The Oscars: 10 Ways to Win

"The Artist" might have best picture locked up with its cute co-star.

Feb. 22, 2012 — -- It's time for's fourth annual, not at all scientific analysis of 10 ways the current crop of Oscar nominees can win, based on what the Academy's done in the past and good, old-fashioned, commonsense. See below and check out our Oscars Stock Market to see who film experts are predicting will take home Hollywood's most-coveted trophy.

1. Be foreign. Before there was "The Artist," currently at the top of many Most Likely to Win Best Picture lists, there was "Slumdog Millionaire." And "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," and "Life Is Beautiful." Every few years, the Academy falls in love with a film from overseas and shows its affection in the form of heavy, golden statuettes. (And all the better if that foreign film happens to be silent, adding another layer of exotism.)

2. Cast a cute animal. Creatures of the four-legged and winged variety can't win Oscars (yet). But they contribute an aw-factor to films that even seasoned Academy voters can find hard to resist. This little piggy took "Babe" to the Oscars in 1996, racking up seven nominations and one win. This year, Uggie could help "The Artist" score awards.

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3. Have the heavyweight do what he does best. How starved was the world for a great Woody Allen movie before "Midnight and Paris" came out? Very, apparently. The Parisian charmer has become Allen's most profitable movie to date and put him back in the Oscar race, where he hasn't been since 2008's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."

4. Gender bend. Hilary Swank worked this formula to success with 1999's "Boys Don't Cry." This time around, best actress hopeful Glenn Close has proved that women of an older generation can play that game with "Albert Nobbs."

5. Resurrect a beloved ingenue. Though she's been dead for decades, Marilyn Monroe's been hard to escape. There's Lindsay Lohan posing like her, again! There she is on the cover of Vanity Fair, again! But no one brought her back to life better than Michelle Williams, who enchanted audiences with her portrayal of the late screen siren in "My Week With Marilyn." She's won a Golden Globe for that performance, a best actress Oscar could be next.

6. Wear prosthetics. Meryl Streep put on a face full of latex to play former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady." It could serve her well -- Brad Pitt scored a nomination for looking like an 80-year-old version of himself in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," and even Eddie Murphy's otherwise panned "Norbit" earned an Oscar nomination for best makeup. Streep's transformation and the Academy's general love of everything she does could push her over the edge.

7. Be real. Like Octavia Spencer, who literally kicked off her heels after winning her Golden Globe and whooped for joy. Every year, the Academy welcomes a breath of fresh air. Last year it was Mo'Nique, before that it was Roberto Benigni, and who could forget Cuba Gooding Jr.'s anything-but-subtle acceptance speech. Sometimes the calm, cool and collected approach is not the way to go. Here's hoping Spencer continues to keep it real if she wins best supporting actress for "The Help."

8. Branch out. The story of a boy who lives in a clock tower wasn't exactly what anyone expected from Martin Scorsese. But that's the point -- by going outside the box, Scorsese charmed audiences in a new way, and racked up nearly a dozen nominations for "Hugo," including best picture.

9. Ditch 3D. Yes, we just waxed poetic about "Hugo," and yes, it's also 3D. But there's a limit for how much love the Academy can give the new technology. While "Avatar" was the toast of the town a few years ago, the 2011 movie Hollywood got most excited about was ... silent. And they shunned Steven Spielberg's "Adventures of Tintin." 3D does not a surefire Oscar favorite make.

10. Put a best seller on the big screen. If there's one tried and true way to win an Oscar, it's this. "Gone with the Wind." "The Blind Side" "Q&A" (better known by its movie name, "Slumdog Millionaire.") This year, the maxim is "The Help's" to prove wrong.

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