A look at the 93rd Oscars from a bettor's perspective

Hartley provides his annual betting tips and advice for the Oscars, with predictions for every category.

Preview and predictions for betting on the Oscars

Last year's Oscars predictions turned out to be quite successful. Aside from winning on Parasite for best picture, I predicted all but best director and four smaller categories correctly. After the Oscars telecast I received some emails congratulating me on my predictions article, but I was asked if I could put it up a bit earlier to take advantage of higher odds. Not surprising as it gets closer to the awards ceremony, insider information gets leaked and the odds on the winners tend to tumble. So this year, I'm posting the article almost a week in advance to give readers a chance to jump on the odds before they drop. The last major award (the Eddy awards for best film editing) was presented on April 17th. All odds in this article are from William Hill, which is available in most states with licensed online sports betting, as well as on their UK website for non-U.S. players.

Oscars picksUnlike other awards shows, which were all virtual and had terrible ratings, the 93rd Oscars will be in person from both the Dolby Theater in Hollywood and Union Station in downtown L.A. and will be limited to presenters, nominees and a few guests. Covid precautions will be implemented and most of those in attendance will have been vaccinated. Once again there won't be an emcee. For recipients in other countries who are unable to travel to the U.S. due to Covid restrictions, there are some live satellite feeds being set up. There will, however, be no zoom conferencing anywhere, thank God.

So let's start my annual Oscars predictions with the top categories:

Best Picture

The preferential voting method which was introduced only a few years ago had a huge impact last year since it apparently is the reason Parasite won. There were more first place votes for 1917 in the original ballots, but apparently but it had too many votes farther down on the list, allowing Parasite to overtake it after other films dropped out. This year, that likely won't make much of a difference.

Nomadland (1/6 odds )
It's hard to see this picture losing. The movie about a woman (Frances McDormand) who becomes a nomad after the only industry in her town shuts down and her husband dies has received acclamation after acclamation. It won almost every critic's award for best picture, the Golden Globe for best drama picture, the BAFTA award for best film. And most importantly it won the Producer's Guild Award (PGA) for best picture. For years the winner of the PGA Award was almost seen as a sure thing to win best film, but after the introduction of the preferential voting system came into play it has missed a few winners, including The Big Short in 2015, which lost to Spotlight, La La Land in 2016, which lost to Moonlight and 1917 last year, which lost to Parasite. Each of those films, however, had cons which made it likely they could have votes low down on people’s ballots, but it's hard to find anyone who doesn't love Nomadland and won't have it in their top three movies.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (6/1 odds)
Although it's been nominated for several awards, the only award that this film won was the Screen Actors Guild Award for best ensemble cast. The movie about a group of anti-Vietnam protestors who faced trial in Chicago for conspiracy has been quite heralded but not as much as Nomadland. It should be noted that while Parasite won the SAG Award last year and went on to win the Oscar, Nomadland wasn't even nominated in that category, since there was only one real main actor in Frances McDormand. In fact, Minari is the only other film in the category that was nominated for best cast. That said, 1917 wasn't nominated last year for the SAG either.

Promising Young Woman (9/1odds)
The movie got some notice after winning the Hollywood Critics Association award for best film and the BAFTA for best British film, but the movie which is a dark comedy about a woman trying to get revenge for a friend who killed herself after getting raped in college with no repercussions, has had a lot of detractors. While the movie was loved by many critics there is no doubt that much of the academy will despise the plot and have it ranked low down on their ballots.

Minari (12/1 odds)
The movie about a Korean family who come to rural America and try to make it has received many accolades but hasn't won anything. As well, Parasite winning last year for best picture and best director will alleviate any feelings by Hollywood that they owe an award to an Asian film.

Of the other films Judas and the Black Messiah (20/1), Mank (25/1), The Father (50/1) and Sound of Metal (50/1), it's just hard to see any of them garnering enough high place votes to take the category.

Prediction: Nomadland will win this easily and possibly even in the first round of voting.

Best Director

Chloe Zhao (1/20 odds)
This is about as sure as it comes. Zhao has won every single award she was nominated for best director in for Nomadland, including most importantly the Director's Guild Award. Granted, the DGA gave the award to Sam Mendes last year, who lost to Bong Joon-ho from Parasite, but that was an anomaly. One can count on one had when the DGA Award winner didn't win this award and, as popular as Nomadland is, there is zero reason to believe that Zhao won't defeat the likes of David Fincher (9/1) and Emerald Fenell (12/1) to take the Oscar.

