Beat Beifuss: Oscar night expected to be full of surprises

This image released by DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation shows Sally Field and Daniel Day-Lewis appear in a scene from "Lincoln." Fields was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress and Lewis was nominated for best actor on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, for their roles in ìLincoln.ì The 85th Academy Awards will air live on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013 on ABC. (AP Photo/DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, David James)

Photo by David James

This image released by DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation shows Sally Field and Daniel Day-Lewis appear in a scene from "Lincoln." Fields was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress and Lewis was nominated for best actor on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, for their roles in ìLincoln.ì The 85th Academy Awards will air live on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013 on ABC. (AP Photo/DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, David James)

Four score and seven years ago, minus three score and ten, this newspaper launched its annual "Beat Beifuss" contest, which has drawn close to 24,000 participants since its debut in 1997, when "The English Patient" was named Best Picture.

This is the contest that gives you a chance to win 20 Malco movie tickets by demonstrating your skills as an Academy Awards prognosticator.

Actually, the term "skills" overstates the case. You don't need the brain power of Daniel Day-Lewis' Abraham Lincoln to beat Beifuss (that's me). Sometimes, random guesses will do, as in the benighted years of 1999 and 2003, when I was a pathetic 3-7 in my Oscar picks.

How do you play?

Look at the online edition of The Commercial Appeal for the "Beat Beifuss" link, or go to gomemphis.com. There, you will find a contest ballot listing this year's Oscar nominees in 10 major categories. Make your picks, and enter. (You can also find the ballot linked at my blog, TheBloodshotEye.com.)

I'll publish my predictions online and in the newspaper's M section on Sunday, Feb. 24. The Academy Awards program airs that night. If your guesses are more accurate than mine, you're eligible to win 20 movie tickets as a Beifuss beater.

Ten winners will be chosen, so if more than 10 people beat Beifuss, the names of the winners will be drawn at random from the full pot of Beifuss beaters. Since an adult movie ticket for a nonmatinee screening costs $10.50 a pop (or $13.50 for 3D), 20 free movie tickets is — like many of the comedies now onscreen — not to be laughed at. So what have you got to lose?

We'll announce the names of the winners of the contest online and in the M section on Feb. 28, the Thursday after the Oscars ceremony.

Typically, I make a false show of bravado when we announce this contest. But truthfully, this could be an Oscarcast full of surprises.

"Lincoln" is regarded as the front-runner, but "Argo" took home the Critics' Choice Award for best picture and the Golden Globe for best drama. The 14th movie in Oscar history to be nominated in all four acting categories (some others include "My Man Godfrey" and "Bonnie and Clyde"), "Silver Linings Playbook" has emerged as a dark horse. And spiced by the presence of the oldest (Emmanuelle Riva, 85, of "Amour") and youngest (Quvenzhané Wallis, 9, of "Beasts of the Southern Wild") nominees in history, the Best Actress award is definitely up for grabs.

We'll all find out in just over five weeks.

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