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Oscar guessing: Odds or dumb luck?

Dennis King Published: February 20, 2012

BY DENNIS KING

I have a friend who prides himself on correctly guessing Oscar winners every year – despite the fact that he rarely ever sees any of the nominated movies. With a cold eye, he scans the nominees, figures the odds and picks the winners like a seasoned racetrack tout. And he has a slew of office Oscar pool wins and radio contest prizes to prove his prowess.

I, on the other hand, invariably see almost every nominated film and performance, get all sentimental and emotional about my favorites, and usually pick the long shots and dark horses to win – with predictably dubious results.

The lesson? When it comes to Oscar guessing, don’t play your favorites, play the odds. (Of course, all of this must come with the bracing caution that, with some 5,700 qualified Oscar voters, a rigorously secret ballot, a roiling atmosphere of monumental egos, behind-the scenes politicking and boardroom alliances, the Academy Awards are virtually unpredictable. There are always upsets and surprising wins.)

So with that in mind, this year I’ll (mostly) play the odds and humbly offer this bookmaker’s roster of supposedly predictable winners.

Best Supporting Actor:

Kenneth Branagh of “My Week With Marilyn” is the odds-on favorite. He’s a great actor who’s due. (Any upset – which often happens in this category – could come from one of two film titans: Christopher Plummer of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” or Max von Sydow of “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.”

Best Supporting Actress:

In another upset-prone category, “The Artist’s” sprightly Berenice Bejo is favored to win and should. But ensemble members of the high-minded social drama “The Help,” Octavia Spencer or Jessica Chastain, could garner a surprise win.

Best Actor:

Close odds between Hollywood insider George Clooney of “The Descendents” and suave Frenchman Jean Dujardin of “The Artist” make this a tight race. Our vote’s for Dujardin, but we guess the very popular Clooney to add a partner to his 2005 Oscar for “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

Best Actress:

Another close race between Viola Davis of “The Help” and Oscar stalwart Meryl Streep (two previous wins and 15 nominations) of “Iron Lady,” with socially conscious show-biz voters giving the twice-nominated Davis her first win.

Best Director:

Following the tea leaves of the Directors Guild Awards, where Michel Hazanavicius of “The Artist” won the top award, the imaginative French writer-director ought to take home the directing statuette. (Note that Hazanavicius was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Best Achievement in Film Editing).

Best Picture:

If we were handicapping a win, place and show scenario, it would go this way: “The Artist,” by a nose over “Hugo,” with “The Descendents” running third.

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