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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Foreign Language Film
It’s a tight race between Waltz with Bashir and The Class. Past winners don’t indicate any kind of trend, but most are predicting a win for The Class, and I don’t have any reasons for why that shouldn’t happen.

Adapted/Original Screenplay
Slumdog Millionaire was based on the novel "Q & A" — which I just got for my birthday and I’m excited to read — and consensus seems to be that it’s a lock for the adapted screenplay award. Original screenplay is much tougher. (This is also usually my favorite award for the night.) Milk is a strong early contender, but buzz has been building toward an upset by Wall-E of all movies (which makes me very happy). In Bruges, which had a strong showing at the Golden Globes, is also a dark horse here. As much as I’d love to see Wall-E win, I think that the screenplay award is usually given as a consolation prize to a great film that doesn’t get best picture, and Milk is the only one nominated there, so my money is on that.

This is probably going to be another easy win for Slumdog Millionaire’s Anthony Dod Mantle. He already won awards from BAFTA (the British Oscars) and the American Society of Cinematographers. Plus, just look at it. It’s beautiful.

Supporting Actor
All signs point to a posthumous Oscar for Heath Ledger. Last year’s win for Javier Bardem shows that scary dudes can win this, and believe me, Heath Ledger is one scary dude. If anyone can pull an upset, it’s Josh Brolin (also a scary dude, but in a different way), but I don’t think he has enough momentum to do it.

Supporting Actress
This is one of the tightest races in the bunch, but Penélope Cruz is considered the favorite. The two Doubt performances will probably split their votes, but there’s always room for Marisa Tomei to sneak in there. Cruz gets a crazier, showier role, however, and the Academy likes actresses that go big.

Leading Actress
In Doubt, Meryl Streep — who’s been nominated 11 times already and won once — gets to yell, cry, and do some Heavy Acting, all while dressed as a nun. So why is everybody predicting Kate Winslet, who’s only been nominated three times and isn’t dressed like a nun at all? Well, she has to wear age makeup in The Reader, and that goes a long way, but The Reader generally wasn’t well liked outside of Kate’s performance, so I’m breaking away from my fellow predictors and sticking with Meryl Streep.

People are predicting a knock-down, drag-out fight for this award between Milk’s Sean Penn and The Wrestler’s Mickey Rourke. As much as I’d like to see The Wrestler get an award, the Academy likes Sean Penn (four nominations and counting), and he’s playing a real-life person (Academy bait if there was such a thing), so I think it’ll go to him.

This one is Slumdog Millioniare’s Danny Boyle’s to lose. He already got an award from the Director’s Guild. And it’s about time. All of his movies are terrific.

Milk has been gaining traction, but I still say it’s going to Slumdog Millionaire. It’s got a ton of Guild awards and the momentum to keep the statues coming. Jai ho!


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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, where she is a staff writer.



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