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Oscar Forecast: Release the Wonks!
by Mark Armstrong
Mar 23, 2001, 4:45 PM PT

In between analyzing artificial markets and their predictions for the discovery of sub-atomic particles, a group of brains from the NEC Research Institute has made this startling (dare we say, earth-shattering) scientific revelation:

Gladiator is a favorite to win Oscar's Best Picture.

Sure, these people could be putting their vast resources and superhuman knowledge toward something like, say, curing cancer. But c'mon folks! It's Oscar time! Place your bets!

That appears to be the consensus (at least, for those not currently working to cure cancer), as Oscar mania reaches its climax and everyone--from entertainment publications (including E! Online) to that guy running your Oscar office pool--feverishly jots down their predictions for the big screen's big night Sunday at the Shrine Auditorium.

This year, those looking for scientific analysis needn't look far. Industry site Inside.com has trumpeted what it calls the "Inside Line"--a complicated handicapping system that gives Oscar nominees points for everything from those "For Your Consideration" ads to pre-Oscar kudos like the Golden Globes and guild awards (Inside's pick for Best Pic? Gladiator). Then there are the critics: Heavyweights like Roger Ebert and thumb-buddy Richard Roeper also made the press rounds this week making their own guesstimates. (For the record, Ebert likes Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, while Roeper sides with Traffic.)

But according to a new study from Princeton, New Jersey's NEC Institute, last year's best predictions came not from the so-called "experts," but from the average folks at show-biz Website Hollywood Stock Exchange. Last year, HSX stock traders correctly nailed all eight of Oscar's major categories.

"Our goal was to determine to what extent these game markets mimick real markets," says Dr. David Pennock, research scientist for the NEC Institute. "On the Hollywood Stock Exchange, we looked at the accuracy of box-office forecasts and the accuracy of predicting awards, and we found that they were surprisingly good."

If, like last year, Hollywood Stock Exchange ends up 8-for-8, this year's Best Picture would go to Gladiator, Ang Lee would pick up Best Director; Russell Crowe, Best Actor; Julia Roberts, Best Actress and Kate Hudson and Benicio Del Toro would win in the supporting categories.

Meanwhile, one publication noticeably missing from the Oscar forecasting frenzy is the Wall Street Journal, which endured a firestorm of flak and party-pooper accusations last year when it tried to poll Academy members and predict the winners. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences condemned the Journal's tactics as "an assault on our privacy."

Ultimately, it turned out the Journal's guessing game was close, but not perfect: The newspaper correctly picked all but Best Actor, which went to Kevin Spacey for American Beauty instead of the Journal's choice, Denzel Washington for The Hurricane (they did, however, hedge their bets by saying the category was a close call).

But the Journal insists it wasn't the criticism that led it to dump its Oscar forecast this year. "We were very pleased with the way it went last year, but it just didn't seem it was worth the resources," says Richard Tofel, spokesman for the Journal. "We made the decision not to do it."

Finally, if you're looking for the most scientific predictions of this year's race, check out ModernHumorist.com, which bravely predicts that Best Supporting Actor nominee Joaquin Phoenix "has been due for an Oscar nod since his star-making performance (as Leaf Phoenix) in Space Camp."

Modern Humorist's final prediction? Seann William Scott will win for Dude, Where's My Car?.

Finally, a choice everyone can get behind.

RELATED LINKS
Our complete coverage of the 2001 Oscars
E! Online's Oscar predictions


L   A   T   E   S   T      N   E   W   S
FIRST LOOK: Top Stories | Perry Returns to His "Friends" | Oscar Wonks Crunch the Numbers | Rosie Makes Nice with PETA | Scriptgate, the Sequel?

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