Reader perfect in Red Carpet contest

So close and yet so far away.

I was 10-0 in the categories on the Back at the Pack/Tribune Chronicle Red Carpet Contest ballot and 21-2 overall going into the final prize at Sunday’s Academy Awards.

Perfection was dashed when “12 years a Slave” grabbed Best Picture over “Gravity,” which won more awards than any other film, and “American Hustle,” which was my pick.

I knew “American Hustle” was a bit of a dark horse. I said as much in this space last week. The only consolation is that if I’d changed my original pick, I would have switched to “Gravity,” not “Slave,” so I still would have finished 10-1.

Sunday’s awards didn’t contain many surprises, but there were enough categories with two strong contenders that it was tough to navigate all of them. Best Foreign Language Film busted many ballots. Some opted for Jennifer Lawrence over Lupita Nyong’o for Best Supporting Actress, others went with “American Hustle” over “Her” for Best Original Screenplay, some thought Leonardo DiCaprio finally would win his Oscar over Matthew McConaughey.

Only three ballots got all 11 categories correctly, and Bob Daras of Howland was picked at random by the computer as the winner.

Daras is a two-time winner of the Trib’s Oscar contest, first winning in 2008.

Daras said “American Hustle” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” were his personal favorites among the nominees, but his picks were based on, “Just what I observed at the movies, and I did a little bit of research.”

“12 Years a Slave” got his vote for Best Picture because, “I thought it was the type of movie that Hollywood likes to give the Academy Award to, an inspiring movie,” he said.

Of the 11 categories on the Red Carpet ballot, Daras said Best Original Song was the toughest choice. He thought U2 might win for “Ordinary Love” but ultimately picked the eventual winner, “Let It Go” from “Frozen.”

He wins the grand prize two tickets to see Academy Award winner Kevin Costner & Modern West at Packard Music Hall on April 22, a $50 gift certificate to the Sunrise Inn and two season tickets for the 2014 River Rock at the Amp concert series.

Daras said he was looking forward to seeing Costner and has enjoyed such River Rock acts as Seven Bridges (Eagles tribute) and Ohio (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) in the past.

Thanks to all who played, and better luck next year.

The other two categories I missed were Best Documentary Feature and Best Animated Short. My love of “The Act of Killing,” which was number four on my 2013 top 10 list, clouded my judgment in the documentary category. The feel-good “20 Feet from Stardom” was difficult for many Oscar voters to resist, and a change in voting policy allowed more Academy members to vote in the category this year, which increased the odds for “Stardom.”

In the Best Animated Short category, winner “Mr. Hublot” would have been my second choice, but I thought the technological advances on display in “Get a Horse” would be hard for voters to resist.

My success in the other categories relied on a simple strategy – take “Gravity” if it’s technical, “The Great Gatsby” if it’s visual and never bet against a Holocaust movie (Best Documentary Short winner “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life”).

Andy Gray is the entertainment writer for the Tribune Chronicle. Write to him at