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Hollywood bookie: The Oscars

| Friday, February 28, 2014

As I said in the first installment of Hollywood Bookie, there’s no technically “legal” way to gamble on Hollywood, but that’s kind of what makes it exciting, isn’t it?

The 86th Academy Awards will strut their stuff Sunday on ABC, capping off a year of film that was supposed to hearken back to the golden ages of movies, when every year was a murderer’s row of lasting classics.

Instead, we got cuckolded by a string of movies, ranging from crushingly boring (“Out of the Furnace”) to the self-serious (“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”) to the “Oh, you thought that was self-serious?” (“August: Osage County”). The cream of the crop turned out some great films, but the highest-grossing movie of the year was still an above-average-at-best sequel of a sequel with a Muslim scarecrow red herring and a self-immolating head scratcher of a villain (“Iron Man 3”).

All of which leads us into this year’s Oscars, which arrive in a flurry of comments in the vein of “Well, I don’t love it, but I’d rather vote for that than support the politics of [Movie X].” In all my life of sort of caring about the Oscars but not caring too much to be able to turn my nose up at them and also not be deemed a nerd and/or nark, I’ve never seen so much press dedicated to how voting for this movie or that will reflect on voters’ and viewers’ politics and personal moral values.

I don’t really care one way or the other, but I do know it makes for some interesting odds on Oscar bets. Since it’s not legal and there’s no real reputable source in America for betting lines on the Oscars, I had to jerry rig some together from foreign websites.

Let’s pretend we have 100 Monopoly dollars and we’ve got to spend them on Oscar bets or Liam Neeson will come for us (and our families, who knows), and see if we can’t find some solid picks.

Best Picture
“12 Years a Slave” — 1/5
“Gravity” —  4/1
“American Hustle” — 12/1
“The Dallas Buyers Club” —  20/1
“The Wolf of Wall Street” —  25/1
“Captain Phillips” — 100/1
“Her” — 100/1
“Nebraska” — 200/1
“Philomena” — 200/1

This race essentially comes down to “12 Years a Slave,” “Gravity” and “American Hustle,” with “The Dallas Buyers Club” losing points for positioning a straight, homophobic man (against claims he was bisexual and not a homophobe) as the savior of the AIDS crisis and “The Wolf of Wall Street” taking a hit for not explicitly condemning the debauchery of its characters.

The clear favorite is “12 Years a Slave,” but even if we bet our whole $100 on it, we’d only win 20 bucks. With some voters reportedly hesitant to vote for Steve McQueen’s slavery epic due to a vague notion that they may be supporting some sort of politics (what exactly that means, who knows, but these kind of people are your answer for, “Can Congress get any worse?”), it’s worth throwing a few bones down on “Gravity,” a beautiful and moving film with little to no politics in sight.

Bet: $20 “Gravity” at 4/1 to win $80


Best Supporting Actress
Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”) — 4/7
Jennifer Lawrence (“American Hustle”) — 5/4
June Squibb (“Nebraska”) — 25/1
Julia Roberts (“August: Osage County”) — 40/1
Sally Hawkins (“Blue Jasmine”) — 50/1

Lupita Nyong’o skyrocketed from essential unknown to burgeoning Hollywood star with her performance in “12 Years a Slave,” and awarding her an Oscar for her performance is a non-ideological way to support the film for voters, especially since Matthew McConaughey will almost certainly win Best Actor over Chiwetel Ejiofor.

But Jennifer Lawrence absolutely dominated every moment she had on screen in “American Hustle,” making otherwise spectacular actors like Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale look like off-off-Broadway understudies in comparison. Embodying the simultaneous instability and charismatic power of her character at equal turns, she chewed up every scene in an otherwise somewhat boring movie and spat it out.

And even though she won’t win, June Squibb’s performance in “Nebraska” as Woody Grant’s wife, Kate, was spectacular. A nagging and discontented presence on the surface, Squibb brought out the inner sadness and sweetness that came with Kate’s position as the quiet cornerstone of the family, and as I said in my review of the movie, absolutely nobody can deliver an F-word like she does in that movie. I’m going to hedge my bet out of respect.

Bet: $15 on Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle” at 5/4 to win $18.75

$5 on June Squibb in “Nebraska” at 25/1 to win $125


Best Song
“Let It Go” from “Frozen” — 1/6
“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2” — 6/1
“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” — 6/1
“The Moon Song” from “Her” — 33/1

Every girl this side of the Mississippi is bullish on “Let It Go” and “Frozen” in general, which is great for me because it means by the time Christmas rolls around, the merchandise should be hitting prime discount pricing range and I can finally buy gifts that will make my nieces respect me.

Aside from that, “Let It Go” is the type of original song that the Oscars love. It’s emotional, it drives the plot, it has a soaring, Broadway-sounding hook and the performer isn’t likely to a pull a Sinead O’Connor-type stunt while performing it live at the ceremony.

All that said, “Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” has a few things going for it as an underdog  — it’s from a movie about one of the most revered figures in history (Nelson Mandela), it’s from a movie that people really wanted to love but didn’t, and so this is the only real shot it has at winning an Oscar, and it’s performed by a band (U2) that bleeds social activism and doing the right thing and whatnot but without being too aggressive about it. And along with all that, it’s not too bad of a song.

Bet: $25 “Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” at 6/1 to win $150


Will Pharrell Williams wear a Mountain/Buffalo Hat during his performance?
Yes — 2/5
No — 17/10

Bet: YES. $30 on Absolutely at 2/5 to win $12 and the last $5 we have on I Hope So at “Worth it?”/ “Definitely”

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Kevin Noonan

I'm a senior from Kansas City studying Marketing with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. I've written for The Observer since I was a freshman, and now serve as editor for Scene.

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