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10 prop bets for your Oscars party

25 Feb 2016

By Clare Fitzgerald
The Oscars are the second-most-watched television event in the U.S., coming in only after the Super Bowl. And while betting on entertainment events is illegal in the U.S., this doesn't stop Vegas sportsbooks from releasing odds on who's going to take home little gold statues. Online sportsbooks based outside of the U.S., such as bet365 Sportsbook & Racebook, can and often do offer bets on the Oscars, but those of us living in restricted jurisdictions have to make our own fun.

Fortunately, the Oscars are also second only to the Super Bowl in their ability to provide fodder for a wide variety of proposition bets. Here are 10 ways for your Oscar party to entertain itself when wine and Twitter aren't enough:

10. Red carpet sparkles

One of the trends on display at various awards-show red carpets lately has been dresses covered in sparkles, much to the delight of my inner five-year-old. To keep things simple, we're betting specifically on how many of the nominees for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress will show up in sparkle dresses. To qualify as a proper sparkle dress, at least 50% of the dress' surface must be covered in rhinestones, sequins, seed pearls or other sparkly objects. Mere shiny fabric does not count. If a dress uses sparkles to make a pattern, such as Viola Davis' dress at the Golden Globes, the pattern must cover the entire dress.

I'm guessing two sparkle dresses out of the 10 actress nominees. For the Best Actor/Best Supporting Actor nominees, I'm guessing all 10 of them are going to wear penguin suits, but if one of them surprises me by showing up in a sparkle dress I will be so entertained.

Variation: You can also bet on if anyone will show up in one of those dresses consisting entirely of sheer and sparkles. (I'd post a link but, uh, just Google "Rihanna sparkly dress." Unless you're at work.) To be honest, we're making this a drinking game instead: If anyone shows up in one of these, we all win more wine.

9. Leo's date

One of the few fun prop bets I've been able to find that's actually being offered by a sportsbook this year is guessing who will be Leonardo DiCaprio's date, from Betfair Sportsbook & Racebook. The current favorite is his mother, which I hope turns out to be the case — it will be heartwarming and adorable if he wins that Best Actor award he's been consistently robbed of, and it'll provide amazing fodder for gifs if he doesn't. The Internet can't keep relying on the same jokes it's been using since 2014.

8. You're tearing me apart, Brie Larson

Here's a quick story about the importance of definite articles. The first time someone mentioned to me that Room was nominated for an Oscar, they referred to it as The Room, which deeply confused me on two points: One, The Room came out several years ago, and two, The Room is a terrible, terrible movie.

For those who are not fans of terrible, terrible movies, Tommy Wiseau's drama/romance/unintentional comedy/thing was released in 2003 and became an instant classic in the canon of awful cult movies, alongside gems like Plan 9 from Outer Space and Troll 2. It is so spellbindingly bad that indie theaters often have midnight showings of it.

While it's probably a long shot, I want somebody to make a The Room joke when talking about Room.

7. Race to the race joke

While looking for actual Oscars bets, I ran across a suggested prop bet on whether or not show host Chris Rock would make a joke referencing the current Oscar diversity controversy. Considering that Chris Rock has publicly stated that he rewrote his entire opening monologue to address it, I think that question is settled. What remains to be seen is how quickly he's going to bring it up.

Last year, Neil Patrick Harris's very first joke after the musical number was "Tonight we honor Hollywood's best and whitest — sorry, brightest." I'm guessing that Chris Rock isn't going to let a white dude beat him on this, and that racial issues will be the punchline of the first joke of the monologue again.

6. Space oddity?

Lady Gaga's not making as many headlines in the actual world of pop music as she was a few years ago, having branched out into acting and, apparently, becoming the designated artist for tributes and the national anthem at large events, including a Sound of Music tribute at last year's Oscars. This year, however, she will be performing one of her own songs, and the question on people's minds is: Is she going to wear something resembling human clothing, or is she going to dress like a space alien again?

