Let us, as we used to do on the debate team, state one of our theses straight-up so that it might be accepted for the remainder of the discussion: The Oscars are a pretty silly idea. Any kind of award in art is silly, really; I always imagine a set of scales out back of the old Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where films are placed in the balancing pans and, yes, Dances with Wolves is empirically determined to be better than Goodfellas.

So The Oscars are an imperfect system, but while an imperfect system can't offer real insight into art and entertainment, it can still offer a look into itself.  The fact of the matter is that the Oscar votes are pretty easy to game, if you bear the facts in mind, and the fact is simple: When making your Oscar picks, just ask yourself: What Would Ernest Borgnine Do? 

The W.W.E.B.D.? theory is built around a blunt statement of reality: The Academy Awards are, by and large, determined by the voting preferences of people who are not only older, richer and more male than the population at large; they also are awarded by people who may very well have spent their whole lives in show business. Use a few basic ballistic principles, correct for a slightly rarefied atmosphere, and you can predict which films the Academy's thoughts will rest upon. ...

(Predictions and the Virtual Borgnine® after the jump. ...)
To do well at the Oscars, a film must do one of two things: It will either 1) Involve a social issue of some concern to an extremely wealthy liberal or 2) Evoke misty, nostalgic memories for the dream of Hollywood, a Hollywood made more out of collective amnesia than individual fact. Now and then both will be in play – Clint Eastwood, who made all those great movies, really tears you up when he's got to kill his protégé, even though she's full of post-feminist pluck – and now and then it will be one or the other. The days when The Sting could win Best Picture? Those simple, carefree days are gone for Oscar; now, it's sort of like taking your medicine -- or, rather, taking the spoonful of sugar, like Forrest Gump. Viewed through Borgnine lenses, for example, Brokeback Mountain is 'radical' -- but comfortably so, as it's a movie about gay love with a) almost no sensuality or joy to it and b) an ending where the protagonists have to pay for their forbidden love. (Frankly, I think a movie like Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss -- with a pre-overexposure Sean Hayes finding something like happiness -- is more radical than all of Brokeback Mountain's handwringing, but I digress. ...)

With that said, let's predict! The quotes in italics are only Virtual Borgnine® simulations of what Mr. Borgnine might say; in addition, just as a broken clock is right twice a day, The Borgnine thought process can, occasionally, still choose the right film. …

Best Actor: Phillip Seymour Hoffman

"A helluffan actor! A great kid! Playing the guy who wrote 'Breakfast at Tiffany's!'

Best Actress: Reese Witherspoon

"Great gal, finally gives a great performance in a movie without too many curse words!"

Best Director: Paul Haggis, Crash

"That kid made a hell of a movie about, you know, racism. And coincidences. And some pretty showy acting, too!"
Best Supporting Actor: Paul Giamatti

"What? He was in Sideways? Did I see that? Well, he's a heckufa fight manager!"

Best Supporting Actress: Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain

"That one scene! With the fishing lures! And the dialogue! And ... the dialogue!"

Best Picture: Brokeback Mountain

"It's an important movie that has an important message. It's the movie everyone's talking about! And, you know … it really rips the lid off of homophobia in the 1970's."
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