New York has the stock exchange. Las Vegas has the casinos. But Hollywood runs the biggest crapshoot of them all – the Oscars. More than a billion people will be tuning in March 23 to place their bets on the 70th Academy Awards ceremonies. This year, there are plenty of long shots and at least one pretty good bet in the running (hint: It doesn’t mix well with icebergs). But before risking the rent, we suggest you turn the page and check out EW’s annual Oscar preview, where our in-house team of green-visored oddsmakers offer their line on all 24 of the races. You’ll also find our critics’ picks for who should win, and see the results of your very own voting in EW’s first, incredibly unscientific online Oscar poll. But remember: There is no such thing as a sure bet – although we are giving 5-to-7 odds on the show lasting past midnight.
FOR HIM There’s a lot of goodwill for Hunting, and greenhorn Damon delivered a sharp, funny performance that gave this weeper its edge.
AGAINST HIM Sentiment is more powerful than hype; voters may be more apt to pick a veteran and reward Damon for Hunting’s screenplay, cowritten with Ben Affleck.
FOR HIM One of the gods of American acting has written, produced, directed, and dished up a showy role for himself in The Apostle. As the titular, complex preacher, Duvall delivers Oscar-worthy hellfire and brimstone.
AGAINST HIM Duvall’s performance hasn’t been as widely seen as Damon’s or Nicholson’s.
FOR HIM Like his character in Ulee’s Gold, he’s seen as a decent, talented gentleman who’s been underappreciated for too long. And his pedigree doesn’t hurt.
AGAINST HIM Among the flashy competition, his performance as a quiet beekeeper may be too slow and steady to win the race.
FOR HIM As the manipulative movie mogul in the accidentally topical political satire Wag the Dog, the veteran actor was at the top of his game. Tinseltown was delighted by his performance, which seemed like a heartfelt impression of producer Robert Evans.
AGAINST HIM Two Oscars precede him.
FOR HIM King Leer managed to make people chuckle at and care for As Good as It Gets’ cruel, alienated bigot.
AGAINST HIM Jack has a Golden Globe, a career full of accolades, and a record-breaking 11th Academy Award nomination. Maybe things are as good as they need to be.
It’s a cockfight between the codgers, but Duvall’s got divine intervention on his side.