Chalk Players Eye Academy Award Betting

With six odds-on choices in as many key categories, chalk players are looking at Academy Award betting as an opportunity to write a happy ending to the 2009 year in cinema when the Oscars are handed out, Mar. 7. Ah, but sportsbooks will make you pay for those favorites and it wouldn’t take more than an upset or two to turn this drama into a tragedy.

Let’s take a look at the nominees in the six major categories:

BEST PICTURE                                       

Avatar                                                               1/2                             

The Hurt Locker                                                 7/5                             

Up In The Air                                                     10/1                             

Inglorious Basterds                                             15/1                             

Precious                                                            33/1                 

The Blind Side                                                    50/1

An Education                                                      66/1

A Serious Man                                                   66/1

Up                                                                    80/1

District 9                                                          100/1

The Skinny: For the first time since 1943, there are 10 films, not five in this category. But this is a two-picture race between Avatar and The Hurt Locker. The former won the Golden Globe Award and is the top-grossing film ($2 billion and counting) of all-time. The latter got the nod from the Producers Guild and is a favorite of critics. Avatar certainly deserves to be the favorite but The Hurt Locker could surprise, much as Shakespeare In Love did when it beat Saving Private Ryan in 1998.


Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)                       3/5

James Cameron (Avatar)                                    6/5

Jason Reitman (Up In The Air)                             15/1

Quentin Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds)                25/1

Lee Daniels (Precious)                                        40/1

The Skinny: Bigelow, who once was married to Cameron (it doesn’t get any juicier than that) won the Director’s Guild Award, a very solid predictor of Oscar success. In fact, DGA winners also have won the Academy Award for direction in 54 of the last 60 years. Bigelow, whose previous films include Point Break, is just the fourth woman nominated for a directing Oscar. Cameron, of course, was "king of the world" when Titanic ruled the Oscar broadcast in 1998. If anyone other than Bigelow or Cameron wins, demand a recount.


BEST ACTOR                                                    

Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)                                   1/5                             

George Clooney  (Up In The Air)                           4/1                             

Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)                        15/1                             

Colin Firth (A Single Man)                                   20/1                 

Morgan Freeman (Invictus)                                 25/1                 

The Skinny: Nominated four times previously without a win, Bridges, who already has garnered

the Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice and Screen Actors Guild trophies this year, seems poised to add Oscar to his mantle. Clooney and Freeman have won before and Renner and Firth will have to wait their turn.



Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)                           2/3

Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)                                  8/5

Carey Mulligan (An Education)                             10/1

Gabourey Sidibe (Precious)                                 15/1

Helen Mirren (The Last Station)                           25/1

The Skinny: Like Bridges, Bullock heads into the Academy Awards with the Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, SAG trifecta in her pocket. An Oscar win would allow her to join Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich) and Helen Mirren (The Queen) as grand slam champions. Bullock will have to beat Streep who—let’s face it—always is the best actress in the room. Mirren, like Streep, is a past winner while Mulligan likely will take a Mulligan this time and Sidibe, who made her screen debut in Precious, will offer applause to the winner.


Christopher Waltz (Inglorious Basterds)                1/20

Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)                           8/1

Matt Damon (Invictus)                                         20/1

Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)               20/1

Woody Harrelson (The Messengers)                     25/1

The Skinny: At 1/20, Waltz, who is better known for his work in European theatre and on television, is the shortest price in the field. It would be a monumental upset if Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice and SAG Award winner Waltz was beaten.


Mo’Nique (Precious)                                            1/10

Diane Kruger (Inglorious Basterds)                         8/1

Penelope Cruz (Nine)                                          12/1

Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart)                          15/1

Vera Farmiga (Up In The Air)                              20/1

The Skinny: Like Bridges, Bullock and Waltz, Mo’Nique already has won the Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice and SAG Awards so it would be a surprise if she failed to take home an Academy Award too. But Oscar betting, particularly in the supporting actor and actress categories, can be tricky, so an upset, while unlikely, nevertheless is possible.

In addition to the major six categories, sportsbooks will post odds on a number of other competitions. There also are a series of propositions, including one on exactly how many Oscars will be won by Avatar, which has nine nominations. "Five" is the 9/4 favorite with "None" listed as a ripe 50/1 longshot. You can choose odds from 3/1 to 20/1 on the other eight possibilities.

There’s also a prop on who will be the designer of the dress worn by the winner in the Best Actress category. Fashionistas can assess the merits of 4/1 on favored Lanvin in the field of 33 dressmakers. There’s even a prop on what color the dress will be!

If nothing else, Academy Award betting is a whimsical break from the usual sports betting grind.