Prediction: Do you want a free 5 cents on the dollar? Bet on Zhao.

Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman (1/16 odds)
Boseman was expected to win the award for his role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom even before he passed away in August from colon cancer, but the media hype about how he worked through the cancer to complete the film only makes it more likely he'll take the posthumous award. Boseman has won almost every award, including most importantly the SAG Award for best actor, but he did lose the BAFTA Award to Anthony Hopkins (7/1) for his role in The Father. The BAFTAs, however, tend to award British actors and likely felt no obligation to give the award to Boseman, who passed away, plus Hopkins isn't nominated for an Oscar. Riz Ahmed (14/1) is the only other one with a chance for his role in Sound of Metal but will come up short.

Prediction: Boseman will take it relatively easily.

Best Actress

The first competitive category, this seems like a close race between four of the 5 actresses, all who have a good chance. Only Vanessa Kirby at 16/1 has virtually no chance.

Carey Mulligan (11/8 odds)
Mulligan was favored to sweep the award season after taking all the critic awards she was nominated in, but was surprised by Andra Day, who took the award for her role in The United States vs Billie Holiday at the Golden Globes. Mulligan then lost in the Screen Actor's Guild to Viola Davis and consequently has become a very tepid favorite. Despite being well regarded by the critics, as mentioned earlier, her role in Promising Young Woman about a 30 year-old who enacted revenge for her friend’s rape, has not sat well with a lot of people in Hollywood who believe the role is too controversial for Oscar glory.

Viola Davis (7/4 odds)
Davis was one of the favorites heading into the awards season after winning a few smaller critics' awards, but she became somewhat of a longshot after losing the Golden Globe to Andra Day. She however has become a co-favorite after taking the SAG Award for best actress, which is the best predictor for Oscar success for actors, leaving Carey Mulligan, Vanessa Kirby and Frances McDormand in her dust in that Awards ceremony. Andra Day was not nominated for the SAG. It should be noted that since 2010, only two winners of the SAG for best actress did not win the Academy award, namely Glenn Close in 2018, who lost to Olivia Colman and ironically Viola Davis in 2011, who lost to Meryl Streep at the Oscars.

Frances McDormand (7/2 odds)
McDormand has received huge accolades for her role in Nomadland, including over a dozen critics awards and the BAFTA Award, but she lost at both the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, which are better Oscar success predictors. In any other year this would have been a lock for McDormand, but the mounting losses for the film makes her victory less likely.

Andra Day (6/1 odds)
Known more for her singing than acting, Andra Day shocked everyone when she won the Golden Globe award at 25/1 for best actress. The longest shot on board at that event, she seemed to have no chance of winning. She hasn't won any other awards for that role and she was not nominated for the SAG. It should be noted that there have been a few times that an actor or actress was not nominated for a SAG, was the favorite for the Oscar anyways and then lost the Academy Award in the end.

Prediction: When in doubt go for the SAG winner. Viola Davis should win the Oscar, especially if the academy wants to make up for her loss in 2011, although Frances McDormand wouldn't be a surprise.

Get more Academy Awards betting odds here.

Best Supporting Actor

Daniel Kaluuya (1 to 20 odds) has won everything for his role in Judas and the Black Messiah. There is no need to look elsewhere although Sacha Baron Cohen (12/1) put on a great performance in the Trial of the Chicago 7.

Prediction: Kaluuya is a sure thing

Best Supporting Actress

This looked to be a competitive category between three actresses, but recent awards have resulted in a clear favorite.

Youn Yuh-jung (2/7 odds) was actually third choice behind Maria Bakalova and Glenn Close heading into the awards season, but after winning the Hollywood Critics Award, the BAFTA Award and most importantly the SAG Award, she is a clear favorite. Her role has been highly regarded and by all accounts she stole the show in Minari.

Maria Bakalova (3/1 odds) was the favorite in almost everyone's eyes after she wowed the critics in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, especially after the scene with Rudy Giuliani which was well screened and documented. But after losing for actress in a comedy or musical to Rosamund Pike at the Golden Globes and to Youn Yuh-jung in the BAFTAs and SAG Awards, she is now on the outside looking in. She is also young so will have other chances.

Glenn Close (9/1) and Olivia Colman (12/1) were given a chance early on, but failures in all awards makes them longshots and Amanda Seyfried (20/1) has zero chance for her role in Mank.

