How to win your Oscar pool

Winning your Oscar Pool

Now sure, plenty of you probably watch the Academy Awards to see who wins, and I’m sure an even larger portion of you watch them to see the designer fashions and all of you are watching them to see who Joan Rivers trashes on the red carpet. But for a growing number of people, the Oscars is all about winning the Oscar Pool. The problem is, for many of you the idea of picking winners is about as accurate as drawing names out of hat. Which inevitably only leaves you frustrated and out of the race by the time they finish naming the winners of the Supporting Acting categories. But thankfully, there actually is a way of giving yourself a more than a fighting chance of winning on Oscar Sunday.

Now for years the Academy Awards hid much of their membership and their rules for voting behind a veil of secrecy. Part of this was to help maintain the allure of the Oscars being the most prestigious film awards, and part of the reason seemed to be that no one really seemed to ask. Of course, starting in the 80′s when some of the voting went curiously askew that veil began to be lifted, and while the actual active members of the Academy are still not public knowledge; we now at least have a decent idea of who some of the members are, and we have a much better idea of how each of the awards are chosen.

One of the more interesting aspects is that while the Academy has begun showing some forms of transparency, that the level of coverage of other awards shows has begun to rise and it reveals some rather interesting details. The most interesting being that several of them seem to be tell tale predictors of eventual Oscar glory. Knowing this, I’m going to go category by category, detailing what Oscar voters tend to look for and what previous award wins indicate just who might take home the golden statue.

And hopefully, that translates into you taking down your friends and co-workers in this year’s Oscar Pool.



Oscar Pool


Best Picture

Amour
Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

When the nominations were originally announced Argo looked like a falling star as it had been considered one of the leading contenders, but failing to garner a Directing nomination gave the appearance that the Academy wasn’t as taken with it as prognosticators had assumed they would be. Instead, Lincoln looked like the primary favorite with Silver Linings Playbook as its most dangerous challenger. But then awards started to be given out and Argo started to level the competition, garnering wins at the Producer’s Guild, Director’s Guild and shockingly, at the Screen Actor’s Guild. The Director’s Guild win for Affleck especially was a huge salvo against Lincoln’s hopes of winning Best Picture, and at this point it looks like a virtual certainty that Argo will take home the top prize.
The Pick: Argo


Best Director

Amour – Michael Haneke
Beasts of the Southern Wild – Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi – Ang Lee
Lincoln – Steven Spielberg
Silver Linings Playbook – David O. Russell

The good news is that the Best Director category tends to be incredibly easy to predict thanks to the Director’s Guild Awards. Only twice in their history, which was founded back in the 60′s, has the winner of the DGA for Best Director not won
the Oscar for this category. Heck, only three films in history have won Best Picture without also winning Best Director. The bad news? The winner of the DGA this year, Ben Affleck for Argo, isn’t nominated for this category. So, um … yeah. Well, at least we’ll make some history.

That all being said the front runner appears to be Spielberg who when the nominations were announced looked like a shoe-in has now been relegated to the guy who is lucky that Affleck didn’t get nominated as the Argo awards steamroller has come barreling through. Spielberg is hardly a lock, so feel free to consider Ang Lee as well. Though if anyone besides those two get named you’ve got a massive upset.
The Pick: Steven Spielberg


Best Actor

Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix – The Master
Denzel Washington – Flight

You’ll sense a running theme for most of the acting categories as most of them appear to be pretty much locked up at this point. None more so than Best Actor which appears to be an absolute shoe-in for Hollywood’s favorite cobbler, Daniel Day-Lewis. Get it? You see he works as a cobbler when he isn’t acting. And he’s a shoe-in. Oh forget it. Just don’t forget to mark down Day-Lewis for this pick.
The Pick: Daniel Day-Lewis


Best Actress

Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva – Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts – The Impossible

This is widely considered a two-way race between Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence, though Lawrence getting the win at the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards pretty much sealed this up for her. It also helps that while Silver Linings Playbook scored acting nominations in every category, this appears to be the only way it is going to garner a win for its great ensemble cast and their performances. Oh yeah, ignore any of the rumors that Emmanuelle Riva has a chance. She lives in France, doesn’t speak English and even if she did, she doesn’t campaign. She’s a great story, no question, but the odds of her winning this are incredibly slim.
The Pick: Jennifer Lawrence


skyfall oscar pool


Best Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin – Argo
Robert De Niro – Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymor Hoffman – The Master
Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained

