i’m not actually going to post the column i teased earlier because i want to get this information out before the golden globes. looong time readers (and people who know me in real life) might remember that my friend nathan and i are trying to watch every single best picture and director nominee ever. so far we’ve seen (or re-seen) the last 15 years worth. now, i like to see as many of these as possible in the theater, so i always go see the “favorites” and usually end up having seen a few. this year, i’ve belatedly tried to be a little more scientific.

i did a study of the following academy awards precursors to see how they fared against the actual nominees over the last ten years: golden globes, sag ensemble, dga, pga, wga (only the winners), afi top-10, nyfcc, lafca, and bfcc. i calculated the percentage of each awards success rate, and assigned the values to each of this year’s favorites (e.g. any movie nominated for any of these). the higher the value, the bigger the favorite.

there are obviously many limitations. each organization considers and lists different numbers of films, and i haven’t done any sort of weighting (obviously, guild awards would get priority over critics.) i also have not included any magazine predictions. off the top of my head, i know that entertainment weekly is very good, and i imagine others are good too.

this list is still preliminary. the gg winners aren’t out (this is especially important for the comedy category; being nominated for comedy has very little correlation to academy nomination, but winning is significant), neither are the PGA, or WGA. but as of right now here are the top 10 movies.

1) Departed-3.135

2) Babel-2.595

3) Dreamgirls-2.286

4) Little Miss Sunshine-2.286

5) The Queen-1.429

6) Letters from Iwo Jima-1.26

7) Bobby-1.256

8. United 93-1.16

9) Borat-.7

10)Devil Wears Prada -.7

the top 5 match up to the DGA picks which have been right the last 4 years. Bobby scores much higher than critical esteem would place it, although that is largely the result of its SAG nomination (the weakest of the guilds). the queen scores a bit lower than i would have thought. it was the best reviewed movie of the year, and i haven’t accounted for many critics groups. it also barely lost nyfcc to united 93. flipping that result would have the queen comfortably in, and United 93 out of contention.

I would have guessed that the DGA’s streak would end this year, with Babel being the most likely of the 5 not to make it (but definitely getting a best director nomination). all signs point to it getting the picture nomination, yet i don’t know anyone who saw it or talked about wanting to see it. i still wouldn’t be surprised if babel was left out in favor of clint.

letters probably needs to get the PGA nom to have a numerical shot. it’s not in globe contention, so tonight can’t help. letters seemed to peak at the right time, though as all of its hype was during the voting season. that could sway the actual results. still, i can’t help but think that letters is this years munich, which only appeared on the DGA radar (and i think entertainment weekly) and still won the nomination. i’ll update the rankings as news come in.

**UPDATED: I just saw that the EW picks are online. they went with the DGA and picked the top 5, so, as of now, no change, except it seems more and more unlikely that iwo gets a nom.

***UPDATED: Here are the changes to the leaderboard after the golden globes.

1) Babel-3.595

2) Departed-3.135

3) Dreamgirls-2.286

4) LMS-2.286

more updates after the PGA.

David Foster Wallace’s collection of seven essays and arguments is a marvellous piece of mind candy, featuring an abundance of footnotes (a signature trait of DFW), big words, and humor to carry a reader through the following pieces:

1 – Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley is a short explanation of junior tennis and wind, a quick warm-up for 2 – E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction, arguably the most important essay of the collection. Wallace confronts self-critique in television, Americans watching television, its effect on literature and culture, and how all that climaxes with an army of hipster ironists leading us into a death spiral of self-reference and cynicism. He ends with a hypothesis/suggestion of an approaching rebel-culture of sincerity, led by artists “who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles.”

3 – Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All backs you away from the intellectual for a spell and gives an insightful tour of an Illinois state fair. 4 – Greatly Exaggerated and 5 – David Lynch Keeps his Head, the former a short bit of literary theory regarding the death of the author and the latter an analysis of film director David Lynch’s work written from the set of Lost Highway, are the smartest seeming pieces but still easily accessible to those with no background (I’ve read precious little literary criticism and never seen a David Lynch movie), resembling the infoporn of a Wired article more than the jargon-laced papers of an academic. (Not that Wallace eschews jargon; he just explains it along the way.)

6 – Tennis Player Michael Joyce’s Professional Artistry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Discipline, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness explains professional tennis, transcendency, and the ultra-fine line between being good, great, and best combined with the enormous gaps in ability those classifications represent through the life of tennis professional Michael Joyce and the Canadian Open.

7 – A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again is a too-long (1/4 the book), pointless, only mildly amusing expose on luxury cruises, and the only weak link in an otherwise great book.

E Unibus Pluram is a must-read piece of writing and the book surrounding it is worthwhile, especially 6 and excepting 7. This is also exactly the sort of book that’s a joy for anyone who wouldn’t normally read this sort of book, and it is the book that thrust me into the depths of Amazon.com’s suggestion mechanisms.

Finally, I feel I must defend my distaste for 7 as it seems to be the baby of Amazon reviewers. The point of the thing, as near as I can tell, is the absurdity of luxury travel, written into what Wallace calls “a sort of really big experiential postcard.” And it is. 97 pages (paperback) of description: entertainment, dinner mates, ping pong, and ship staff, with seldom an argument or philosophical digression or even a joke – none of the things which make David Foster Wallace worth reading. Perhaps this is the only essay requiring a background to enjoy, and someone who has ever not enjoyed a luxury cruise will love to relive not enjoying it for an hour or two with Wallace.

The Destroyer has arrived at Yesterday’s Salad.