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Oscar voters LOVE anything and anyone British. Apparently, the accent improves an actor's odds of winning the golden guy. The stronger the accent, the better the chances.
They also LOVE roles where the character has physical challenges or even better yet, deformities. For example, if an actor has a limp and walks with a cane, great! If they need a wheelchair, even better. If the actress is blind, sheer nirvana.
The Academy also adores mental or emotional problems in their Oscar winners. Many winners have been blessed with unique traits such as Rain man, Forrest Gump, Jeffrey Rush in Shine, and on and on.
They go ape crazy for roles featuring real life heroes or tortured artists. Nothing beats being a famous person on the big screen.
They also enjoy honoring one of their own when they venture outside of their comfort zone to do something they normally don't do. For example, how in the world can you explain Warren Betty winning the Oscar for Best Director for Reds over Spielberg and Raiders of the Lost Ark or Hugh Hudson for Chariots of Fire in 1981? How about Robert Redford winning Best Director for Ordinary People over Martin Scorses and Raging Bull and David Lynch for The Elephant Man in 1980? They won because they were actors that directed, period. These weren't isolated freakish events either. This has happened so many times that it's become a proven formula for success. Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood have cashed in on this in more recent times.
Another thing they like to do is try to right wrongs by giving the Oscar to veterans they've snobbed in the past far too many times. Al Pacino, Paul Newman and Sean Connery didn't give their best performances in the roles they won for but it was the Academy's way of saying "We're sorry. We screwed up. Please forgive us and love us?" If they can't make ammends that way they always have the Lifetime Achievement Award...the ultimate we're sorry prize of them all.
Here's an example of my formula for success in action. The 1989 Academy Awards was a perfect test for my theory that everyone mocked and ridiculed despite my long winning streak. Everyone was confident that Tom Cruise would win Best Actor. I was tempted to vote for him but didn't and I'll explain why. Sure, he was portraying a real world war hero (Check), he was in a wheel chair too (Check) but look at his competition, Daniel Day Lewis. He also played a real person (Check), Also wheel chair (Check) and he could only move his left foot (Check check!) and the topper? He was British (Check mate!) and Tommy boy lost his only real chance at winning the Oscar.
As for my winning streak, the only time I lost was in 1997 when Titanic swept the awards. I did well with an 18-6 mark which is solid but the wife went 20-4 with some wild guesses she admitted and I've still never heard the end of it. Friggin' Leo and that ice berg.