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||| Sergio Leone |||
Sergio Leone

Leone’s career is remarkable in its unrelenting attention to both American culture and the American genre film, exploring the mythic America he created with each successive film examining the established characters in greater depth.

Only his second feature (a remake of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo), Leone's landmark "spaghetti western" caused a revolution and features Clint Eastwood in his breakthrough role as "The Man With No Name". This classic brutal drama of feuding families wasn’t the first spaghetti Western, but it was far and away the most successful up to that time.

Plot is of minimal interest, but character is everything to Leone, who places immense meaning in the slightest flick of an eyelid, extensively using the extreme close-up on the eyes to reveal any feeling, as demonstrated by Clint, who squints his way through this slam-bang sequel to A Fistful of Dollars as a wandering gunslinger that must combine forces with his nemesis to track down a wanted killer.

The final chapter in the groundbreaking trilogy follows Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach as they form an uneasy alliance to find a stash of hidden gold. Leone focuses on his central theme as they find themselves facing greed, treachery, and murder, showing that the desire for wealth and power turns men into ruthless creatures who violate land and family and believe that a man’s death is less important than how he faces it.

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Oscar Handicap 2014: Best Picture of the Year

By EdwardHavens

March 1st, 2014

We begin (or conclude, depending on how you go about perusing) our eleventh series of articles with the most important and prestigious award in all cinema.

Oscar Handicap 2014: Best Picture of the Year

We took a look many of the major categories over the past 35 ceremonies (for the films of 1979 through 2012), and found some surprising mathematical data, which may give some pause about who might win on Sunday night.

Please note: These are not predictions on how the awards will turn out. Like in baseball, there are always more stats that could delve deeper into any category (like how well Buster Posey hits with men in scoring position, with less than two outs, at AT&T Park, during day games, against left handers, on artificial turf, when the count is 3-1, etc.), but these numbers are meant to entertain and start some interesting discussions about the nominees.

For clarification purposes, when there is mention of a pre-award favorite, this describes how this person won at least two of the top five pre-Oscar awards, between the Golden Globe for Drama, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the National Board of Review, the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle. Also, when there is mention of someone playing a real person, the character that actor played must not be a fictionalized version of a real person. When Christian Bale won Best Supporting Actor in 2011 for playing Dicky Eklund, Dicky is a real person. If Bale wins for "American Hustle," his Irving Rosenfeld is a fictionalized version of real-life con man and ABSCAM particpant Melvin Weinberg, and thus would not qualify.

And now, on with the show...

There are three basic trains of thought: that "12 Years a Slave" is one of the powerful and moving stories to make it to cinema screens in many years and is deserving of a Best Picture Oscar; that "Gravity" is a masterful film from the sixth teaming of a virtuoso director and cinematographer and is deserving of a Best Picture Oscar; and that "American Hustle" is a begiling mix of comedy and drama rarely seen in movies today and is deserving of a Best Picture Oscar.

So which one will it be? Or is there a dark horse candidate possibly lurking in the shadows?

The Breakdowns:
1) Movies with nominated screenplays have won 34 of the past 35 ceremonies (97.14%). Advantage: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street
2) Films nominated for Best Editing have won for Best Picture 34 of 35 (97.14%). Advantage: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave
3) Best Picture winners have come from movies whose directors were also nominated for Best Director 33 of 35 (94.29%). Advantage: American Hustle, Gravity, Nebraska, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street
4) Films with at least five other nominations have won Best Picture 76 of the 85 previous Oscar ceremonies (89.41%). Advantage: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Nebraska, 12 Years a Slave
5) Best Picture winners have had at least one acting nomination 31 of 35 (88.57%). Advantage: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street
6) Movies with a screenplay nominated by the WGA have won Best Picture 29 of 35 (82.86%). Advantage: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street
7) Best Picture winners have lined up with the winner of the Directors Guild's Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Award 28 of 35 (80%). Advantage: Gravity
8) The Best Picture winner has also won the PGA Golden Laurel Award 18 of the 24 times the latter award has been presented (75%). Advantage: Gravity, 12 Years a Slave
9) Stories predominantly set outside the past thirty years have won 24 of 35 (68.57%). Advantage: American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave
10) Pictures that have received the Golden Globe for drama have won 20 of 35 (57.14%). Advantage: 12 Years a Slave
11) Best Picture Winners have come from materials previously published or produced 20 of 35 (57.14%). Advantage: Captain Phillips, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street
12) If the director of the film is not also a producer on the film, that film has won 19 of 35 (54.29%). Advantage: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska, Philomena
13) Movies primarily set in the United States of America have won 18 of 35 (51.43%). Slight advantage: American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street
Mythbuster) The winner of the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble Cast has won an Oscar 9 of the 18 times the former award has previously been given. Advantage: Everyone and no one

By The Numbers
It's a tight race, but it appears "American Hustle" has the slightest of edges over "12 Years a Slave," but it really is a race too close to call.

"American Hustle" (Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison and Jonathan Gordon): +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, +6, -7, -8, +9, -10, -11, +12, +13 (341 of 494, 69.03%)
"Captain Phillips" (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca): +1, +2, -3, +4, +5, +6, -7, -8, -9, -10, +11, +12, -13 (301 of 494, 60.93%)
"Dallas Buyers Club" (Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter): +1, +2, -3, +4, +5, +6, -7, -8, -9, -10, -11, +12, +13 (297 of 494, 60.12%)
"Gravity" (Alfonso Cuaron and David Heyman): -1, +2 ,-3, +4, +5, -6, +7, +8, -9, -10, -11, -12, -13 (301 of 494, 60.93%)
"Her" (Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay): +1, -2, -3, -4, -5, +6, -7, -8, -9, -10, -11, -12, +13 (167 of 494, 33.81%)
"Nebraska" (Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa): +1, -2, +3, +4, +5, +6, -7, -8, -9, -10, -11, +12, +13 (295 of 494, 59.72%)
"Philomena" (Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward): +1, -2, -3, -4, +5, -6, -7, -8, -9, -10, +11, +12, -13 (176 of 494, 35.63%)
"12 Years a Slave" (Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas): +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, -6, -7, +8, +9, +10, +11, -12, +13 (337 of 494, 68.22%)
"The Wolf of Wall Street" (Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joey McFarland and Emma Tillinger Koskof): +1, -2, +3, -4, +5, +6, -7, -8, -9, -10, +11, -12, +13 (231 of 494, 46.76%)

So, how did we do last year?

Our Oscar Handicap was correct in the categories of Best Picture, Best Actor, both Supporting categories, Cinematography, Adapted Screenplay, Foreign Language Film and Animated Film, while missing on Director (we had Spielberg over Lee, 63.53% to 53.53%), Actress (Chastain over Lawrence, 70.31% to 63.28%) and Original Screenplay (Amour over Djanog Unchained, 62.99% to 61.52%).


All articles in this series:
Best Picture of the Year
Best Director
Best Actor and Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress
Best Cinematography
Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Feature