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Placing bets on who will take home an Oscar

Academy Awards set for Sunday night in Hollywood

POSTED: February 27, 2014 1:00 a.m.

It’s that time of year again, when for one night Americans remember that a place called Hollywood still exists and bask in the irresistible glow of the most glamorous show on Earth.

It’s also when movies become a sport because — aside from the red carpet splendor and Ellen Degeneres’ one-liners — the most fun to be had with the Oscars is betting on who will win.

I should clarify, this column is not intended to encourage gambling, which is illegal in Georgia. But it’s legal in Nevada, where bookmakers lay odds on every category and on various prop bets. (Are you impressed by my command of the lingo?)

For instance, the over/under on how many viewers will watch the Oscars telecast is 41 million. Odds are 17-4 the same film will win best picture and best director. Odds are even Bette Midler and Pink will not perform a duet. And odds are 1-2 that Pharrell Williams will wear a mountain/buffalo hat during his performance.

It’s important this year to enjoy these peripheral, light-hearted aspects of the ceremony, because there are really only a few heated races.

“12 Years A Slave” is a virtual lock for best picture, after being named best drama at the Golden Globes, best film at the BAFTAs, movie of the year by the American Film Institute and best picture by so many critics it would fill the rest of this column if I cited them all. The only other contender appears to be “Gravity,” but the 2-11 odds Vegas is giving “12 Years” seem right on the money.

The best director race is interesting because the same competitors switch positions. Alfonso Cuarón will likely win for “Gravity,” while Steve McQueen, director of “12 Years,” is a distant second. I think “12 Years A Slave” is unquestionably as artful and more important than any other 2013 film. But Cuarón and McQueen each accomplish so much in these films I’d be happy to see either win.

“American Hustle” could pull an upset in either best picture or best director, but that seems highly unlikely. In fact, it’s entirely possible “American Hustle” will win nothing despite being nominated for 10 awards.

The acting races promise very little drama. Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett,and Jared Leto are overwhelming favorites for best actor, best actress and best supporting actor, respectively.

Each dominated his or her category in previous awards ceremonies.

The best supporting actress category appears to be a two-woman race between Lupita Nyong’o for “12 Years” and Jennifer Lawrence for “American Hustle.” Both are deserving, but I’m rooting for Nyong’o, who was perfect in perhaps the most emotionally and physically grueling role of the year. Meanwhile, June Squibb’s wonderful performance in “Nebraska” seems destined to be overlooked.

“Her” and “American Hustle” are neck-and-neck for best original screenplay, and I have a bone to pick on this one. “American Hustle” director David O. Russell has spoken often and openly about how much of his dialogue is improvised on set. Although I loved the movie, I find it embarrassing “American Hustle” was even nominated here.

“12 Years” is likely to win for best adapted screenplay, and rightfully so. However, please seek out the only other real contender for this award, “Philomena,” which wasn’t distributed in the U.S. as widely as it should have been.

Although I’d like to see “The Wind Rises” pull an upset, “Frozen” will likely win for best animated feature. It will also deservedly walk away with best original song for “Let It Go.” Make sure you catch Idina Menzel’s live performance of the song during the telecast.

The best documentary feature category rarely draws much attention, but this year it’s one of the most interesting races. After the Academy narrowed an incredibly strong and deep field of documentaries down to five nominees, it appears voters will choose either “The Act of Killing,” a disturbing yet profound glimpse into the minds of mass killers, or “20 Feet From Stardom,” an upbeat, non-confrontational profile of background singers.

There you have it, a guide to refer to when you’re not live-tweeting about Amy Adams’ dress, Sandra Bullocks’ biceps, which actor brought his mother or Bruce Dern’s hair.

Oh, and one last crucial bit of information. The Vegas bookmakers give it 1-2 odds Pink will make an acrobatic entrance. Place your bets now.

Jeff Marker is head of the Communication, Media & Journalism Department at the University of North Georgia. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes.com/getout.


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