The Finer Things Club’s Fantasy Oscar Pool

By: Chris Dagonas and Daniel Reynolds

The Oscar Draft Setup:

Chris: Leave it to me, the Same Page Team’s resident fantasy expert, to find a way to fantasy-ize the Academy Awards. Yes, we at the Finer Things Club ran an Oscar Pool last night, but it was quite a bit different from the cut-out-of-a-newspaper style that everyone and their grandmother usually plays. Allow me to explain.

In standard Oscar Pools, there are normally a range of categories for which there is one clear winner. Let’s call it the Daniel Day-Lewis factor. When this happens, everyone in the Oscar pool already knows the outcome, and are all getting ready to chalk themselves up another point when the expected name is called. Boring.

To eliminate this DDL factor, I fell back on my fantasy sports roots. Rather than having everyone in the room make the same choice for a category, choices were chosen by a draft, and once drafted, were unavailable to anyone else.

So, the first overall pick, much like in a basketball draft, is best spent on a category that has the Daniel Day-Lewis factor going for it. Ironically, this year that would probably be best spent on Day-Lewis himself, for the best actor category. Now, once somebody has made that choice, no one else can select Day-Lewis to win best actor. So, the person with the second pick can either choose another actor in that category, or hope that there is another DDL factor somewhere else in the nominations. Anne Hathaway for supporting actress comes to mind.  Again, once she has been selected, she is off the board. The draft continues that way until all participants have made 24 selections (since there are 24 categories). One small caveat was added on draft night, however: competitors have the opportunity to hedge bets by selecting more than one pick in each category. More on that later.

Once we have all drafted our teams, we watch the awards and tally points, as usual, to find a winner.  Winner gets a bottle of their choice; loser gets tormented and harassed until next year’s Academy Awards. Results from last night are coming up.

Day-Lewis holding an award. This happens a lot.

Day-Lewis holding an award. This happens a lot.

The Draft:

Daniel: So indulge me here as I organize the draft. We went with the highly technical “draw names out of a hat” method. The results: first overall pick went to Paul Andreacchi, second went to Chris Dagonas, third went to me and fourth was Ian Clark. We went with a snaked order backwards through the second round and so on.

Jumping right into it: Andreacchi led off with the “LeBron James” of the Academy Awards, Daniel Day-Lewis in the best actor category, effectively closing the category.  Dagonas then went with what he felt was the “Kevin Durant”, Steven Spielberg, for best director, though I came in later and gambled with an Ang Lee pick. With my actual first pick I went with the lock Anne Hathaway. I’m not going to run that annoying Hathaway GIF again. Much like my NBA Fantasy teams, I already don’t like my Oscar fantasy team. To close out the first round, Clark reached for “Brave” in the best animated feature film.

Chris: Other locked up categories soon followed: I snagged Jennifer Lawrence for best actress, with mild competition from Paul’s Emmanuelle Riva pick; Daniel snagged Tommy Lee Jones in a contentious supporting actor category for his role in “Lincoln” and “Amour” for best foreign film.

By the fifth round, the picks stopped flying off the board, and began to get dragged off instead. Film editing, cinematography, sound editing and mixing were all tough slogs. Adele’s “Skyfall” was the only song drafted, as there was no confidence among the pool members in that category beyond that.

There were tense moments during the draft, such as when Paul tried to draft Jessica Chastain, but I vehemently defended my ownership of her (ownership here only in the fantasy sense, but if I could, I’d own her in any other sense as well).

Daniel: Let me step in before Chris gets out of hand. I also enjoyed when Ian started hedging by doubling up in the Original Screenplay category, picking both Django Unchained and Moonrise Kingdom, back to back. He also was going to triple up in the Best Documentary category. Ian is a wild man. Come on, he reached for Brave in the first round. This is crazy! In any case, what I learned as the draft went along is that it is best to pile up guesses in the categories full of unknown quantities. No point in picking a different best Actor winner besides Day-Lewis but who is winning Best Sound Editing? Best Documentary Short? It’s why no one batted an eye when Paul made his Adele pick for Best Song in the second round (and no one even attempted to pick another song). It’s a smaller category, but come on, Adele. In other news, Paul boldly pronounces his intention to win the pool.

Chris: Having entered the 20th of the 24 rounds, only two Best Picture nominees have been drafted (Argo and Lincoln). I find this interesting, as the Best Picture category is the “prestige” category, and thought to be wide open this year. I eventually used a 24th round pick on Zero Dark Thirty winning Best Picture, in what definitely would have been the shock of the night. Homer pick of the night: Daniel uses his 24th rounder on “The Avengers” for Best Visual Effects, and we all laughed and laughed.  He loves his comic books, that guy. As with other drafts, there were undrafted picks when all 24 rounds were said and done. Some notable undrafted free agents included Alan Arkin, Sally Field, Denzel Washington, Naomi Watts, and half the Best Picture nominees. It’s 8:30, the pizza is here, let’s get this thing started!

Seth MacFarlane has hit the stage. For better or worse.

Seth MacFarlane has hit the stage. For better or worse.

The Broadcast:

Daniel: So here we go, the show begins, here comes our host Seth MacFarlane, clearly the biggest gamble of the night. We’ve got a Tommy Lee joke, a Ben Affleck joke, and some unfortunate shots at Jean Dujardin. I’m not saying that McFarlane is dying, but for an Oscars show that is apparently being dedicated to Musicals (really? musicals?), his stand up bit seems a bit misplaced. But then he dropped a Rihanna and Chris Brown joke. The mic is live!

