How to Win Your Oscar Pool

Oscar pools are tough: You need to measure the buzz to figure out which categories are sure things, who has the momentum to pull an upset, and what the heck is nominated for the short subjects. Here, we take you through the ballot, starting with the trickier categories.



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Oscar pools are tough: You need to measure the buzz to figure out which categories are sure things, who has the momentum to pull an upset, and what the heck is nominated for the short subjects. Here, we take you through the ballot, starting with the trickier categories.

 

Costumes
Though earlier this decade the costume awards got a little bit creative, with awards for Moulin Rouge and Chicago, the Academy usually has a yen for puffy period dresses. The Duchess is a safe bet here.

Makeup
This one is tough but, since there are only three nominees, your chances for choosing correctly are improved. The conservative vote would be for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button but, if you’re feeling a little crazy, you might try breaking away from the pack with Hellboy II: The Golden Army. The Academy loves creatures: Pan’s Labyrinth, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Lord of the Rings have all been winners in this category.

Song/Score
It’s easy to think that “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire has this locked, since two of the three nominated songs are from that film. (Where’s the nomination for “Dracula’s Lament,” Academy?) The last few times that’s happened — there were multiple nominations for songs from Dreamgirls and Enchanted — the songs split the vote and the presumed frontrunner walked away with nothing. It’s better to vote for Wall-E’s “Down to Earth” for song, and Slumdog Millionaire for score.

Sound Editing/Sound Mixing
First off, let’s all take a moment to complain that Wanted was nominated for an Academy Award. I love comic books, violence, and James McAvoy, but that movie was no good. This usually goes to a film with a lot of gunshots or explosions: The Bourne Ultimatum, Letters from Iwo Jima, King Kong. It’s not necessary to try and figure out the subtle difference between the categories — Academy voters don’t know, either — so just put down The Dark Knight for both.

Visual Effects
Though fantasies and comic-book movies have won awards in this category, I don’t think there’s much of a chance for The Dark Knight or Iron Man. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a best-picture nominee precisely because of its visual effects, so there’s a better-than-good chance it’ll walk away with this award.

Short Films
It’s not fair, but I think most Oscar pools are won and lost based on the short films. Everybody’s equally clueless, so they’re a great leveler. Best leave this to experts who know what they’re doing: I Googled around and most people are predicting “On the Line” for live action and “La Maison en Petits Cubes” for animated. (Don’t be tempted by the Pixar choice in the animated category — they haven’t won here since 2001.)

Art Direction
This is a tight category, and past winners have been all over the map from period pieces (The Aviator, Memoirs of a Geisha) to goth films (Pan’s Labyrinth, Sweeney Todd) to musicals (Chicago, Moulin Rouge). Still, I think period details usually trump fantasy elements in this category, and Benjamin Button has a lot of them sustained over multiple eras, so I think it’ll triumph over fellow nominees The Dark Knight and Revolutionary Road (no matter how much I want all of the furniture in the Revolutionary Road house).

Film Editing
Half the time — last year’s The Bourne Ultimatum win notwithstanding — the editing award goes to the eventual best picture winner. Here, Slumdog Millionaire is just as much of a frontrunner as it is in any other category.

Documentary/Short
With previous wins for March of the Penguins and An Inconvenient Truth, the Academy is no longer afraid to give the award to documentaries that people have actually seen, so Man on Wire is in a good position for best documentary. Documentary short is a toss-up. Each one represents a worthy issue. There doesn’t seem to be a clear prediction consensus, so your guess is as good as anybody’s, but if you’re stumped go with “The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306.” It’s about Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination — who’d vote against that?

 

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About This Blog

Marisa LaScala

Marisa LaScala
Elmsford, NY


Associate Editor Marisa LaScala joined Westchester magazine in 2003, and ever since she's blown every paycheck at the Greenburgh Multiplex. She also staunchly defends Richard Kelly, doesn't mind spoiling the endings of trashy movies you're curious about but don't want to pay to see, wishes the Hold Steady would come back and rock out Westchester, misses Arrested Development more than anyone can imagine, and still watches cartoons and Saturday Night Live. You can find more of her cultural criticism at www.popmatters.com, where she is a staff writer.

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