I always thought it was odd when I first moved to Utah and everyone said, "You betcha!"
This coming from a state that doesn't allow any kind of lottery or gambling -- except for the look-away during March Madness.
But did you know there's a lot of big sports-book betting, nationwide, on the Academy Awards each year? I guess Las Vegas figures we need something to keep us awake for three or more grueling hours.
The standard bets occur -- what will win best picture, who takes home best-acting honors -- you know, the usual stuff. But you can also bet on:
* Whether the winner mentions God, family or the Academy before anything else.
* If the winner goes over the 45-second acceptance-speech limit.
* Who will cry at the podium (and tearing up counts).
* How many people will trip going to or from the stage.
* Whether or not Geoffrey Rush wears a hat inside the auditorium. (He's shaved his head for a play he's doing in New York.)
* How many times "thanks" or "thank you" is mentioned.
* The over and under on how many Oscars each movie will take home (currently, the cut line is five Oscars for "The King's Speech," three for "The Social Network").
For the record, the oddsmakers say "The King's Speech" wins best picture, Colin Firth is named best actor, Natalie Portman is best actress, "The Social Network's" David Fincher has a slight edge over "The King's Speech's" Tom Hooper for best director, Christian Bale wins best supporting actor, and Melissa Leo prevails in a close race for best supporting actress honor.
It may go down exactly like that.
Who am I to argue with the gold-chain wearing, cigar-chewing betting experts (at least that's how I picture them)?
However, it rarely -- if ever -- goes right down the line. There is usually some strange alignment of votes that produces an unexpected result. I will, therefore, do what I normally do and overthink the whole darn thing, trying to expect the unexpected.
For example, 12 nominations is a good number for a chance at best picture. A film with 12 nods will win 60 percent of the time. Fourteen nominations is a sure winner -- 100 percent. But then it drops off dramatically, to nearly half that, when a film garners 13 nominations (unlucky number?). Eleven nominations or less arrives at around the 40 percent mark.
"The King's Speech" has 12 nominations. "True Grit" has 10. "The Social Network" came in at eight.
But here's another interesting anomaly: A film seems to have a better chance at a best picture Oscar if it has fewer acting nominations. "The King's Speech" has three. "True Grit" has two. "The Social Network" has only one.
You must also consider momentum, the current mood of the voters before they cast their ballots, and any positive or negative press during that same period.
"The Social Network" had the early push, with a vast number of critics' groups supporting it and a handful of award-show wins. But then the guilds -- producers, directors and screen actors -- came out for "The King's Speech." So, momentum goes to "The King's Speech."
How about in the news? The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt were a direct result of ordinary citizens linking up on Facebook. That's a plus for "The Social Network." However, last weekend's "60 Minutes" and "Sunday Morning" shows on CBS profiled aspects of "The King's Speech." Advantage: "King's Speech." (Although, ballots had to be in by Tuesday, and since Monday was a holiday, voters may have made their choices before the CBS broadcasts.)
See how nuts this can make you?
So let's cut to the chase -- and make the picks.
I think "The King's Speech" will hold off "The Social Network" for best picture.
I think Colin Firth and Natalie Portman are secure with the best actor and actress wins -- anyone else would be a real shocker.
I think Christian Bale will hang on to win best supporting actor, but I wouldn't be stunned to see Geoffrey Rush take home the Oscar instead.
The best supporting actress Oscar is expected to go to "The Fighter's" Melissa Leo, but "The King's Speech's" Helena Bonham Carter gave a great acceptance speech for her BAFTA award (British Oscars), and that may take away from Leo's votes. So what if those two women split, and "True Grit's" Hailee Steinfeld swooped in for the upset? It's happened before, and voters might feel badly that this great Western may pick up only one Oscar (for cinematography) out of 10. And this is often considered the "fresh face" category, so who knows?
I think David Fincher will hold off Tom Hooper for best director -- although it will be close.
I think the best animated award will go to "Toy Story 3."
I have no clue on best foreign language (I've seen only one), but everyone's talking about "Incendies."
Best original screenplay should go to David Seidler for "The King's Speech," and best adaptation to Aaron Sorkin for "The Social Network."
Beyond that, it's anyone's guess on the rest of the categories, although I wouldn't bet against master creature creator Rick Baker ("The Wolfman") for best makeup, or nine-time-nominated Roger Deakins ("True Grit") for best cinematography.
So, roll the dice, have some fun making your picks and enjoy what should be a lively Oscar show (keep your fingers crossed) with co-hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway. It airs at 6:30 p.m. Sunday on KTVX Channel 4. The red-carpet coverage starts at 5 p.m.
Nominees in major categories for the 83rd Academy Awards:
* Best picture
"The Kids Are All Right"
"The King's Speech"
"The Social Network"
"Toy Story 3"
* Best actor
Javier Bardem, "Biutiful"
Jeff Bridges, "True Grit"
Jesse Eisenberg, "The Social Network"
Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"
James Franco, "127 Hours"
* Best actress
Annette Bening, "The Kids Are All Right"
Nicole Kidman, "Rabbit Hole"
Jennifer Lawrence, "Winter's Bone"
Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"
Michelle Williams, "Blue Valentine"
* Best supporting actor
Christian Bale, "The Fighter"
John Hawkes,"Winter's Bone"
Jeremy Renner, "The Town"
Mark Ruffalo, "The Kids Are All Right"
Geoffrey Rush, "The King's Speech"
* Best supporting actress
Amy Adams, "The Fighter"
Helena Bonham Carter, "The King's Speech"
Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"
Hailee Steinfeld, "True Grit"
Jackie Weaver, "Animal Kingdom"
* Best director
Darren Aronofsky, "Black Swan"
David Fincher, "The Social Network"
Tom Hooper, "The King's Speech"
David O. Russell, "The Fighter"
Joel and Ethan Coen, "True Grit"
* Best original screenplay
Mike Leigh, "Another Year"
Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, "The Fighter"
Christopher Nolan, "Inception"
Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Bloomberg, "The Kids Are All Right"
David Seidler, "The King's Speech"
* Best adapted screenplay
Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, "127 Hours"
Aaron Sorkin, "The Social Network"
John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, "Toy Story 3"
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, "True Grit"
Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini, "Winter's Bone"