Of all the acting categories this appears to be the toughest to call, though the SAG winner for Tommy Lee Jones makes him the odds on favorite. Though, this category seems like the one that might most fall prey to the infamous politicking that goes around with the Oscars. Jones is notoriously bad at selling himself, though he is well respected amongst his peers, while word is spreading that DeNiro is pushing hard to garner his third Oscar win on the back of a performance and a film that the Academy clearly was quite taken with. Then you also have to consider Christoph Waltz who has been winning everywhere except at the SAG awards, which makes him to many people the odds on favorite. That all being said, I still am relatively comfortable going with Jones.
The Pick: Tommy Lee Jones


Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams – The Master
Sally Fields – Lincoln
Anne Hathaway – Les Misérables
Helen Hunt – The Sessions
Jacki Weaver – Silver Linings Playbook

This is another one of the easiest picks as Anne Hathaway was considered the strongest contender even before the Oscar nominations were released. She’s swept every award leading up to the Oscars, though the SAG awards are by far the best predictor, so it is safe to mark Hathaway down for her first statue.
The Pick: Anne Hathaway


Original Screenplay

Amour
Django Unchained
Flight
Moonrise Kingdom
Zero Dark Thirty

Normally this is a pretty easy category to call, as the Writer’s Guild Awards are typically a strong indicator, which would lead one to believe that Zero Dark Thirty would be the heavy favorite thanks to its win. But, somewhat mirroring the enigmatic Best Director category, neither Django Unchained or Amour were eligible for the Writer’s Guild Awards. And wouldn’t you know it, Django Unchained is the script everyone seems to keep talking about, so I’m comfortable in saying that in this instance you can ignore the WGA result and go with the silent D.
The Pick: Django Unchained


Adapted Screenplay

Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook

Thankfully, none of the eligibility issues that plague the Original Screenplay category are an issue with the Adapted category. So this makes it an easy decision to follow the WGA and go with their selection, Argo. The eventually Best Picture winner will need at least one of the major awards to help justify the selection, and this helps seal it. Once you hear Argo called for this, you can be comfortable in knowing you have the right Best Picture winner.
The Pick: Argo


les miserables oscar pool

Best Foreign Language Film

Amour
War Witch
No
A Royal Affair
Kon-Tiki

We now come to the most obvious pick in the whole Awards ceremony with the Foreign Language category. Amour, with its five Oscar nominations and the only film in this category to get a Best Picture nomination is the sure winner. No foreign language film that has received a Best Picture nomination has ever lost this category, so any name besides Amour would be an unprecedented upset.
The Pick: Amour


Best Documentary

5 Broken Cameras
The Gatekeepers
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Searching for Sugar Man

The Documentary category has undergone the most changes over the years, starting with the notorious voting scandal which led to the universally regarded Hoop Dreams was completely shut out from even garnering a nomination. There was such an uproar that the Academy audited the category and soon discovered that a small group of voters were purposely sabotaging the voting process, only giving high marks for the films they wanted nominated, while giving terrible scores to every other film in the category. So while Hoop Dreams had by far the highest number of perfect scores, this group was able to knock its average rating down enough to keep it out of contention.

Over the years the category has undergone revision after revision resulting in one of the most convoluted lists of voting regulations and film qualifiers you are likely to find in any award show. Documentaries must now screen in NY and LA for a minimum of 7 days, while also be advertised in major dailies in each of those cities and that advertising must begin on the first day of their theatrical runs. Oh yeah, there are regulations on the formats used (35mm or 70mm film or DCP only). Once the films make it through that gauntlet they then have to go through two rounds of voting in the Documentary branch of the Academy before a set of 5 nominated films will be voted on by the entire Academy. That is to say, the entire Academy that has seen all five films. Of course, this is also the first year every Academy was sent screeners for all five films so really, they have no excuse not to watch them.

