You don’t have to watch a single nominated movie to win an Oscar pool – just use these strategies.
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Step 1: Don’t trust your gut Forget about who you think should win. The Academy consists of about 6,000 industry pros, and figuring out how they are going to vote is the key to taking home the prize.
Step 2: Go with the flow For Best Picture, choose the film that has the most nominations overall. Historically, this film almost always wins Best Picture.
TIP: A Best Picture win doesn't guarantee other victories. The same film has swept the top five categories – Best Picture, Directing, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, and Screenplay – only a few times in Oscar history.
Step 3: Pick the period piece When it comes to the Costume Design and Art Direction categories, always go with the period piece, assuming there is one. In the past 20 years, nearly all Oscars in the two categories have gone to these usually lavish productions.
TIP: If more than one period piece is nominated in these categories, go with the one based on a book or play.
Step 4: Play the odds For Foreign Language Film, pick a movie from western Europe, which has nabbed an Oscar in this category 15 of the past 20 years. Unless it’s getting a lot of buzz, skip anything from Brazil or China: They get nominated a lot, but rarely win.
Step 5: Go with the cash cow doc As the popularity of feature-length documentaries has risen steadily over the past decade, the Academy has usually given the nod to the highest grossing nominated film.
Step 6: Pick the “ugly” starlet If an actress had to look ugly in her nominated role, choose her. The Academy tends to reward beautiful women who dare to look bad on the big screen.
Step 7: Pick the “stricken” actor If a nominated actor played either someone with a disability or someone with an incurable illness, pick him. Eight of the past 20 Leading Actor winners played characters in one of these two categories.
Step 8: Go conservative for screenplay Choose a solidly middle-of-the-road film for best original screenplay. Some of the quirkiest films of the year are nominated in this category, but it’s often the less oddball – but not least oddball – scripts that win this Oscar.
Step 9: Look for an atonement opportunity If the Academy has overlooked a nominee in the past, especially in the supporting acting categories, chances are voters will make it up to them now. That goes double if the person is getting on in years.
TIP: If two people from the same movie are nominated in the same category, don’t pick either one. They tend to cancel each other out.
Step 10: Cheat a little When it comes to technical categories like Film Editing and Visual Effects, read trade journals for their expert opinions, and check out web sites that specialize in handicapping the awards.
FACT: The trophy got its nickname in 1931, when the Academy librarian remarked it looked like her Uncle Oscar.