Of the five best pictures nominees – "Babel," "The Departed," "Letters From Iwo Jima," "Little Miss Sunshine," and "The Queen" – there are statistical/historical anomalies working against each one of them, so no matter who wins there will be an element of surprise and the unexpected.
Like a lot of Los Angelenos, I've heard many versions of this sentiment repeated ad infinauseum this week, and it's driven me to dread the traditional marking of the ballot. Why bother? My wife wins every year anyway.
And so, I decided to base my pick for Best Picture on something other than statistics, or history. Instead, I would seek the opinion of someone so disconnected from pop culture (and far from the west side of Los Angeles) that their guess is guaranteed to be based on nothing but street-level buzz.
I called my dad.
Trust me, my dad is the kind of guy who wouldn't know Cojo from Cujo. If my dad's heard anything about the Oscars while cocooned in his Midwestern Eagles Lodge it can only be because real people are talking about it.
Of course, it was no surprise to learn that my dad was completely unfamiliar with every Best Picture nominee.
Nonetheless, he humored me.
"The Departed" was a complete mystery. Dad supposed it was about "the Earth coming apart." He wagered that "Little Miss Sunshine" was "probably about some young girl that gets lost." And "Babel," he figured, had something to do with war.
"The Queen" wasn't the least bit of a puzzle. Hello? She's been "The Queen" most of his life, and for most (ok, ALL) of mine. How many things can we say that about?
In the end, my dad gave the nod to "Letters From Iwo Jima," which he guessed was about World War II, though he wasn't completely sure. His reasoning for picking it as Best Picture: "Because of what's going on in Iraq."
His generation, he said, would want to see a movie about World War II.
I asked my dad if he'd be tuning in to the awards ceremony on Sunday.
"I don't know," he said. "What time is it? I'm going to a picnic, so I don't know if I'll be back in time."
At about that point in the conversation I was feeling pretty confident. "What time is it?" "A picnic?" Ha. Is this genius or what?
Then, just before we said our goodbyes, my entire theory was shot to hell.
Dad ended the conversation by asking who my pick was for father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby.
We both picked Larry Birkhead.
Larry Birkhead may be the first thing my dad and I have agreed on in 20 years.
And I haven't ruled out the possibility that this is a sign the Earth is coming apart.