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How Twitter Is Changing the Way We Watch (and Predict) the Oscars


The buzz, the trends, and the tweets leading up to Sunday's 85th Academy Awards.

On Sunday, we will watch the Super Bowl of Hollywood: the Academy Awards on ABC (NYSE:DIS). We will watch celebrities on the red carpet: the interviews, the dresses, the drama; we'll all guess who is drunk. We will watch the untested host, Seth McFarlane, the creator of Family Guy and last summer's comedy hit Ted, with heightened scrutiny: Is he going to pull off the leap into Hollywood's mainstream? We will laugh at the good jokes, scoff at the bad, applaud the humble and inspired acceptance speeches, stare confusedly at the distasteful ones, and inevitably shed a tear for the homage to Hollywood's legends that have passed on. We will be sometimes bored, sometimes shocked, sometimes enthralled, sometimes jealous... and we will share it all on Twitter.

Social networks like Twitter and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) have become an essential part of watching live events, with the second screen involvement of a smartphone or computer becoming as enjoyable (or even more so) than what is on TV. Moreover, all kinds of apps have continued to emerge to facilitate more immersion into the event. For example, The Oscars app, officially released by the Academy for free on Android (NASDAQ:GOOG), the Apple (NASDAQ:APPL) App Store, and for Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle, brings together all facets of the night, from the red carpet to recipes for parties. It is a fact that social media is revitalizing live TV, because you can't live-tweet an event that isn't live, you can't share an experience with the rest of the world on your own time; it's live or it's late, and social media is all about immediacy.

For last year's telecast of the 84th Academy Awards, the classic Billy Crystal hosted for his ninth time, and the show set a then Twitter record, with 18,718 tweets per second. That record has since been surpassed many times, most recently by the turning of the New Year, when Japan and South Korea reached 33,388 tweets per second welcoming 2013. In another record, this year's Super Bowl, notably extended by that power outage, garnered a record-breaking 30.6 million tweets throughout its duration, with lots of non-football events and commercials ruling the tweets. The half-time show and Destiny's Child reunion garnered most tweets per second, Budweiser (NYSE:BUD) took the most hashtags used for a commercial, and Tide (NYSE:PG) won the award for highest proportion of positive tweets. The night provided a huge volume of tweets that the Oscars may not surpass (the Super Bowl generally attracts five times as many viewers), but with such a dramatic year for the nominees and shifts and swings in front-runners, we will definitely see Twitter light up for Oscars night.

(Read more from Minyanville: What Does the New 'Tweets per Minute' Metric Really Mean?)

Big on the list of tweeted-about Oscar controversies was the snubbing of Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow, and Quentin Tarantino for nominations as Best Director, especially given all three of the strong Best Picture contenders. None, however, will be as strong as Argo this year, which picked up a great deal of steam beginning with the January 10 Critics' Choice Awards, where Affleck won Best Director and Best Picture for Argo.

Following that win, the film, set during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, won big at the Golden Globes on January 13, with two more wins, for Best Director and Best Motion Picture, Drama. With these big wins and others from BAFTA and the AFI, Argo became the front runner, taking the place of pictures who all held that competitive spot at one point in the lead up to awards season, including Lincoln, Les Miserables, and the controversial Zero Dark Thirty.

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All that being said, there is one more dark horse in the competition, and if Twitter has anything to say about it, the film might have a shot. The Academy has actually teamed up this year with Twitter to measure the films that garner the most positive tweets, and leading as of this Tuesday was Silver Linings Playbook. Now, winning an Oscar has probably got more to do with power politics in Hollywood (George Clooney, producer of Argo, has continually made strides forward as a power player over the years), but this Twitter interest in Silver Linings Playbook is very intriguing.

George Clooney is connected, sure, but so is the recently re-crowned king of awards season, Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Company is the studio behind Twitter's new Oscars darling. Let it be noted, Weinstein pulled off what many consider a major upset in 1999 when Shakespeare in Love bested Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. Remember when Jennifer Lawrence, who has been dominating the Best Actress categories, jokingly thanked Harvey Weinstein in her Golden Globes acceptance speech for "killing whoever you had to kill to get me up here today"? Obviously the man understands the Hollywood awards system.

If history repeats itself, and if Twitter has truly become the measure of social movement that it has been touted as, then we may see some major upsets on Sunday. We may also see some Twitter records be smashed, especially if there are upsets. This is how Twitter feeds, on those surprising moments that startle us all. For example, let's look to the Super Bowl: the reuniting of Destiny's Child, the mysterious blackout, that disgusting Go Daddy kiss commercial, these are the shocks and awes that inspire us to reach out and share with our increasingly connected society.

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