Alive's Guide to winning your Oscar pool

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Ah, the Oscars! The glamour! The glitz! The opportunity for not-quite-legal workplace gambling!

We're here for some last-minute help before you circle your picks and throw your five bucks in the hat. Check out our not-so-bold predictions in the major categories, as well as some wild-card picks to help separate you from the pack if you're feeling lucky.

Best Picture

Smart Money: "Avatar"

The field was extended to 10 movies in part to ensure that a big blockbuster won't be overlooked, and this is one of the biggest ever.

Wild Card: "Up in the Air"

It would be a shocker, but Oscar's new 1-10 ranking format could boost a film most Academy voters have near the top of their ballots past a "love it or hate it" movie like "Avatar."

Best Director

Smart Money: Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"

No one wants to see James Cameron's "king of the world" speech translated to Na'vi. Bigelow's bold war movie will get its due in this category.

Wild Card: Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"

He's got the cred - "Pulp Fiction" is old enough to drive now - and (spoiler) he killed Hitler on screen!

Best Actor

Smart Money: Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"

He's had a long career without an Oscar. He portrays a raging trainwreck alcoholic. And he does his own singing. Do the math.

Wild Card: George Clooney, "Up in the Air"

He would have been a shoo-in before "Crazy Heart" appeared on the radar, but Bridges is probably the night's safest bet.

Best Actress

Smart Money: Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"

The same populist thinking that boosts "Avatar" will give us an acceptance speech from America's Sweetheart for an OK performance in an awful film.

Wild Card: Meryl Streep, "Julie & Julia"

Academy members may just write down Streep's name out of habit. She's been nominated 16 times.

Best Supporting Actor

Smart Money: Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"

His sickeningly charming Nazi is probably the most unforgettable character of the past year, and he did it with limited screentime.

Wild Card: Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"

The movie got somewhat mixed reviews. Harrelson's performance didn't, and he'll be who the voters go to after Waltz.

Best Supporting Actress

Smart Money: Mo'Nique, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"

Her final scene in the movie pretty much makes this a done deal. It's a jaw-dropper.

Wild Card: Vera Farmiga, "Up in the Air"

If her co-star and fellow nominee Anna Kendrick doesn't siphon away too many votes, Farmiga could get points for going toe-to-toe with Clooney.

Golden rules

4 tips for making Oscar picks

1. Always pick Pixar

Until they quit making the best animated movies, they won't quit winning the category. Pick "Up" for Best Animated Feature.

2. Best movies win screenplay awards

It goes all the way back to "Citizen Kane." Truly great films don't win Best Picture Oscars. They win these. Pick "Inglourious Basterds" and "Up in the Air."

3. Spread the wealth

This doesn't look like the sort of year where there will be a sweep. A lot of the Best Picture nominees will likely get honored in other major categories.

4. Don't forget the little guys

Face it: You probably didn't see the nominees for Best Animated Short. Doing a little research will give you a leg up (example: "A Matter of Loaf and Death" stars Wallace & Gromit).

Full list of Alive staff picks