Nevermind, I take it back. Shatner just showed up. And a boob song just started up. Maybe we should just check out until they start giving out the awards. Is the opening of these Oscars really being based on the interplay between MacFarlane and Shatner? What year is it? What is happening right now? OK, I’ll stop. From here on out, straight up category commentary.

Finally, the first award: Best Supporting Actor. Lot of experience here, lot of questions. And in a surprise win: Christoph Waltz is the winner. Paul is being very humble right off the bat (he picked Waltz. It was contentious). I didn’t expect him to take the Oscar after winning so recently for Inglourious Basterds, but hey, a great role.

Next up, the Animated films. For Best Short Animated: Paperman wins (point for me). And then for Best Animated Film: Brave. I figured it was neck and neck with Wreck-it Ralph. Anyway, Ian snags the win. And unfortunately, Roger Deakins loses his 10th Oscar because Best Cinematography goes to Life of Pi (and a point for Chris). After the first four awards, we are in a dead heat: a 4-way tie. The suspense is palpable.

And now, some of the dressy awards. Up for Best Visual Effects: Life of Pi. No surprise here but we have our first winner to be totally owned by the play-off music. Yikes. On the less technical side, Best Costume Design: Anna Karenina. I didn’t think enough people saw that film. In the same mode, Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Les Miserables. That was fun. Anyway, Paul has 2 wins. He is getting pretty fired up already.

50 Year Bond break. Let’s all take a moment. Shirley Bassey out of the floor!

Shirley Bassey is here. Let's relax.

Shirley Bassey is here. Let’s relax.

Some film awards that aren’t Best Picture. Fast and furious now, Best Live Action Short Film: Curfew, Best Short Doc: Inocente, Best Doc: Searching for Sugarman. Score update: Paul and I are tied at 3. Chris and Ian tied at 2. Tension.

In a category that was pretty much a lock from the start, the Best Foreign Film goes to Amour. When a film gets nominated for Best Pic and Best Foreign, it’s a good bet. A bet I made. I’d love to talk about this more but we’re being played off by the Jaws theme and another musical interlude is starting up.

After a long break (that included Russell Crowe singing), we are back with the glamourous sound awards. First up, Best Sound Mixing to Les Miserables. And then for Best Sound Editing: Zero Dark Thirty AND Skyfall. I’ve been watching the Oscars for awhile and that is the first time I’ve seen a tie. I think there was an audible gasp from the crowd. And, both winners were Scandinavians with long hair. Make of that what you will. For those scoring at home, I’m up 6, Paul and Chris at 3, and Ian with 2. Shockingly, Paul is speechless.

Here we go, Christopher Plummer (he’s the best) is on stage to present Best Supporting Actress. The winner: Anne Hathaway. Moving on. Right into the speech by the Academy President. Some real emotional highs and lows here.

Back to the awards, Best Film Editing: Argo. Is it weird that Argo is going to be Best Picture but only win one other Oscar? Seems odd somehow. Anyway, another point to me. But don’t think about it too much though, Adele just hit the stage to sing Skyfall. I feel bad for the other Best Song nominees.

Lot of comments about Kristen Stewart here as presenter of this next Oscar. Most of which I can’t reprint. My point is, Best Production Design: Lincoln. Paul is irate. But now they’re giving out the Humanitarian Award and he’s calmed down. Can’t stay mad while they’re giving out Honorary and Humanitarian Awards.

Heads up, the In Memoriam segment, some singing, more talking, I think we saw a montage in there, and now Best Original Score: Life of Pi. And in a moment that surprised no one, Best Original Song: Skyfall. Paul arises from his stupor, after finally winning another category. He has stopped keeping score (I’m still in the lead with 8 points). And I’m wondering what the hell we just watched with the presentation of that last category. Best Song had some video montage and some live performances, has that ever happened before? So weird.

Well, now don’t I feel foolish. Argo wins for Best Adapted Screenplay. So, two wins for Argo so far and the shoe-in win I thought for Lincoln here was not to be. For Best Original Screenplay, Tarantino gets his Oscar for Django Unchained. He is just perfectly ruffled, and then talks down the play-off music. What a show! And to really capture the emotional confusion, here is Ang Lee to win for Best Director. A nice moment, but this show has been all over the map. I’d work out a joke to make here but we’re almost at hour four. The mood is… lackadaisical. I think Paul may be dead (or tied with Chris for last place).

Whoa, Jennifer Lawrence wins, trips, and Hugh Jackman goes in for the save. Everyone holds their breath as Lawrence leaves the stage. Don’t worry Meryl Streep has emerged to restore order and present Best Actor to Daniel Day-Lewis, who then makes a Margaret Thatcher joke. Truly, he is one of our finest cultural treasures.

Here comes Jack to introduce the Best Picture. Wait, huge swerve, Michelle Obama on to make a speech beforehand! This show hasn’t been long enough. But still, the winner of Best Picture: Argo. Ebert had it right all along.

Son of a... Clooney!!!

Dammit, Clooney. Don’t you have enough?

The Final Results:

Daniel: We made it, it is midnight and we’ve got the final results. Tying for last place are Chris and Ian with five points each, then Paul with six points, and the winner of the Finer Things Club’s Fantasy Oscar Pool is: Me with 9 points. Hold your applause. Now let’s go to sleep. In the upset of the night, Paul is too tired to be upset. Good night everybody.

Chris: Yes, this did not end up as I would have wanted, but at the very least, I am thrilled that this experiment in a new type of Oscar pool went well. No one feels like a completely ignorant buffoon, and it kept it interesting throughout the technical awards, which is usually a struggle.  Frankly, this year’s awards show did drag quite a bit, but I still found myself reaching for my score sheet every time an award was about to be given out. We’ll see you next year.

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