Prediction: Youn Yuh-jung should win easily.

Now to the other categories, in order of perceived importance:

Best Original Screenplay

The Writers Guild Award is the best predictor in this category of which film will win the Oscar. 15 of 22 winners of this award since 2000 have won the Oscar and most times when a film does not win the Oscar, it is because it wasn't nominated. The films nominated this year are Promising Young Woman (1/5), The Trial of the Chicago 7 (3/1), Minari (14/1), Judas and the Black Messiah (33/1) and Sound of Metal (33/1). The WGA award went to Promising Young Woman, as did the BAFTA Award and most of the other awards. The Golden Globe, however, went to The Trial of the Chicago 7. On paper this should be a lock for Promising Young Woman, but occasionally the Academy likes to give the award to writers who they know will be overlooked for the main categories, but deserve credit in other ways.

Prediction: While I would love to see this award go to the Trial of the Chicago 7, which I think is a more interesting book and film, it's almost certain the award will go to Emerald Fennell for Pretty Young Woman at low odds.

Best Adapted Screenplay

A closer category than original screenplay, Nomadland (4/11 odds) is the favorite, followed by The Father (5/2), Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (8/1), The White Tiger (8/1) and One Night in Miami (14/1).

Borat actually won the WGA Award, beating out The White Tiger and One Night in Miami, but neither Nomadland nor The Father were nominated for that award. The Father beat out Nomadland at the BAFTAs, in which only White Tiger was nominated. In other awards where this category is offered, Nomadland and the Father have taken turns beating each other.

The Oscars have a funny habit of giving awards to winners because they want to spread the joy. Nomadland will win best picture and director so the Academy may not want to give a third award to Chloe Zhao. The Father is really well regarded and won't win anywhere else, so may be winner. And with the WGA going to Borat, the film can't be completely ignored, but will the academy award Sacha Baron Cohen for a story that many in the academy won't appreciate, for a character they feel may be beneath them and who makes them look foolish and for a film that almost everyone outside North America will shun especially since it was on Netflix?

Prediction: The Father will take this award, simply because it has virtually no chance in any other category and is a movie that much of the academy will want to reward.

Best Animated Feature

Prediction: Soul (1/25 odds) is a sure thing. Let's move on.

Best Original Song

Always one of my favorite Oscar categories, whenever I get ready to predict this category, I log onto YouTube and listen to each song. I look at who sings the songs since more famous artists have an advantage. And lastly I look at accolades given to the songs elsewhere.

Speak Now (8/13 odds) is a song by Leslie Odom Jr. from the movie One Night in Miami. It's a somewhat slow song and really didn't jump out at me. It became the favorite after winning the Critics Choice award and it arguably has the most noted singer. But the odds make it less than tempting.

Io Si (5/2 odds) by Laura Pausini won the Golden Globe for best song, as well as best song at the Hollywood International Film Festival, but I just am not that enamored with it. The song is a fairly sad song and is from a movie (The Life Ahead) that few likely saw. It has a good chance to win, but the song just isn't my cup of tea.

Husavik (7/2 odds) from the film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is an upbeat and enjoyable song to listen to. The song is sung in both English and Norwegian and has Rachel McaAdams lip syncing the song by Molly Santer and Will Ferrell (yes that Will Ferrell). For my money the song was the most enjoyable.

Hear My Voice (12/1) is also a very good song by Celeste for the movie The Trial of the Chicago 7 and wouldn't be a huge shock.

Fight For You, sung by H.E.R. in the movie Judas and the Black Messiah just isn't that good.

Prediction: I predict the Academy will shy away from the slower songs and they will give the award to Husavik, as a bit of a longshot.

Best International Feature Film

Generally a fun category for upsets, the last few years have gone to all the big favorites, including Parasite Academy Awards predictionslast year. This year's nominees are Another Round (1/7 odds), about a group of friends looking for a more fun life, Quo, Vadis Aida?, a Bosnian war movie (11/2 odds) and Collective (7/1 odds), about reporters looking into Russian corruption. Minari, which won the Golden Globes would have been a sure thing in this category but wasn't nominated because, well because it is not an International Film. It was filmed in the U.S. making it ineligible. The BAFTAs and Golden Globes look at the language of the film rather than where it was filmed and allowed the film to be nominated due to some Korean Language. It must be noted that the only major award any of these films won was Another Round, which won the BAFTA.

