Prior to the Oscars, Slate hosted a contest called "Lean/Lock for the Oscars," our new-and-improved version of traditional Academy Awards pools. With Sunday night's results tallied, we have a winner. But first, how did Slate readers do overall?
Respectably, if not brilliantly. The wisdom of the crowds correctly picked 16 of 24 categories for a batting average of .667. In the six major categories, readers' aggregate guesses had the same level of accuracy, correctly picking the best picture, best actor, best actress, and best supporting actor winners, but erroneously favoring Hailee Steinfeld for best supporting actress (though only by a two-percentage-point margin) over winner Melissa Leo and goofing on David Fincher (The Social Network) for best director.
Indeed, Tom Hooper's statuette for directing The King's Speech was the biggest upset of the night—according to one measure, at least. Contestants in our pool could "lean" or "lock" to each of their picks, based on their confidence; locks earned players twice as many points as leans if they were correct, but also lost them twice as many points if wrong. Each of the 10 most-locked Oscar nominees—led by Toy Story 3 for best animated feature and Colin Firth for best actor—won Sunday night. (On a player-by-player level, too, there was a strong correlation between confidence and correctness: 68 percent of locks proved correct, compared with just 43 percent of leans.) David Fincher's directing nomination was the 11th most-locked, and the highest-ranked to lose. Take comfort, Lean/Lockers: Directing was also the only major category that stats guru Nate Silver missed this year.
Here's another nominee for biggest upset: The Lost Thing's win for animated short film. The 15-minute adaptation of Shaun Tan's 2000 picture book of the same name garnered just 1 percent of Lean/Lockers' picks, the least in the category and the least of any winning nominee. It was a 79-percentage-point underdog to Day & Night, Pixar's in-theater prelude to Toy Story 3. (The race would have been closer, no doubt, had The Lost Thing also played in several thousand American theaters.)
But enough with the Kirk Douglas-like dawdling. Here's the information you've all been waiting for: In our pool, Todd Lokken's 31 points were enough to eke out a one-point victory over runners-up Michael Colton and Tony Piantedosi. Lokken, 45, lives in Southern California, where he runs Web sites for a video game company. He got 21 of the 24 categories right, displaying a particular knack for picking lesser-known underdogs like Strangers No More for documentary short, In a Better World for foreign language film, and God of Love for live-action short.
Lokken, who can't recall missing an Oscars ceremony since the 1970s, has a few tips for next year's pool entrants. Don't expect academy voters to choose the best nominee every time; self-congratulation is often a big motivating factor. "The Social Network was probably the best movie, but it didn't have the ambiance of British royalty, or a lead character with a handicap." Even if you're unable to see all the films in categories like animated short or foreign language film, you can often tell whether they'll win over the academy's hearts based on their online synopses; Lokken read them all in preparation for the pool. Finally, Lokken notes, awards in the technical categories usually go to blockbusters that don't have a shot at the major awards—a bill that Inception fit perfectly.
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