How to Win An Oscar Pool

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Actress Anne Hathaway portrays Fantine, a struggling, sickly mother forced into prostitution in 1800s Paris, in a scene from the screen adaptation of “Les Miserables.” Hathaway is nominated for an Academy Award for supporting actress for “Les Miserables.” Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

With the Oscars coming up this weekend, the only thing more important than seeing all the nominated films is proving to your friends that you know more than they do. Oscar pools are usually half-informed guesses mixed with eeny-meeny-miny-mo decisions on the more obscure categories, and we’ve put together a few tips to help you get ahead in this year’s Oscar season.

YOUR OPINION DOESN’T MATTER

Oscar is a fickle beast, and no matter what you think should win a specific category, the odds of the Academy matching your line of thinking are slim to none. Sure, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was a great, borderline-magical film, but it hasn’t got a prayer for Best Picture. And we’d all love to see Wes Anderson win his first Oscar for “Moonrise Kingdom,” but the competition is too stiff for him to stand a chance.

HATHAWAY AND DAY-LEWIS WILL NOT LOSE

Both of these actors have had their respective awards staked out for months now. Daniel Day-Lewis has massive momentum behind him, and he’s steamrollered the competition. Despite an incredibly competitive year in the Best Actor category, Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln was transformative in a way that the Academy membership is sure to recognize. Meanwhile, Anne Hathaway’s performance in “Les Miserables” — a title which shockingly doesn’t refer to the people sitting through it — practically has Oscar carved into it. Her showstopping rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” was a rare moment of emotional devastation in a film that sputtered more often than not, and Hathaway’s first Oscar, for Best Supporting Actress, will be well earned.

ONE OF THE BIG PLAYERS IS GOING HOME EMPTY-HANDED

Silver Linings Playbook,” “Argo,” “Lincoln,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Life of Pi,” “Amour” and “Django Unchained” are the films to beat at this year’s ceremony, and surely one of them will go unrecognized. Will it be the sterile and painful “Amour?" Not likely, since the film is getting a big push in Best Actress and seems to have Best Foreign Film locked down. “Silver Linings Playbook” is too well liked to not win something, and “Life of Pi” has too many nominations. “Lincoln” and “Argo” are basically unstoppable thanks to the momentum of Oscar season, even if one of them is destined to underperform. My money is on “Zero Dark Thirty.” After the political backlash resulting from its depiction of torture, the journalistic thriller has been struggling, and a combination of Kathryn Bigelow’s Best Director snub, Jessica Chastain’s faltering Best Actress campaign and the crowded Best Original Screenplay category, the film is likely to end up this season’s sacrificial lamb.

IF THEY DESERVE IT, THEY PROBABLY ALREADY LOST

It’s rare that the best film nominated in any given category actually wins, and there are sure to be few exceptions to that rule this year. Roger Deakins made, bar none, the year’s most beautifully photographed film with “Skyfall,” but the Bond thriller is almost sure to lose in the Best Cinematography category. Joaquin Phoenix gave a performance for the ages in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” but in a Best Actor category where each contender could win in a lesser year, his nomination is the victory.

DON’T SPLIT ON SOUND AWARDS

The Academy usually awards Best Sound Mixing and Editing to the same films, and the last time they varied was in 2008, when “The Dark Knight” and “Slumdog Millionaire” split the vote. In an Oscar pool, victory can come down to one or two awards, and it sure would be a shame to be the guy who thought the Academy would deviate from pattern here. 

While I can’t claim to be an Oscar expert, especially in a year as unpredictable as this one, these picks should help you at least get a leg up in your Oscar pool, if not claim total victory. And if I’m totally wrong on all counts, at least that means we’ll be watching one of the most gonzo insane Oscar telecasts ever, and the entertainment value alone will make the loss go down easier.

Published on February 22, 2013 as "What to expect from the Oscars".