Prediction: Just as a hunch, I'm going to predict an upset here, with the award going to the Russian film Collective. In light of the election scandal in the U.S. in 2016, which allowed Trump to win and the academy enjoying watching a film that highlights the country’s corruption, I like the longer odds here.

Best Film Editing

This award seems a toss-up between Sound of Metal (8/11 odds) and The Trial of the Chicago 7 (6/5). Nomadland has a small shot at 5/1 odds also.

The Film Editing Award (Eddie) is a great predictor of Oscar success and they awarded the prize to The Trial of the Chicago 7. The BAFTA Award went to Sound of Metal. The Satellite Award also went to The Trial of the Chicago 7, the American Cinema Editors Awards went to the Trial of the Chicago 7 and the Critics Choice Award was a tie between the 2 films.

Prediction: Far too much credit has been given to the BAFTA award in predicting Oscar success and the wrong film is favored. Take The Trial of the Chicago 7 at great odds before the odds tumble.

Best Cinematography

Nomadland (4/9 odds) is the favorite after winning the BAFTA Award, while Mank (5/1) is second choice after winning the award at the American Society of Cinematographers. The other nominees have virtually no chance.

Prediction: I'll go with the odds and take Mank to produce the upset.

Best Production Design

The best predictor for this category is the Art Directors Guild Awards which hands out awards for contemporary film and period film. Those awards went to Mank (1/6 odds) and Da 5 Bloods, which isn't nominated. The BAFTA award went to Mank.

Prediction: This is the only real category that Mank can win and the Academy will want to reward it somewhere. So, Mank is more or less a sure thing.

Best Sound

The Academy is finally combining sound mixing and sound editing into one category called best sound. That's a good thing because The Sound of Metal (1/20 odds) was going to win both as separate categories anyways.

Prediction: Take the money and run on The Sound of Metal at very low odds.

Best Score

Prediction: Soul (1/10) has won all of the other award and will win this too.

Best Documentary Feature

My Octopus Teacher (odds 2/9), about a man who films himself underwater with a wild octopus, has garnered the most attention after winning the producer's guild award for best documentary, the cinema editor's award and the BAFTA award. Time (4/1), about a woman fighting to get her husband released from jail, is the 2nd choice. Collective (7/1), about a group of reporters looking at corruption in Russia, is 3rd choice. Crip Camp (16/1), about a camp for disabilities, is the 4th choice. And, The Mole Agent (25/1), about undercover work in a nursing home, is the longshot. The Documentary Association award went to Crip Camp, but The Octopus Teacher is more highly acclaimed. That said, this category does have a history of producing upsets.

Prediction: Crip Camp will produce the biggest upset of the day.

Best Visual Effects

Usually a walkover category, this year it is a race between two films, Tenet (1/6 odds) and The Midnight Sky (3/1). The other three films have virtually no chance. The visual effects society award for best photoreal feature film went to The Midnight Sky, but that has been a poor predictor of Oscar success. The VAS tends to give the awards to movies like The Lion King, Avengers and Planet of the Apes, while the Academy Awards shuns those films. Prior to the 2010s it was a good predictor of Oscar success, but not now. BAFTA and the Critics Choice Awards gave best visual effects to Tenet.

Prediction: Tenet should take the award without much problem.

Best Costume Design

This seems to be a two-horse race between Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2/5 odds) and Emma (11/4 odds). Mank (8/1) can't be totally discounted. Emma was actually the favorite going into the awards season but Ma Rainey's Black Bottom won both the BAFTA Award and the Costume Designers Guild Award along with a few smaller awards.

Prediction: Grab the 2/5 odds while you can. By Oscar day Ma Rainey's Black Bottom will be 1/5 or less.

Best Makeup

Prediction: The more highly regarded Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1 to 4 odds) will win this over Pinnochio and Hillbilly Eligy.

Short Films

As usual for these films I turn to my friend who is a self described expert in these things and has a good record. His predictions are Two Distant Strangers (8/5 odds) for live action short, A Concerto is a Conversation (7/2 odds) for documentary short and is going for a huge upset with Yes-People, at 20/1 odds for Animated Short, although he said If Anything Happens I Love You is the rightful favorite at 4/11 odds.

Read insights from Hartley Henderson every week here at OSGA and check out Hartley's RUMOR MILL!

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