Gaga is fully capable of dressing like a very stylish human person, as proven by her classy black velvet Versace dress at the Golden Globes. I'm putting the dividing line between person outfit and alien outfit just after the Effie Trinket look she had going on at the Super Bowl. More specifically:
  • If the clothes can be immediately recognized as either a "dress" or "pants," that is a point in the "human outfit" column. Otherwise, alien.
  • If the outfit appears to be made of a material that is commonly used in clothing, such as silk, velvet or leather, that is also a point in the human column. Meat, Muppets, tinfoil, garbage bags, kale, duct tape and anything else that isn't cloth counts toward "alien."
  • If her hair is a naturally occurring color, even if not her natural color, that counts toward human. Unnatural hair colors count toward alien, despite their popularity; so does having any sort of 18th-century-France hair sculpture or wacky objects on her head.
  • Makeup in normal makeup places: human, even if it's more dramatic than what most people would wear. Face paint or any sort of facial prosthetic: alien.

5. Get off the stage, already

Watching people get their acceptance speeches cut off is both my favorite and my least favorite thing about watching awards shows, depending on how much I like the winner and how punchy I'm feeling about the importance of manners that day.

Twenty-four awards will be presented Sunday night, which means 24 acceptance speeches that are supposed to be only about 1 minute long but which average 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

I'm putting the over/under line for how many speechmakers get played off by the orchestra at 7.5.

4. The book is always better

Five of the eight nominees for Best Picture are based on books, and a sixth is about a series of newspaper articles. How many of them have the people at your Oscar party read? Which book has been read by the most people?

My friend group has a lot of science fiction nerds, so I'm going to guess that Andy Weir's The Martian will have been the most popular read where I'll be on Sunday. If you haven't read any of the books and you want to look smart, Colm Toíbín's Brooklyn is the shortest at 262 pages, although Michael Punke's The Revenant is only 10 pages longer.

3. Hermetically sealed envelopes

A few years ago, Joe Bianchino at No Ticket Sports suggested an over/under of 2.5 instances of a presenter having trouble opening the envelope. Since somebody always manages to mess up this seemingly simple act, I think this is a good bet and I'm stealing it.

2. Naming and shaming

The Revenant director Alejandro G. Iñárritu is looking at a strong possibility of taking home back-to-back Oscars — last year, Birdman took home Best Picture, Best Directing and Best Original screenplay — but that doesn't guarantee that English-speaking Hollywood types have necessarily learned how to pronounce his last name. And while Saoirse Ronan is only about 7 to 2 to win Best Actress, the presenter will still have to get around those tricky Gaelic vowels to announce her nomination. My friend Lyndsay is sure somebody's name is going to get butchered at some point during the night.

I pointed out that John Travolta is not presenting this year and I figure it'll be OK. We have a bottle of scotch riding on which of us is right.

1. Acceptance Speech Bingo

Oscars acceptance speeches are usually pretty formulaic, with the same handful of variations year in and year out. We're stealing the popular tradition of Internet argument bingo cards and making some for acceptance speeches.

Squares on the cards include:
—Crying during speech.
—Swearing during speech.
—Tripping or slipping on the way to the podium, à la JLaw.
—FREE SPACE: Thanks the Academy first.
—Thanks God first.
—Thanks parents first.
—Thanks somebody actually involved in the movie first.
—Winner whose movie is based on real events thanks the people or person whose story it is.
—Winner whose movie is based on real events doesn't thank the people whose story it is. (Looking at you, Matthew McConaughy.)
—Speech about social or political issue related to the winner's movie.
—Speech about social or political issue completely unrelated to the winner's movie, making everyone feel awkward.
—Winner appears to finish speech, then remembers somebody they forgot.
—Orchestra begins playoff music, stops, begins playoff music a second time.
—Cut to losing nominee crying.
—Cut to losing nominee clearly cursing.
—Winner tells their children at home to go to bed now.
—Thanks or praises the other nominees.
—Holds Oscar over head with one arm.
—Cradles Oscar like a baby.
—For an award with more than one accepter, statue passes to whoever is talking.
—Winner claims they didn't prepare a speech since they didn't think they could win.
—Jokes about where they're going to keep Oscar.
—Reference to a previous year's ceremony.
—Reference to something that happened earlier in the evening.
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