As a movie fanatic, I anticipate the Oscars like some anticipate the Super Bowl, World Series, or the World Cup Finals.
A long time ago, I had a grasshopper moment when I was a freshman at an all girl catholic school and I ditched school to go to the racetrack with a friend. With help from a random adult we were able to place bets on a horse of our choice after looking at them in the pen. Of course, I picked the "cute horse" while my friend picked the horse who had the eyes of a vicious street fighter. Of course, I lost my 2 bucks, but I learned a powerful lesson -- you MUST have ice water in your veins when you bet money.
I have since won a March Madness pool knowing nothing of College Football (much to the distress of the boys in the office who were fanatics). I do best when I have no emotion attachment to the outcome. When I take this attitude toward Oscar pools, I always come out on top. Once I love or hate a movie, I will lose this category.
My philosophy is that it doesn't matter who or what should win an oscar, my job is to divine who or what will win. This has served me well in our annual Oscar contests (this will be our 12th year). Before I fill out my ballot, I read everything and make sure I know what each nominated film is about because sometimes that will give you a clue. For instance, if it is about the Holocaust, it will most likely to win. Predicting the oscars is like peeking into a tea cup full of tea leaves and you have to dig through to see the leafy kalidescope that makes the most sense. I will look at:
1. Critics and columnist predictions
2. Other award results
3. The level of studio hype & "buzz"
4. Oscar Historical data at who actually wins
5. Look at the subject matter of a film or actor/actress history - because sometimes actors will win not because of the film they are nominated for but because they were overlooked in an earlier film or are awarded for a body of work.
None of these factors alone can be reliable, but in combination with other factors you can come up with pretty good guesses as to who will win.
Some years are easier than others. I call these "Sweep Years," these are the years you know that a film will sweep, like "Return of the King" for work on the entire trilogy. If you misjudge what is going to be a sweep year, you risk things going badly. Last year, a friend decided to go against conventional wisdom and did slightly better than someone who had no idea about any of the films. Doing your research does make a difference.
So, as a public service to my 360 friends I am going to help you do reasonably well in your oscar pool and maybe, just maybe win it.