AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
You could call them the smartest of the smart, and each week they head to O'Brien's, an Irish pub in LA for trivia night.
BRAD RUTTER: I'm the all-time leading money-winner on "Jeopardy!"
MEGAN BARNES: I've been on "Jeopardy!" I won three games.
DAN AVILA: Actually, I've been on game shows since 1974, before you were born. I was on "Jokers Wild" and "Sale Of The Century" and "Break The Bank."
CORNISH: Dan Avila is also a "Jeopardy!" winner, just like the two you heard before him, Brad Rutter and Megan Barnes. NPR's Neda Ulaby joined these game show veterans for an annual event at the bar Oscar trivia night.
NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: O'Brien's is the kind of bar with wood paneling and worn-out vinyl stools. But here they're occupied by the likes of Stephanie Yoss, another "Jeopardy!" champion.
STEPHANIE YOSS: Well, technically a super champion.
ULABY: That's someone who's won more than five games. Many of the people crowded in the back room have won hundreds of thousands of dollars playing "Jeopardy!" Here, they're competing for a $75 bar tab.
YOSS: When I came for the "Jeopardy!" Tournament of Champions, all we could talk about was who's going to O'Brien's?
WARREN USUI: Some trivia places, they ask you, what sank the Titanic? Here they ask you, name all the passengers.
ULABY: Warren Usui won "Jeopardy!" three times. The 60-year-old computer programmer modestly says he's better than the average bear. But movies are not his specialty, so Usui prepared for Oscar trivia night by memorizing every single Oscar-winning best picture, in order.
USUI: "Wings" won in '28, "The Broadway Melody" '29, "All Quiet On The Western Front," then "Cimarron," then "Grand Hotel," then "Cavalcade," then "It Happened One Night," then, you know...
ULABY: Usui attends this trivia night faithfully. Adam Waldowski only comes once a year, for the Oscar quiz.
ADAM WALDOWSKI: I watch about 400 movies a year. I've seen thousands of Oscar nominees at this point. It never, ever comes in handy, except for tonight.
ULABY: OK, let's get to the questions. Of this year's nominees for best director, whose last three feature films all began with the same letter?
STEFAN GOODREAU: No, no, no - I know it.
ULABY: Five-time "Jeopardy!" winner Stefan Goodreau guesses correctly. The answer is director Alejandro Inarritu, of "Birdman," "Babel" and "Biutiful."
ULABY: Goodreau's playing with a group that includes a Ph.D. candidate studying animation history, and Jackie Fox, who happens to be the former bassist of the all-female 1970s band The Runaways. She and her teammates are briefly stumped by this question, who are the only non-professional actors who've won acting Oscars? Hint - they both played fictionalized victims of wars they actually survived.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Who's that guy? His name was Hodden (ph) or something...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Haing Ngor.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I know who Haing Ngor is, but this guy, he was a...
ULABY: Haing Ngor, best supporting actor for "The Killing Fields." The team also guessed Harold Russell, who lost both hands in World War II and won an Oscar for "The Best Years Of Our Lives." The contestants also had to identify Oscar winners based on hearing their acceptance speeches.
(SOUNDBITE OF ACADEMY AWARDS SPEECH)
ANNA PAQUIN: I'd like to thank the Academy for the honor of letting me be here today. I'd like to thank Jane, Jen and Holly.
ULABY: Anna Paquin - duh. Now, most of us, if asked which is the most Oscar-nominated family, would guess maybe the Barrymores? Dan Avila, Mark May and Tim Jones knew immediately.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: It's the Newmans.
ULABY: The Newmans? Like, Paul Newman?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Alfred, and there was like, Thomas, Randy...
ULABY: Alfred, Thomas and Randy Newman - the only one I'd heard of - have almost 80 Oscar nominations between them, for music. I couldn't resist asking the players if they ever itched to just reach for their phones and Google.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: It's not fun. The challenge is gone.
ULABY: Warren Usui compared Googling to bringing an atom bomb to a duck hunt, but then he grew thoughtful. Right now, he said, the Academy Awards seem like a really big deal, but in 20 years the only people who will care who won best actress or best picture will be the trivia buffs, like him. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.
CORNISH: And you can find O'Brien's Oscar quiz at our website, at npr.org.
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