Needless to say it is a bit of a slog to get to this point. So far the front runner looks to be Searching for Sugar Man, as it has pulled out the win at both the Director’s Guild Awards and the Producer’s Guild Awards. But, being that this year every should be watching and voting on these films may mean those two guilds might not be as important as they have been in the past. But I’m guessing the Academy sticks to its trend of following the lead of the groups they feel are better qualified and Searching for Sugar Man eeks out a narrow victory.
The Pick: Searching for Sugar Man


Best Animated Film

Brave
Frankenweenie
ParaNorman
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph

A category that looks to be a two horse race, but the interesting part of that quandary is that both of the frontrunners, Brave and Wreck-It Ralph, are both Disney films. Brave coming from the Pixar Studio branch of the company while Wreck-It Ralph has regained a bit of lost luster for Disney animated films. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a good predictor for this category, as the Annie Awards are voted on by people not in the Academy. On top of that, Wreck-It Ralph and Brave seem to be splitting up the awards voted on by various factions that do have some Academy members, though the Producer’s Guild win for Wreck-It Ralph is a big feather in its pixelated cap. Right now I’d love to lean towards Wreck-It Ralph, almost entirely because it is the better film, but Brave appears to be picking up enough of the smaller Industry awards that it might just have the edge.
The Pick: Brave


Best Cinematography

Anna Karenina
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

I have to admit, I’m fairly biased to Roger Deakins so I am almost always willing to ignore the signs and just put him down as the winner. Not only is he the best cinematographer alive, that he has yet to receive an Oscar for his stunning body of work ranks, for me anyways, as great an Oscar sleight as Kurosawa never receiving one. So when I found out that the American Society of Cinematographers had indeed awarded Skyfall (and thus Roger Deakins) with top honors I was incredibly pleased. Granted, this award is not the greatest at predicting Oscar success, Deakins himself has won two previously yet still is 0-10 when it comes to the Oscars, but with the Academy honoring the 50th Anniversary of Bond, and that the film is without a doubt the best looking Bond film ever made, means there is some solid mojo following Deakins going into this awards.
The Pick: Skyfall



Life of Pi Oscar pool


Best Film Editing

Argo
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

After picking up the Film Editor’s Ace Award, expect this to be yet another category where Argo picks up a win to help justify its eventual Best Picture award. Is it the best edited film of the year? Nope. Does that matter? Not a bit.
The Pick: Argo


Best Production Design

Anna Karenina
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Lincoln

The category formerly known as Art & Design is a two way race between Anna Karenina and Life of Pi thanks to the results of the recently announced Art Director’s Guild. The odd thing about the ADG is that they split their major award into three categories, one each for period film, fantasy film and contemporary film. Anna Karenina won for period film, Life of Pi for fantasy film and Skyfall for contemporary film. But since Skyfall didn’t even receive a nomination, that leaves just the two remaining contenders. Unlike Costume Design which tends to heavily lean towards period films, Production Design can swing to either period pieces or extensive digital effects driven films. Due to the nature of the rather showy set design of Anna Karenina I’m leaning that way, but wouldn’t be surprised if Life of Pi eeks this out as it gobbles up the majority of effects driven awards.
The Pick: Anna Karenina


Best Costume Design

Anna Karenina
Les Misérables
Lincoln
Mirror Mirror
Snow White and the Huntsman

For better or worse this category is period piece only, and always has been. Well, at least since 1967 when the category was reformed from the two previous categories that gave out the award for a black & white film as well as a color film, but that’s ancient history for someone like me who grew up in the 80′s. Considering Anna Karenina won the Costumer Guild’s Award (though like the Production Design Awards they split their major award into three categories, effectively muddling its usefulness), it stands to reason it has a a very good shot at picking up this statue. That being said, there is an outside chance that Eiko Ishioka receives a posthumous award for her work on Mirror Mirror, but that still appears to be a relative long shot.
The Pick: Anna Karenina


