The Oscar Predictions Game by Lily Murphy

The ceremony isn’t until February, but talk about the Academy Awards is already shrouding some films. Just the other day I was in my local bookmakers when I came upon a poster declaring that Argo is 2/1 favorite to win Best Picture. I was astounded that they were offering odds on the Oscars so early, but I was even more confused that Argo is the favorite to win Best Picture. Argo is indeed a good film, but I had thought Spielberg’s Lincoln would take the title of bookies favorite.

I enquired to the cashier in the bookmakers if they were taking odds on Best Director. Surely Spielberg would be favored, but oh no, I was wrong yet again! Ben Affleck is bookies favorite to win that title. So who is the favorite for Best Actress? Jennifer Lawrence is, and having recently seenSilver Linings Playbook I can understand why. As for the Best Actor, I would have placed my bet on Joaquin Phoenix would be a strong contender (he played it down to the bone in The Master), but it seems all the money is going on Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln.

While it is easy to talk predictions they do not always pan out right. Last year all the talk was about George Clooney in The Descendents. For the few months leading up to the Oscars, Clooney was being crowned the Best Actor until Jean Dujardin, who remained silent in The Artist, came along and took the Oscar back to France.

In 2002 Gangs of New York director Martin Scorsese was heavily backed to pick up a well deserved Best Director award, but Roman Polanski spoiled the party for him and took the award for The Pianist. That same year saw another surprise in the Best Actor category when Adrian Brody won for the lead role in Polanski’s film. Predictions had Daniel Day Lewis as the runaway favorite for his psychotic portrayal of Bill the butcher in Gangs of New York.

In 1998 the academy was gripped with Titanic fever and decided to dish out a total of eleven awards to James Cameron’s film, including Best Director. But Titanic didn’t get it all its own way when Gloria Stewart was beaten by Kim Basinger for Best Supporting Actress. Stewart was tipped to bag that award but Basinger upset the odds.

Going back to 1960, the top grossing film was Spartacus, but when it came to the Oscars Stanley Kubrick’s epic missed out on the big prize when The Apartment won Best Picture. In fact, Spartacuswasn’t even nominated. That same year, Alfred Hitchcock was tipped to pick up his first Oscar for directing Psycho but Billy Wilder took it instead for The Apartment.

During the cinematic year of 1978 Grease was the word but two anti-war films slugged it out at the Oscars. Robert de Niro was supposed to take home the Best Actor award for the Deer Hunter, but John Voight took that honor instead for his portrayal of a wounded Vietnam veteran in Coming Home.

The following year at the 52nd Academy Awards Robert Benton beat the highly favored Frances Ford Coppola in the Best Director category. Benton’s Kramer vs. Kramer also won Best Picture, while Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now would go on to win a place in pop culture history.

In 1999, on the cusp of the millennium, the Academy took on change. Predictions that year were all over the place. American Beauty portrayed a dreary suburban existence, but it managed to beat the favored Cider House Rules for the top prize. In the Best Actor category, Denzel Washington was a certainty for his role in The Hurricane, but Kevin Spacey took the golden statue for his turn as a suburban husband and father going through a mid life crises.

The year before saw a great shock in the form of Shakespeare in Love which beat the bookies favoriteSaving Private. The Best Actor category also sprang a surprise when the relatively unknown Roberto Bengini beat the likes of Tom Hanks and Ian Mckellen. The predictors for that year went to bed with sore heads after an evening of surprises.

In 1955, at the height of McCarthyism, On The Waterfront bagged the Best Picture award while the heavily favored Bing Crosby was beaten by Marlon Brando for Best Actor. The surprises kept coming when Judy Garland lost Best Actress to Grace Kelly. Garland was in the hospital at the time after she had just given birth and so certain that she was to win the award, cameras were at the ready in her hospital room from where she would give her acceptance speech.

"Judy Garland was so certain to win the award that cameras were at the ready in her hospital room from where she would give her acceptance speech."

Perhaps the biggest upset in Oscar history occurred in 2005 when at the end of 78th academy awards show Crash beat Brokeback Mountain to claim the best picture award. Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain had been a certain winner, so much so that some bookies had already paid on the bet.

So, with that in mind I think I’ll keep my money in my pocket because, after all, betting on the Oscars is an unpredictably funny old game.


Lily Murphy is 24 years old and comes from Cork city, Ireland. She graduated last year from University College Cork with a B.A in history and politics. She can be reached at Lilymurphycork@gmail.com