapest Hotel, with nine nominations, is perhaps the only title that proved its resilience with both critics and the award season timeframe. The film came out in early March of 2014, and will nab accolades in unexpected categories; in fact, by the end of the ceremony tomorrow, it may very well bag the most wins of the night. And Whiplash, our beloved of the bunch, is in a jam in multiple nominations; its only guaranteed win will be J.K. Simmons as Best Supporting Actor.

Into the Woods
Into the Woods

New pundits often live in a grand delusion believing that the Academy Awards can be mapped by guesstimating wins from actors, producers and writer’s guilds or from far-flung award ceremonies like the BAFTAs or the Golden Globes. That’s not the way it works.

In our decade-long experience of forecasting the Oscars, we rely on a mix of techniques to speculate where the Academy members will cast their ballots. The process includes, but is not limited to, a logical and systematic breakdown of award wins, industry influences, insights and the title’s campaign strengths and weaknesses. But before all this, we go through a rigorous cram-session of viewing every available nominated title in its entirety, regardless of its triviality or officiousness (out of 46 titles we’ve seen 41; the remaining are yet to be released on video or on-demand). This strenuous effort helps us decide on the quality of the nominated movies. After all, being nominated and being a favourite doesn’t really guarantee victories.

We believe our gut feeling plays a big part in guiding our decisions on what may happen (this particular instinct helped us score a perfect forecast at last year’s Oscars). Of course, we have our own individual preferences that may clash with the direction the Oscars are heading.

There is, however, one absolute prediction this year: surprises will spring up right through the Oscars presentation tomorrow.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, February 22nd, 2015

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