By Justin Boylan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s time to forget that Broncos bet you made on Super Bowl Sunday. I know your March Madness pool can’t come soon enough, but I might have something better. The Academy Awards are here to get you out of the red and into the green.
Why else would you watch a three-hour (if we’re lucky) broadcast of rich people giving each other hugs and gold statues? Gambling, that’s why!
A few categories have such heavy favorites that we’re just waiting on a speech to make it official. I’m going to run through those, as well as the other high-profile categories, to see where we stand just a few days out and find a few places to drop some coin.
(odds courtesy Bovada)
Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) has won every directing award on his way to Oscar Sunday, including the Directors Guild, which has matched the Academy Award winner 10 straight years. He’s a -2,000 favorite because he’s going to win. Unless you are interested in putting up $2,000 to win $100, I don’t see much action to be had.
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) is the other, distant horse in the race at +700 (7-to-1), and while an upset would mean the first African American director to win, the Latin American-born Cuarón would also be a first.
It’s a lock. I mean did you see Gravity? Dude had to invent the technology he needed to make that movie happen.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) is the heaviest favorite on the red carpet at -3,000. She’s already has one Oscar but this would be her first Lead Actress statue, and they can’t wait to give it to her. Amy Adams (American Hustle) is on her fifth nomination in nine years, which is ridiculously impressive, and at +1,200 (12-to-1) is worth a look because of the widespread love for Hustle across the categories.
Adams would get my vote because she devours a movie full of hungry performances, but voting’s closed. Blanchett is regarded as the best in the game not named Meryl, and she’ll take it home.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Here’s your third-most likely frontrunner of the night, and usually one of the first awards given out. Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) is a solid -1,000 favorite here and, like the two we already covered, has swept the pre-Oscar awards circuit.
I’m taking a flyer on Bradley Cooper (American Hustle) at +4,500 (45-to-1). STACKS! Hustle is the 15th film to be nominated in all the acting categories, and just two of them went 0-for-4, the last time being in 1950. You only have to go back to 2006 to find a supporting actor who won the Golden Globe and SAG like Leto but lost on Oscar Sunday.
Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) could end up being the spoiler at +1,000 (10-to-1), but if I’m going upset, I’m going big. That is unless Hustle picks up an acting trophy somewhere else. Like…
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
This is a two-woman race where somehow Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) is the savvy veteran facing a rising rookie. Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) is the favorite at -175, but Lawrence is hot on her heels sitting at +125. The two split the Golden Globe and SAG, which hasn’t happened in half a decade.
Since 2000, four supporting actress races have been split like this, with the SAG winner taking the Oscar twice, the Globe winner once and in 2007 both had it wrong, and the Oscar ended up matching the British Academy winner. In fact, each of those four times BAFTA was on the winning side.
Who won the BAFTA this year? J-La. Back-to-back winners are as rare as a 76ers’ win, and even though Lawrence’s performance is similar to the one that bagged her the win last year that logic didn’t stop Christoph Waltz from winning two Oscars in three years for playing different sides of the same character.
My money is with Lupita, but Lawrence’s odds are tough to turn down.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
In one year he did Mud, Dallas Buyers Club, The Wolf of Wall Street and is currently under the spell of True Detective. Matthew McConaughey is on a Durant-esque tear. His performance in DBC hits the Oscar requirements for a win: physical transformation, historical relevance and a character facing death. At -500, those are good odds to get in on. He should be a heavier favorite than that.
We’d all like to see sweet, sweet Leo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street) finally take home the gold, especially since he pushed so hard to get this movie made and kills a role that’s unlike anything he’s ever done. I worry that too many voters were turned off by what was on screen (it starts with Leo and a straw three minutes in, and only gets worse. By worse I mean better) making him more of a longshot than his +500 (5-to-1) odds indicate.
If you’re looking for value with an underdog, Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) is +700 (7-to-1) and most likely to put a stop to the McConaissance. On the other hand, people love a comeback story and McConaughey has risen from the ashes of Surfer, Dude and Fool’s Gold. Long live David Wooderson.
This has always been 12 Years a Slave (-500) vs. Gravity (+400 or 4-to-1). The Producers Guild, which has matched the Best Picture winner six straight years and 10 of the last 15, picked both films in its first ever tie. The Directors Guild has been an even better Best Picture indicator, matching seven straight years and 11 of the last 12, and gave Gravity the upper hand.
A double win for Gravity at the British Academy Awards, for Best Film and Best British Film, would have showed the support needed to wrap up the race, but 12 Years a Slave took the top prize, as it did at the Golden Globes, to jump back in front.
The narrative throughout the awards season has been honor Gravity by giving Cuarón Best Director and save the highest honor for the most important film of 2013. It’s close, but 12 Years a Slave will win Best Picture, even if it’s shutout for the majority of the night.
If you do take the space movie, please parlay that with “the same film will win Best Picture and Director” at +425 to really clean up. And as a bonus, total Oscars for Gravity is set at 6.5 with even odds on the over. I count seven wins, so take that to the bank.
Now enough of these critically acclaimed films. I’m going to see Non-Stop.
Justin Boylan is a producer at 94WIP and graduate of Temple University. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @justintboylan.