Editor’s Note: Before we begin, we’d just like to specify that this article is for entertainment purposes only. Like most things, gambling should be enjoyed responsibly, and if you or a loved one has a gambling problem, there are resources for available you, including the National Problem Gambling Helpline, which can be reached at 1-800-522-4700 at any time of day.
You know, it should have felt like a comeback, and it could have been one, but this year’s Academy Awards have already pissed off every single person who would normally be hyped about it. Want to gawk at celebrities? Well, here’s the aging roster of celebrities from the 2006 People’s Choice Awards as presenters (maybe Tony Hawk will do a 900!). Want to see the people who make the movies magical get honored as the suspense builds? Well, they’ve cut the categories that don’t have celebrities attached to them out of the broadcast, so you better be watching that pre-show. Liked it when the Oscars had a host, or, better yet, liked when they didn’t? Well, great, now you’ve got three — Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer, and Regina Hall — with the first two presumably getting offered the gig through their Cameo profiles rather than their agents. That can only mean one thing: it’s Oscar season, bay-bee, and it’s time to get mad. Will Power of the Dog finally give Netflix the recognition they crave? Will CODA upset and destroy the last vestiges of Reed Hastings’ sanity? Will Dune win because it’s fucking Dune? Who knows?
Well, oddsmakers might, and with that said:
Once again, we’re going with Draftkings‘ odds, given that they’re local and also pretty nice, though we’re not sponsored by or affiliated with them in any real way. This is a good opportunity to remind you to make sure that you can gamble in the state you reside in or at least be able to calculate whether or not it’ll be worth it to cross state lines to place a truly bozo mode bet on King Richard‘s chances. Per usual, we’ve rounded up each group of nominees in three categories: certified favorites (under “The Favorite” header), genuine longshots and totally non-viables (under the They Can’t All Be Winners, Kid header), and possible upset picks (under the So You’re Saying There’s a Chance header).
Also, here’s our yearly explainer of “American” odds, which is what we’ll use throughout. A “-” in front of a number means it’s a favorite, and the number that follows is how much you have to bet in order to win $100. That means if you want to bet on Dune at (-3500) to win Best Visual Effects, you’ll have to plunk down $3500 in order to get a Benjamin. A “+” in front of it means that it’s an underdog, and the number that follows is how much you’d win off of a $100 bet. If you’re betting on Free Guy at (+2500) for Visual Effects, that means you’d win $2500 with a $100 wager. The reason that number is possible is that you’re most likely not going to win, and I’d dub that as a certified Bozo Mode wager: fun, but only if you’re betting a tiny amount.
And finally, this very silly column would not be possible without the moral support and influence provided by the Patron Saint of Oscar Gambling, Oscar Gamble. Here’s his invocation:
The 94th Academy Awards will air this Sunday, March 27, at 8 p.m. EDT on ABC.
Best Visual Effects
The Favorite: Dune (-3500), which is pretty much par for the course, given how much Hollywood loves giant worms.
They Can’t All Be Winners, Kid: Free Guy (+2500) and No Time to Die (+2000). The latter’s pretty deserving of honor, but the former’s bad enough visually to probably cause a Film Twitter heart attack if it wins anything. Remember the “Academy Award-winning Suicide Squad” memes? Get ready for that again.
So You’re Saying There’s a Chance: Of course, there’s always Marvel. And given that Spider-Man: No Way Home (+900) and Shang-Chi (+1400) helped to uplift the industry as theatrical exhibition returned in full force, this might be an honorary award bestowed upon the recognition-thirsty Kevin Feige. But let’s be real: Dune deserves this and will probably get it.
Best Original Score
The Favorite: Dune (-650), which, again, feels right. How many bagpipes did your favorite movies have on the soundtrack last year? Zero, unless you loved Dune, and then the answer’s probably “one.”
They Can’t All Be Winners, Kid: Don’t Look Up (+2000) and Parallel Mothers (+3500). I’ve seen both of these movies and cannot remember a single soundtrack cue from either of them.
