The Malibu Times’ official 2007 Movie Gurus

The Malibu Times Movie Guru Erin Shitama

Three people correctly predicted 13 of the 18 selections in The Malibu Times’ Oscar contest to tie for the win. Twenty-five of the 34 contestants accurately picked the Best Picture winner, “No Country for Old Men.”

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

For the first time in six years, there is more than one winner of The Malibu Times’ annual Oscar contest in which participants chose who they think will win an Academy Award. Malibu resident Michael Levine, Tara Morrow of Santa Monica and Pepperdine University senior Erin Shitama correctly predicted 13 of the 18 selections in the challenge. They will each receive 10 free passes to the Malibu Cinemas Hollywood Theater and share the title of The Malibu Times Movie Guru for 2007.

The winning trio topped a contest of 34 participants. The average number of picks correctly made was just less than nine.

Shitama was surprised to hear she was one of the winners. She said she owes it to her boss, Rich Dawson, who collaborated with her to make the selections.

“I’m totally not a movie buff,” said Shitama, who had only seen one of the five films nominated for Best Picture. “A lot of what I picked was speculation.”

Levine does consider himself a movie buff, and has seen all five Best Picture nominees.

“We [my wife and I] go out a lot,” Levine said. “I’m retired and I have a lot of time.”

Levine and his fellow gurus correctly predicted Joel and Ethan Coen’s “No Country for Old Men” would win the Best Picture award. The dark film about a regular man being pursued by psychopathic hit man Anton Chigurh after finding cash at a crime scene in rural Texas was widely predicted by the media to win the award, and 25 people in The Malibu Times’ contest agreed.

Five people thought “Atonement” would win. Another three made “There Will Be Blood” their choice. And one person believed the award would go to “Michael Clayton.”

Levine is a big fan of the Coen brothers, naming “The Big Lebowski” as one of his favorite films. He said the Academy made the right selection this year.

“It captured the spirit of the book,” Levine said. “I liked the fact it was so bleak. They didn’t use any music. It was really effective, especially with its bleak Texas landscape. I really enjoyed Tommy Lee Jones’ performance.”

Although nominated, Jones did not win for his performance as County Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. That award went to Daniel Day-Lewis, who played ruthless oilman Daniel Plainview in “There Will Be Blood.” This award was the easiest for contestants to predict, with all but two people getting it right. One contestant thought George Clooney would win his first Oscar for his performance in “Michael Clayton” and another believed it was Johnny Depp’s turn for playing the title character in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

On the other side of the spectrum, Culver City resident Christine Pechera and Malibuite Janet Sudar were the only contestants to accurately pick the winner in the documentary category. The Oscar went to “Taxi to the Dark Side,” a film alleging the United States uses torture in its interrogation practices of enemy combatants. Fifteen people thought the winner would be the anti-war film “No End in Sight.” Another 10 people believed it would go to Michael Moore’s attack on the American healthcare system, “Sicko.” And seven people thought it would go to “Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience,” which portrayed the experience of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan through their writings.

This year’s Academy Awards show almost didn’t happen because of the writers’ strike. Until recently, it looked like it could end up in the same position as the Golden Globes, which was reduced to a press conference announcing the winners. But with a last-minute deal between the writers and producers, the show went on.

However, not too many people were watching. The program received the lowest television rating in Oscar history with approximately 32 million viewers, according to the Nielsen ratings. That would be a good-sized audience for a regular television show, but not for a program that is usually only second to the Super Bowl in popularity.

But of those who watched, the Oscars had at least one person who enjoyed the show.

“I’m a big fan of [host] Jon Stewart,” said Levine. “I liked it just fine.”