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Oscars 2014: Pick to Win, or to Aggravate Your Friends?

Could Scorsese win for The Wolf of Wall Street? Will the Woody Allen allegations hurt Cate Blanchett’s chances? Who cares about the Academy Awards, anyway?  

Oscars statue

With the big night just days away and the NYU Stories team still scrambling to fill out Oscar ballots, we turned to Chris Chan Roberson—teacher of undergraduate film & TV at Tisch, former editor for Comedy Central, The Biography Channel, and TV Land, and founder of the experimental comedy troupe Etc.—for an irreverent take on what to expect from this year’s edition of Hollywood’s glitziest annual spectacle. He doled out picks and betting tips, a strategy for boning up on the short film nominees, and a vision for a hipper, more modern awards show. 

photo: Chris Chan Roberson

Chris Chan Roberson

Out of a whopping nine Best Picture nominations, which is the boldest choice?
I like that Her got a Best Picture nomination because it’s a film that’s so unique to this year. Just three years ago, you couldn’t have made a movie about a man falling love with his operating system. And I thought it was funny that there was a campaign for Scarlett Johansson to be nominated for her role even though it was just her voice. That’s extremely conceptual—it would be bizarre if it happened, but I like the notion. Wouldn’t Apple just love that idea? Imagine: For 2015, Best Actor in a Supporting Role: iPhone 6.

Which nominees won’t win, but should?
Jonah Hill won’t win [for Best Actor in a Supporting Role], but should—he’s not going to get his due until like 30 years from now. He’s too fart joke-y for people to take seriously, but he brings his A-game every time. Also: Why are there so many people who hate Jennifer Lawrence? Does she come to your house and take the food out of your mouth? Is she stealing the diapers off your babies? Give [Best Actress in a Supporting Role] to Jennifer Lawrence. Please—what’s the problem?

Are you betting in any Oscars pools?
Oh yes, I’m in three: One here at NYU, one at YouTube, where I also teach, and one amongst my friends. The one at NYU I play for fun—I pick the ones that in my mind I want to win. At YouTube I play to win—I don’t pick the ones I want to win, but the ones that probably will. And then with my friends I just pick whatever will make them upset, and get them to type in all caps on my Facebook page.

So, for Best Picture...?
Amongst my friends, I chose Her, just to aggravate people. For my passion play I pick The Wolf of Wall Street. For the win, it might be Dallas Buyers Club but more likely American Hustle, just because every couple years you get a new industry sweetheart. A few years ago you could have filmed Clint Eastwood cutting his toenails and it would’ve won two Best Pictures—but now it’s David O. Russell who’s too much of a sweetheart to lose.

Best Actor in a Leading Role?
To aggravate my friends: Leo. Passion play: Chiwetel Ejiofor. For the win: Christian Bale.

And actress?
For the win: Cate Blanchett. To aggravate: Cate Blanchett. Passion play: Also Cate Blanchett.

Any strategic tips for those of us actually out to win our pool?
I’m a baseball guy—I like my stats, I like my numbers. And statistically, the film that gets the Oscar for Film Editing also wins Best Picture. So you want to make sure your Film Editing pick matches your Best Picture.

You made a YouTube parody of The Wolf of Wall Street called “The Wolf of Sesame Street.” Does that mean you weren’t a fan of all that on-screen drug use and nudity?
Well...I made that because I have a six-year-old, and she likes Sesame Street. But I’m definitely a fan. I think the best kind of kill is an overkill: If Scorsese wants to turn his amp up to 11, it’s his right. I don’t think anyone else can do it but him, but that’s his m.o. People criticized him for glorifying violence in Goodfellas, but decades later it’s considered one of the best films ever made. They criticized him for violence for Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, but we now hold these films up to be iconic. So I think years from now people will worship The Wolf of Wall Street the way they worship the rest of the films in his pantheon.

What makes a good Oscars host? Does Ellen DeGeneres have what it takes?
I like controversy, so I loved when Chris Rock was the host, and I thought Seth MacFarlane did a great job last year. I like it when you are just waiting to see what is going to come out of their mouths. Ellen is going to do a great job—but are people the next day going to be talking about the scandalous things she said? Absolutely not—no way. But she will be very quick and clever. Because she has a talk show and an extended circle of celebrity fans and friends, I predict that her opening will be similar to Jimmy Fallon’s [on The Tonight Show], where you’ll have, like, a cavalcade of 8-second celebrity appearances with her dancing or doing something quirky. She’ll do a great, straightforward job. Still, I miss my scandalous Oscars. I miss the David Letterman Oscars. I loved the Anne Hathaway Oscars.

How do you prepare for Oscar night?
Every February I go to the IFC theater to see the short documentaries, the short live action films, and the short animated films. I wish we used YouTube more, or whatever social networking platform could help get these films out there. I just love every single one of them, and I recommend that everybody go see them at the IFC Center at 6th Avenue and 4th Street. For the price of a movie ticket you can see them all.

43.5 million Americans watched the Academy Awards last year—which sounds like a lot until you compare it to the 111.5 million who watched the Super Bowl last month. With fewer and fewer people tuning in to live television these days, do you think the Oscars will continue to hold viewers’ interest?
One thing I like about the Oscars is that people will bitch about how bad it was, but dammit, they’re back again the next year. You can’t resist it! It’s beautiful people in beautiful outfits, celebrating movies. You’ve got to be a fool not to watch it.  

—Eileen Reynolds

Click here for Tisch Undergraduate Film and Television Chair Joe Pichirallo's take on the Oscars.
 

See more of Chris Chan Roberson's comedy on YouTube here and here.

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