Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil isn’t entirely sold on the term “Oscarball,” which I came up with yesterday to describe his new, in-depth, sabermetrics-styled polling and tabulation system on his reconfigured site.
But I think it’s a perfect way to describe his new vote-analysis software program (which has cost him a pretty penny), and it does seem to be a kind of Bill James/Billy Bean-ish way of sizing up award-season action by aggregating opinion from three sectors — so-called Oscar “experts”, Gold Derby editors and readers — and allowing participants to change favorites at the drop of a hat.
So it has more information, more varied participants and can be updated or changed by any participant day or night, twice on Sundays and as many times as they want. Which sounds to me like a more inclusive, particular and stat-intensive way of assessing the ups and downs of the Oscar season than what comes out of the comparatively myopic Gurus of Gold charts, which are basically a result of 14 pundits participating in a kind of instinctual mood-consensus circle-jerk.
Some of the Gold Derby “experts” are Gurus, and of course they stem from the same culture, but they represent a slightly broader consensus with 24 participants (with more to be added in the coming weeks).
The Gurus (i.e., Anthony Breznican, Greg Ellwood, Pete Hammond, Peter Howell, Dave Karger, Mark Olsen, David Poland, Steve Pond, Sasha Stone, Kris Tapley, Anne Thompson, Stu Van Airsdale and Susan Wloszczyna) are a smart bunch from a select fraternity, but they’re basically going on opinion, ether, experience, industry relationships and insect-antennae hunches in the same way those old Moneyball scouts have a liking for players with an attractive swagger and can hit the curve ball with a nice crack of the bat, or who don’t like players with ugly girlfriends because that indicates a lack of confidence.
So Tom O’Neil is Brad Pitt with a more detailed, stat-driven approach, trying to push the game along and open up the field, and David Poland is that Moneyball scout with the man-boobs inside a golf shirt (played by Kenny Medlock) who “can’t see it” and prefers the old seasoned-hunch game. You could look at it that way, I mean.
Myself and Tom O’Neil at the Sunset Towers hotel — Sunday, 10.9, 2:20 pm. (Photo by Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone.)
I play that game myself 24/7 so I’m hardly pointing fingers, but the idea of aggregating more data from a broader field of sources (O’Neil says he’s looking to eventually get as many as 50 Oscar experts assembled) and allowing everyone to change their votes whenever the wind shifts seems like a more accurate way to read the tea leaves than the Poland 14 sending in ballots every other week or whatever.
You can also create a user account within Gold Derby world, “friend” other Derby folk and share your predictions all around. You can also assign a confidence factor to your predictions with dollar values of $100, $200 and $500. This is where it gets into Jimmy-the-Greek territory, which isn’t exactly my thing.
I don’t like what the Gurus have done in underlining and therefore perpetrating the syndrome of familiar (and therefore predictable) emotional defaults becoming favorites in this or that category. This tendency has to be fought tooth and nail (unless I agree with the emotional-default choice), and it seems to me that an opinion software that at least can reflect the changing mood of the room in a matter of minutes or hours is better than a chart that reflects what some people are thinking on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
O’Neil plans to use this system to dig into the annual Emmy race and the Grammys and all the others, but I think that something along the lines what O’Neil is doing here would be more interesting way of assessing new releases than simply the critic-driven Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic systems. Things have to change. They have to get smarter. You have to overturn the apple cart every four or five years and find a better game.