National Board of Review: Our prediction contest champ dishes wins for ‘The Martian,’ ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

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"I knew based on how well 'The Martian' has been received and the box office that if anyone was going to benefit it would be director Ridley Scott, and that's where I put my 500 point bet," explains Amanda Spears (screen name Surpriselover), who wins $100 predicting our 2015 National Board of Review contest. (See our report on the NBR winners right here.)

Spears was one of six users to reap 40% accuracy predicting this event at Gold Derby, though she broke the tie with her high 14,707 point score thanks to using her special 500 and 200 point bets wisely. Since Spears is eligible, as per our contest rules, she takes home our prize of a $100 Amazon gift certificate.

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Spears hails from Wichita, KS where she works in the financial industry specializing in compliance. She's been a Gold Derby member since 2012, but this is her first contest victory. "I came in second place in 2013 with a score of 100% so I know the importance of the 200 and 500 point bets," she confesses. "Also in 2014 I was 17th place predicting the Emmys. So this is the best news!"

This reader's winning percentage accuracy and point total is the result of predicting four answers correct: Scott as Best Director (12,500 points), Brie Larson ("Room") as Best Actress (650 points), "Inside Out" as Best Animated Feature (350 points) and "The Hateful Eight" as Best Screenplay (72 points).

Additionally, she earned extra points for having Matt Damon ("The Martian") in her #2 position for Best Actor and Sylvester Stallone ("Creed") in third place for Best Supporting Actor. That's why it's so important to always rank the contenders in order of likelihood of winning in Gold Derby's prediction contests.

So, what were Spears' secrets of success? "It really begins with seeing the films and deciding what I would vote for if I was so lucky. Also, going with your gut if you just really believe someone is going to win and can back that choice up with some logic is not a bad decision."

She continues, "Picture-wise it's hard to say if 'Mad Max' will really benefit from this win or if it will just keep it in the conversation. The most telling thing is probably excluding 'Steve Jobs' — it's probably going to be an uphill battle for this film after it bombed at the box office."

"I wish I would've picked Stallone for Supporting Actor," Spears laments. "This was easily one of my favorite performances of the year and the movie was a great surprise. He could win the Oscar 40 years after losing in the lead category, what a story that would be!"

Click here to see odds and rankings of our Oscar Experts

Make your Oscar predictions beginning with Best Picture to the right or below.

You'll compete to win our contest prizes for best picks — $500 (first place), $300 (second place) and $200 (third place) in Amazon gift certificates — as well as a place of honor on our leaderboard and a starring role in next year's Top 24 Users (the two dozen folks who do the best predicting this year's Oscar nominations). Be sure to read our contest rules.

Meet the guy who won our contest to predict the Oscar nominations last year — and learn how he did it and how you can be our next Gold Derby superstar.

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