And the Oscar goes to…

Cinema scholars Left to right: Peter Decherney, director of Penn's Cinema Studies Program; Meta Mazaj, a lecturer in cinema studies; and Timothy Corrigan, an internationally renowned film scholar and cinema studies professor.


Photo Credit: Jacquie Posey

Think film professors have an edge over everyone else at accurately predicting Academy Award winners? Think again.

“Although I supposedly know a lot about films, I’m terrible at picking the Oscars,” says Peter Decherney, director of the Cinema Studies Program at Penn. “We have a department pool every year and I’ve only won once. But it was purely by accident.”

Nonetheless, Decherney weighed in on the 2011 Academy Award race at a recent faculty panel discussion titled “And the Oscar Goes to...” The program, part of the School of Arts and Sciences lecture series “Knowledge by the Slice,” focused on who will win the coveted statuettes and who should win at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards ceremony this Sunday, Feb. 27.

Decherney joined noted film scholar Timothy Corrigan, an English and cinema studies professor at Penn, and Meta Mazaj, a lecturer in cinema studies at Penn, on the panel.

The film enthusiasts explained that in order to fully understand the science behind Oscar picks, one must know how industry insiders use money and advertising to game the system. The American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is made up of more than 6,000 film industry veterans who vote for the nominees. These voters know that while being nominated for an award is an honor, it is also a significant marketing and promotions opportunity.

During the panel discussion, Decherney cited a recent study that found that an Oscar nomination adds $20 million to a film’s box office receipts. An Oscar win? That amounts to an additional $15 million.

“Theatrical distribution for every major movie is about creating a buzz,” Corrigan says. “It’s about creating promotion for the DVD sales. It’s not about getting people into the theaters.”

Decherney predicts “Toy Story 3” will win in the Best Picture category. Corrigan thinks it will be “The Social Network,” and Mazaj believes “The King’s Speech” will take the top prize.

All three Penn professors believe Colin Firth will win the Best Actor award for his performance in “The King’s Speech.” They also agree that Natalie Portman will take home the Best Actress trophy for her leading role in “Black Swan.”



Originally published on February 24, 2011