So You’re Saying There’s a Chance: Here’s where things get interesting: Power of the Dog (+400) has name-brand recognition in that it’s this year’s Jonny Greenwood Nomination, but Encanto (+1000) — a Lin Manuel-Miranda score, after all — is genuinely tantalizing. If Power of the Dog doesn’t start cleaning up early, I’m thinking this might be a meme-off between the Sardukar chants and whatever kids are posting on TikTok about “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.”
Best Original Song
The Favorite: “No Time to Die” (-280) from, well, duh, which in any other world, one way more just than this one, would be a five-digit favorite. Again, though: meme magic.
They Can’t All Be Winners, Kid: The other songs in this category not sung by a pop star or co-authored by Lin-Manuel Miranda are basically done for: that includes “Be Alive” (+700, way too low) from King Richard, “Down to Joy”(+2000) from Belfast, and “Somehow You Do” (+2500) from Four Good Days, and it is downright bizarre that it made its way on to this list.
So You’re Saying There’s a Chance: “Dos Oruguitas” (+225) from Encanto, which is somehow the worst nomination they could pull out of this particular movie, but whatever. These are pretty good odds for an underdog which feels more likely to happen than not.
Best Original Screenplay
The Favorite: Licorice Pizza (-120), which, despite winning a whole bunch of early accolades for screenplay, is a pretty tenuous favorite here. Is Twitter/TikTok backlash pushing the odds down? Who knows, but this is one I’d avoid.
They Can’t All Be Winners, Kid: If Belfast (+180) wins this, it’s almost certainly a lock for Best Picture, but I doubt it. These numbers feel too low, especially with the other awards in the last couple of weeks going wherever. Also, King Richard (+2000) is just totally irrelevant here.
So You’re Saying There’s a Chance: Here’s what I would have given odds like Belfast‘s to instead of that film: Don’t Look Up (+400), which is just smug and self-righteous enough to flatter the egos of those voting. Is the screenplay actually good? Who cares! It’s right, and isn’t that what matters? But a real dark horse would be The Worst Person in the World (+2000), which might very well be the best-written of all of these movies, and is criminally underrated odds-wise. It’s a bozo bet, but who knows?
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Favorite: CODA (-175), which, again, is a shaky fave. It’s also not a particularly hard film to adapt, but let’s be real here: if this Oscars is going to be about saying “Fuck you” to Netflix, then this beating Power of the Dog here will be the proof.
They Can’t All Be Winners, Kid: Truly literary adaptations are probably going to have a hard time this year if they’re not being backed by a streamer or have another film from the same streamer competing with them. Drive My Car (+1600) and The Lost Daughter (+800) fit that bill to a T.
So You’re Saying There’s a Chance: The Power of the Dog (+135), which probably would have been the favorite had CODA not started winning shit left and right, and still feels like a decent value proposition here. On the other hand, the sheer difficulty of bringing something like Dune (+2000) to the screen and making it work well has me thinking that it’s a great candidate for a total bozo bet. But given the lack of traction it’s had with other voting bodies, well, that’s a high-reward, high-risk gamble for the true Howard Ratners out there.
Best Animated Film
The Favorite: Encanto (-800), which is a pretty high favorite, all things considered, for a non-Pixar Disney release. Also, importantly, a win here might show that the second life that a shorter theatrical window provides might be a boon. Disney+ undeniably had some success in making this movie relevant after it hit theaters with a thud back in November.
They Can’t All Be Winners, Kid: Flee (+850), a great film, is basically the token representative of “art” animation in a sea of kids’ films, meaning that it probably won’t get any traction since it’s not directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Raya and the Last Dragon (+2500) had a bad distribution strategy and is not nearly as relevant to the zeitgeist, which seized upon Encanto the minute it hit the web. So, stay away.
So You’re Saying There’s a Chance: Luca (+1300) is our token Pixar representative, which means that it should perhaps get some more love from the oddsmakers, though the weight is pretty clearly behind Encanto. But a real dark horse here is The Mitchells vs. The Machines (+500), which was a favorite of critics’ groups and also had a pretty great swag package for the screener-receiving, so if the Academy’s gonna go full Golden Globes, it might as well be for this. Hell, they sent such a lovely little wooden moose in those packages!
