How To Win Your 2020 Oscars Pool

Use betting odds and previous award winners instead of personal favorites

A decade ago I went to an Oscars party, won the picks pool and angered everyone there. The host and her guests had spent the previous weeks and months seeing all the nominated films, even the documentaries and shorts, to get an edge. I saw some of the nominated movies as well, but mostly filled out my picks based on the betting market odds. I won the yearly subscription to Entertainment Weekly and the scorn of my fellow party-goers who thought I cheated. Nonsense. Use the information at your disposal to win. It’s like getting in trouble for studying for a test.

Here’s how to do it. First, start with a reputable betting site to see the favorites. They actually have to pay out if you beat their odds, so they make them well. A bunch of categories have such heavy favorites you can just take them confidently. In others, we’ll have to look at which movie has won their category in the other recent award shows.  I’m using Draft Kings, so we’ll stick with their odds as of February 4th.

If this is your first time reading the numbers, it’s a little confusing. What does it mean that Joaquin Phoenix is -5000 to win best actor and Adam Driver is +1000? It means you’d need to risk 50 to win 1 on Phoenix and you’re getting 10-1 odds on Driver. The higher negative number is, the bigger favorite they are. -5000 is ten times more likely than -500. The categories with a negative of only -155 or -182 are going to be hard to predict, so let’s begin with the easy ones:

The Majors

Draft Kings

All four of the acting categories have monumental favorites. Phoenix, Zellweger, Pitt and Dern have been all but sweeping the other award shows and you can count on them winning Sunday.

The other two big categories have become pretty safe bets the last couple weeks as well. There are safer bets than best director and picture, but let’s finish off the big categories. 

Best Director: Sam Mendes -835

This category was a little more open until Mendes won the BAFTA and DGA. He’s a lock now. That making it look like one shot move is really going to pay off for him for an otherwise, very good, but not spectacular movie.

Best Picture: 1917 -250

Of the big six, this is the only one with a shot at an upset. Everyone loves Parasite and it would be the fun upset pick, but when in doubt expect the Academy to go safe and take the war movie that’s made a lot of money. There was once some momentum for Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood but it seems to be fading in this category. You can semi-confidently take 1917, but I’ll still be rooting for Parasite even though I don’t think it’ll win.

These six are pretty easy, so if you want to win you’ll have to nail the harder categories. Let’s pick off a few more easy ones:

Easy smaller categories

Best International Feature Film: Parasite -10000

Parasite has the second best odds to win best picture overall, so locking down best international feature is a slam dunk. It’s -10000 to win, the biggest favorite of any category! 

Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Bombshell -1000

Best Costume Design: Little Women -335

Bombshell is more of a lock, with their masterful job turning Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman into Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson. But you’re also safe betting on Little Women for Costume Design for those lovely dresses.

Best Original Score: Joker -670

The eerie soundtrack that empowered sad men to feel for Joker is a runaway winner, for some reason I can’t understand, but it’s happening.

Best Cinematography: 1917 -5000

(center) George MacKay as Schofield in “1917,” co-written and directed by Sam Mendes.

This one is a runaway, with “1917” as -5000. I expect 1917 to win a few other technical awards as well. Let’s do those next even though they’re not as big of favorites. It covers a huge question for winning your pool. Will 1917 sweep a few technical awards? My money’s on yes.

Tough smaller categories

Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and visual effects: 1917

Even though they’re smaller odds, I would confidently take 1917 in all three of these technical categories. Sure, sound editing and sound mixing are only -278 and -250 respectably, but their only competition is Ford V Ferrari. When in doubt, take the movie that will win more awards. They’ll reward Ford v Ferrari for editing. You don’t get an Oscar for vroom vroom car sounds.

In visual effects, I’d be a little surprised if Avengers: Endgame an Oscar here, but they do sometimes throw a token award to a massive action movie that took massive box office, so you can’t rule it out.  The scene of DeNiro meekly kicking that shopkeeper in The Irishman is going to prevent it from winning here as well. I think 1917 is a clean sweep of these three, but tread lightly. If one of these loses, I guess it’s visual effects to Avengers. It’s only -134 for 1917 and +225 for Avengers: Endgame.

Best Animated Feature Film: Toy Story 4 -148 vs Klaus +100

Toy Story 4 is the beautiful (likely) conclusion of the beloved franchise that changed computer animation. Klaus is a Netflix movie that won the BAFTA and Annie prize, though TS4 won the Producers Guild and Critics choice. My guess is Toy Story 4 here, but it’s a tough one.

Best Film Editing: Ford v Ferrari -118 vs Parasite +100

Parasite is an absolute masterpiece, but it will probably get rewarded in the screenplay and international feature categories and this is the one chance to reward Ford v Ferrari for being a movie that should have been boring, but everyone seemed to really enjoy.  I’ll take Ford V. Ferrari here.

Best Production Design: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood -155 vs 1917 +150

Now 1917 could win this one as well, but I think they take this opportunity to appreciate QT’s recreation of 1960’s Hollywood.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Jojo Rabbit -200 vs Little Women +150

This is going to be the only upset I pick! I think Little Women is a tough one to adapt and Greta Gerwig’s reimagining was delightful. This may be letting my own personal feelings get in the way, but I think she’s due and hasn’t been rewarded before and is deserving here.

Best Original Screenplay: Parasite -200 vs Once Upon a Time in Hollywood +150

Loved both of these movies and they’re close here, but I think they reward Parasite for it’s inventiveness over QT. They’ll feel better about giving it to a foreign language film than giving Quentin his third screenplay win.

That’s all I can help you with. Stick to the odds on documentaries and shorts, all are medium favorites.

I hope your bracket isn’t ruined by a Moonlight/La La Land surprise, though that was the right choice. All my picks are below. Enjoy the Oscars!

Best Picture: 1917

Best Director: 1917

Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix

Best Actress: Renee Zellweger

Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt

Best Supporting Actress: Laura Dern

Best Animated Feature Film: Toy Story 4

Best Cinematography: 1917

Best International Feature Film: Parasite

Best Production Design: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Adapted Screenplay: Little Women

Best Original Score: Joker

Best Original Screenplay: Parasite

Best Original Song: Love Me Again

Best Film Editing: Ford Vs. Ferrari

Best Visual Effects: 1917

Best Animated Short Film: Hair Love

Best Documentary Feature: American Factory

Best Documentary Short Subject: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone

Best Live Action Short Film: Brotherhood

Best Costume Design: Little Women

Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Bombshell

Best Sound Editing: 1917

Best Sound Mixing: 1917

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Zack Teibloom

Zack Teibloom spent his 20s sneaking into music festivals and documenting them on his music blog Festival Crashers. Now in his mid-30s, he moderates the discussion forums for Apple full time.

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