The day of reckoning is almost upon us as the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood prepares for the 88th Academy Awards ceremony. The #OscarsSoWhite diversity debate has dominated all the headlines since nominations were announced last month and host Chris Rock will inevitably throw a few jabs during his much anticipated opening monologue.
By Monday morning all burning questions will have been answered – who got the ‘In Memoriam’ pimp slot? What did John Travolta do this year to break the internet? And did Leonardo DiCaprio finally win? Of course he did.
So, on to the business of trying to seek out value in the betting markets. As usual a few categories are already locked down and some are notoriously difficult to predict (Best Live Action Short, anyone?), but thankfully most remain sufficiently competitive to keep the viewing audience interested.
The biggest award of the night also just happens to be the most fiercely contested. Eight films are nominated but, in an unusual split of consensus formed by the industry’s precursor guilds, only three have realistic chances of victory.
The Big Short
PGA winner (Producers Guild of America)
Current odds: 13/2
SAG winner (Screen Actors Guild)
Current odds: 3/1
DGA winner (Directors Guild of America)
Current odds: 4/9
The Big Short winning the PGA is especially significant because this group has the same preferential voting ballot used at the Oscars, and there’s also the impressive fact that for the past eight consecutive years the PGA winner has followed up with Oscar glory (12 Years a Slave/Gravity tied for PGA in 2013).
The film’s subject matter is politically charged and this shouldn’t be underestimated as America’s presidential election continues to heat up. Making a collective statement against Wall Street could well serve as motivation for academy members to support Adam McKay’s film. Combine this with a hugely popular and influential cast that includes Brad Pitt (also Producer), Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell, and a win here for The Big Short doesn’t seem too unlikely. If it manages to win Best Editing and, as expected, Best Adapted Screenplay, it could easily take Best Picture.
Spotlight is a film warmly embraced by the acting branch, which is hardly surprising. This is an ensemble feature in the truest sense, a respected and well known cast chewing up the scenery in an intriguing, fact based account of how child abuse in the Catholic Church was exposed by The Boston Globe in 2002. The problem for Spotlight is that SAG is arguably the weakest of the major guilds at predicting a film’s Oscar chances and, even though it is likely to win Best Original Screenplay, its prospects in other categories are poor which makes it a less likely Best Picture contender.
The Revenant leads the field with twelve nominations and will spend most of the evening slugging it out with Mad Max: Fury Road for honours in the technical categories. If it sweeps most or all of these we can call it a night as wide support for the film would be confirmed. The early awards always do a good job of setting the tone for the whole evening and late surprises in the major categories are very rare if a film has already scooped a handful of gold statues along the way. Current odds of 4/9 may seem tempting for a film that just won a DGA and BAFTA to add to its Golden Globe, but before you remortgage…
The Revenant does have some forces working against it, namely last year’s multiple Oscar wins for director Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman) still fresh in the memory of voters. It should be noted that The Revenant‘s Golden Globes success, and also more recently at the BAFTAs, is less of a surprise when you consider that both groups snubbed Iñárritu and Birdman last year in favour of Boyhood, a film that ended up performing poorly at the Oscars. A second consecutive DGA win has taken some steam out of the ‘no director can win two-years-running’ argument and this is reflected in the betting with Iñárritu now a very short priced favourite.
Current odds: 1/8 (Iñárritu)
With Iñárritu enjoying all the momentum following his Golden Globe, DGA and BAFTA success, can anyone stand in his way? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’, step forward Mr. George Miller. If Miller’s film, Mad Max: Fury Road, wins most of the early technical categories over The Revenant this would signify not only broad support for Miller and Mad Max, but also (and perhaps more significantly) less support than expected for Iñárritu and The Revenant, seriously damaging its chances later in the evening.
At current odds of 8/1 Miller represents some value, especially if you consider his domination of the critics’ awards circuit and his recent victory over Iñárritu at the BFCA. If enough voters are reluctant to hand Iñárritu two consecutive director triumphs, expect Miller to benefit.
Current odds: 8/1 (Miller)
Raw bison liver + bear attack + sleeping in a horse = Oscar for Leo.
Current odds: 1/66
There is no Room for ‘cheesy’ predictions in this article, however, I am prepared to make an exception. Brie wins.
Current odds: 1/20
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
One of the recurring themes during this year’s awards season has been the feel good reunion of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. They are the undisputed red carpet money shot and the world’s media is quivering at the prospect of a post-Titanic Oscar double header. Indeed, Titanic is revered, loved, cherished… my heart could go on, so when Jack and Rose sit side-by-side on a voting ballot – that’s a combo too sugar coated to resist. Winslet’s chances are further strengthened by wins at the Golden Globes and BAFTA.
Current odds: 7/2 (Winslet)
The markets have Alicia Vikander as odd-on favourite here but, putting her SAG win to one side, a couple of points should be considered. Vikander has been mixed up in category confusion all season long due to her double showing in The Danish Girl and Ex Machina. General opinion is that her work in the former is clearly more of a leading role in comparison to Winslet whose performance embodies all the hallmarks traditionally associated with a supporting role. A BAFTA win for Vikander in either nominated category would have solidified her frontrunner status, but a somewhat surprising snub by the British Academy has left the door even more open for Winslet.
Current odds: 4/9 (Vikander)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
The Oscars, more than any other awards, love to recognise the feel good narrative of a comeback story. Sure, Tom Hardy, Mark Ruffalo, Christian Bale and Mark Rylance were all fantastic, but they are not Rocky Balboa, a name synonymous with the rise of the underdog and intrinsically linked to the fabric of the American dream. Stallone’s biggest threat was supposed to come from Rylance for his understated but brilliant work in Bridge of Spies, but after his SAG loss to Idris Elba (not Oscar nominated) his flame is all but extinguished. With his fair share of critics’ awards already in the bag, in addition to a Golden Globe (Stallone received a notably warm standing ovation) and a Critics’ Choice award, it’s shaping up to be a good night for the Italian Stallion.
Current odds: 4/11
If you have decided not to boycott the Oscars this year, please keep the conversation going below. Meanwhile, for anyone wishing to read more about the Oscar race, look no further than Sasha Stone’s excellent website awardsdaily.com where you will find a regular supply of informed and intelligent articles as well as plenty of friendly banter in comments.