Best Supporting Actress
The Favorite: Ariana Debose, West Side Story (-1600), who is the strongest favorite in any of the acting categories. She’s the sole nominee for West Side Story in any of the categories and is pretty much the most beloved aspect of Spielberg’s remake. None of the other performances in this category have the same attention-grabbing power as her work here, and I briefly debated throwing the whole slate into the loser column. But there’s always a chance.
They Can’t All Be Winners, Kid: Aunjanue Ellis, in King Richard (+1800), and Jessie Buckley, in The Lost Daughter (+3500) have the misfortune of acting behind other nominated performers, so they’re pretty much out.
So You’re Saying There’s a Chance: The Academy loves them some Judi Dench, so her work in Belfast (+2500) shouldn’t be tossed out — if there’s gonna be a legacy upset here, it’ll be this one. And if it turns out to be Jane Campion’s jackpot, a Kirsten Dunst win for The Power of the Dog (+600) isn’t out of the question.
Best Supporting Actor
The Favorite: Here’s where things get interesting: Troy Kotsur’s performance in CODA (-400) is really good, and it’s charismatic in the way that Academy members respond to best. He’s also the sole nominee from CODA, given that Marlee Matlin already won an Oscar years and years ago, and he’s a Cinderella story in the best of ways: the guy emerges from relative obscurity, and finds himself at the top of the pops. Hard to resist that narrative.
They Can’t All Be Winners, Kid: So, that means that Ciaran Hinds, Belfast (+1600), Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog (+2500), and J.K. Simmons, Being the Ricardos (+3500) are all kind of out of the running. Who the fuck knows why Simmons was even nominated, given that he’s basically just being grumpy for two hours? I bet it’s got something to do with Amazon having a lot of money.
So You’re Saying There’s a Chance: And now we come to the critics’ darling, Kodi Smit-McPhee, for The Power of the Dog (+240), a performance that has all the qualities of a mannequin and is subtle to the point that it becomes overwhelmingly obvious. His work here has been so beloved that it’s a surprise he’s not the favorite, but that’s what happens when you’re cast for the sole reason of making Benedict Cumberbatch feel competent by comparison.
The Favorite: Best Actress is always a minefield, and this year’s no exception. The favorite is Jessica Chastain, for The Eyes of Tammy Faye (-175), which is insanely low for a frontrunner. Then again, she wore the most makeup and put on a performance that might remind voters of The Help, so, who knows?
They Can’t All Be Winners, Kid: Every person in this category, save one, has previously won an Oscar. Penelope Cruz, nominated for Parallel Mothers (+1600), feels like the least likely here: it’s not a flashy performance comparatively, and, worse, it’s not based on someone easily recognizable to Hollywood voters.
So You’re Saying There’s a Chance: Now, if this were a righteous world, Nicole Kidman wouldn’t have been nominated for Being the Ricardos (+330), nor would she be a solid underdog. On the other hand, Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter (+500), is a critical darling and a previous winner who charmed everyone in the process of upsetting Glenn Close. But I think the smart bet here is Kristen Stewart, Spencer (+600), who has never won before, and who impressed critics and audiences doing a Princess Diana impression. It feels like great value at those odds. But maybe don’t put your kid’s college fund on it.
The Favorite: That axiom I mentioned above? Well, you ain’t getting that here: pretty much all of the nominees are previous nominees or brand new entrants, but the two winners are basically write-offs and the two frontrunners are established faces. The favorite at the moment is Will Smith, for King Richard (-800), which feels like an “Everybody Loves the Fresh Prince” Award more than a “best performance from 2021” award, but hey, them’s the breaks.
They Can’t All Be Winners, Kid: As I said, Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth (+2500), and Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos (+4000) are previous winners, and they’re just happy to get nominated. If you consider betting a single dollar on Bardem, you have a gambling problem.
