Each year in Los Angeles, all the beautiful people of Hollywood gather together to hand out gold-plated trophies and pat each other on the back in an event known as the Academy Awards. The first ceremony took place in 1929, and it’s grown into an annual pop culture phenomenon filled with fashion and pageantry. Some watch for the awards, while millions of others tune in to see what the celebs are wearing on the red carpet.
In addition to watching the event, fans of gambling and/or cinema can also take advantage of Oscars betting. Most sportsbooks offer a smattering of options around awards season, and the savvy cinephile has an opportunity to clean up on a few well-placed underdog bets.
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The 2016 Academy Awards only concluded recently, so there’s a long time to go until the 2017 event. For those who like to get an early start, though, here’s a list of a few films that should be in contention for a Best Picture nomination.
- Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk – This is director Ang Lee’s first film since Life of Pi. Hollywood loves a movie with a message, and this one deals with an Iraq combat veteran and his surreal experience at Cowboys Stadium while on a goodwill tour of the country.
- Passengers – This sci-fi romance almost exclusively stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. The former has been the darling of award shows in recent years, and I’m betting some of that mojo rubs off on her likable co-star.
- Silence – Everyone in Hollywood seems to love Martin Scorsese, so why shouldn’t his latest film nab a Best Picture nomination? The subject matter about two Catholic priests facing persecution in 17th century Japan isn’t the most audience-friendly, but that’s never stopped the Academy when it comes to handing out awards. I’d also expect Marty to pick up another nomination for Best Director (before losing to someone with less talent).
- Weightless – Pretentious director Terrence Malick presents a film about love and betrayal in the equally pretentious city of Austin, Texas. The critics seem to drool over even his most pedestrian effort, so anything he releases is a strong candidate for a nomination.
- The Girl on the Train – The Paula Hawkins novel was a major hit, so there’s a chance the big-screen adaptation could be just as big. A psychological thriller, it stars Emily Blunt and is directed by Tate Taylor (The Help, Get On Up). Movies like this are favored by the new format allowing up to 10 Best Picture nominees, which manages to make room for a few audience favorites every year.
- The Birth of a Nation – Director Nate Parker’s drama about the Nat Turner slave uprising was the talk of Sundance, and it opens in American theatres in October. Last year, the Academy was embarrassed by the #OscarsSoWhite protest over the lack of nominations for black films and performers, so Parker’s project is sure to benefit. The only stumbling block to a Best Picture win is the fact that 12 Years a Slave received the top award in 2013.
It’s also a good year to be Don Cheadle. While the writer/actor/director is all kinds of talented, I think he’ll also benefit from the previous year’s backlash. His Miles Davis biopic, Miles Ahead, seems to have all the dramatic acting opportunities that Academy members look for when casting their vote, and there’s no doubt that some will also feel pressured to vote for a non-white performer. Cheadle likely deserves the win anyway, but this situation certainly can’t hurt. He’s my current favorite to win.
How Oscar Voting Works
Oscar winners are voted on by the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. There are around 6,000 members in this organization, 33% of which are comprised of former award nominees. The other 67% have been nominated by current members and voted in by the Academy’s governing body.
In most categories, nominees are determined by the members of that specific category. For example, directors determine the nominees for Best Director. The Best Picture nominees are voted on by all members, and categories such as Documentary and Foreign Film are selected by a special panel.
Once the nominees have been announced, members may vote in all available categories. The results are tabulated and announced during the annual telecast of the Oscars (held in late February). Winning or being nominated for an Oscar increases a film’s revenue, and male actors can enjoy a salary bump of up to 81%.
Academy Award Betting Options
Some sportsbooks offer a wide range of wagers for the Oscars, while some limit the number to one or two. The following are among the most common:
- Futures Winner – Some sites offer future bets on Oscar winners before the nominations are even announced. The odds are greater due to the level of uncertainty, but the potential payout is also higher.
- Outright Winner – These odds are released after the nominees have been announced, and they allow bettors to predict the outright winners for various categories. Best Picture and Best Actor are always a given, but some sites may take wagers on Screenplay, Cinematography, and even Best Animated Feature.
- Over/Under – If a film is nominated for multiple Oscars, expect an over/under to be available. In this style of wagering, the bettor must choose if the actual number of awards won will be higher or lower than the number listed by the oddsmaker.
- Proposition Bets – Also known as “prop bets,” this type of wager can cover a wide range of subject matter. Examples might include the over/under on the length of the show, the brand of dress worn by a celebrity, or whether or not the host takes a selfie with someone during the broadcast. Some oddsmakers can get rather wild with this option.
Predicting Oscar Winners
Some Academy Award winners come out of nowhere, but the outcome can often be predicted with a bit of patience and research. The best place to start is with earlier awards shows such as the Golden Globes and SAG. If a film or performer is consistently successful in the run-up to the Oscars, then they’re a good bet to take home the little statuette.
Hollywood loves a good message movie, so keep this in mind when picking your Best Picture candidate. Look for movies about war, slavery, and the Holocaust, as the members of the Academy seem to have a perpetual soft spot for any film involving an “issue” or human suffering.
Actors and actresses are also in a good position to take home an Oscar when they get to do a lot of “acting.” I’m talking about scene-stealing performances with lots of shouting and other slightly melodramatic behavior. Anything by Daniel Day-Lewis is a good example, as is any role that deals with deformities, handicaps, or a handsome performer being made to look ugly (Charlize Theron in Monster, for example).