Oscars 2013: Place your bets on the 9 Best Picture nominees
This isn't based on how good the films are (though the accompanying text should indeed make my opinion on each contender unambiguously clear) but on how good their chances look to lift the Best Picture trophy.
Now, who's up for an Oscar wager?
80/1 Les Miserables
No, I'm not just saying it because I loathed Tom Hooper's closeup-heavy film.
Hooper isn't nominated for Best Director, the film has earned very mixed reviews (which means some real stinkers) and, most vitally, Hooper's The King's Speech robbed The Social Network of this Oscar a couple of years ago.
Nope, this one's not happening.
Image: Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables
60/1 Django Unchained
A violent Western focussing on the most shameful period of America's past, this is both a long and bloody film (never ideal for Academy audiences to sit through) as well as one that courts controversy and defiantly stays away from being universally palatable.
Image: Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained
50/1 Silver Linings Playbook
There are bits to enjoy in this film, certainly, but it is absolutely the most unremarkable motion picture among all the nominees: a conventional, unambitious project that shows off too much artifice to be completely heartening, even as a romantic comedy.
If Silver Linings Playbook wins Best Picture, expect every jaw in the house to drop. Including the trophy's.
Image: Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook
There is very little excitement about the film's chances, and its best bet is a Best Actress trophy for the lovely Emmanuelle Riva.
Image: Jean-Louis Trintignant in Amour
20/1 Life Of Pi
Lee does beautiful things in 3D with this film, most of them involving a majestic tiger, but there's a bit too much heavyhanded preachiness afoot.
It's a helluva spectacle, make no mistake, but it really isn't in contention for the top prize.
Image: Suraj Sharma in Life Of Pi
10/1 Beasts Of The Southern Wild
The top three films can virtually taste the trophy but in case jurors can't decide between the contentious choices, Zeitlin's unanimously applauded fantasy could just upset the Lincoln-cart.
Or is it Argo-cart?
Image: A scene from Beasts Of The Southern Wild
1/1 Zero Dark Thirty
Zero Dark Thirty was riding on unbelievable buzz, sweeping award shows and making critics drool.
Then the Kathryn Bigelow film ran into controversy (mostly about how it glorifies torture, which it seems to) and lo and behold, it now lags well behind the other two frontrunners.
Also, the Academy awarded Bigelow for Hurt Locker (over fan favourite Avatar) just two years ago; they aren't likely to reward her again already.
Image: Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty
A biopic about the most revered President in American history?
Played by the most heralded actor in English cinema? Come on.
The Lincoln juggernaut's been very strong, and it was a clear favourite for the win, but then the Academy snubbed Ben Affleck by not giving him a Best Director nomination, and since then the wave has gone Argo's way.
Image: Sally Field and Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln
Every award show since the Golden Globes has showered trophies on Ben Affleck for his Argo, including the Director's Guild of America, an award that almost always foreshadows the Oscar winner for the year.
Affleck's been routinely winning Best Director and, even if the Oscars can't give him that anymore, they can make up for it by letting Argo win Best Picture.
It would definitely be the popular winner, and fit right into Affleck's incredible tale from punchline to paragon. Since Django can't win, I'm rooting for Argo.
Image: Alan Arkin and Ben Affleck in Argo