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Well, it’s finally over. Can you believe it? After months of intense speculation and anticipation, the winners have been revealed and the 79th Academy Awards are in the books. Though there were some minor injustices, by and large the award recipients were well deserved. It is a far cry from this time last year, when the Academy members disgraced themselves by succumbing to homophobia, annointing a mediocre film “Crash” over a true masterpiece (“Brokeback Mountain.”)

Like many others, we are truly happy with the recognition FINALLY bestowed to legendary director Martin Scorsese. “The Departed” may not be his best work, but the Oscars are notorious for basing awards on lifetime or career achievement, as well as popularity, rather than yearly distinction. “Dreamgirls” should have been nominated, as well as “Little Children,” but when it came to the five nominated films, “The Departed” was clearly the best. “Little Miss Sunshine” had a great message and is better than your run of the mill dark comedy, but it didn’t have the refreshing authenticity and overall enjoyability of “The Departed.” “The Departed” did have a good, even somewhat deep, message, but it was secondary to the plot and suspense of the film. We almost didn’t give Academy members enough credit that they would vote for a more subtle and entertaining film over an “Oscar-type” movie like “Sunshine.” We are ecstatic that we were wrong in that belief.

A quick note about predictions. The vast majority of Oscar sites didn’t fare so hot when it came to predicting this year’s show. While many are bummed about it, it should be remembered that surprises are often a good thing. Think about what it would be like if the overall experts’ consensus picks were right on. I have one word to describe that scenario. Dull. The fact that the Oscars still have the ability to surprise, and even shock, is a welcome notion. It will only make all of us prognosticators try even harder next time around.

So let’s conclude with a few lessons learned from this past year. And there are some monumental lessons to be considered. In fact, though this is a pretty bold statement, we would venture to say that you can’t quite look at the Oscars the same from now on, especially if you want to be right about who wins.

1. The early frontrunner is doomed

“Dreamgirls” and “Flags of Our Fathers” were supposed to compete head to head for Best Picture. Neither film was nominated. Why? In part because there was significant resentment by voters by the fact that both films were touted as “frontrunners” even though they hadn’t yet been seen. The outrageous expectations bestowed on those films created a recipe for failure. Unless you’re “Return of the King,” “Titanic,” or “Schindler’s List,” you probably can’t live up to the hype.

2. The past awards don’t mean very much

This is a trend based on three years running. We used to look at the so-called precursor awards (Golden Globes, SAGs, etc.) and think we can predict a Best Picture winner that way. Not anymore. The Academy is more and more frequently choosing to go their own direction, and bravo to them for doing so! Look at the Golden Globes. The last three drama winners have been “Babel,” “Brokeback Mountain,” and “The Aviator.” How many of those won Best Picture? ZERO. “Little Miss Sunshine” had the most guild support, winning the SAG ensemble and the PGA. Did it matter at all? Apparently not enough. On an unrelated note, the number of nominations doesn’t seem to be a dominating factor anymore, like it used to be. “Babel” and “The Queen” had the most nominations with seven and six. Each took home one award. “The Departed” had five, but won four including Best Picture. In the two years prior, the Best Picture winner also did not come in with the most nominations.

3. Campaigns are overrated

Could the infamous Oscar campaign really be a thing of the past? We doubt it, although we wouldn’t be surprised if this become a two or three year trend. Your Best Picture “The Departed” was under the radar for most of the year. Warner Bros. did not tout it as an Oscar contender. They simply promoted it as an enjoyable, suspenseful, thrilling film. Martin Scorsese did no campaigning. Alan Arkin didn’t do much either. On the other hand, “Babel” was in your face, all the time with sleek, manipulative ads. “Little Miss Sunshine” had their yellow bus circling the streets of Los Angeles. “The Queen” dominated the trade publications. To what end? Perhaps the best or worst example is “Cars.” They bought full page color ads in the LA Times on numerous occasions. They endlessly courted the Best Animated Feature award for the last month and a half. And what happened? They were the victims of maybe the biggest upset of the night.

Next year should be interesting. Thanks to everyone for tuning in once again and hope you enjoyed the show and the coverage. We’ll announce the contest winner as soon as we can and then post our final article of this awards season later this week – our forecast for the 2008 Oscars.