And the Winner Is: ‘American Beauty’?

Well, they did it. The newspaper folks who threatened to scoop the Oscars have scooped the Oscars. Or have they?

American Beauty” Today’s Wall Street Journal published the results of an “informal” survey of Academy voters — a survey that purports to show that most Hollywood insiders are leaning toward “American Beauty” as Best Picture.

Did we really need the Journal to tell us that? Maybe not. But some of the other results of the article were surprising. Like the item about how many voters think Annette Bening is going to win Best Actress for “American Beauty,” but they say they’re going to vote for Hilary Swank from “Boys Don’t Cry.”

The poll has the Best Actor race as a tossup between Kevin Spacey (“American Beauty“) and Denzel Washington (“The Hurricane“).

The supporting acting categories are said to be not quite as close. Angelina Jolie (“Girl, Interrupted“) is looking like the runaway winner in her division; Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules“) appears to be the solid leader in his.

The survey only covered one more category: Best Director. There, most voters told they Journal they were going with “American Beauty” helmer Sam Mendes.

How accurate is the survey? Well, before you go and risk your office pool on the Journal’s findings consider this: The newspaper interviewed 356 Academy voters, or just a little more than 6 percent of the organization’s 5,607-strong membership. (This after trying to contact about 1,400 Academy members.)

And consider this, too: One of the people the paper surveyed was veteran Vegas funnyman Buddy Hackett.

“Our Oscar survey should give Wall Street Journal readers some insight into not only who may win Sunday, but why,” Joanne Lipman, editor of the paper’s Weekend Journal, said today in a statement.

True to its word, thanks to the Journal we now know that Buddy Hackett said he planned to vote for Michael Caine over 11-year-old Haley Joel Osment from “The Sixth Sense” because: “In another five years, [Osment will] have pimples and no one will want to talk to him.”

Oh, and another thing about this survey: There’s no guarantee any of the 356 people surveyed were being honest about their picks to the paper.

Academy officials, who blew the whistle on the Journal’s in-the-works report earlier this month, seemed bemused by the story at a morning press conference at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium.

“It’s not a major sin, there’s nothing illegal about what they’ve done,” said Bruce Davis, executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “And the Academy Awards will go on nicely, thank you.”

Meanwhile, in other good news for the Oscars, it’s expected to rain in Los Angeles on Sunday. According to the Weather Channel, the forecast calls for “mostly cloudy [conditions] with a chance of showers or thunderstorms.”

How’s the Academy coping with that one? Well, a tarp’s being readied for the red carpet so the stars don’t get all soggy. But other than that? “If it rains,” said the Academy’s John Pavlik, “we’re going to get wet.”