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John Lamb, Published February 25 2014

Lamb: Wrong side of law on right side of Oscar chances

Crime doesn’t pay. That’s what parents, teachers and most responsible adults tell kids.

What they don’t tell them is that sometimes it’s good to be bad.

Or at least to play bad.

The actors taking home Oscars on Sunday night are probably all decent people – at least as far as Hollywood actors go – but they will win for tapping into their inner creep and portraying truly flawed people.

Look at the lineup for Best Actor. With the exception of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s free man sold into slavery in “12 Years a Slave,” the rest of the lineup is a rogue’s gallery.

Christian Bale is great as a conman with a bad comb-over in “American Hustle.” Bruce Dern’s character won’t win any Father of the Year awards in “Nebraska.” Leonardo DiCaprio is the worst of them all as the hedonistic, misogynistic, drug-addicted, stock market swindler in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Still, the Oscar will go to Matthew McConaughey for his sleazy portrayal of the drug-addled, homophobic playboy with AIDS in “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Why? Not because he dropped to an emaciated 135 pounds for the role. (If physical transformations helped, his creepy 1980s moustache would earn him the honor.) Rather, he’ll win because he’s the one character you’re actually terrified of. Arrogant, violent, hateful and self-centered, he’s a shadow of the charming Matthew McConaughey from the romantic comedies of the early 2000s, his pearly smile lost behind that moustache.

The leading ladies are less vile, but there are some real witches in this batch. Don’t even consider Judi Dench (too angelic in “Philomena”) or Sandra Bullock (who has the worst-ever day at work in “Gravity”).

Amy Adams is great as a con-woman with fantastic hair and a real identity issue in “American Hustle” and Meryl Streep deserves the nomination as the mother from hell in “August: Osage County.”

But Cate Blanchett is the royal Queen B as the boozy, rich socialite who falls with less than grace, willing to bring everyone down with her in “Blue Jasmine.”

The supporting roles are a little more sympathetic. Lupita Nyong’o should win for making audiences feel the beatings and rapes she endures in “12 Years a Slave.” But look for Jennifer Lawrence at the podium for playing the conman’s wife in “American Hustle.” Her character is so insecure and conniving she doesn’t think twice about teaching her husband a lesson at the barrel end of her mobster boyfriend’s gun. Sympathetic? Maybe. Nice? No way.

With the exception of Bradley Cooper’s driven and desperate FBI agent, the supporting actors all play characters on the wrong side of the law. Barkhad Abdi is the pirate in “Captain Philips.” Jonah Hill is DiCaprio’s partner in crime in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Michael Fassbender is the wicked plantation owner in “12 Years a Slave.”

The award will go to Jared Leto as the HIV-positive transsexual guide to selling black market pharmaceuticals to AIDS patients in “Dallas Buyers Club.” The character, Rayon, isn’t bad because she’s transsexual, but because she’s a self-destructive drug addict.

She may not be a role model, but it’s the role that will win Leto an award and have Hollywood toasting the bad guys and girls.

So maybe crime does pay. At least on the silver screen.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

‘86th Academy Awards’

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Channel: ABC

online: http://oscar.go.com