The robocalls and emails apparently did the trick. Academy CEO Dawn Hudson reports the 86th Oscar contest is responsible for another significant high mark in the Academy’s efforts to turn out the vote.”As we head toward Oscar Sunday, I am thrilled to report how engaged our members have been this voting season. Your efforts resulted in another record turnout. And we are so happy to see that members have embraced our online voting system, and are voting from all over the world  easily and securely. Thank you for participating in this historic year – when all members were able to vote in all categories – and for honoring the brilliant artists in our community,” she wrote in an internal Friday memo. The Academy doesn’t reveal actual numbers but I was Oscar_badgetold by reliable sources that the turnout for the nominating phase was over 90%, and with a huge last-minute surge (and that effort to get members engaged in the process) the total for the final voting phase which ended last Tuesday may have exceeded that number. But what does it all mean? It’s been said before, but I will say it again, this is one of the tightest and most unpredictable Best Picture races I can remember and I am not sure what the massive turnout of the Acad’s 6028 eligible voters says other than there was obviously a lot of interest within Oscar’s ranks. I have talked to numerous members over the past few days at various Oscar-related events, and while the results vary, it is clear this has all finally turned into a real seesaw race between 12 Years A Slave and Gravity. It appears to be a divide so sharp between those two that Sony’s American Hustle has a fighting chance to be the real beneficiary in what has been widely acknowledged the past few weeks to be a three-way contest.

Related: OSCARS: Pete Hammond’s Absolute FINAL Predictions In Every Category In One Of The Most Competitive Races Ever

gravity-616x346No sooner do I get a flurry of first place votes for Gravity than Slave comes roaring back into the conversation. “So what do you think it will be? 12 Years A Slave, right? That wins Best Picture?”  is a common refrain I heard from a few voters. Even many Gravity voters with whom I spoke believe Slave will ultimately prevail. There’s the belief the Academy wants to honor the most “important” film, but surprisingly I have been finding a more passionate contingent lately who told me in the end they placed Gravity in first, blown away by the  sheer “achievement” of the movie. In my final prediction piece I finally went with Gravity getting a narrow win as the film more likely to build a consensus on the second or third ballot which is where I definitely think the counting process is headed. There’s no question it wins Director for Alfonso Cuaron and numerous technical awards, but does it stop there? Holding the record for most wins without taking Best Picture is 1972’s Cabaret which won 8 Oscars including director (which usually goes hand in hand with Best Pic)  but in the end lost the big one to The Godfather which won only 3 statuettes.

At this point in most years you almost always had a good idea of what name would be in the Best Picture envelope, especially12 Years A Slave after months of precursor awards and endless talk. Not this time. ABC has been playing up that suspense factor in their on-air promos. I also hear  producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan have another presenter surprise up their sleeve for the big reveal. You recall last year Jack Nicholson came out but turned the opening of the envelope over to First Lady Michelle Obama via satellite from The White House.  No satellite this time , but something special at the Dolby Theatre I’ve been told. We’ll see.

1785942718At any rate the Red Carpet arrivals are about to begin, and after nine and a half months  since first seeing Best Picture contender Nebraska  and Foreign Language Film hopeful The Great Beauty in Cannes, the long journey for them this season as well as all the other nominees ends at the Dolby Theatre.  Good luck to all. To quote my favorite “guilty pleasure” movie, 1966’s kitschy The Oscar: “You finally made it, Frankie! Oscar night! And here you sit on top of a glass mountain called success. You’re one of the chosen five, and the whole town’s holding its breath to see who won it”.