Once upon time, before the advent of the internet and its websites devoted to nothing but Oscar talk, millions of people gathered around television sets once a year in nail-biting suspense to see who would win the biggest prizes in the movie world.

Such customs are now almost as quaint as waiting to read today's news in tomorrow's newspapers, because almost anyone who wants to can find out most Oscar results well in advance with almost near certainty.

This is possible because Oscar experts have figured out that many of the top awards are easily predictable by examining historical trends and the winning movies at Hollywood trade awards, such as the Screen Actors Guild, the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild.

If these pointers weren't enough, it's also easy for well-connected pundits to sense the Oscar breezes in a tightly networked company town like Los Angeles where only about 5783 people actually vote for the coveted awards.

Those wishing to retain an element of surprise about the Oscars are thus advised to avoid visiting specialty websites such as GoldDerby.com which collates the predictions of experts into reliable pointers to Oscar glory.

Further verification can be provided by visiting many of the betting websites where the world's bookies have reduced the chances of Oscar success to simple betting odds.

This might ruin the suspense, but can be very useful for nominees.

Likely winners can spend extra time polishing their feigned looks of surprise and their acceptance speeches. The likely losers are just as grateful for the heads-up. They no longer need to worry about their acceptance speeches, or about looking too upset when they hear the news.

Traditional Oscar viewers may prefer not to know that the overwhelming favourite for Best Picture is Argo, the Iranian hostage drama, directed by and starring Ben Affleck, which was chosen by 24 of the 25 experts polled by GoldDerby.com. Bookmaker William Hill meanwhile reckons it is 24-times as likely to win as the second favourite Lincoln.

Similarly, Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) and Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) are shoo-ins for the best actor and actress Oscars, and Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables) is considered a certainty for best supporting actress. The best supporting actor prize is closer, with Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln) expected to just beat Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master) to the prize.

The best director Oscar is thought to be already on its way to the mantlepiece of Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) while the original screenplay Oscar will be fought out between Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty. Lincoln is expected to edge the adapted screenplay trophy from Argo, while Amour is nailed on for the best foreign language Oscar.

The Oscar show will still be well worth watching (it will be screened live in 225 countries; in Australia E! will screen the red carpet arrivals from 1000AEDT, and the Awards ceremony will be on Nine from 12.30AEDT) even if suspense is somewhat lacking.

How great will Barbra Streisand be in one of her rare live performances, and will Adele be able to hold a candle to her? Just as importantly, everyone will want to know the answers to the eternal red carpet question "Who are you wearing?"

It will also be interesting to see whether Oscar host Seth MacFarlane can find the right formula to reinvigorate the Oscar ceremony after years of moribund ratings. He revealed that he has polled many of his Hollywood colleagues for advice, only to be snubbed because he "eviscerated them" on his Family Guy cartoon show.

Former hosts Billy Crystal and Hugh Jackman did clue him in however, with the most important tip coming from Jackman, MacFarlane told US TV talk show host Jay Leno recently. "Get all your jokes in by midway through the show because after that point you'll have a lot of angry people in the audience who have lost their categories," MacFarlane said. "They're not ready to laugh."

The West Australian

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