How to predict the Oscars

I like the Oscars; I really do.

Yes, it’s a long winded, overblown and pretentious affair, but there’s something so entertaining about watching a bunch of people pat themselves on the back for three hours. Smugness is like a 16-car pileup.

What isn’t fun about the Oscars ceremony is how predictable it is. With the exception of the technical awards, though those can be easy to predict as well, not a lot of time or effort has to go in to crafting a near perfect ballot while you follow along at home.

There are several awards ceremonies that take place prior to the Oscars. In fact, every awards ceremony occurs before them. Now, there are several ceremonies but you only need to sift through four to have your predictions set. And for good measure we’ll discuss a fifth ceremony to cement it all in place.

The four ceremonies are: The Screen Actors Guild Awards, The Producers Guild Awards, The Directors Guild Awards and the Writers Guild Awards. Our bonus ceremony is The Golden Globes.

By tracking along with those main four you’ve tackled all of the major categories with the exception of cinematography and music. So, let’s go through them all and set our ballots.

The SGAs happen first and give us our first glimpse of who the frontrunners are in the four acting categories. They also give a slight bump to one of the Best Picture contenders.

Matthew McConaughey won Best Actor for his turn in Dallas Buyers Club, Cate Blanchett won for Blue Jasmine. In the supporting categories Jared Leto won for Dallas Buyers Club and Lupita Nyong’o won for 12 Years a Slave.

Normally in a situation like this we’d turn to the Golden Globes to corroborate their chances at the Oscars (which they do for three of the four nominees), but then we’d use the Critics’ Choice Awards as a second backup (they do as well across the board). So these four are locks for the Oscar, which is depressing since Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill are more deserving of the honors.

The PGAs came next, but we’ll save that for last since the PGAs determine the big winner. Let’s jump to the DGAs.

Alfonso Cuaron took home top honors for his direction of the sci fi spectacle Gravity. Consider him a sure thing for the Best Director Oscar. Normally, the DGAs are better at predicting the Best Picture Oscar than the PGAs, but we won’t count our chickens so quickly.

The WGAs followed. The writing awards are rarely ever indicators of the Best Picture winner and in my mind are consolation prizes. Spike Jonze’s Her won Best Original and Captain Philips won for Best Adapted. Her has been taking home the honor for a while now so we can safely call that race. Since the Globes only have the one screenplay category (Her won) and 12 Years a Slave won best adaptation at the Critics’ Choice Awards (Philomena, which is fantastic, won at the BAFTAs mainly because, well, it’s British), this will be the most difficult category to determine. Captain Philips is a safe bet, but 12 Years a Slave is safer for reasons we’ll get to in a moment.

Finally, we have the PGAs, which have a good history of predicting the Best Picture winner. This year is a little difficult, however, as something unprecedented happened. The PGAs awarded the top prize to two films – 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. Now we look at all of our resources to determine the ultimate winner. Cuaron has been winning Best Director at just about every ceremony out there. Conversely, 12 Years a Slave has the most best picture wins at the awards.

What this race will come down to is one thing (and a stupid thing at that). Which film is more politically charged. That’s generally how the Oscars are decided; which film has a stronger political message. That’s why Jared Leto will be going home with a trophy and not Jonah Hill. 12 Years a Slave will win.

That’s not to say it will win solely because of it’s political vitriol, it’s an incredible film and was my fourth favorite from the entire year. I’m just telling you what will win and why. If the Oscars were determined based on quality The Wolf of Wall Street would win (it would most likely sweep the ceremony). But it won’t.

So why is it easy to predict the Oscars based on these other awards ceremonies? The answer is simpler than you might think. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is made up of the same people who make up each of those guilds. True, AMPAS has fewer members by category, but it’s all relative. That means you have people like Will Smith and Seth Rogen voting for the same actors at the Oscars that they voted for at the SGAs.

Oh, and for the Oscars, if you are a member of AMPAS, you can only vote for the category for which you are recognized. So, Quentin Tarantino would vote for Best Director (and in some cased best Screenplay), Seth Rogen would vote in the four acting categories and so on. Everyone gets to vote for Best Picture and that’s why there’s some discrepancy between who wins at the PGAs and who wins at the Oscars.

There won’t be any discrepancy this year. Expect no surprises. Hollywood hates surprises.

The Oscars are live on Sunday, March 2 at 7 p.m on ABC.