So You’re Saying There’s a Chance: Smith’s odds are pretty high, but Benedict Cumberbatch lurks in the shadows with his very loud performance in The Power of the Dog (+450), and it seemed like a lock a few months ago before Smith started to clean up. Weirdly, Andrew Garfield’s work in tick, tick… BOOM! (+1100) hasn’t gotten as much love as it might have otherwise (given that Netflix is cashing in their chips on Power of the Dog) but it’s a serious underdog that might pull off the impossible and keep Cumberbatch and Smith in perpetual bridesmaid status. Risky, but interesting.
The Favorite: Jane Campion, for The Power of the Dog (-3500). This award belongs to her, pretty much. Those are insanely high odds. Her win would be a statement win, so, history’s on her side. Hell, she even had the world on her side when Sam “Coors: The Banquet Beer” Elliott opened his mouth about how she violated the sanctity of cowboy movies, but threw that goodwill out the window with some dumbass comments she made about how much tougher she had it than Venus and Serena Williams, who, as such, remain undefeated in doubles, as it has been since the ’90s.
They Can’t All Be Winners, Kid: That means that Steven Spielberg, for West Side Story (+1400), Paul Thomas Anderson, for Licorice Pizza (+2000), and Ryusuke Hamaguchi, for Drive My Car (+3000), are all pretty much dead in the water. But there could be one…
So You’re Saying There’s a Chance: If the old Academy voter wants one final chance to make the whole enterprise entirely irrelevant, they could always just give it to Kenneth Branagh for Belfast (+1200), which is not entirely out of the question. It’ll take the world’s biggest boomer energy to get this one past the finish line, but if you like things on the dangerous side, well, here’s your chance to lose money with glory.
The Favorite: The Power of the Dog (-125), which has probably seen its chances drop with each and every awards ceremony with a voting body that’s populated by a broader set of industry figures than just critics. Remember: Oscar voters fucking hate Netflix. They couldn’t pull off a win in the aftermath of a year in which people were literally trapped in their homes and practically forced to watch their content. Netflix films — from The Irishman to Roma to Mank — are paper tigers, and if they finally break through, it’ll be something truly surprising. Hence, super low odds. Remember, a $125 would earn you a crisp Franklin here.
They Can’t All Be Winners, Kid: All these are basically irrelevant, propelled upwards by their chances at a major-category win: West Side Story (+3500), King Richard (+3500), Licorice Pizza (+5000), Drive My Car (+8000), and Nightmare Alley (+10000). If you’re a bozo genius, bet $1 on the off chance that ranked-choice propels Nightmare Alley, which is the oddest nominee on the list, and thank me by sending me $30 of the $100 you might win.
So You’re Saying There’s a Chance: Now, here are some possibilities: Dune (+4000) has some amount of meme power, in addition to being an incredible motion picture, and ranked-choice occasionally tends to benefit populist films. That’s true for Belfast (+1200), which was practically anointed with better-than-average odds the minute it was announced for TIFF. Don’t Look Up (+6500) feels like the dumbest possible Netflix win, but it’s also a statement vote, which will probably have some voters placing it at the top of their lists simply for the sake of the climate. It’s unlikely to win but would be very, very funny if it happened.
CODA (+100), of course, is the underdog with the best possible shot, and perhaps not for the reasons you might think. Sure, it’s a populist family film centered around a story that is, perhaps, resonant for Academy voters but, importantly, if the Oscars plan to ever acknowledge a streamer, this would probably be that time. CODA, above all else, is familiar: it was an indie that premiered at Sundance. It had a traditional sale, and though it went day-and-date on Apple TV+ and in theaters, Apple’s gone out of their way to court exhibitors, which is the exact opposite of Netflix’s approach. Hell, when it was announced as a Best Picture nominee, Apple put it back in indie theaters for free, which is something that only one of the biggest corporations on Earth can do as a publicity stunt. There is a reason why CODA is a part of the slate of nominees you can see at your local Regal or AMC, and it’s because Apple played ball.
So, this is the funniest possible way for the Academy to tell Netflix to suck shit, and that means they’ll probably do it. I’m still going for #DuneSweep, though.