It's a wonderful time for Oscar! Oscar, Oscar! Who will win?

The best part about watching the Academy Awards (well, besides taking a tequila shot every time Joan Rivers mentions "Vera Wang") is trying to predict who will win. Many people, in fact, take part in the tradition that is known as an "Oscar pool." An Oscar pool is not a pool that belongs to Oscar. It is a form of gambling, much like a football pool, only the people involved are more artsy-fartsy and educated. You basically bet on which film/actor you think is going to win, and the one who predicts the most winners correctly wins the pot.

Predict the Oscars? Who cares? Well, if the pot in your office Oscar pool reaches a couple hundred dollars, and you could win it simply by reading this article, then why not take a stab at it? If that didn't convince you, it's too late. You've already begun reading.

Right off the bat, let us make one thing clear: the most important element in winning an Oscar pool is to ignore your own opinions about who you think should win. Your opinions mean jack squat. You're not voting, so remember to not let your own thoughts invade the process. What should you make your predictions based on? Well, stop asking questions and keep reading.


Before we get to the nitty-gritty, we should give you a brief history of the Awards of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. First the earth cooled. Then the dinosaurs came, made sequels about eating small children, and died of shame from bad reviews and overblown special effects. Then a group of old actors, actresses, directors, and producers decided that they should give themselves awards every year for being beautiful and perfect. And so we reach today: the Academy Awards, given in the following areas of movie-making (at least, in March 2000):

Best Picture
Best Director
Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best Original Screenplay
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Original Song
Best Original Score
Best Animated Short Film Best Cinematography
Best Editing
Best Costume Design
Best Art/Set Direction
Best Sound
Best Sound Effects Editing
Best Visual Effects
Best Makeup
Best Documentary Feature
Best Live Action Short Film
Best Documentary Short Subject

In most of these categories, five people or films are nominated (some categories have only three nominees, but the number can change from year to year).

You are probably wondering, "Who nominates these people and films?" The answer is members of the Academy. "Who are these members of the Academy?" you ask. Well, its complicated (and if you don't already know, you're never going to be one). Suffice it to say that they are members of the industry.

The more important question is, "How does the nomination process work?" Well, the Academy is divided into branches (acting, directing, editing, writing, sound, and music). Every member belongs to one and ONLY one branch. So Barbra Streisand had to decide a long time ago whether she wanted to be included in the music, acting, or directing branch (she chose acting).

In January, each member of the Academy receives a ballot and nominates people/films only for their branch. Music branch members nominate people for song and score, while actors only nominate actors. An exception is made for a few categories (documentary, live action short, animated, and foreign). For these categories, a pre-selected panel picks the nominees. Then a very reputable accounting firm with damn sexy accountants tabulates the votes. In mid-February, the top 5 nominees are announced in each category, and at the end of March at an awards ceremony, each winner is announced. The ultimate Oscar winner for each category is based upon a vote of the ENTIRE membership, not only the specific branch (unlike the nominating procedure). You still with us? Just think of it this way: if actors can figure this all out, you sure can too.

What difference does this make? Well, if you're gonna predict the Oscars, it helps to know who is doing the voting and how people got nominated in the first place. Most of the voters are old and feeble. And it's not totally a popularity contest, nor does it necessarily have to do with how much money the movie made. Rather, it's a combination of popularity, box office, artistic achievement, luck, sentimentality, bribes, and most importantly, marketing. And since actors make up the biggest branch, try to think like an actor throughout this whole process. Read this SYW in a large, booming voice. Praise the aptitudes of Pacino and Streep. Clear your head of any original thoughts. You're an actor now, so act like one.