All the major Oscar categories are pretty much locked up. Slumdog, Winslet, Ledger, etc. So where will Oscar pools be won and lost? In the tiny, shitty categories. Let's attempt a lesser categories betting guide.
If you want the easy odds on the big categories, Intrade has the betting breakdown. But what about those forgotten, bastard Sound awards and Short Film flimflammery? How do you predict them? Well, unless you're an industry insider you really can't. But you can guess! Educatedly! Because there are certain small patterns.
Sound Editing and Mixing:
Since there are no musicals that could snatch the Mixing award, it's possible that the same film will win both categories. We'd say there are two films likely to do that: The Dark Knight and Wall-E. But both were beloved films that weren't invited to the big Best Picture dance, so voters will want to give them as many consolation prizes as possible. We say there will be a split. Editing often goes to animated films, so Wall-E takes that. TDK gets Mixing, whatever the hell that is.
Short Films, Animated & Live Action:
As Entertainment Weekly points out these are super hard, nay impossible!, to predict. Mostly because there are no lead up awards to go by and who the hell has ever seen a short film? No one except film student nerds and weirdos who wear berets in the middle of the afternoon to the West Newton cinemas and actually like the fact that their popcorn doesn't have butter on it. But anyway. EW is split on the animated. Either it goes to Pixar's Presto, about a magic rabbit, or to some Japanese thing with a French title, La Maison en Petites Cubes. Well, Pixar like never wins for their shorts, so we'll go and agree with La Frenchy's Japanese Fancy Talk About a Sad Old Man for the win there. As for Live Action, there's one about the Holocaust. Everyone knows those win. So put a check mark next to Spielzeugland.
There are only three nominees in this category: The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and The Curious Case of Brad Pitt's Face. Curious Case is nominated for 13 awards and stands to lose pretty much all the big ones, so look for voters to take pity on the poor, hugely-budgeted, CGI fable and give them tiny wins that don't actually mean anything. This is Benjamin Button's to lose. Plus there weren't really any special effects in TDK were there? It was mostly stuntery and stuff.
Makeup, Costumes, and Art Direction
So that's sets, clothes, and gay stuff. Benjamin Button is big in all three of these. It's probably a lock for its old age makeup and fancy, melancholy art direction. Costumes are a trickier game, what with The Duchess and Nicole Kidman's hats in Australia also vying for the trophy. We're going to go out on a limb here and give it to The Duchess, because there's no separate award for wigs and there should be.
Documentaries! Long Ones and Short Ones! And Foreign Films!:
No one cares. There are boring and for nerds. Waltz with Bashir and The Class are the two main contenders in the Foreign race. Bashir is violent and sorta animated, The Class is about a French Michelle Pfeiffer teaching poor kids that it's OK to be poor. Sentimentality often wins out at the Urskerz, so let's go ahead and say that The Class' late-game surge takes it over the finish line first. For the Docs, let's go with The Witness, about a man present at Martin Luther King's assassination, for the Shorts. You know, Obama and stuff. And Man On Wire for the full length, because it's like watching poetry.
So there you go! Small strange awards categories that no one but the nominees cares about. Glassy-eyed starlets will wander out and read the teleprompter introducing these things and hopefully when they lazily open the envelope, they'll say these movie titles. If not, don't blame me. What the hell do I know?