Why Are the Oscar Odds Already Out?

Oscar, Oscar statuettes, Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, award ceremonyI noticed a curious thing the other day when searching for the date of the 2020 Academy Awards (February 9th): The odds on who will win the Oscar for Best Picture have been out since September.

According to a site called Sports Betting Dime, the early favorites to win are Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, followed by Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, with Joker and Jojo Rabbit rounding out the top five.

The Full List of Oscar Odds

Oscar, Academy Awards, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and SciencesHere’s the full list with their respective odds as of late October:

  • The Irishman +200
  • Marriage Story +525
  • Once Upon A Time in Hollywood 525
  • Joker +550
  • Jojo Rabbit +800
  • 1917 +1100
  • Field (Any other film) +1200
  • Little Women +1800
  • Parasite +1800
  • Waves +3300
  • Just Mercy +4000
  • The Lighthouse +4000
  • Ford vs Ferrari +2200
  • A Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood +2400
  • The Two Popes +3200
  • The Farewell +3500
  • The Report +4500
  • Rocketman +7000
  • Avengers: Endgame +8000
  • The Laundromat +10000
  • Downton Abbey +10000
  • Ad Astra +10000

Why Betting on the Oscars This Early Is Absurd

Betting on the Oscars this early is absurd for two reason: (1) People outside Hollywood have not yet seen most of these movies, and (2) because a swath of Oscar-baity films will be released in November and December.

While the conventional wisdom that Christmas-time is prime Oscar season was somewhat debunked by Zach Kram last year, he also found that October/November are the most-likely months to produce Oscar winners in the so-called “Big Four” categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Actor.

According to Mr. Kram, “Movies from the first nine months of the year have … won only two of the past 20 Big Four prizes,” as of 2018. Every single Best Picture-winner from 2011 to 2018 was released in either October or November.

Last year’s winner, Green Book¸ debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, but wasn’t actually released in the U.S. until November 16th. So, it didn’t exactly buck the trend.

December Releases That Could Be Oscar Contenders

The early Oscar odds are not ignorant of the fact that still-to-be-released films will be in contention. Several of the longshots on the board are movies coming out in December. They include the likes of Little Women (Dec. 25) and 1917 (Dec. 25).

2020 Oscar CandidatesSam Mendes’ war flick, 1917, has all the trappings of an Oscar contender at first blush. The director  has helmed a prior winner (American Beauty), the subject matter (World War I) is common Oscar fodder, and it has a dazzling cast that includes both established mega-stars (Benedict Cumberbatch and Colin Firth) along with emerging talents (George MacKay won the Trophée Chopard for Male Revelation of the Year at Cannes in 2017).

Greta Gerwig’s Little Women appears to have more of an uphill climb; the last Best Picture winner based on a classic novel was Oliver! In 1968, and that musical didn’t exactly stick to the source material.

In addition to those two, Jay Roach’s Bombshell (Dec. 20) has been deemed a leading Oscar contender, yet it isn’t even listed in the odds. The film focuses on the women at the center of the Roger Ailes sexual harassment scandal at Fox News. Given the anti-Fox-leaning views of the Academy’s voting body, you have to figure it will be well received.

Is There an Oscar Favorite at This Point?

While the realities of Hollywood and the historic voting patterns of the Academy lead me to the conclusion that September, and even early November, are far too soon to be handicapping the Oscar race, I would put my money on one of the already-released films winning Best Picture come February.

The current favorites cover a broad range of Oscar-worthy subjects and many have Oscar-proven directors and Academy-adored casts. With Best Picture occasionally functioning as a Lifetime Achievement Award of sorts (see The Departed for Scorsese), Once Upon a Time in Hollywood stands out as a likely victor for heretofore shutout Quentin Tarantino.

In the meantime, we the viewing public vote for the Oscars with our movie tickets.

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