What happens when we put the Wire staff to voting on the Oscar ballot, and then tallied up the votes according to the Academy's preferential-voting process?
That process, in a nutshell:
•Academy members are asked to rank the 10 best-picture nominees in order of preference.
•If a movie gets 51% or more of the vote (unlikely), the contest is over. If not, auditors withPricewaterhouseCoopers will divide the movies into 10 stacks. The movie with the fewest No. 1 votes is eliminated, and that stack's No. 2 votes go to the remaining corresponding films.
•If a majority isn't reached with those No. 2 votes, the process repeats, eliminating the next-lowest pile, whose votes are redistributed. The process continues until one film has a majority vote. Until that time, if a ballot's No. 2 choice has been eliminated, the auditors go to No. 3 and then as far down the ballot as necessary.
This procedure is only in place for Best Picture, but we decided to repeat it for all the categories, just to be fun. (For argument's sake, however, all our eventual winners on the preferential ballot would have also won a straight up-or-down vote as well.
It should be noted that, true, not everybody on The Wire's staff had seen all the nominated films. How many of them were voting on incomplete knowledge? How big were those gaps? We'll never tell. And that's fine, because you know what? Not all the Academy voters will have seen all the nominees anyway. Do you think Dino de Laurentiis went and saw everything on the ballot? Do you trust Mira Sorvino to have done her due diligence? Some of them vote on the actors they like. Or don't like. Some of them vote with what they think the consensus is. Some vote contrary to that consensus. Come give their ballot to their teenage niece. (Nobody on The Wire staff gave their ballot to their teenage niece.)
The truth is, our most valued movie awards are voted on by people who never have to prove they even saw a single movie. All of the voters on The Wire's ballot have seen at least one! That is our pledge to you.
The Wire's 2013 Oscar Ballot
Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave
Six films in total got first-place votes, with only Philomena, Dallas Buyers Club, and, notably, American Hustle coming up empty. But 12 Years was an early and near-decisive winner. It came up just short of the required 50% threshold on the first round of voting, but by the time the #2 choices of Nebraska and Captain Phillips voters (the two lowest vote-getters) were tallied, 12 Years a Slave was an easy winner.
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
This was largely a runaway, with only Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave mustering much of a challenge. Cuaron won on the first ballot.
Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
This one wasn't entirely decisive on the first ballot, with both Chiwetel Ejiofor (39%) and Leonardo DiCaprio (28%) getting big chunks of first-place votes. By the time the Dern, Bale, and McConaughey ballot were plumbed for second-place votes, however, Ejiofor prevailed.
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
This one was every bit the blowout that the real Best Actress race is going to be. Amy Adams put in a valiant runner-up showing, but it was all for naught. Blanchett won on the first ballot.
Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Out first upset! And our first likely deviation from the Oscar script. Jared Leto was never much of a factor, actually (17% of first-place votes). It was Abdi and Michael Fassbender who emerged as the leaders. An early Abdi lead was cut down to a one-vote margin by the second ballot, but by the third ballot, that margin held firm.
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
From the closest race on our ballot to the biggest blowout. Lupita KILLED the field here. Just murdered them. 83% of votes on the first ballot was all she wrote. No runners up. No gift bags. Everybody should go home.
Best Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze, Her
The votes among the runners-up were pretty scattered here, allowing Jonze to skate to victory. Nebraska was slightly ahead for second place, but second place does not matter.
Best Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
This one was incredibly tight between 12 Years and Before Midnight after the first ballot, but on the second, 12 Years a Slave pulled away. This is all very good news for this film come Oscar night, if the Academy is anything like the Wire staff. And why would they not be?!
Best Animated Feature: Frozen
Not a surprise and not close. The Wind Rises staked out a runner-up position, but the 67% vote total on the first ballot for Frozen was second only to Lupita Nyong'o for biggest runaway.
Best Original Song: "Let It Go," from Frozen
Kind of a surprise that "Let It Go" wasn't a bigger blowout than Frozen was, but it turns out that Pharrell's "Happy" was a stronger contender than we might have expected. Credit to the hat? Obviously.
So, there you have it. The Wire staff: as smart, if not smarter, than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Wouldn't you take these winners as the Oscar winners in a second? Of course you would.