We asked a dog to predict the Oscars

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With awards excitement reaching a fever pitch, we sought Oscars predictions from the most qualified season analyst in the Film Stories office.

Predicting the Oscars is always a difficult task. Though gambling websites, industry analysts and film fans alike do their best to judge such things objectively, it’s difficult for anyone too deeply entrenched in the goings on of modern-day Hollywood to come to an unbiased conclusion. I might have loved The Holdovers more than life itself, but does that make it any more likely to win Best Picture? It does not.

With the impossibility of this task in mind, we recruited the most qualified expert in the Film Stories office to offer our official thoughts ahead of the final awards ceremony of the season on 10th March. Introducing Film Stories’ new awards correspondent: Lettuce.

Photo: Freya Dawes

The very definition of a self-made pup, Lettuce hasn’t been to any fancy film schools (or higher education establishments of any kind). Instead, she developed her love of cinema the same way we all did – by being physically present in the room while films played on the TV. We had no doubt she would prove a perfectly capable member of our crack journalism team.

With not a moment to lose after her promotion, then, we put Lettuce to work in selecting the winners of “the big six” awards: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Original and Adapted Screenplay. With a foolproof prediction system in place (names written on a few bits of scrap paper), the stage was set for the most anticipated event in the awards season calendar.

Unfortunately, the excitement of the situation all became too much for Lettuce. We took her inaction as a desire to resign her position effective immediately.

Photo: Freya Dawes

Not to be perturbed, we recruited Pepper, who was nearby, instead.

Best Original Screenplay – The Holdovers

The first award on our list posed something of a problem for Pepper. Evidently staging a protest at Barbie’s absence from the category (the Academy decided it would select it for the Adapted Screenplay shortlist, in contrast to the BAFTAs), she proved reluctant to make a choice at all.

Anatomy Of A Fall picked up the BAFTA back in February, but Past Lives and The Holdovers have long been considered strong contenders – all three seem unlikely to pick up many other awards elsewhere (Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s all-but guaranteed Supporting Actress win notwithstanding), and a victory for any of them would be richly deserved.

Ultimately, though, after some pointed staring and no shortage of wandering about looking confused, our leading industry analyst finally settled on David Hemingson’s portrait of a 1970s boarding school, The Holdovers (at least, we think she did – her rear paws rested on its card longer than anything else, so we took that as a decision).

Best Actor – Jeffrey Wright

This year’s best actor category has, broadly, been considered a done deal for some time. With Oppenheimer’s Cillian Murphy picking up SAG, BAFTA and Golden Globes awards, leaving one-time contender Paul Giamatti in his atomic wake, the bookies reckon the gong is Murphy’s to lose.

dog oscars predictions
Photo: Freya Dawes

It’s interesting, then, that despite an outrageous attempt from her human companions to fix a win for Colman Domingo, Pepper flew in the face of media and gambling industry wisdom and chose Jeffrey Wright as the best actor of 2023. Clearly won over by American Fiction’s nuanced take on class and race in modern popular culture, for Pepper, Wright serves as an ideal conduit for the awards attention the film has otherwise broadly missed out on. Or perhaps the vote was in recognition of the actor’s achievement in Asteroid City – Wes Anderson’s pastel-desert fable which has faced a similar struggle to be noticed in a crowded field.

It’s worth mentioning that, less than 24 hours after Pepper made her prediction, Wright claimed the prize for Best Lead Performance at the 39th Independent Spirit Awards. I’m not saying she had anything to do with it, I’m just pointing it out.

Best Director – Christopher Nolan (Oppenheimer)

Not even Pepper’s clear aversion to the biopic formula (not to mention a complicated relationship with loud bangs) could deny Christopher Nolan his long overdue moment in the spotlight. She might not have taken too kindly to Tenet (and the less said about her response to Dunkirk the better), but it’s difficult to argue that the Inception director doesn’t deserve something after so long delivering smart, entertaining and insanely profitable films for everyone who makes these sorts of decisions.

Pepper might not have seen many of the profits from Oppenheimer’s $953.8m box office haul. She might not even be able to grasp the concept of currency. But her gratitude towards the saviour of the intellectual blockbuster is plain to see.

Best Actress – Emma Stone

In contrast to the Best Actor category, the Best Actress contest has broadened as the awards season has gone on. One-time frontrunner Lily Gladstone somehow missed out on a BAFTA nomination earlier this year, and ever since this one-horse race has been split into two.

dog oscars predictions
Photo: Freya Dawes

Pepper, being a dog, is encouraged to stay away from multiple-horse races (and horses in general really), and so it’s no surprise that her decision to back Emma Stone over her Killers Of The Flower Moon rival came with all the speed and decisiveness of a canine coming face-to-face with a biscuit.

This wasn’t, surprisingly, because she was offered a biscuit. Pepper delivered all of her predictions for this article without the need of dietary supplements of any kind, a fact which is both surprising and proves once and for all that a dog makes a better psychic pet than an octopus.

Best Adapted Screenplay – Barbie

No surprises here. After her antics in the Original Screenplay category, Pepper chose to honour Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s screenplay after only the briefest of pauses to acknowledge the ill-timed entrance of another human into the voting chamber.

So sure was Pepper at Barbie’s worthiness, she didn’t even use the slot as another opportunity to praise Jeffrey Wright’s film, American Fiction, despite it being the current frontrunner for most analysts. That kind of decisiveness is what makes her among the best in the business.

It was pointed out shortly after Pepper’s vote for the screenplay categories that, to the best of our knowledge, she can’t read. While her refusal to read the screenplays in competition puts her on about the same level of authority as the majority of the Academy’s voting body, it does somewhat throw the integrity of our text-based selection system into question.

Best Picture – Barbie

The most high-profile award of the Oscars ceremony is always a difficult race to predict. The preferential ballot system unique to the Best Picture category is designed, per the Hollywood Reporter, to ensure the victory of “the movie that is the most widely liked by the electorate”; or, in common industry parlance, “the film everyone dislikes the least”.

dog oscars predictions
Photo: Freya Dawes

Since this system was brought back in 2009, this has led (much like the previous system) to a few surprising choices. The King’s Speech beat The Social Network, Toy Story 3 and Black Swan in 2011; CODA triumphed over West Side Story, The Power Of The Dog and Dune in 2022, and plenty has been said about Green Book’s victory in 2019 already.

This year, Oppenheimer is such a clear frontrunner there’s a real risk all the Academy members will forget to vote for it. Pepper for her part clearly wasn’t swayed by Christopher Nolan’s nuclear panic attack of a movie and, perhaps buoyed as much by contrarianism as anything else, selected its Barbenheimer rival as the best film of 2023.


Evidently exhausted by the afternoon’s excitement and refusing to give us her thoughts on the Best Cinematography of 2023, Pepper retired to her bed. Taking her predictions as gospel, there’s everything to play for in the final awards presentation on Sunday.

Does Jeffrey Wright have what it takes to grab the Oscar from Cillian Murphy’s grasp? Will the Best Actress trophy land Emma Stone-side up? Will Barbie really take home Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay?

Keep an eye on Film Stories for full Oscars coverage on Sunday 10th March to find out.

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