1. Be a hit at Cannes Only two films that have won the Palme d’Or — The Lost Weekend in 1945 and Marty in 1955 — have also scored a Best Picture trophy. In other words, the Academy and the French festival haven’t been in sync for over half a century.
2. Be an Asian actor (male or female) In more than 100 years, only four Asian performers have been nominated for Best Actor or Actress. Of those, only two have won. Considering that those actors were Ben Kingsley and Yul Brynner, the outlook for East Asian thespians is particularly grim.
3. Star in a chick flick Think about the actors who tend to star in romantic films: Your Hugh Grants, your Jennifer Anistons, your John Cusacks, your Sarah Jessica Parkers. These people may bring in tons of cash at the box office, but Academy voters don’t take what they do seriously. Of course, rom-com fixtures Colin Firth and Sandra Bullock did get nods for A Single Man and The Blind Side, respectively, this year. Maybe they’ll beat the odds.
4. Be a comedian There’s an old saying in the theater: Dying is easy; comedy is hard. But it seems no one told the Academy that. Instead, Best Actor and Actress winners are rewarded for gaining weight, portraying historical figures or people who have been tortured or otherwise oppressed. No matter how funny a performance is, it’s hard to compete with that.
5. Be a female director Only three women — Sofia Coppola, Jane Campion, and Lina Wertmuller — have ever been nominated for Best Director honors. None of them won. On Sunday, will Kathryn Bigelow be the one to break this shameful streak (not to mention show up her ex, James Cameron)?
6. Make a racy movie In 1969, at the height of the sexual revolution, Midnight Cowboy was named the first X-rated Best Picture. No film with an MPAA rating above R has won since. Infer what you will about our neo-Victorian social mores.
7. Be a male actor under 30 Surprising but true: In 2002, Adrien Brody became the youngest guy to nab Best Actor (for his performance in The Pianist) less than a month before his 30th birthday. Guess that means Zac Efron will have to wait a few years.
8. Make a foreign-language film While eight movies made in languages other than English have been nominated for Best Picture, not one has claimed the Oscar. Because, hey, foreign films — who needs ’em? Save that smoky, talky crap for Cannes!
9. Be a black director, writer, or producer A few have been nominated, but no African-American director, writer, or producer has won a Best Director, Best Screenplay, or Best Picture Oscar. Will Precious’ Lee Daniels (nominated as producer and director) and Geoffrey Fletcher (writer) or The Blind Side‘s Broderick Johnson (producer) end the curse?
10. Host the Oscars In the early days of the Academy Awards, actors who had taken home (or would later win) trophies often played emcee to the ceremony. But not a single host since the mid-’80s has won Best Actor or Actress. Perhaps that’s because, in the past 25 years, comedians like Billy Crystal, Chevy Chase and this year’s co-host, Steve Martin have dominated the mic. And we all know how the Academy feels about laughter.