Best Original Score

Anna Karenina
Argo
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

One of the few categories that is lacking in decent predictors, and the only one that does exist, the Hollywood Music in Media Awards selected a score that wasn’t even nominated. Life of Pi won the Golden Globe, though that is hardly a reliable indicator of how the Academy will vote. This does look like one category that could go Argo’s way as the Academy typically likes to throw a few other awards at their eventual Best Picture winner. And while Argo is seriously lacking push in most of the major categories, it stands to reason that this will be yet another of its smaller wins.
The Pick: Argo



amour oscar pool


Best Original Song

Chasing Ice
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Skyfall
Ted

Another category with few predictors, it also happens to be the one category that can throw everyone for a loop with the chosen winner with Three 6 Mafia’s deserved win for “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”. By this point, everyone and there mother is hoping for a Adele to win this category. She’s the safe pick in that everyone will be picking her, but if you want to take a risk at trying to pick up an extra category over everyone else I’d go with “Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi. That all being said, going with Adele is a safe loss, as you won’t lose any ground no matter what the outcome, and for me that makes it the smarter pick.
The Pick: Skyfall


Best Makeup and Hair

Hitchcock
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Misérables

This category is as much for practical effects as it is for makeup, so Blockbusters stand just as decent a chance of picking up this category as any period piece. And while Hitchcock has both practical effects and a historical setting, it seems to be the odd man out in this category. Don’t be surprised if people go Les Misérables banking on it picking up some sort of reward for its costumes, but I’m leaning more to the impressive hair designs and practical effects of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey picking up the win in a minor upset.
The Pick: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey


Best Visual Effects

The Avengers
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Prometheus
Snow White and the Huntsman

Another two way race as it is between the previously Oscar winning team behind The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey who look to be trailing the inspirational Life of Pi. This award is specifically for special effects, which in modern film making means digital special effects. Both are strong contenders, but it looks like Richard Parker will get the better of Smeagol as the Visual Effects Society, which represents those who are in the special effects field and of which several members are in the Academy, took the tiger over the long lost hobbit.
The Pick: Life of Pi


Best Sound Editing

Argo
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Skyfall
Zero Dark Thirty

This is one of those categories that people have no idea about and just simply guess, allowing you a chance to pick up some much needed breathing room early in the awards show. It should also serve to impress the hell out of people. Life of Pi picked up several wins from the Sound Editor’s Guild which should serve as a strong predictor for the category and make it the heavy favorite.
The Pick: Life of Pi


lincoln oscar pool


Best Sound Mixing

Argo
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

Another category that many people tend to guess on, though with all the press Les Misérables has gotten for its unique and impressive sound design you can expect a large number of people backing it, with good reason. With the word of mouth and a Cinema Audio Society (which represents Sound Mixers) win it should be considered one of the best locks of the entire awards show.
The Pick: Les Misérables


Best Animated Short Film

Adam and Dog
Fresh Guacamole
Head Over Heels
Paperman
The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare

The Animated Shorts are an interesting category, as the films are typically posted online so that even the general public can view and scrutinize. In the shorts categories the Animated films tend to be the most entertaining, and thus the most viewed. To date this looks like a two horse race between Adam and Dog and Paperman. And while the Annie Awards are not terribly great at predicting who will win the Oscar due to the fact that none of the voters for that award are Academy eligible, the fact that Paperman took home the award leads one to believe that it seems to be the front runner.
The Pick: Paperman


Best Live Action Short Film

Asad
Buzkashi Boys
Curfew
Death of a Shadow
Henry

The great thing about these categories is no one has any idea of what will win, and even the most informed people can only whittle it down to a pair of films. With the rest of your pool guessing at this category, even 50% odds give you a huge advantage. Picking up even one of the shorts categories gives you an advantage, and if you can score two or more that can really pay dividends later. Right now Curfew seems like the front runner with only Death of a Shadow being a slight contender. Stick with Curfew and you could grab a nice little feather in your predicting cap.
The Pick: Curfew


Best Documentary Short

Inocente
Kings Point
Mondays at Racine
Open heart
Redemption

As with the other shorts category, this one is prone to wild swings and is incredibly difficult to predict. But while others are guessing blind you’ll know that the two front runners appear to be Inocente (a story about a homeless immigrant) and Mondays at Racine (a short about women with cancer who meet at a beauty salon). Both are heavy topics which is a sweet spot for Academy voters and either would be a good choice to try and pick up an extra category win.
The Pick: Inocente


paperman oscar pool

Matt Gamble (854 Posts)

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