|AP Photo/Matt Dunham|
|British actress Helen Mirren mugs with her Best Actress statue at the British Academy Film Awards Sunday night.|
Another weekend, another set of confusing awards.
The Brits of BAFTA like The Queen and the American writers of the WGA like Little Miss Sunshine for best original screenplay and The Departed for best adapted.
Which means we still can't say with any certainty which of these three films will win Oscar's Best Picture, or whether it will be Babel or Letters From Iwo Jima, the other two contenders.
So I'm looking elsewhere for clues. And I think they might be as near as a few mouse clicks away.
I've studied several major online polls that collect and collate Oscar predictions. (These are predictions as opposed to preferences, which I'll get to in a minute):
* Gurus o' Gold: A panel of critics, of which I am a member, that convenes every week or so at Movie City News (www.moviecitynews.com). We've been predicting for a couple of weeks now that Little Miss Sunshine will take the prize. The feel-good Sundance film currently leads with 54 points. The Departed and Babel are tied for second place (each has 46 points), followed by Letters From Iwo Jima (34) and The Queen (29).
* The Academy Tracker: Online poll at Variety.com shows The Departed leading with 32% of the vote. But second place is "Undecided" at 26%, followed by Babel (20%), Little Miss Sunshine (9%), Letters From Iwo Jima (7%) and The Queen (6%). For what it's worth, the percentage for LMS jumped by 1 per cent overnight, following the BAFTA and WGA awards, while Babel and Letters slipped by about the same.
* Entertainment Weekly: A panel of critics and Oscar watchers at www.ew.com list their predictions. Babel leads with 25 points, followed by Little Miss Sunshine (22), The Departed (19), Letters from Iwo Jima (12) and The Queen (12). LMS and Letters are gaining, the other three are slipping.
Do these figures tell us anything? Only that respondents to these polls believe that the three main contenders for Best Picture are, in alphabetical order, Babel, The Departed and Little Miss Sunshine.
Now let's look at a poll where personal preference is sought, not predictions:
* The Vanity Fair Oscar Poll: Online at www.vanityfair.com, which also has a daily blog called Little Gold Men, it has The Departed leading by a precise 31.7% of respondents, followed by Little Miss Sunshine (27.37%), Babel (20.18%), The Queen (13.97%) and Letters From Iwo Jima (6.78%). LMS does better when personal preference is used as the selection criteria.
Here's the million-dollar question: How many of these Vanity Fair voters are also Academy voters?
The Departed has almost exactly the same score on the Vanity Fair preference poll as it does on the Variety prediction poll. Does that imply any advantage or momentum?
And what does the sizeable "undecided" vote on the Variety poll mean? Are more than one in four respondents amongst Variety's Hollywood-savvy audience still hedging their bets?
Sasha Stone's Oscarwatch.com, meanwhile, has two Best Picture polls: What will win: The Departed (39%), Little Miss Sunshine (30%), Babel (22%), Letters From Iwo Jima (5%), The Queen (1%) What should win: The Departed (47%), Little Miss Sunshine (20%), Babel (15%), Letters From Iwo Jima (9%), The Queen (6%).
Sasha Stone's Oscarwatch.com, meanwhile, has two Best Picture polls:
What will win: The Departed (39%), Little Miss Sunshine (30%), Babel (22%), Letters From Iwo Jima (5%), The Queen (1%)
What should win: The Departed (47%), Little Miss Sunshine (20%), Babel (15%), Letters From Iwo Jima (9%), The Queen (6%).
It's still a guessing game at this point. Best Picture probably comes down to a three-way fight between Babel, The Departed and Little Miss Sunshine.