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Your Can’t-Miss Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet

The Academy Award ballot, whether for a work pool or for kudos at your Oscar party, is at tricky beast: If you’re paying enough attention, you’ve probably picked up the favorites in the major acting categories, for Best Picture, maybe Best Director. But who’s going to win Best Sound Editing? Best Documentary Short Subject? It used to be that you could just use your trust Entertainment Weekly as a cheat sheet (and it’ll still do just fine for that purpose), but there are now so many sites predicting the winners that a clear consensus seems mostly impossible. That’s right: we have to predict the best predictors.

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To help you put together the ultimate Oscar ballot, we’re weighing the predictions of one aggregate (Movie City News’ “Gurus of Gold,” which weighs the votes of 14 terrific critics) and four individuals not included in that poll. Melena Ryzik, aka “The Carpetbagger” of The New York Times, has been paying plenty of attention to this stuff, and offers some pretty reasonable predictions. Also at the Times, election guru Nate Silver has offered up his predictions, based more on critics awards and other bellwethers than intangibles like “buzz.” This is his third time on the Oscar beat; in previous years, he had a 75% success rate. We also threw the predictions of Indiewire’s Peter Knegt into the mix.

And while Roger Ebert’s tendency to pick his favorite instead of the likely winner has made him less than reliable at guessing accurately (in 2011, he got Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress wrong), he frequently pulls one out (he was about the only one who called that 2006 win for Crash), and his headline trumps his belief that “I may have them all right.” (He probably doesn’t.)

So let’s kick through the categories, and figure out what your safest bets might be.

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