With the nominations just out, Jack Houghton casts his eye over the likely winners. He thinks Boyhood and Julianne Moore are reliable shoo-ins, but sees the Best Actor award as wide open...
The safe choice - Boyhood [1.15]
Hovering around [1.15] in the early betting markets, Boyhood seems a virtual shoo-in for picking up the blue-riband gong. It certainly has a lot going for it. Shot over a 12-year period, it is seen to be doing something new in the world of cinema. What's more, it's a drama - an over-rewarded category making up more than half of all Best Picture wins - and a poignant and emotional one at that. It won Best Drama at the Golden Globes - another statistic which gives it a more than 50% chance of going on to Best Picture glory at the Oscars - and might be the safest 15% return you'll see in the world of awards' betting.
The plucky outsider - Birdman [14.0]
The world of awards' betting, though, is not without its risks. Brokeback Mountain didn't win, despite trading at [1.10], and that film joined a host of previous favourites who were upstaged. The most likely surprise in this category is Birdman. Like the favourite, it is doing something cinematographically new, with the entire film appearing as one, long take. It also has some comedy to add to its drama, is visually stunning, and contains a stellar cast that will bring it much attention.
Best Director - Richard Linklater [1.2]
The safe choice
If you buy-in to the likelihood of a Boyhood win, then statistically you are forced to support Linklater: in 86 years of the Academy Awards, the Best Picture and Best Director gongs have gone to the same film 61 times (around 71 per cent), a strike rate that has increased to just short of 90 per cent if only examining the last few decades.
The plucky outsider - Bennett Miller [40.0]
The last two years offer some doubt as to the reliability of this trend, though. Ben Affleck was snubbed in 2013, not even receiving a nomination for directing Argo, the overwhelming [1.20] favourite for Best Picture honours; and last year Alfonso Cuarón was given the nod for Gravity when 12 Years a Slave was the obvious Best Picture choice. If looking for a big-priced upset, then Bennett Miller makes sense. He was nominated for Capote in 2005, and picked up the best directing award for this year's contender Foxcatcher at Cannes. In this category, keep an eye out for the Director's Guild Awards later this month: the winner has gone on to Oscar's glory 89% of the time.
The safe choice - Michael Keaton [1.9]
The one, long take aspect of Birdman will play into Keaton's hands here. The film's PR team has done a good job of emphasising the torturous pressure put on Keaton in having to perform for as long as a minute in a single take (has he ever been on stage?). Also, there is a sense that Keaton will be rewarded as much for his career's contribution as for his role in this film.
The plucky outsider - Eddie Redmayne [2.1]
Okay, hardly an outsider, but instead a very likely option to deny Keaton. Redmayne plays theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and there' nothing that brings an actor acclaim like playing someone who is afflicted in some way and yet displays great talent. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush were rewarded at the Oscars for just this type of role.
The safe choice - Julianne Moore [1.09]
Well, there's nothing that entertains quite like films about degenerative diseases, and with Motor Neuron Disease taking a bow in The Theory of Everything, here Julianne Moore is already multiply acclaimed for her role as a linguistics' professor diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in Still Alice.
The plucky outsider - Reese Witherspoon [17.0]
It would be a big shock if Julianne Moore were not to win, especially as Amy Adams, who won the Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy or musical, wasn't nominated. Oscar's night is still five-weeks away, though, and film companies can do a lot to promote a film in that time. It's worth remembering that The King's Speech was the early second-favourite behind The Social Network in 2010, but was thought to make great strides as its PR team swung into action. Whether a similar turnaround can happen in this category, though, is doubtful, but if it does, Witherspoon's portrayal of Cheryl Strayed in Wild is the most likely to benefit.