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Oscars 2013: Heatmeter

A look at how 2012's director and best picture races are shaping up

December 20, 2012
(Peter and Maria Hoey / For…)

With SAG and Golden Globe nominations now behind us and Oscar voters starting to mark their nominating ballots, Hollywood's awards season is kicking into high gear. Prognosticating about the winners is a high art in this town, but in an attempt to add a little science to score-keeping, the L.A. Times' HeatMeter is back. Developed last season, the system seeks to quantify the status of the race at various moments and tracks the relative heat of talent, movies, even studios, through the period that culminates with the Academy Awards on Feb. 24.

Our movie team has assigned values to the top awards according to our assessment of their relative importance. The points are fed into a database, allowing us to slice and dice the results and examine the race from various perspectives. Last year at this time, everyone was talking about “The Artist” and “The Descendants.” This week, we examine how the directors of 2012 are faring, as well as how the best picture race is shaping up.

— Steven Zeitchik

Full Coverage: Oscars 2013 |  Graphic: Buzzmeter 2013 | Review: Zero Dark Thirty

Today's Categories: Film and Director

'Zero' leads — for now

The best picture race is starting to come into focus — sort of. As you'll see in the chart below, Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, has jumped out to an early lead, nearly doubling the tally of the nearest English-language contender. (The French-language "Amour," currently at second place in the rankings thanks to strong support among critics' groups, will likely fade as guilds start making their award noms in January.) "Zero Dark" opened Wednesday in L.A. and New York.

But unlike last year, when the two main contenders — "The Artist" and "The Descendants" — each had nearly triple the points of any other film at a comparable point in the season, 2012 seems to be a much more wide-open race.

"Argo" and "Lincoln”" are just a Golden Globe win away from taking a huge lead, while "Les Misérables," "Silver Linings Playbook" and even "The Exotic Marigold Hotel" aren't far behind. Right now, a slew of movies have best-picture heat — and could get even hotter in the coming weeks. The first 10 days of January will bring nominations from groups including the Producers Guild, the Writers Guild, the Directors Guild and the Motion Picture Academy.

Film Rankings*

1. "Zero Dark Thirty" 47

2. "Amour" 35

3. "Argo" 24

4. "Lincoln" 24

5. "Les Misérables" 20

6. "Silver Linings Playbook" 20

7. "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" 20

This 'Dark' horse just won't stop

As her movie grabs the top spot in the best picture rankings, Kathryn Bigelow is similarly well-positioned in the director competition. She's opened up a huge lead over most of the field with “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Paul Thomas Anderson, considered a longer shot come Oscar time, is in second place thanks to some affection among critics groups for his film, “The Master.” Back in the pack of hopefuls sit some august names — Ang Lee (“Life of Pi,”), Ben Affleck (“Argo”), Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained”) and even Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln”). Those guys will have to score a Golden Globes win to make up ground on the front-runner, unless she is somehow snubbed by the Directors Guild when it makes its nominations.

Director Rankings*

1. Kathryn Bigelow 68.5

2. Paul Thomas Anderson 35

3. Ang Lee 16

4. Ben Affleck 16

5. Quentin Tarantino 16

6. Steven Spielberg 16

 *Scoring Key

The best way to accumulate heat is via the Oscars, with a nomination or a win worth more than a nomination or a win at any other award event. Contenders get more for a win than a nomination. So far, our scores are based on the following:

New York Film Critics Circle: 35 points for a win

Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.: 35 points for a win, 17.5 points for runners-up; points split for a tie

Golden Globe nominations: 16 points for director, 12 points for best picture drama, 8 points for best picture comedy/musical

Screen Actors Guild nominations: 12 points for ensemble


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