By Brendan Loy
Scott Woods (@gswoods) of Jonesboro, Arkansas won the 9th annual Living Room Times Oscar Pool last night, taking over first place when Ang Lee won a surprise Best Director award for “Life of Pi,” and clinching victory when “Argo” won Best Picture.
Woods got 72 out of a possible 80 points, missing on just 3 categories: he had Robert De Niro winning Best Supporting Actor (6 points) instead of Christoph Waltz; he picked “Anna Karenina” for Best Production Design (1 point) instead of “Lincoln”; and he had “The Hobbit” winning Best Makeup (1 point) instead of “Les Misérables.” He picked the other 21 Oscars correctly.
But until the Best Director category, Woods was largely “off the radar,” thanks to his error in predicting the first award of the night, Best Supporting Actor. That early mistake meant he had to gradually climb the standings, and until Best Director, was still lurking several spots behind the duo who appeared destined for a wire-to-wire win: Vicki Lopez and Chris Aemisegger.
Lopez, a friend of Becky’s & mine from college at USC, and Aemisegger, my 1L law school roommate from Notre Dame, had identical picks, and led the pool all night until Best Director. They would have finished as co-champions if Stephen Spielberg had won for “Lincoln,” as expected, and the rest of the results had gone the same way that they did.
Lopez’s fortunes are nearly always a major pool storyline, as her numerous close calls, near-wins and heartbreaking defeats have become the stuff of LRT Oscar Pool legend over the years. She fell just short of Oscar Pool victory because of plausible but incorrect Best Picture picks in 2005 (she picked The Aviator; Million Dollar Baby won), 2006 (she picked Brokeback Mountain; Crash won) and 2011 (she picked The Social Network; The King’s Speech won). She also finished second in 2010, narrowly losing out because of incorrect screenplay picks.
Lopez was one of the primary participants in the Oscars live chat all night, and her share of the lead was a subject of much discussion. “Hello again, Vicki! Are you feeling lucky this year?” Kristin Farleigh asked her at the beginning of the chat. “I was until my favorite driver won the Daytona 500,” Lopez replied. “Then I knew I had no shot tonight :)”
But, after Lopez got the first four awards right, including Waltz’s upset, Farleigh wrote: “Whoa, Vicki, this may be your year!” I chimed in: “Or Vicki is setting herself up perfectly for another crushing late defeat,” Brandon Minich added: “This is a great start for Vicki. Buuuut we’ve seen this before.”
Six awards in, as she moved out of the pack and into a two-tie with Aemisegger, Lopez wrote, “Ok, keeping my expectations low is getting harder… damn you, Brendan! I swore I was going to not care this year!”
Later in the night, as the major awards neared and Lopez remained atop the leaderboard, Farleigh wrote, “Vicki, I hope you win.” Lopez responded: “Aww, thanks. Now it’ll be super awkward when I don’t.” Becky chimed in, “I hope Vicki wins too. But we all know it won’t happen!” “Thanks, Becky. Always keeping it real,” Lopez replied.
As it turned out, Becky, Brandon and I were right. In 2006, Lopez had too much faith in Ang Lee, the director of that year’s Best Picture upset victim, Brokeback Mountain. This year, she had too little faith in him.
“WHAT!” Lopez exclaimed in the chat when Lee’s victory for Best Director was announced, dropping her from first place to mathematically eliminated. “I’m actually shocked.”
She added: “I hate everyone, just FYI.” (Heh.) But, a few minutes later, she was more philosophical: “I’m fine with not winning. As I said earlier, I knew it wouldn’t happen after the 48 won Daytona.”
Lee’s win also eliminated me, Brendan Loy, from what had briefly looked like a surprisingly plausible path to victory: I needed Emmanuelle Riva to win Best Actress for “Amour,” which some handicappers believed was a plausible upset possibility, and then the as-expected results for the rest of the way. I realized this scenario existed about 30 seconds before Lee’s win was announced, causing my hopes of a first-ever win in my own Oscar Pool to be raised and then almost immediately dashed.
Taking my place on the Emmanuelle Riva bandwagon was defending champion @juleslalaland, who, like Woods, correctly picked Ang Lee’s win, and like me, incorrectly picked Riva. She would have taken the lead from Woods, and ultimately would have won, if Riva had won Best Actress. But instead, the favored Jennifer Lawrence won for “Silver Linings Playbook,” as Woods predicted.
“I think I just won @brendanloy’s Oscar pool!” Woods tweeted moments after Lawrence’s win.
Not quite. The defending champ’s mathematical elimination left Woods with one remaining plausible challenger: Kristin Farleigh winner of the 3rd annual Oscar Pool in 2007 (under her maiden name of Kristin West). Farleigh — who, like Lopez, was participating in the chat all night — needed “Lincoln” to pull the upset and win Best Picture.
“GO LINCOLN!!!!!!!!!!!” Farleigh wrote in the live chat as the show neared its climax. “I can taste it….SO … CLOSE,” she added as First Lady Michelle Obama appeared remotely to present the Best Picture award, stoking speculation that the White House role might presage a “Lincoln” victory. “Best president, Best picture!”
If “Lincoln” had won, the 15-point boost for getting the Best Picture winner right would have vaulted Farleigh from a sixth-place tie to an Oscar Pool win. But favored “Argo” won instead, dropping Farleigh all the way to 35th place, and giving Woods the victory.
“So I lost @brendanloy’s Electoral College contest on a tiebreaker and won the Oscar pool. Bring on March Madness!” Woods tweeted after clinching the title.
Woods, who started following me on Twitter during Hurricane Isaac last August, did indeed lose the 3rd quadrennial LRT Electoral College Contest on a tiebreaker: he had one of six perfect maps in the presidential race, but was one House seat too low in predicting the Democrats’ House gains, the fifth tiebreaker.
In this contest, his 72 points is tied for second-most all time. Jeff Freeze’s 2010 performance remains the gold standard: 74 points out of a possible 80 (though Freeze actually missed twice as many picks, getting six 1-point categories wrong). Also getting 72 points were Lisa Velte in 2008 (eight 1-point categories wrong) and Chris McLemore in 2007 (six 1-point categories and one 2-point category).
Diana Gonzales (@trojanchick99) finished second with 71 points. Like those prior 70+ point winners, and unlike Woods, Gonzales got all of the “big six” categories right, but erred on a number of lesser categories (including a best screenplay Oscar, worth 4 points each).
Aemisegger and Lopez, who had appeared destined for victory until Ang Lee’s upset, finished tied for third with 68 points apiece. Linda Adriaans was fifth with 64 points. Here are the complete final standings:
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