Every year during Oscar voting I make a point of checking in with a member of the producers' branch who sometimes tips me off about potential upsets. He's the perfect academy demo – a smartcracker industry vet in his early 60s, who voted for "Crash" over "Brokeback Mountain" for Best Picture and Meryl Streep ("The Iron Lady") over Viola Davis ("The Help") for Best Actress when most prognostictors were saying "Brokeback" and Davis would win.
Demo Man is not always right. He's a fanatical Republican whose political beliefs are often reflected in his picks. He wouldn't vote, for example, for Sean Penn ("Milk") because he's a "Commie," but everybody knew Penn would win anyway that year.
Here's how Demo Man is voting this year. Be prepared for a few surprises:
Best Picture: "American Hustle"
Best Director: Alexander Payne ("Nebraska") or David O. Russell ("American Hustle") -- he wasn't 100% sure
Best Actor: Christian Bale ("American Hustle")
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett ("Blue Jasmine")
Supporting Actor -- hasn't made up his mind yet
Supporting Actress – Jennifer Lawrence ("American Hustle")
Now no one on the planet, not even Christian Bale's mom, thinks Bale is going to win Best Actor, but what's interesting about Demo Man's picks this year is how strongly he likes "American Hustle." Yes, that may be another one of his flukes, a random one this time, but it makes me wonder if Lupita Nyongo is really such a shoo-in to win Supporting, as our Experts' believe, or even – egads – if "Hustle" could break through for Best Picture.
Over the past few days I've heard no other votes for "Hustle" for Best Picture, a few votes for "Slave," one for "Philomena" and one for "Gravity" from academy voters. In the race for Best Actor, I now count two votes for Leo, three for McConaughey, one for Chiwetel Ejiofor. Everybody's voting for Cate Blanchett. I count three votes for Lawrence, two for Nyongo. In the supporting actor race, a few members said they're voting for Leto, but several others, like Demo Man, didn't know who they're picking.
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Read more about entry and rules here. Make your initial Oscar predictions now. Change them later as often as you wish up until Oscar Day. Below, meet our past winners of recent award prediction contests.
Oscar Nominations: New York state resident Tim Kressner (gufa54) won $1,000 for reaping the highest percentage (78%) when predicting Academy Award noms. Watch our video chat with him here and learn his strategy for making picks. See the leaderboard here. See Kressner's predix here.
Golden Globes (Film): Mario Gomez, a med studen in Mexico, won our contest with the highest percentage of correct picks (86%) and highest point score (2,693). See our video chat with him here. Two other contestants also scored 86%: lulo1989 and eastwest. Tom O'Neil reaped best Experts' score. David Schnelwar had top score among our Editors. See the leaderboard here to see if you made the top tier.
Critics Choice Nominations: Bryce H scored an impressive 83% when sizing up 20 categories. That was one percentage point ahead of our smartest Editor, Daniel Montgomery. Our top Expert was also one of our Editors, Paul Sheehan, who reaped 74%. To see how you performed, check out our leaderboard plus the score section of your account page.
Golden Globe (Film) Nominations: Jonathan was our top User, reaping a staggering 86% when forecasting the lineup of 10 categories. That put him six percentage points ahead of our best Expert -- Scott Mantz (Access Hollywood) -- and eight ahead of our leading Editor, Daniel Montogomery. Did you made the cut on the leaderboard score breakdown?
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award Winners: Christian aced all rivals, scoring 82%. That was almost 20 percentage points ahead of our top Expert (Edward Douglas of ComingSoon ) and Editor (Matt Noble), both of whom earned scores of 64%. Christian foresaw that surprise screenplay win for "Before Midnight." See leaderboard.