Even Psychic Friends Can’t Help Predict Oscar Winners

“Forrest Gump” has already easily nabbed the vote as the most popular live-action film of 1994 .It’s garnered more than $300 million at the box office , but a look at the recent spate of awards programs suggests that several categories in this year’s Oscars have the look of a close horse race.

“Gump” has been honored with best picture laurels from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and the National Board of Review, but two critics groups have deemed “Pulp Fiction” as their choice. The New York Film Critics strayed from the pack with “Quiz Show.”

So what does it all mean?

Well, it means that scribe groups tend to go with a film that is critically driven while the Golden Globes can be counted on to pick the film that takes an early lead position. In years past, it’s been the Globes that have more consistently predicted the Oscar winner.

From a statistical point of view, Quentin Tarantino, who directed “Pulp Fiction,” would be the favorite as the probable Oscar winner in the director category. He’s already picked up four other awards from critics’ groups around the country.

Yet Robert Zemeckis (“Forrest Gump”) is really the odds-on favorite because he has already received the award from the Directors Guild of America, one of the surest bets in town.

Helmers snubbed

There have been only three occasions in the history of the Oscar awards when a DGA winner has not gone on to win an Oscar, the last time being in 1985 when Steven Spielberg won a DGA award for “The Color Purple” but was not nominated by the Academy.

Tarantino also looks to be a favorite in the original screenplay category, having collared every major screenplay award to date.

Other odds-on favorites? Martin Landau for a supporting Oscar in Disney’s “Ed Wood” and Dianne Wiest, also for a supporting Oscar in Miramax’ “Bullets Over Broadway,” given that they’ve both won five out of six possible awards on the chart. Neither thesp won awards from the National Board of Review.

But the real horse race is probably in the lead actor and actress categories. Tom Hanks is a favorite with a handicap. Although he’s already picked up three awards for his performance in “Gump,” he’s nonetheless hampered by the Academy’s historical reluctance to give an actor two consecutive Oscars; Hanks won best actor last year for “Philadelphia.”

Tough act to follow

Jason Robards was the last actor to pull that off, winning supporting Oscars in 1976 and 1977 for “All the President’s Men” and “Julia.”

Two of the other strong best actor nominees, Paul Newman and John Travolta, have picked up awards from the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics (Newman) and the L.A. Critics (Travolta).

It’s harder to call the lead actress category, with Jessica Lange already picking up two awards most notably the Golden Globe while Jodie Foster, Miranda Richardson and Jennifer Jason Leigh have one a piece.

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