'Silver Linings' bookkeeping: Betting on Oscar odds

Experts say Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro are long shots for winning their respective Academy Award categories.
Experts say Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro are long shots for winning their respective Academy Award categories.
Posted: February 22, 2013

IF THERE'S going to be a best-picture upset on Oscar night, "Silver Linings Playbook" stands the best chance of being the surprise winner.

That's what Oscar watchers say. Problem is, they add, there's not going to be an upset.

"The short answer is no, it's not going to win. Sorry to disappoint all of the movie's Philly fans," said Benjamin Eckstein, oddsmaker at America's Line, a nationally syndicated odds service.

"Right now, 'Argo' is the favorite, and it's a huge favorite, with "Lincoln" in second," said Eckstein, known to longtime Daily News readers as Vegas Vic. "Argo" is a prohibitive 1-to-5, "Lincoln" is 5-to-1. "SLP" is close to 30-1 (its shortest odds at any betting site are 25-to-1; some go as high as 50-to-1).

"SLP" remains a long shot. That opinion is shared, collectively, by the aggregated Oscar pickers at Goldderby.com, where a couple of dozen industry watchers dump their opinions into a Nate Silver-ish pile that yields a probability bordering on certainty, says editor Tom O'Neil.

"The collective views of all the experts provide a better forecast by far than the opinion of any one pundit," O'Neil said.

And they have "Argo" a clear winner.

He notes, however, that support for the movies has ebbed and flowed since last year and that there is a recent surge of interest in "SLP." He said the movie is certain to win a big award at some point.

"I think there's a lot of love for this movie by the Academy, as evidenced by the fact that it's scored an acting nomination in all four categories. That hasn't been done in decades. It's nominated in every key race. It's just a matter of where that love is going to pop up on Oscar night."

The movie's late push has been orchestrated in part by its distributor, the Weinstein Co., so good at positioning movies for Oscars (it's won the last two best-picture awards, "King's Speech" and "The Artist").

Its "Silver Linings Playbook" release strategy has been ingenious - the movie is peaking just now, and crossed the $100 million mark the very day that Oscar voting closed.

To boot, Weinstein is repositioning the cockeyed Bradley Cooper/Jennifer Lawrence romance as a serious movie about mental illness - touted in prominent op-eds by the head of the American Psychiatric Association, and by former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who is bipolar and hailed the movie as realistic portrait.

In the final few days of voting, Weinstein ran ads in the Los Angeles Times featuring this quote by Roger Ebert: "Now, more and more, from many different quarters, I hear affection for 'Silver Linings Playbook.' People tell me, 'I have a brother-in-law exactly like that.' I sense a groundswell."

The odds, alas, have not changed. Eckstein said that if you want to make money on "SLP," you should try another category.

He has Jennifer Lawrence as the favorite to win best actress. Cooper (best actor) and Jacki Weaver (supporting actress) remain long shots, but director David O. Russell is short odds as both a writer and director.

O'Neil and his pundits have noted a recent surge of support for "SLP" supporting-actor nominee Robert De Niro, but Eckstein still likes Tommy Lee Jones, in "Lincoln," in that category.

It's a key category for the hopes of "SLP." Best-supporting actor is one of the first awards of the evening. If De Niro upsets Jones, it could be a silver lining, pointing to gold.

Blog: philly.com/KeepItReel